I arrived in Milan on Thursday morning and managed to get into Parma by late afternoon, exhausted from travel, of course. So after a good night of sleep I rose on Friday morning to connect with old friends in the city who remain evangelism contacts that I continue to cultivate.

Even though tired I was anxious to get to work and so I took out my drawing pad and drew a young man across from me. Of course, everyone around wanted to see what I was up to and those brave enough to look over my shoulder (about twenty people) would give me the thumbs up. The young man was thrilled at being the center of attention. A guy across from me (about 6 foot, 6 inches tall) tried to speak to me in broken English. When he learned that I had lived in Canada he came alive. He was on the Cuban Pan/Am Team in volleyball and lived in Winnipeg. When I had finished the drawing I gave it to the other guy I concentrated on the volleyball player. He gave me his card to get in touch. I shared Jesus with him (a very clear gospel) and gave tracts that I had in Spanish.

The guy that I had drawn seemed to be listening as was his traveling companion. As I got up to leave, I spoke to him in Italian and he replied by saying, “You can speak in English if you prefer.” Both of the fellows spoke English (one was from Spain) and they wanted to know what I was doing here in Italy and how I spoke Italian, so, guess what, I told them and told them some more. I was able to present a clear gospel and give them literature before leaving the train at Parma. I watched them read the tracts together and discuss the content.

When I was here in the fall of 2007, I discussed with Mariela (Pastor Aldo’s wife) the possibility of having a women’s weekend away and though it was tons of work she managed to accomplish the task with around 35 women attending. This meant that Pastor Aldo and I were bachelors for the weekend though we had to care for their daughter Rebecca. Being bachelors, I made hamburgers for Aldo, Rebecca and Osvaldo, the worship leader, and his two girls. The women all reported meeting with God in powerful ways. Mariela spoke on the Beth Moore subject, “Having a Mary Heart in Martha World.”

Ann Hinrich’s of Minneapolis put together a team of six (they had all been here before), four women and two men. They arrived in Italy before me and went right away to serve a church in Trento (the north of Italy). This is a relationship cultivated by them alone and they have been well received and very effective in their ministry, first to the youth and then in Sunday services. They arrived in Parma a day before me and while the women were away on the coast at the retreat, the men (Luke Hinrichs and Tom Mills) assisted Pastor Francesco Abortivi.

Francesco solicited the help of Tony Anthony of Rome. He is a master of children’s ministry (a sort of Roberto Benini of “A Beautiful Life”) and travels with a rig that I would guess might be around, $100,000. The van’s sides fold out and he has a top quality sound system, puppets, lively music, tells stories and gathers rapt attention. By the way this has been paid for by a secular social development organization. The church in Italy could never raise these funds. There were about twenty to thirty children and their parents.

Denny, Jessica, Ruth, Fabian, Danny, Clara, Christian and Victor put together a bar-b-q where about twenty young people attended. They all came early a made a fantastic meal of chicken, potatoes and salad. I spoke to the group of which at least four or five were not believers, three or four others with one foot in the kingdom and one foot out and another ten or so who are on fire. Before the meeting two young people dropped in for a minute. They are the young adults of a strong church family. This provided the opportunity to speak to the daughter for almost an hour. The conversation was straight forward and challenging.

Though Aldo was sick with a horrible cold and had spent the day in bed, he translated for me and they all said they understood and they must have because it appears that several have trusted Christ during the meeting and were in church on Sunday morning. I spoke on Judas, betraying Jesus with a kiss and how that is what Italy does, they only pay Him lip service but in the process they deny him and send him out to be crucified. They build big churches’, make beautiful art to celebrate his life but only care about, money, fashion, sex and sports. “They would not come to me (him) that they might have life.”

We are meeting in the new building! It’s big, bright and airy! All in all, it costs more than $2,000 a month. This is a lot of money for a rather poor congregation so the few that have jobs have to go without to keep the church financially afloat.

