White Unto Harvest

The Church in Udine, Italy

This month we highlight a church in Italy.

The Church in Udine, Italy

"Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you" (Heb. 13:24).

My name is Valerio Marchi; I am 37 and work as an evangelist with the Church of Christ at Udine, in northeastern Italy, not far from the Austrian and Slovenian borders. About 100,000 people live in this city and 200,000 in the surrounding area. My wife's name is Patrizia; we got married in 1986 and we have a daughter, born in 1995, whose name is Arianna Vera. I have been preaching since 1985, spending all these years at Udine; but, of course, also preaching from time to time in other places, according to the opportunities.

The Beginning of the work at Udine

First of all it is pertinent to note that, in modern times, the Gospel was first preached in Italy by some American missionaries whose sacrifices and zeal we appreciate. However, these brethren used some methods that were not scriptural (for example, such institutions as an orphan home, a Bible school, a Biblical Studies Center, a Publishing House Company - all supported by sponsoring churches in U.S.A.; "gift packages" coming from the States, with clothing, food and so forth, etc.). The work at Udine was a fruit of this kind of attitude. In the seventies, the congregation here had no firm foundation: no preachers, neither elders nor deacons, and, moreover, no spiritual responsibility or sound knowledge of the Gospel. At the beginning of the 1980's, the church split as a consequence of the good teaching of a conservative Italian preacher (who is working in the area of Rome at present, and who lived here for some years). The very small group who decided to break off from institutionalism and liberalism opened a new era of the Lord's work here. Year by year, several were converted, including myself (February 1984).

Present situation of Udine Church

Udine Church counts 31 members at present, and the attendance is of about 35/40 as an average. Besides the Sunday worship at 10 a.m., we meet on Thursdays at 7 p.m. for a Bible class and on other days from time to time. This is our address: Chiesa di Cristo, Via Trento 77, 33100 Udine (ITALY) - Phone number: 0432/299379. The Church Internet site is http://www.xnet.it/Vangelo. I am the preacher here; bro. Andrea Miola teaches on Sundays on a regular base (in order to communicate with us, you may also use bro. Andrea's e-mail: amiola@iol.it).

Methods in preaching

I cannot say that one method is better then another. We have had good results as well as a lot of failures through each of them (as is normal in preaching the Gospel).

Resistance we have encountered

First of all, we must consider the fact that about the 98% of Italian are Catholics, whether they practice their religion or not. It is not easy to forget so many centuries of history and tradition, of course. Moreover, Italian Catholicism goes together with a deep ignorance of the Bible, prejudice and very often practical atheism. And even more then this, religion is above all a social matter; the most part of the people do not want to change their mind just because this could affect in some way their daily life. We are not facing open persecutions, but the subtle power of Catholic Church and the common mentality are maybe stronger and more effective! Catholicism is everywhere in Italy: for example, catholic hierarchy holds (directly or indirectly) Banks (I guess it's enough to say that two of the main Banks here are named "Holy Spirit Bank", "Bank of Saint Paul"); in public schools, religion is taught, but the only one religion that has this privilege is the Roman Catholic (children are "educated" in Catholicism at school starting when they are 3 years old!). Besides these aspects, we live - maybe in a smaller proportion - in the same situation of "religious" confusion that you may find in other countries: JW's, Pentecostals, Mormons, Oriental sects and so on. As in other countries, it is very hard to preach the pure Gospel in this situation.

Experience with liberal brethren

I think we are living the same experience of other places: the liberal brethren are more numerous then the conservatives. However, it happens (not very often, but it does happen) that liberal Churches change their view and take a stand against institutions, social Gospel, etc.; I can cite the good examples of the Churches of Christ in Siracusa (Sicily Island) and Pisa during these last 3 years. I personally am always available to keep in touch with all the liberals that are willing to debate with me, because I know that sooner or later some of them will be available to revise and correct their position.

Reflections on my experience with the work in Italy

As everywhere, more workers are needed; but I know this really is a world-wide problem. Indeed, I believe that other countries are more in need than Italy! Whoever would like to come and preach here, must be willing to stay for many years, learning the Italian language and mentality, with much patience and zeal. In the event that someone would like to support a local, young Italian preacher, they may contact me or other Italian preachers for information.

We are able to produce sufficient and, I believe, good written material (fliers, tracts, magazines, commentaries), both written by Italians and translated from American (Bible studies written by American brethren).

In general, Italian brethren are enough committed to the Lord. Two of the main problems are the facts that the congregations grow very slowly in number (in spite of the many efforts done in spreading the Gospel), and, even after many years, they can't appoint elders and deacons according to the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

5-20 years after the end of the Second World War (years in which many many people were very angry about their spiritual food and ready to look for the truth), the situation changed: confusion, ecumenism, materialism, indifference and other hindrances are giving a very good "support" to the State religion and Satan.

Of course, Christians coming from other countries are always welcome here, in order to encourage one another, teaching and learning from each other the many good things of the Gospel and the reciprocal experiences in the Kingdom.

Valerio Marchi
Via Colugna 127/1
33100 Udine (ITALY)
Home telephone: 0432/43949
From the U.S.: 011-39-432-43949

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For comments to the author, or to contribute news, reports, and information regarding preaching efforts in foreign lands, please contact Steve at 100416.655@compuserve.com

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