Last month, my wife and I helped lead a group of Missouri Baptist pastors and mission leaders to northeast Italy where we are beginning strategic partnership as a convention. This is the first blog post in a 5 part series on the different cities and regions in Northeast Italy that we’d like your church to consider praying about. For 5 days I’ll be featuring a city we visited here on this blog. Won’t you pray about how you and your church can help take the gospel to the lost in northeast Italy? Be sure you first read about the spiritual darkness in Italy.
I was giddy with excitement. I’d been looking forward to this day for a long time. The mountains on the way into Belluno were breathtaking. The Italian Alps did not disappoint. But I wasn’t on a train in northeast Italy to see the scenery. This is not why I was excited.
We were about to meet a man who has been laboring for the gospel in the Belluno region for 20 years. For 20 years he has prayed that God would send him more workers to help spread the gospel among Italians there. This was the day we would get to meet him and hear what God is doing in Belluno (a city of over 35,000) and how our churches could possibly help. We lingered outside of the Belluno train station for awhile waiting on the pastor. We were grateful to have Charlie, our IMB missionary, with us throughout the entire trip. He organized our visits and translated for us and to us. Charlie had planned to meet the pastor at the train station and the minute we met him saw that he was a kind and humble soul. We were in for a real treat that day.
Pastor T (we are not using his name for security purposes) first took us to his church which was about 1/100th the size of your average church in America. I say this not to emphasize the size of the physical church building, but to show you that the amount of people in Italy who are truly following the gospel of Jesus is very small. Which is why Pastor T is so burdened for the city of Belluno. He shared with us what he has been doing to take the gospel to his people. On market day, he will often stand and do open air evangelism. One day, he was with a team of college students there to do evangelism. The weather turned cold and rainy. The team was discouraged and thought their chances of sharing the gospel were over. But Pastor T was not ready to give up. He knew where the youth hung out and he knew the weather would not be a deterrent to sharing the gospel. He turned to his group of college students and told them there was work to be done. They headed into a coffee shop and the group spread out. Many were able to have gospel conversations with the youth gathered there.
If these stories about Belluno and Pastor T resonate with you, let me provide some practical ways your church can get involved.
How your church can help:
- Send teams to do street evangelism. Do you have people in your church who are skilled at street evangelism in a foreign context? Are they willing to adapt to street evangelism in the Italian culture under Pastor T’s training?
- Send teams to do ESL classes/week long camps. Do you have people in your church who can execute an ESL camp? This would not require much Italian language knowledge at all. English is a highly sought after skill in Italy and many parents desire for their children to learn it.
- Send teams to hold discussions with youth. Do you have people who love college students and are good at moving from secular topics to the spiritual? One very unique thing we were told is that the Italian youth enjoy discussing a movie after they’ve watched it. One thing a team could do is to get to know some youth and then go to a movie with them for the purpose of going out for coffee afterwards and discussing the movie. Again, many Italians are learning English and will also be eager to practice their English with someone. Pastor T knows where the youth hang out and he will be able to get you connected with those parts of the city.
Lastly, we ask you to pray for First Baptist of Scott City. Pastor Jeremy Sells is leading his church to pray about partnering with Belluno and Pastor T. Ask God to give them wisdom as they seek the Lord for their mission strategy.
This post was written by Julie Masson, the Director of Missional Engagement at Emmaus Church in Kansas City. Julie is a blogger and social media strategist who is passionate about the nations hearing the gospel. She and her husband spent 2 years in Madrid, Spain on a N. African church planting team. You can follow Julie on Twitter at @juliermasson