Last month I presented our burden for Italy to a church in Greenville, PA. While there I had the pleasure of meeting Tom and Carla. Carla is from Marina di Pisa in northern Italy. I spent the afternoon in their home for food and fellowship. Carla fixed a delicious meal for lunch including spaghetti, chicken, shrimp, and salad. I really enjoyed sitting in their living room and asking them questions about Italy. Carla moved from Italy as a young woman but her and Tom recently spent four years living there.
Here are a few of their thoughts about ministry and the spiritual condition of Italy…
Keep Italians at the cross while witnessing. Use great wisdom when speaking about Mary. Carla witnessed to an older lady who seemed to be very open and listened intently until the subject turned to Mary. She then shut down and said, “Please don’t take Mary from me.”
To minister effectively, learn the culture and what offends them.
Italians as a whole do not like Jehovah’s Witnesses. They come to the door all the time and their beliefs are very offensive to the Italians.
It takes time to develop trust, just be friendly and develop relationships.
The culture is Catholic. They trust the pope, their priest, and worship Padre Pio. When Carla’s brother was sick his girlfriend put a picture of Padre Pio under his mattress.
Even many Italians that are Catholic are atheists and believe in evolution.
There is a lot of witchcraft, tarot cards and palm reading in Italy.
Most Italians cannot comprehend “free” salvation. Salvation by works is engrained within them.
A missionary once brought a tent to preach in their area. No Italians entered the tent but listened from a distance.
In order to minister effectively you must become an Italian, without compromise of course.
Italy is in spiritual darkness. Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians wrote…
“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” 2 Corinthians 4:3,4
Italians have been blinded by Satan to where the gospel is hid to them amidst the darkness of false religion. There are three prevailing images of Christ throughout Italy… the baby Jesus sitting on Mary’s knee, the crucifix with Jesus still nailed to the cross, and the pieta, with the lifeless body of Christ being swaddled by Mary. These images speak of a powerless Christ controlled by Mary, an unfinished work of Christ that is still perpetuated today by the good works of men, and a dead Christ which makes faith vain and leaves us in our sins (1 Cor. 15:12-17).
Carla told me her religious background in the Catholic Church kept her in a spiritual fog. She tried to be good but lived in fear of eternity. She had no concept of the gospel and could not comprehend of a free salvation apart from good works. She needed to know Christ personally and the power of His resurrection!
Carla’s salvation testimony is similar to Sandy’s except in one respect. Both were raised in a religion where they knew something was wrong with what was being taught and both desired to know the truth. The difference is Sandy prayed that God would reveal which religion had the truth; Carla had no concept that there was any legitimate religion outside of the Catholic Church and did not think of praying such a thing. But God knew her heart. When someone is seeking light – truth as found in the person of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:1-13) – God will send them light. It is then the individual’s choice to either receive the light or reject it and stay in spiritual darkness (Jn. 3:17-21). Carla was seeking truth. When she came to America she said the Lord led her to a Baptist church. For three months she heard the gospel preached… it was foreign to her. The preacher would often say, “If the Lord touched you, please come to the altar and be saved.” She would go home and pray, “Lord, why don’t you touch me? I want to be saved.” She thought God was going to literally touch her. Finally one Sunday she went forward thinking that maybe if she was at the altar that God would “touch” her. As she stood there the preacher asked her why she came forward and she replied, “I want to be saved but God has not touched me.” The preacher then explained to her that he meant the prompting of the Holy Spirit and had someone explain to her what it meant to be saved. She received Christ as her personal Saviour.
My heart’s desire is to be a witness in Italy and shine the light of the gospel into a spiritually dark land. Please pray that we can move to Italy by June of next year that we might win Italian souls for Christ.
“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:18