We did have a scene! Upon arriving at the church a neighbor met pastor Aldo to give him a piece of his mind. There was not much that Aldo could say since the man was irate. He was furious over the late hour of the night before and the noise, the cars that blocked his driveway and complained that every night of the week there is something going on! He threatened to have them evicted. He said, “You are not legal!”

Once settled into the service and having twenty-five or more women away on a retreat I preached to around 50 people. The church now has about 80-100 attendees. I preached a biographical sermon on John the Baptist, “A Man Sent from God.” It seemed to have some effect.

After a quick lunch and a short nap we drove to…

Here is a church of about eighty pastored by Italian-American, Mario and his wife Shiela. They have been leading this congregation for about ten years. Eighty people in Italy is a very large congregation. I preached on maturity (Four Kinds of People) from I Corinthians. One man cried all through the service and could not get his breath. He came to me later with his wife and in broken English tried to say that Jesus had spoken to him and was calling him from the shadows into a life devoted to Christ, to go where he ìs asked to go and do what he is asked to do.


Others commented in a variety of ways about the impact of the message.

With a kind of day off and  a desire to get out from under foot so that Aldo and Mariela could have some time to themselves, I rushed off by train to Montova. I had heard that it is a beautiful city so I get the enormous blessing of mixing work with pleasure.

Before I got out of the parking lot I encountered the doctor from three houses down and though I needed to catch the bus he engaged me in conversation. He speaks English well and is married to a woman from England who, as he reports, hates Italy and hates him because she has to live here. We have talked before and he likes to goad me with side comments on Christianity as he seemingly blames religion for every ill in the world. Let me say that he, on this occasion poked at the dog a little too hard. I tried to hold “butchy boy” back but he jumped the fence and finally told the poor doctor that he was a miserable person and perhaps one of the most lost and unhappy people that I had ever met. And when it comes to the final business of dying I would rather be me than him as he has no hope in this life or the life to come. I went on to the bus. I think that I have won his respect. I told him that his world is too small and that he needs to get off of his island.




As it turned out to be a very hot day and I was loaded down with literature and art materials the day proved to be more work than I had hoped for. Well, guess what? The first situation I run into is the JW’s handing out literature in the park and I just happened to have about twenty tracts in Italian entitled, “The Four Errors of The Watch Tower.” I first offered the tracts to the JW’s and some rather brisk exchanges took place.

So, I followed them and whoever they spoke to, I spoke to and gave then a tract. Finally, they left the park in disgust. I went back around and had a thirty minute conversation in English with a man from India. I was able to pray for him. He has been away from his family for more than a year and trying to earn a better life for them. Of course, he cried when thinking of how lonely he was and the fact that there is not much work and he doesn’t have enough money to return home. There are thousands of such cases. Regrettably, like so many others, he calls himself a Christian, wears a cross around his neck but understands nothing of what it means to be a Christian. He has been sacramentalized but never evangelized. This condition describes 99% of Italy.

Later – on the train to Modena – I drew the portrait of a young man who turned out to be a muslXm from Bangledesh. He is married but his wife is also at home while he tries to make some money under the table. He admitted to having no work and not being able to yet send anything home. He barely has enough money to survive himself. He said, “One day, if my God wills, I will go to America.” I asked, “Who is your God?” I knew, of course, but I wanted to hear him say it.  When he said, “AlXah,” I was able to tell him that his God was too arbitrary and fickle. He wanted to know what I meant so I explained that his God is unknowable. We had a good conversation. I was able to give him tracts in Arabic, English (which he asked for) and Italian. After leaving the train he waited for me to de-board to thank me for a very informative and helpful discussion and made the comment, “You are a very good man.”

I have a coffee appointment with a young lady that has left the church. I ran into her on the first day in Parma. She was happy to see me and quick to ask if I could see her. I hope that the conversation turns her again to the Lord and his church. She seems quite unhappy with her present life whereas before she was a leader among the young people.

Pastor Aldo has another service for those who are working and unable to come on Sunday. We expect perhaps 20-30 people. I will be speaking again.


I spoke to around thirty people on the subject, “Salvation in Three Tenses – Justification, Sanctification and Glorification”.”


