Before I got here, I knew that many Italian people did not know Jesus. Actually being here has made it real. That sounds so childish and obvious, but for some reason it has hit me hard. Last night a university student asked why we were here. After I explained, he said Bologna was not a good place to try to talk to people about God and Jesus – because they are so far from God. He put himself in this category as well.
During a walk, we visited several churches just to look around. David, who is on staff with a ministry partnering with the Agape Italia team in Bologna, told us we might see about 15 people at mass on any given day, and that they’d all be our grandparents’ age. As we walked through, we noticed a couple of nuns singing and what seemed like a service going on. It was a mass. One person was sitting in the pews worshiping as a handful of tourists perused the church. This is the heart-breaking reality of Christianity in Italy. I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed watching the scene, knowing that the churches here are little more than museums, with a lost world right outside the door. What an immediate reminder of the work that needs to be done.
I look around and I see people who are really hurting. They don’t trust people; they hate the government, the lack of jobs, the insincerity in people. They are starving for authentic love and friendship. They really do look like they have no hope — they aren’t pretending. There are churches on every corner, and they are empty. Why? The Italian people need hope, and are searching for true freedom…but in Italy, they do not find those needs met within the church.
It’s burdensome, but in it I remember the faithfulness of God. Since we arrived, a girl who has been meeting with a woman who has spent the past year in Bologna professed belief in Christ. God is moving and working through the gospel going out. Over time it is changing people and proving to fulfill the need they have for hope.