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Come Out of Her My People OutreachWritten by Jacob Prasch
Vatican City, Rome, Italy 21st-24th March
Every time I visit Rome I always have a refreshed sense of God's grace and mercy. I thank the Lord for my health, my family, all our provisions and, most of all, my salvation.
From the very beginning of this mission we felt like Satan was attacking us. The week running up to the mission Liz became very poorly and was in bed for about three days. It was very hard preparing the mission and looking after Levi. The Lord was gracious enough to give me good health and give me His strength. When we got to the airport I almost didn't get to fly to Rome. My passport had a tare on the photo page and was therefore deemed unfit for travelling. However, because I was travelling in the EU it was ok as long as I signed a disclaimer form saying that if they denied me entry into Rome then I would have to pay for an immediate flight back to the UK. I decided to trust in God and pray that they would let me through. When we got to Italy they didn't even look at my passport on the way through, which was a blessing but very worrying.
The next day I was due to speak in Frascati at the Evangelical church there. However, the one piece of paper I forgot on the whole trip was the one with the church address and telephone number. We were in Frascati from 4.30pm and I was speaking at 8pm and I was trying to find the church but I couldn't. It got very late and we had to get back to where we were staying and not miss the last bus home. I am very embarrassed that I missed the meeting and it has never happened before and I don't intend on making a habit of it. I was deeply frustrated with myself for forgetting to take the information with me and was upset because of the hard work and time I put into the preparation of the lectures.
It took a few days to get hold of Pastor Alessandro to inform him of the situation. He is a very gracious man and I hope this mistake will stop me from speaking at Frascati in the future or get myself a reputation of a preacher that doesn't show up.
I must admit my morale was low at this point and I had doubts whether this mission was from God or not and whether He wanted us in Italy. Recently I have been encouraged by Jacob Prasch's teaching on The End of the Road, where the Holy Spirit never allowed Paul to preach the gospel in Asia and what a hard time Paul, Timothy, Silas and Luke had at this point.
On Thursday we met up with Hamish Rae who is a retired Senior Lecturer at King's College London. Hamish had read our newsletter of my previous missions trip to Rome on the Moriel website and felt called of God to contact me and join us on our trip. Hamish has been visiting Italy for the past 6 years and been learning Italian and God has laid on his heart to evangelise and preach the gospel both back home in England and in Italy. This was his first time on a mission and first time doing street evangelism. It was good to see a man at 66 wanting to do more for God rather than stepping down from ministry saying he'd done enough for God. It was refreshing to meet Hamish and just the encouragement I needed to regain the focus of the missions trip- the outreach at the Vatican.
Good Friday morning we set off and as soon as we stepped into St Peters Square we were met with English speaking guides asking us if we wanted to take a tour inside the museum. We politely said 'no' and then took the opportunity to speak to the about the gospel. Another tour guide we spoke to later in the day pointed out the first guy we had spoke with previously and said 'if anyone needs saving it's that guy!' We reiterated to the man that everyone needs saving and we showed him why. His response was 'What must I do to be saved?' What a wonderful questioned! At first I gave Peter's response 'Repent and be baptised' and then quoted Romans 'if you confess Jesus as Lord and believe with your whole heart that Jesus is Lord then you will be saved'. The man said he had to go away and think about it.
There were many people from different nations and religions visiting the Vatican. I spent a good hour or so talking to a Buddhist who didn't really believe in Buddhism. He didn't really believe in anything. First I began by reasoning there must be a God through the evidence of creation. He did admit after there must be a God. Then I explained the fall and why there is evil and sin in the world today. This too made sense to him. Then I got onto Jesus and what Jesus came to do and he just couldn't seem to handle what I was telling him. He ended the conversation with him saying he'll figure out his own way to heaven and trust in himself. We had a similar conversation with another atheist a few days later and I said to both of them before leaving that in a few years when the world has let them down over and over again and they see this world is getting worse and when they've made hundreds of mistakes to remember what I told them about Jesus. I pray that they do remember and soon.