I leave early tomorrow for Venice where I hope to see and edify Piero Pugiotto and perhaps have an opportunity to share the gospel with his religious (Russian Orthodox) wife.  From there I will go another three hours to Trieste, spend the night and meet in the afternoon with Chris Scobie who will drive Doug Hamm and I to Ljublijana where I will teach and preach for four days and do personal evangelism. Doug will be flying from Victoria, British Columbia to Italy and then training to catch up with me in Trieste.



I left Parma last Wednesday for Venice, Trieste and then Ljublijana. On the bus to Parma I met two young boys about twelve years of age. Since I was on a different bus than usual and somewhat confused they wanted to help me and in the process speak the nine words that they knew in English. What cute kids. In the end I was able to give them each a little of the gospel and each a different tract in Italian. They de-boarded at the same stop and got into a car with one of their moms’. Right away, they excitedly pointed me out and showed the tracts to her, she looked at the literature, smiled and waved as she drove away. Not much but seeds just the same!

Some people like Venice and I will admit that it is, without doubt, one of the most unique cities in the world. Yet, I hate going there as the city is either, hot, raining, always expensive and over-crowded. Piero (my Italian friend and no doubt a fresh convert) met me at the train station and then took me through the back alleys to his house on Judaica Island. He is living with his pregnant girlfriend Natasha from Moldova and has tried everything to get married but she cannot go back to Moldova and is not yet an Italian citizen. They have tried to get her papers but Moldova won’t release them and Italy won’t accept her though she is totally enculturated. They will have a little boy (naming him Cristiano) in August. Their future is uncertain. Would you pray for them? Natasha is very loving toward me and respectful. All that she has ever known is Russian Orthodox so Piero sets the environment up so that I can speak to her about Jesus. He clearly understands the difference between religion and Christ. They made a marvelous lunch for me and I left them with a financial gift for their new baby and literature in Russian as well as Italian. I suppose in some ways I have become a family member (zio Antonio). She has no parents and has seen none of her relatives for five or more years.


Week 2
I arrived late and spent the night in Trieste and then waited the next day for Doug Hamm of Victoria, BC.. He came from Canada and Milan to be with me in Ljublijana.



On Thursday morning and before meeting with Doug and Pastor Chris, I went around to the electric store where an old friend, Dario continues to work. Though at one time he made a profession of faith and even visited me in Minneapolis, he fell out of sorts with the local church and was ostracized (excommunicated). He still remains my dear friend and I continue to meet with him at every opportunity. When he saw me he was almost tearful and thanked me for staying in touch and going to the trouble of looking him up. I think that he loves the Lord.


At two in the afternoon we met with Chris Scobie, Pastor of the Pentecostal Free Church of Ljublijana and a former student of mine.

Chris is originally from New Zealand and married to Sabina Kuzmic of Slovenia. Sabina is an amazing translator and is making a great contribution to the small church of Slovenia. There are only 1,000 Christians among the two million Slovene’s.

I began right away on Thursday evening with nine enrolled students and another ten or so who simply wanted to hear the material. I taught a course, entitled, “Communicating Christian Thought in a Post Christian, Post Modern World.” In all we met for 11 hours. By the end of the three days we had attracted more visitors to the course and some from other churches (Catholic and Baptist). Yes, a Catholic charismatic couple came and appeared to be very supportive of the message concerning the Gospel.

I have some tremendous young friends there and we have tentatively planned other evangelistic events and missionary excursions. On Sunday morning I preached to a packed house on the subject, “Making the Good Thing Happen” and the feeding of the five thousand. We had many visitors in attendance and it seems that the crowd was aroused to fresh Christian commitment and service. It is very easy to tire out in places like this. Day in and day out there is absolutely no fruit. They sow and sow and seemingly little comes from it. My little visits, for what they are, provide a tremendous encouragement for my weary fellow workers in this region of the world. In fact these young people took up an offering to give to me. Though not a huge amount of money in US terms it was a demonstration of their participation in my ministry and appreciation for my visit. I am so sorry that you are not able to know them as I do. These people are incredible. Everything is against them, friends, culture, religion, philosophy, morals and even their families and still they stand.

