The singing. I’ll never forget that singing. I’ve heard the famous hymn “And Can It Be” dozens of times. But listening to this small church of believers in Caltanissetta, Sicily, belt out the Italian translation of Charles Wesley’s lyrics nearly moved me to tears.
Thanks to the generous gifts of TGC International Outreach supporters, we provided this church and hundreds of other Italians across the country with copies of John Piper’s biography of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen. I didn’t understand at first why Sicilian church leaders requested this particular biography. But then I saw the new warehouse underneath the carefully designed church under construction in the heart of residential Caltanissetta. Alpha & Omega has already published Italian translations of Piper’s biographies honoring such leaders as Jonathan Edwards, Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. Your gifts helped them round out the collection.
Over 11 days of travel across Italy in early September, I met impressive church leaders working for unity and praying for revival. Their leadership differs from ours in America only in quantity, certainly not in quality. Nevertheless, few pastors work full-time for their churches. Theological training is available, but many pastors must still move to Great Britain for in-depth studies.
I wondered before I departed how Americans can support Italian Protestants without simply exporting our strengths and weaknesses. I returned understanding that Italian church leaders appreciate our help but don’t accept it uncritically. They question whether we truly understand Roman Catholicism. And they challenge us with their knowledge of the Word and boldness to proclaim it in a hostile culture where the Bible was banned for centuries.
But we Americans have been blessed by God with unmatched resources to research, write, and teach theology and history. Such sustained attention to theological education is an unimagined luxury for nearly all Italian evangelicals. So for now they gladly accept the fruit of this labor and remind us of the responsibility before God to whom much has been given.