The majority of the people we met on Good Friday were Polish and most were sceptical to speak with us and wondering why we were asking them questions. One lady asked if we were Protestants trying to 'convert' people. But one of my most memorable times of this trip was speaking to a class of students from a Catholic seminary in Poland. It started off with me speaking to one young lad who was reading a book, then his friends came along and then suddenly I was speaking to a whole class who were listening intensely. Young people had a lot more time to listen to us and were more enthusiastic to talk. I spent an hour and a half talking to them about the different between Jesus and the Eucharistic Jesus and also about the role of Mary. These two themes, as you can imagine, were central in our conversations with Catholics. These issues were necessary to show them that Salvation is in Christ alone and also to distinguish that even though they use the same terminology when talking about orthodox doctrine the meanings a very different and also the additional dogma's of Catholicism contradicts orthodoxy.
On Saturday we got talking to a Jehovah's Witness from Scotland on the train to the Vatican. He had overheard Hamish and I talking about the definition of faith in Hebrews 11 and said how lovely it was for two men to talk so openly about their faith in a public place where many have thought it as taboo. I asked him why he chose to be a JW over other religions. He said that he was impressed how true to the Bible the JW's are. We began to ask him questions about the New World Translation and it's flaws, the doctrine and historicity of the cross and also the many false prophecies of the watchtower. I think after this conversation I began to realise people will just make up answers they don't know and shrug their shoulders and be indifferent when they contradict themselves.
When we got to St Peter's square it was heavily raining and we found some shelter. We approached two men who were sheltering from the rain and we asked them where they would spend eternity? They laughed and said they were just talking about that very subject. They turn out to be Catholic priests on sabbatical from teaching at a Catholic Theological seminary in Chicago. They were impressed that Hamish was a lecturer at King's College. One priest mentioned he was quite well known scholar in Ireland, a man by the name of Tom Norrice. They were very much for Catholic/protestant unity and wanted all Christianity to come together in love and concentrate on the essentials. We obviously told them we have some issues with that. They didn't like the fact that we didn't want to fellowship with them. During our conversation a young lady stood by us listening to our conversation and she was doing her degree in Theology at University. We spent an hour and a half talking to them but it was hard to say if there was any effect because they went from one subject to another and were very indirect with their statements.
We had very similar conversation during this day. We spoke to a group of lads who told me you could never be certain if you're going to heaven or not. What seemed to be a popular scenario for people to tell be was some guy saying Jesus is my Savour one day and then going into a school and shooting all his class mates the next and then dies. They told me that because I believe that if you confess Jesus as Lord and if you believe with your whole heart that God raised him from the dead then you will be saved, then in my view that guy was saved. I had two issues with this. 1. I didn't write that verse in the Bible, the Apostle Paul did under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 2. Someone who goes on a killing spree like that obviously does not have Jesus in his heart whether he claims to or not. I think about 5 different people gave me this silly scenario. However, they fail to see that guy could probably get prayed to heaven in their unjust religion. It was also amazing to see how many believed it was insufficient for me to pray to God for forgiveness and would rather me to to a Priest and ask forgiveness. What madness! Every time we came to talk to Catholics about the Bible and Christ it seemed to me they were claiming them both insufficient and had more trust in their Nazi Pope and Priests who mess about with little boys. This statement may seem unloving and harsh, however, I have no love for a false religion that exploits people and puts men under bondage. I have love for those who are caught in this religion and brainwashed by its dogma. And as Jesus and John the Baptist gave the moniker 'a brood of vipers' to the false shepherds of their day, I too do the same.
Easter Sunday we had fellowship with Calvary Chapel Rome and had communion with them. Afterwards we went to Pastor Brent's house and ate there. He has a son a couple of weeks older than Levi so it was good to see how Levi was round other babies. We had a great time speaking to our brothers and sisters in Rome. We stayed there quite late so we went back to our caravan and relaxed for the evening.
Easter Monday was a glorious day. We had rain from Thursday to Sunday and it was nice to have some sun. There were a lot of young people out this day and in larger groups. It is hard to distinguish between the conversation we had because many were similar, which can become very tiring. We spoke to two guys who seemed very knowledgeable about their dogma but not on the Bible. We spoke with these guys about 2 and a half hours and were going round in circles. A group of their friends came over and started barricading me with questions all at the same time. Apparently Liz had overheard them talking about us and said they were going to mess with me a bit. We left graciously and hopefully leaving them with a lot to think about.
Looking back on the mission all the conversations seem to merge into one and the same issues repeating themselves. There are obviously key points you have to dance around before someone in the Catholic faith can come to the true Christ. This is something that takes time, love and patience.
The next day, Tuesday, was our wedding anniversary so Liz, Levi and I had a nice day out at the Colosseum and time to relax and reflect on the mission.
