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 4 in a 5 part series on the different cities and regions in Northeast Italy that we visited. Catch the introduction here, as well as part 1, part 2 and part 3. Won’t you pray about how you and your church can help take the gospel to the lost in northeast Italy?
Many people think of Venice when they think of Italy. It’s the quintessential romantic and European experience. I imagine you probably think of this when you hear the word Venice:
But Pastor Jeremy Muniz and the chairman of his Missions Committee, Russ Sanders, think of something much different when they hear someone mention Venice. To them, Venice is not some island where all the tourists go. In fact, “real” Venice, isn’t even on this picturesque island. And Venice, like the rest of northeast Italy, is extremely lost.
Italy perfectly fills the “Samaria” portion of our Acts 1:8 missional strategy. If the church approves the proposal, Venice, Italy will become our focus. I have made contact with a church in Illinois and another local Baptist church in DeSoto that will join us in our work in Venice. The idea will be to provide at least one couple on the ground in Venice for several months of the year. I envision a rotation of couples, who could stay for a few weeks or a month at a time, who would build relationships in Venice, establish small groups, and eventually move toward a church plant. At present, that is the broad vision.
There is much going on in this region so many of us did walk away with a broad vision of what God could do in and through our churches and the partners on the ground there. Muniz and Sanders were with myself and the others when we had the privilege of hearing from a Brazilian pastor who is on the move for the gospel. The moment of realization about what God is doing in this region came to us when Dr. Hedger took out some coins and asked the pastor to use them to represent the cities surrounding Treviso and the cities near Venice. He took the coins and got on the floor of his church building. “This is Venice, this is Treviso,” he said as he laid down each coin in relation to the fictional map on the ground. But he was not just merely giving us a geography lesson. “In this city, there are 3 groups meeting to study the Bible. This city has a few believers and they will soon start meeting. That city has 4 groups already.”
As the Euro coins spread out we began to see a tangible picture of the people God is drawing to himself. But the real blessing began when the members of our group began asking the Brazilian pastor about how he could utilize teams of people from our churches here in Missouri. On one hand, he was almost taken back by the idea that people wanted to help start a movement of church plants there. On the other hand, he was also able to give different churches some very practical ways they could send members of their church to help. For many on the trip, the afternoon spent in the Italian church led by a Brazilian pastor was a highlight of the week.
We came to Treviso to learn about that city and the church his pastor was leading. We walked away with a much bigger picture of the what God is doing in the area. In all of these cities in the Veneto region of Italy, there is only 1 church for every 34,000 people. This includes any kind of evangelical church. (Pentecostal, etc.)
Treviso, a city of over 82,000, is located in one of the most beautiful regions of Italy and yet it is one of the most spiritually sick cities. There is an abundance of pornography use and the suicide rate in Treviso is very high. The Brazilian pastor we spoke with that afternoon is passionate about his international church meeting the spiritual needs of his community.
When communism came to Italy, it effected the Baptist church negatively. Because of bad doctrine being taught over the years, the Italian Baptist church has seen a decline in baptisms. Therefore, I believe God has chosen foreigners to bring the true gospel to the Italians.
Will you pray for this pastor? His heart for the gospel and his heart to see churches planted is real. Will you also pray about your church partnering with what he is doing? He oversees an area of Veneto that includes Treviso (where his church is located), Venice, Padova, Vicenza and a few more. But we are also asking you to pray about Rovigo and Verona and the many, many other cities in northeast Italy that do not have a gospel centered church to proclaim the Good News.
Treviso. Venice. Vicenza. Padova. Rovigo. Belluno. Verona. There are more. And they all are in desperate need of the gospel. Can your church help?
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