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 part 3 of 5 in a 5 part series on the different cities and regions in Northeast Italy that we visited. Catch the introduction to the series, part 1 and part 2. Won’t you pray about how you and your church can help take the gospel to the lost in northeast Italy?
It was our 3rd full day in northeast Italy and our IMB missionary, Charlie, decided it was time to truly show us what Catholicism is really like in Italy. The story he shared with us outside of the cathedral of St. Anthony in Padova was eye opening.
“I had spent a lot of time talking about spiritual things with my friend. One day, we were discussing how Jesus had siblings. My friend was blown away that I believed this. ‘No no,’ he said. ‘Mary was a virgin until the day she died.’ He went and got his priest and brought him to me. The priest said, ‘This is why we discourage people from reading the Bible. It’s too complicated for them to understand.’ “
Charlie’s story spoke volumes to us. He then went on to describe how Jesus is the 5th most prayed to saint. If Jesus is not even seen as a savior and the people of northeast Italy are not encouraged to read the Bible, then how will they ever learn the Good News of the gospel?
This is why churches like Freshwater Bolivar are considering partnering with what God is doing in Padova. A university town with over 65,000 students was appealing to Dave Becker and Freshwater. Bolivar is home to SBU which means Freshwater has many college students. Becker envisions a partnership that connects the people of his church, including university students from SBU, with the university students of Padova. He and his elder team are beginning to plan and strategize about what that will look like. After seeing the city and truly seeing the spiritual darkness of Italy, Freshwater looks forward to the day when, God willing, a movement of gospel centered churches takes place in Padova because of the work being done through various partnerships-including those from Missouri.
“Our church’s mission is to glorify God through advancing the gospel, and we believe that is exactly what God is calling us to do in the city of Padova. We have a strong sense that God wants to use the unique gifting, abilities, passions, and experiences of Freshwater in Padova to reach people with the gospel. For example, we have a heart for the collegiate generation and in a city with 65,000 university students we see more than affinity, we see an open door to connect next-generation Italians with the gospel. One of the things God has been teaching me and challenging us with is the conviction that just because a place is historic and beautiful does not mean that it is not dark and filled with lostness. We want to partner in Padova because we believe that in that city Jesus wants to redeem everything and everyone that is his.”
As we all stood outside of the cathedral of St. Anthony on that brisk March morning, a little boy and his mother wandered into the square. The toddler eagerly climbed out of his stroller with his bright eyes set on a group of pigeons. I stood off to the side and watched this adorable little Italian boy chase the birds and couldn’t help but feel sadness and hope at the same time. I felt sad for the little boy for I knew his chances of hearing the gospel were slim to none. But as I begged the Lord to reveal Himself to that boy and his mother, I began to feel hope. God reminded me that He was raising up workers for the harvest. He is sovereign and He is in charge of this world. He has a plan to accomplish his will in northeast Italy. Will you please pray with me that God will send more people to plant churches in Padova? Is God calling you and your church to pray about this?
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 @juliermasson