Some things are so pretty at first glance, but often it is only just skin-deep. Florence Italy is one of these places. I just came from there where I spent days with missionaries Valley Baptist Church supports. Firenze (Florence) is a beautiful city with history that is hard for Americans to truly appreciate. America is 200+ years old while Italy—the buildings, culture, and traditions exceed 2,000 years.
After leaving the city, some things stuck out to me about Firenze that I would like to share about—specifically relating to why we as a church support missionaries in Italy. I mean isn’t Italy a Christian country?
The definition of a Christian country. Yes, the Roman Catholic Church is headquartered in Rome. If you consider the Roman Catholic Church to be Christian, you would be dismayed at the sharp decrease of the church. I was raised Roman Catholic. I love Catholics. So I say this next part with sensitivity. I don’t think the Vatican’s teaching is in alignment with the Bible. The Catholic Church in the United States is VERY different from Catholic Churches in the rest of the world. I was shocked to see the Catholic Church in Europe for the first time after being raised one—this is not the church I grew up in. The Gospel of Christ (i.e. 1 Cor. 15:1-4) is not clearly taught in the Catholic Church. Period. Most Catholics have not come to a saving knowledge of Christ as described in Ephesians 1:13-14. But this is a moot point, as people in Europe do not care about God or a relationship with Him at all. In meeting with the family the mom quoted one of their kids while on furlough in the United States this summer. She asked her mom, “Why can’t we just stay here where all the Christians are. I don’t like being the only Christians at home” (or something to this effect).
Safety is an allusion. What would you answer if I asked you this question: “Which country would you feel safest: Mongolia, Mexico, or Italy?” Well if you are like me, I would have answered in this order: Italy, Mexico, Mongolia. Boy, was a wrong. Italy was by far the most troublesome place I have visited. Mongolia and Mexico were easy in comparison. Sure, you can visit Italy and stay in a hotel and not feel true Italy, but in staying with our missionaries we were able to get a feel over what is really going on. The police in Italy are a joke. They don’t exist for all practical purposes. The same goes for medical care. On a side bar, Americans who think Europeans are in love with their system are living under false allusions. In addition to these two factors, there is a huge influx of foreigners from northern Africa and Eastern Europe who cannot get work so they rob and terrorize people with no worries of consequence. The Giorgi’s were violently robbed a couple of years ago and both of their neighbors had been violently robbed—I am talking beatings and being tied down while men ransack your house. They light up the outside of their houses, have loud alarms that sound if people enter the perimeter of the home. I think there was only one night where we did not hear alarms and go outside to assist neighbors whose alarms started going off. Seriously, it was a worrisome reality of life in Florence.
Why we support Andrea and Susan Giorgi. There is a huge need for the Gospel in Italy. It is huge. It is an unreached country by all standards a less than 1% of the population is Evangelical Christian. When I look at a church planter I look for a couple of things. In addition to calling, training, etc, I look at their ability to fit into their culture. Italians are resistant to outsiders coming in. Andrea is born and raised in Florence. Hi is a Florentine inside and out. He knows the culture and the people inside and out and God is using his background in reaching Italians for Christ and is making disciples through the church and seminary. In addition to this, Andrea’s English is spot on. His theological training is solid—of course we met at seminary J. But Andrea is totally game for others coming here and helping him reach his country for Christ. He works with and trains missionaries who are coming here to plant churches. I can’t tell you how huge this is to the young missionaries coming here. He has been a huge asset for Campus Crusade here in Italy and has to leadership as he assists them.
Please pray Andrea, Susan, Grace, Goia, and Eva as they serve Christ in Italy as a family!