Carelinks | Italy
Because of its geographical location, Italy has become home to large numbers of African migrants. Many have been there already many years, and are working legally, often for minimum wage, and gather together for Christian worship in mainly Pentecostal churches. The problem with Pentecostalism is that the continued emphasis upon the false prosperity Gospel, always hyping people up for miracles and then guilt tripping those who don’t get them, along with high pressure to donate money to the pastors... leaves thoughtful people feeling very short changed and disappointed.
Many African migrants speak only minimal Italian and find there are few English speaking churches they can attend. And so near Bologna, a group of such folks began meeting together for Bible study. One of them, Joseph, found us on the internet and with a wonderful humility to the word, came to accept doctrine after doctrine through reading our material, using the NEV Bible with commentary, and viewing our presentations on YouTube. And he has shared our literature and NEV Bibles with other African folk he knows. He’s a remarkable preacher, approaching any black guy he sees on the street [because they are likely English speaking] and putting the Gospel to them.
Joseph’s baptism in the Adriactic Sea
Joseph meets with this group in a hotel conference room. They are an interesting group- from newly arrived young men with just the clothes they stand up in, to people like Joseph who have stable work, a car and can rent their own apartment. Several came along with their NEV Bibles [in the group photo above, you can see the man on the far left holding his copy]. They are God fearing folk who deeply respect the Bible and most are familiar with Bible passages, freely turning them up when they were quoted. This is a dying breed of person in Europe and it was really nice to be with such sincere folk. They had already been exposed to many of our ideas through Joseph, and we lectured them through the promises to Abraham, Kingdom on earth, no immortal soul etc. We also had the pleasure of baptizing Joseph in the Adriactic, pictured page 24. Joseph is so humble and yet so enthusiastic to spread the Gospel to others, and his wife Osha is very supportive of him. This group are very open to being taught; the conference room they hire has a projector, and we wonder if anyone would like to go and lecture them one Sunday? Italy is of course a holiday destination and there are direct flights from Bologna to the UK. Ideally you could continue going through Bible Basics with them, by showing them the powerpoint presentations on each chapter and chatting around them.
Bible Basics Powerpoint presentations for download - available online at www.biblebasicsonline.com
We returned to Italy in July and our visit with Bro Joseph and his contacts was greatly blessed. It is a pleasure to see such humility to God’s word and sincere desire to serve Him and His Son in Spirit and truth. We were able to baptize Omo, George, Mofi, Peter, Victor, Godspower and Henry.
Our brethren are conscious of the huge numbers of migrants now washing up on the shores of Italy. Since the closure of the Greek route, the majority of migrants are now arriving by sea in Italy, risking dangerous sea crossings in often leaking boats. Each month, at least 20,000 migrants arrive on the Italian beaches; and at least 700 drown each month, on average. 900 drowned in the last week of May alone, and many boats capsize without being noticed and reported, so the figures are likely far higher.
Public opinion is strongly against the migrants. We baptized our brethren on a crowded beach on a Saturday. There were hundreds if not thousands of bodies lying on the packed beach- white bodies. Our group of 10 black males [including some other contacts] drew quite some attention as we walked past the sunbathers and went into the sea. The association of black people with the beaches of Italy was provocative and there was some severe racism and shouting of abuse. One German tourist ran up to us and explained she was a Christian and was ashamed of the abuse, especially seeing we were sincere Christians perforing a baptism in the sea. She pressed some money into the hands of our baptismal candidates and walked off, herself getting scorn. God bless her. It was some of the most primitive racism we have experienced in Europe. It reflects the fast pace of change in Europe and the deep divisions which are opening up within society, which of themselves are enough to bring Europe down. After the baptism we went for a cold drink but were repeatedly told by the bars that our group of 12 was too big, or some such excuse. So the baptisms, performed on a beach where the deck chairs were almost to the water’s edge, was a wonderful witness to many of the unity of persons and ethnicities in Christ.
The racism doesn’t end there. When the migrants arrive, they are registered and taken by the Government to various hostels or camps. They are given no public support for several months. Then, they are registered and given support for a few months, and after six months they can work, which Italians complain is taking away their jobs. The Government seems to hope that by not supporting them, apart from accommodation, the migrants will move further north to other parts of Europe. Our brethren are reaching out to such newly arrived migrants in four different camps. They arrive on the beaches with totally nothing, just their trousers and T-shirt. The mood against helping the migrants varies from area to area, but where they are, the support level has decreased markedly in recent times. Food is delivered to them by various charities, but very little, and the Muslim charities give preference to feeding the Muslim migrants, of whom there are many. We spent significant funds on buying food for them- they have cooking facilities. Rice, yams, cooking oil, vegetables and also clothes. We are open to donations to replace our funds spent on these things and to continue assisting. We also arranged for them to phone home to their families, which meant so much to them. The journeys of those who came from northern Nigeria were amazing. They crossed the Sahara, going several days packed in trucks, drinking dirty water from oases, eating dead camels or nothing at all. Until they reached Libya, where some were put in the migrant prisons there, experiencing whipping and starvation, seeing Christian migrants killed quite arbitraily by the Muslim guards. Many also died on the Sahara journey. If a tyre got damaged, the armed drivers would just push off some of the migrants to lighten the vehicle and leave them in the desert to die. Then there was the dangerous crossing of the Meditteranean. All we spoke to said their boats leaked and all of them were brought to Italy by rescue ships as their boats had sprung leaks or been swamped by waves. One of those we baptized had changed his name to Godspower as he was for ever impresssed with God’s power to save him. One described paddling a dinghy with their hands after losing their oars. Every single one we spoke to had arrived the same way at different times; and they each said that during the perilous sea crossing, during which they all witnessed death or came near to it, they vowed to God to serve Him and His Son if they came alive to Italy’s shores. It makes us wonder how many of those who survived the shipwreck with Paul later also came to true faith. And in their cases, they got to Italy... and met with our brethren. And now some of them have been baptized- on Italy’s beaches. We talked with them of how baptism is a crossing of the Red Sea, and then a wilderness journey by grace to the promised land. It fitted so well with their experiences. Their baptisms really were a vow of a good conscience to serve the Father and Son who saved their lives for the purpose of their coming to know His grace.
Bro Joseph doing a Bible study session with some from one of the hostels; all are using the NEV Bibles given them
We feel led in to a subgroup within Western society who are so open and receptive to the Gospel. So let us know if you’d like to be involved with teaching this lovely group and do pray for them all