Today I want to paint you a picture of the Italy you will never see in the quintessential travel poster. You may wonder why missionaries are sent here. You may even wonder why Emmaus is going to be sending teams each year to partner with the work here.
Let me tell you why we go.
In the city we visited today, there were at least 80 Catholic Churches. So you may think, “These people have access to the gospel. We should go somewhere else.” But I’m not done painting the picture. All of those churches are empty or used as something else. Some are museums and you can pay to go into them. Furthermore, a missionary we spoke with told us that their biggest immediate desire is to simply get an Italian friend to read the bible. Over 90% of Italians claim to be Catholic and the vast majority of them have never even darkened the door of even a Catholic Church.
The need in Italy is great. But that is not why we go.
Only 0.046 percent of Northern Italians claim to be evangelical. The Italian church is small. A “mega church” we visited today averages 50-55 people on Sunday. When one missionary asked an Italian church leader what their long term strategy/vision was with this local church, he did not know how to answer. We have learned that many Italian believers don’t have a great understanding of evangelism or why we evangelize.
This is still not why we go.
I hope you’re beginning to see the full picture now. Imagine if Emmaus was the only church in the entire Kansas City metro area. Would we consider that enough? No. There are many churches in Kansas City. Yet still we started Emmaus a little over a year ago. So let me remind you of the even bigger picture that we must always keep in mind. This is why we go:
We go because that is who we are.
We serve a missionary God. God sent his Son who sends us (the church) as His missionary to a broken world. From Genesis to Revelation, from the fall of Man to March 3, 2016 and onward, we see that God has a redemptive plan to save sinners for His glory. We get to be a part of that plan. We must be a part of that plan. We must always remember that mission is not an activity we do, but our identity as sons and daughters of the King.
So we will always go. We will go where God leads us. Our elders believe that God has lead us to northeast Italy. Therefore, we will go and evangelize. We will go and plant churches. We will take the gospel to the ends of the earth because that is who we are.
Church, we are asking you to pray for us these next few days. We are not certain which city God would have us partner with here in northeast Italy. We need clarity and direction from the Holy Spirit. Ronni and I (and the team) travel to a few more cities tomorrow and on Saturday we have a meeting with a potential partner. Will you please diligently seek the Lord on our behalf? Pray for discernment. Pray for wisdom. Pray for clarity. We love you guys.
Julie is a social media strategist, blogger and the Director of Communications at Emmaus. She is married to Jesse and they have 3 children, one of whom was born in Madrid, Spain during their time with the International Mission Board.