Making Jesus visible in Italy
We know Italy as a fantastic holiday destination. And that is not without reason. At the time of writing this article, I have been living and working in Italy for several weeks, which is always an enormous privilege.
There's more to mention about Italy than just the great food, the very friendly people, the great weather or the beautiful regions that the country has. Nearly 90% of the Italian population is part of the Roman Catholic Church and about a third of this are more or less active members of the Church. A quarter of Italians regularly attend a Roman Catholic church service, but much is related to tradition. In addition, there are superstitions. Many Italians do not yet know the message of Jesus and the good news of the gospel.
Only Christian in a school of 700 students
Less than 1.5% of Italians are Evangelical Christians. This makes the position of the few Evangelical churches out there very important. I have been working intensively with the church of Verbania - on the beautiful Lago Maggiore - for about 7 years now. The pastors of this church have become good friends. The church is well known throughout the region and churchgoers sometimes drive an hour or more to attend the Sunday service. Often they are the only Christian in their environment and sometimes even the only Christian in their family. Nor is it exceptional that the youth of the Church are the only active Christian in a school of 700 students.
Full of life
Being a Christian, following Jesus may cost something. Not that the church of Verbania is so perfect, ofcourse I could mention a number of points that are less beautiful. That's no different here than in any other church. But while it is sometimes far from easy, this church is full of life, full of joy, full of passion. As a beacon of light and hope for Verbania and the surrounding area.
Relevant to society
Besides native Italians, refugees and migrants also find their way to church. In addition to Sunday services, the congregation meets at home during the week in small groups. They regularly pray together in a disciplined manner at 7 o'clock in the morning for a certain period of time. They invite others and look for ways to spread the gospel, to be relevant to society.
Handing out bread on Sunday evening
People who need help are helped as much as possible. So one Sunday evening we went with the pastors to pick up leftover loaves of bread from a bakery on the other side of the lake. To then bring the loaves to families who could use this very well. Although they themselves hardly have a fixed income as pastors, they are always ready to meet the needs of others. Their house is always open and it is not unusual when their house is full of guests, like a number of Ukrainian refugees in recent days.
No home base
The church currently does not have its own building. A space is rented on Sunday mornings, but this is expensive and no weekday activities can be organized here. A home base is missing, while this is just so important here.
Beacon of light and hope
Recently the opportunity arose to buy a plot of land on which to build. This opportunity was seized with both hands, a step in faith. The desire is to be a beacon of light and hope in Verbania and the wider region with its own place - even more than now. A place where Sunday meetings can be held and where young and old can also meet during the week. But also: a place to provide a home for people in need. A place to make Jesus visible to Italians who don't know Him yet.
Don't forget the Italians
Thinking of a holiday in Italy? Do you think of wonderful sunshine, clear lakes, beautiful mountains, a fantastic culture and the best food? Think, then, of the Christians in Italy, and in particular of the church of Verbania. With few people they have a huge impact. A great responsibility to make Jesus visible to the people in this great country.
Hans Borghuis is a passionate christian speaker and pastor. He leads church services weekly, interdenominational, in the Netherlands and abroad. Hans also trains, guides and coaches in churches and organizations. Hans speaks at conferences and events, for (church) leaders, student associations, men's, women's and youth groups. Practical and pure, from the Bible and focused on everyday life. Hans also regularly speaks and trains outside the Netherlands. Especially in Italy, where he has a special relationship with the church of Verbania. He has a lot of experience in the field of church planting, congregation building, discipleship, evangelism and youth work and and he is affiliated with C&MA in the Netherlands.