We arrived late into Parma and picked up at the train station after 10:30 at night. Hot and tired from ten hours of travel we looked forward to the National holiday and a day of rest on Monday.

We have about thirty enrolled or should I say, “expected” to take the course. Enrollment is a hard thing to procure in a country where people work long hours and have transportation challenges. We begin the classes amidst tension as the neighbor has gone ballistic against the church and has done everything but call the police. He is now making videos of all that goes on and on Sunday was livid and abusive with Pastor Aldo before the church services began. He refuses to discuss what he wants and appears to be completely irrational on the subject. Please pray. Things of this nature take their toll. Nevertheless, the church recalls the story in Acts and believes that revival must be on the way as they are being told that they can no longer speak or teach in this name. Over the last few weeks we have seen a number of conversions and new people coming. Surprisingly some of the visitors are Italian’s. We now have a good Italian contingent with about ten or fifteen believers.

We intend to meet with the Italian OM Director where we will discuss teaming with them in missionary training.  We will then go on to meet the Director of La Casa di Bibbia, the largest publisher of Christian materials in Italy. It is possible that at the same time we will meet a similar person from Switzerland who cooperates with the Italian group. These are important opportunities for our Norwegian partner, New Life Literature and their printing house in Sri Lanka. We would love to see Europe flooded with quality Christian books. At the present time there may be fewer than 100 titles translated into Italian with virtually nothing available on evangelism, apologetics or theology. When in Slovenia we were able to find only one title on evangelism.


Week 3


As reported earlier, Doug Hamm, ACCI Board Member from Victoria, BC came over to join me. He taught four nights with forty-four exposed to some portion of the course and 27 regulars showing up each night. The school ended on Friday night with enormous thanks from all and an indication from the pastors that the content came at just the right time.



Francesco picked me up at eight in the morning and we rushed on to the Autostrada and drove to Torino, one of the largest cities in Italy some 350 kilometers away. At 160 kms. per hour it seems closer than it really is. By the way, we were easily being passed by BMW’s and Alpha Romeo’s going in excess of 200 kms. or 120 miles per hour.



Before reaching Torino we met along the highway with Eliseo, a tremendous young man who has previously served with the OM Logos ship. I had met his wife last fall while she was serving with the muslXm outreach (Love Ishmael) in Parma. After meeting with Eliseo in a short meeting of an hour we decided that we liked each other and that we would partner wherever and whenever possible. In particular we discussed how ACCI, Bethany and OM could work together by putting more missionaries and teams into Italy and Europe.



This is the number one Christian book publisher in Italy. Every year Giancarlo and his team attempt to translate and publish twelve new titles for the Italian church. We, in Canada and America, take books for granted. In Italy and all of Europe it is almost impossible to get good Christian literature. I set out to meet Giancarlo for the purpose of telling him about our low cost NLL printing partnership in Norway and Sri Lanka. With Francesco there to translate – when I got stumped in Italian and Giancarlo in English – we were able to discuss the many ways in which ACCI and NLL could compliment his effort. We returned to Parma just in time for a quick pizza and Francesco’s appointment to translate for Doug.



Joseph came to Italy from Ghana when he was only 18 years old. He originally came to work and help support his family still in Africa. When he first arrived he found a couple of other young men who were willing to join him for prayer. As he put it, “How can we make it without the help of the Almighty.” In the twenty years that followed that small prayer group has grown into a church of more than 200 African’s and is now one of the strongest churches in the region. Joseph, a simple man without formal theological training, has led his church to two congregations, their own facility that seats four hundred and a witness to the Italian people. I met with him to see how we might encourage him. I wanted to find out if there might be any way in which we could combine our resources and thereby be more supportive and effective. I have worked with Joseph on a couple of other occasions and have found him to be a good friend and tireless Christian. I went away feeling more inspired by him than he by me. We have decided to see how we (ACCI and Temple of Light Ministries) might link our efforts.



