Carelinks | Italy
For over a year now we've been sending lots of Bible Basics and NEV Bibles to various African contacts in a mountainous area of Italy. They eventually responded and we were able to spend a wonderful time with them in August. They are the usual collection of Africans in Italy, some long settled there with their documents in order and established employment, others in the camps or on the street now their camps have closed, having gone through rape and all manner of abuse in Libya and the Sahara desert, with the usual stories of seeing people drowning around them on the sea crossing. But these stories can too easily become ‘the same old’. These people went through awful things, things which no human being should go through and now struggle with the temptations which arise from trying to survive in an alien environment with no employment and with no help from the Government, for the most part. They can’t be deported, but they aren’t welcome. It’s little wonder that the true Gospel has such an appeal.
The Africans took their baptisms very seriously and wanted it done in the open air, but the sea was very far away, and so there were quite some logistic issues in gathering together the group and taking them to a suitable river. A minibus was rented, which ended up being a huge coach, but it picked up around 20 of our folks and journeyed as near as possible to the baptism location. In scenes more reminiscent of the African bush than Europe, our group forded a shallow river to get to the deeper river, which was very fast flowing with quite a risk of sweeping some of them away.
So it took three of us to baptize them. We welcome our new brothers and sisters in Christ: Richard, John, Blessing, Florence, Igbine- dion, Osato, Success, Godspower, Queen, Courage, Efe, Benjamin, Lovette, Charity, Ejili and Emmanuel.
You’ll notice some have changed their names to English names, or translated their African names to English, whilst others retain their African names.
Afterwards we forded the river back to shore with them singing loudly and very happy. We then prayed with each of them individually [as well as collectively]. Who could doubt from those private chats and prayers that these were men and women who, through much suffering, had come to the Lord Jesus in spirit and truth. All the fruit of lots of phone calls, messages, their browsing of websites and reading the Bible with the commentary and Bible Basics, emails, answering questions... and an elderly man on his knees in a South London suburb in the UK wrapping up endless parcels of literature, sent out with your donations paying the hefty postal bill.
The baptism talk about crossing the Red Sea as a type of baptism, crossing the desert sustained by God and finally reaching the real promised land (which they all now know is not Italy or Europe)... had so much meaning for those who had crossed the Sahara, seeing people falling off the trucks or crushed beneath the bodies packed on board, or randomly thrown off and left to die in the desert if a tyre got flat and the traffickers wanted less weight...
They had already been given Bibles, but those who had good contacts they hoped to persuade of God’s truth were given another copy, for we emphasized that part of our calling is in order to share the Gospel with others.
It was hard packing them all back onto the coach to take them back to their hard lives in low life suburbs or on the streets of hostile, racist cities. You can see a video of it all via the link below. Please do pray for them and for our wisdom in the great work of pastoral follow up.
In July we baptized brother Francis, another poor homeless migrant in Italy with no documents. We took food to the derelict building where he was living, and words cannot describe the place. It had been gutted with fire, the plastic cladding on the walls and handrails all melted and peeling. It had become a drug den for Italian drug addicts and is a very scary place. Nine Africans sleep on the upper floor, but only go there to sleep late at night, as the downstairs is used by addicts and criminals in the day time and they are at risk of attack from right wing neo-Fascist thugs as well.
We found Francis living in a room with a small chair in it, on which he placed his NEV Bible. On his door he had painted a cross and the word “Jesus”.
Most of the other Africans were Muslims, and he just lives there in fear of his life at night. But he is very positive. “Have you got water?”. “Oh yes!” he beams, “We take it from over the road, from a pipe”. There’s obviously no electricity or toilet. We took food up there, including late at night. Into the very darkest of places, the light of God’s love and the good news of His Son must enter, and it did. All this is even worse when you hear the tragic story of Francis; how he was trafficked by the smuggling gangs in Libya, who sold him on to other gangs, who tortured him to get him to phone back to Ghana and get money sent to them. Those like him who couldn’t raise the money were then sold on cheaply to other gangs, who also tried to extort money by even worse torture, killing many in the group to scare the others to, by any means, find someone to send money to the traffickers. Francis has a wife and two children back in Ghana, and can’t return because he has no documents. His testimony is at: https://tinyurl.com/carelinks-italy-francis.
Bro Peter, pictured above right, and Sis Dae Ventresca from Canada spent a very useful three weeks in Italy during October, holding multiple pastoral follow up meetings and Bible studies etc., with the African brethren baptized there and also distributing leaflets in English and Italian. Always great to see spiritual growth in those baptized.