“Mom, today another teacher told me I can’t be a Christian.”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. How did you respond this time?”
“I just repeated that I’m a Christian. But she said I have to be a Roman Catholic, an Orthodox, or a Protestant Christian. She said I can’t be ‘just a Christian’.”
“You want me to talk with her and explain?”
Aisha sighed. “No, forget it. She won’t understand anyway.”
Although I didn’t agree with my fourteen-year-old daughter’s conclusion about the teacher’s ability to understand, I empathized with her. It was the second teacher who stated that Aisha couldn’t be a Christian.
The first had told her, “Go and ask your parents what you are.” After all, Aisha was the only child in her class not to attend the Catholic religion classes. Furthermore, she hadn’t received her First Communion nor did she go to Mass.
My husband, our daughter, and I are a non-denominational Christian family in Umbria, Italy, and we know that God wants us to reach out to Italians.
However, most of the 60 million people in Italy identify themselves as Christians, mainly Roman Catholics.
So what are we doing here, aiming to evangelize Christians?
But do the people we meet really know Jesus? When we ask, “How do you do?” the answer is often, “Si tira avanti,” which means, “I get by”, literally, “I’m dragging myself forward.” Their faces express a mixture of fatalism and futility as they mention family problems, failing health, or financial troubles. They’re living without purpose, without a glimmer of hope.
Despite the omnipresence of Catholicism, most Italians don’t know God, meaning that they don’t know Him personally. They picture Jesus as the dead man on the Cross or the helpless baby in the manger, but the living King has no relevant role in their lives.
We know that God loves the Italian people and wants to be part of their daily lives. He wants to give them identity, a sense of value, meaningful purpose, and clear direction.
How to explain this? How to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God among people who think they are doing fine as far as religion is concerned? What is evangelism anyway?
Evangelism is not necessarily about going into the streets with megaphones and handing out tracts to strangers. From our experience, we know that people won’t trust our words until they trust our hearts. Evangelism is a lifestyle.
We pray to God each day that He will fill us with love for everyone we will meet that day. We listen to people’s problems; we offer to pray for them and with them. We share with them what Jesus has done in our own lives. We talk with them and counsel them. We open our house and our hearts to them.
When people show interest, we often point them to John’s Gospel to get to know Jesus.
Thanks to their Catholic heritage, many Italians own a Bible. And we know that God’s living Word has the power to lead them to faith in Christ (2Timothy 3:15).
There’s a problem though; most Italians we meet find the Bible an intimidating book that they have never opened, let alone read.
I recently found the solution for overcoming this initial hesitancy in the form of a small evangelism tool, the Pocket Testament.
Some weeks ago, I came across the website of the Pocket Testament League (PTL). The PTL has an intriguing history and two main goals: Strengthen people’s faith and equip them to bring other people closer to Jesus. To that end, they offer free evangelism training and free daily devotionals. However, their main tool is the Pocket Testament, a booklet containing the complete Gospel of John, preceded by an explanation of Jesus’ crucial role in God’s reconciliation plan.
Delighted to find out that the Pocket Testament is also available in Italian, I immediately ordered twenty copies.
Upon receiving them, I put several booklets in my handbag. In two of them, I wrote a personal message.
I’m taking the liberty of sharing our Christian faith with you through this booklet.
May you be blessed by its content.
I trust that God will grant me the opportunity to give each pocket testament to the intended recipient. His Word will do the rest.