When I began in Europe I had no contacts. Today ACCI in Italy and Slovenia have first level relationships with Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano, Parma (150 people), Chiesa di Evangelica di Parma (50 people), Temple of Light (Parma and Casalmaggiore (220 people), Parola di Grazia, Sassuolo (80 people), Trento, Italy (80 people), The Pentecostal Church of Ljublijana, Slovenia (70 people). We are excited to see how God is using our efforts. All of the churches are growing both numerically and nutritionally. We have other developing opportunities but need more qualified workers who can come under and assist the vision and leadership of local pastors.



On Friday at lunch, Doug and I had seafood risotto and calamari with Osvaldo and Margarite Azzone and their three children. They lead the worship in the Spanish church. In the evening I managed to get in an hour of counseling before the class began.


Saturday we hopped on a train and went to Fidenza (12 minutes west) where we had lunch with OM MuslXm worker and our Italian translator, Simona Ribushi, her two children and another missionary from Germany.  After several hours with friends we went back to Parma where, in the evening had an amazing Columbian supper (no wonder I walk all over Italy but never lose any weight) with Luciano and Marilene workers in the Latino Church. Pastor Aldo and his wife, Mariela joined us. Since I had to pack, preach and then travel to England the next day, we retired early.



The church began to fill up and by the time services began more chairs were being brought out of the back and lined up against the walls. This is a new facility but even before they opened the doors and had their first service the church was full. What began about four years ago has grown from 20 people to 150 with an average Sunday attendance of more than ninety. On this particular Sunday there were one-hundred and two people in the auditorium. We regularly see people converted to Christ.


With Mariela translating, I preached on “Making the Good Thing Happen” from the feeding of the five thousand. At the close people were seemingly excited as I demonstrated how a few people passing the bread causes the miracle to happen. The good thing never happens if people hoard what little they have. When I look at the leadership, the church, the people, the money and resources, the city of Parma, Italy, Europe, I see nothing but extremity and yet a great miracle is taking place because people are passing what God has placed into their hands. It was a powerful closing message to Doug’s week of teaching on small group ministry.



The truth is, I have only scratched the surface of all that God is doing. I wish I had time to tell you of Pius, the eighteen year old Kenyan boy who lost his family in the recent uprisings, how he made it across Chad and Libya to be found by Pastor Francesco on the streets of Parma and how they have taken him in and brought him to Christ.


I wish I could tell you about Giuseppe who, three years ago, attended every night of my classes on evangelism and the gospel and how he was baptized on Sunday last.


Or about other new Christian’s like Fabio and Marcello, Italian’s who have so grown in the Lord that in one year they have become leaders of the Christian’s in Parma. I’d like to tell you about Ruthie, Kevin, Daniel, Denny, Jessica, Cristiano, Clara and thirty other young believers who are surrendered to Christ and the gospel. I’d like to tell you of Belkis (Dominican Republic) and Victor (Argentina) YWAM workers living in Parma after being expelled from the Sahara.



I met Chris in the Easy Jet line. Though twenty years younger than I, right from the beginning we hit it off. We were trying to match one another with jokes and small talk. He had been from London to Italy to play football and binge drink for the weekend but confessed to me that his fellow footballers managed to get more soused than he. Chris liked me enough to follow me around to my table in the airport coffee shop.


Finally, when it came round to what we did, it turned out that he was well traveled in American and familiar with such obscure cities as Raleigh, North Carolina. How, I asked it was, that he might have visited Raleigh and it turned out that he works for The Body Shop in the corporate ethics division. I knew something about The Body Shop and its leadership in the development of corporate ethics. I wanted to know where the ground for ethics came from? He confessed that they just sort of made it up by why that thought was best. I pointed out (tongue in cheek) that this is what Hitler and the Nazi’s did. I then talked to him about the ‘Ought” from C. S. Lewis. Where does “Ought” come from? Why should I “Ought” not push him from his chair. Anyway, to make a long story short, he was very interested in how I knew all of this stuff. I inquired if he had ever heard of Ravi Zacharias, Chuck Colson or C.S. Lewis and then I remarked that Colson had once spoken on Ethics to the Harvard Business School for a week before he realized that the students had no idea of what he had been trying to present. I was able to explain that, in order to have ethics, we have to decide from what source they derive. If they (ethics) emanate from the mind of man they are simply conveniences for one and inconveniences for another – appropriate for one, inappropriate for another, protection for one and perilous for another. Fifty-one percent of the people give us our justification for whatever we decide and if this is true then we can murder whomever we please. We don’t have to worry about what our research might do to a rabbit. He liked it.



This fellow was also young and seated alone though I had earlier seen him with a young woman who turned out to be his wife. If I had seen her up close, I would have known that, at least, she was a Hindu as she had the third eye and red guru strands around her wrist.


I noticed his jacket. He had embroided over his breast pocket, “Love all of those that HE loves.” When I saw it I thought that it might be Christian because it had that sort of Christianese ring to it. If I were to guess, I would imagine that, in fact, it was a Christian slogan to begin with. He simply bought it because he liked the sound of it. He didn’t have a clue as to the implications so I asked him, “Who is the HE?”

He was surprised that I had spoken to him so he said, “Excuse me, sir?” He replied, “Who?” “

“The HE, who is the HE,” I repeated.

Excitedly he answered, “Oh, God!”

“Which God?” I wanted to know.

So he did his best, “God.” At the same time he said this, he gestured upwardly with his finger.

“Any God?”, I queried.

I went on, “I mean are you a Christian?  Hindu? A Buddhist? A Muslxm? “

“Oh, I don’t follow any particular religion,” was his hesitant response.

“My God is without attributes. He is just God – the unknowable God.”


Without boring you with the details I simply tell you that he played right into my hands and said exactly what I had hoped he might say. “So then, why do you wear the slogan when the “HE” is capitalized? This indicates exactly the opposite of your proposition. This is a clear indication of personhood.” Oh my, can you imagine what the next ten minutes might have been like as I explained to him the God who has attributes, is trustworthy, merciful, all knowing, righteous, et al?



Cute and perky she took the seat between me at the window and another, older man on the aisle. I saw that she was with someone, a strong looking fellow who would turn out to be her fiancé and also from New Zealand. They were both living in London. She had been a banker but had left three months before to pursue a career in cake decorating and he had moved into a new profession as a broker. We exchanged courtesies and backgrounds and then she asked if I was on holiday. When I told her that i worked in Europe she wanted to know what it was that I did and I asked which answer she wanted? Would she like the real one or the “politically correct” one. She opted for the real one. For twenty minutes I talked about the meaning of life. She was getting married to the young man two rows ahead of her so I suggested that she must have employed philosophy in order to say, “Yes” to his proposal. I told her that all of life’s decisions required a certain amount of philosophical reasoning. I asked if she considered the gene pool she was marrying into? She agreed that she did think about that. I wanted to know if she thought Gary to be moral, a man of good intentions and character? She liked this course of discussion so I took her to Jesus and building her house upon a rock and then suggested that she and Gary visit Holy Trinity Church in Brompton and commence their marriage upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.




1 Response to “Ministry / Italy and Slovenia Spring 2008”

  1. 1 serafina bueti
    July 10, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Hi Tony, because I knew it was a long letter I just took the time to read it today without interruptions. Imagine that!
    Your life is very interesting. I love the JW’s and you in the park story.
    God is amazing.
    As I was reading your events in Italy I somehow wished I was there too.
    I have a young friend in Parma who moved there from Calabria because her husband found work there. Nicolina was corresponding with me when she was a young girl. I was here pen pal. I often meet her in Calabria where we both take holidays there. She is young probably in her 30’s.

    Joe and I will be going to italy in the spring for 2 or 3 mos. God willing.

    Bless you as you bless my people.
    Ciao. Sei una persona molto speciale che connetti con gli italiani facilmente.
    Un grande saluto ai fratelli in Italia.

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