We plan to go back next year over the Easter weekend and hope it will be an annual event. We also hope to start another annual 2 week mission sometime during next year that would be more focussed on helping the local body in their evangelistic efforts. This mission has been fruitful for us and a big learning curve. We pray the Lord works in people hearts and equips us for future missions.
Anthony, Liz and Levi Royle
Easter in Rome
I'm almost 67.Ã‚ Perhaps my experience will persuade you that it's never too late for a Christian to start to obey the command of the Lord Jesus Christ and go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.Ã‚ (Mark 16:15)
I became a believer when I was 16, at a CSSM (Children's Special Service Mission) meeting in the Isle of Arran.Ã‚ The same year I started at Glasgow University and began an academic career which was concluded fifty years later in 2007 when I taught my last course in the Mathematics Department of King's College London.Ã‚ During my early student years I was untaught as regards scripture and fell by the wayside, wandering off into a far country, some might say. I married my wife in 1966 and I began to hear the voice of the Lord calling me back to the fold.Ã‚ In 1973 we moved to Chalfont St Peter and I started to attend Goldhill Baptist Church, then pastored by a fellow Scot, Jim Graham.Ã‚ Jim is a wonderful preacher and under his teaching I began to move in the right direction; I was baptised in water on the last Sunday of 1974 and some years later was baptised in the Spirit.Ã‚ Still, I had a lot of problems and I can't say that everything went smoothly, or that I was one of the Lord's most obedient children.Ã‚ How grateful I am that our Lord is gracious and full of compassion.Ã‚ But I am confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)Ã‚ The words of John mean so much more to me now:Ã‚ "For the law was given by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)
When I was 60 my wife said she'd like to take me to Italy for a celebration holiday.Ã‚ I wasn't very keen because I didn't know a word of Italian and I just don't like being in countries where I can't express myself.Ã‚ However, Mary prevailed upon me and we had a wonderful holiday in Tuscany and Elba, culminating in a couple of days in Rome.Ã‚ Both of us were thrilled by the Italian landscape, we enjoyed Italian food, and we loved the Italian people.Ã‚ We've gone to Italy for our holidays ever since and I began to learn the language. Two or three years ago I acquired an Italian Bible and began to study it; although it was hard going initially I gradually moved to a position where I could read the less technical parts of scripture fairly well, with reasonably good understanding.Ã‚ For a beginner, reading scripture in a foreign language can be an illuminating experience inasmuch as one is forced to think carefully about what one is reading.Ã‚ As I read and re-read the words of Paul in Romans 1:16Ã‚ "Io infatti non mi vergogno del vangelo, poichÃƒ © Ãƒ ¨ potenza di Dio per la salvezza di chiunque crede, del Giudeo prima e poi del Greco" ¦.." I wondered if my failure to proclaim the gospel in a more significant way was perhaps indicative of a subtle sense of shame or embarrassment on my part.Ã‚ Paul boldly declared "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" ¦." and demonstrated his conviction by his actions.Ã‚ What about me?Ã‚ What about you?
Before our Italian holidays in 2007 I asked the Lord to provide an opportunity for me to give the gospel to an Italian, whilst we were on holiday.Ã‚ It seemed to me that no obvious opportunity came, although I realise now, after my experience in Rome with Anthony Royle, that this apparent lack of opportunity may have related more to a lack of boldness on my part.Ã‚ Anyway, on returning home I was reading the 'Moriel Prayer and Newsletter' no. 36 (June 2007) and came across Anthony's article describing his vision for the evangelisation of Italy; it seemed to me that this was the Lord's answer to my prayer and I was sufficiently excited that I contacted Anthony.Ã‚ There followed a train of events which ended with me joining him on a trip to the Vatican during Easter 2008, during which time we proclaimed the gospel to all who would listen.Ã‚ It had been my prayer that 'my latter end' would count for the kingdom of God in a way that my years in academia had perhaps not; I was thrown in at the deep end, but had the privilege of learning from a young man with a passion for evangelising the lost.
I got up at 03.00 on Maundy Thursday 2008 and made my way to Gatwick for the 07.05 flight to Rome Ciampino, an airport that I had never visited before.Ã‚ After an uneventful flight I arrived at Ciampino and made my way to 'Termini', the bus/train station in Rome where I was due to meet Anthony, his wife Liz and baby Levi outside 'MacDonalds' at 13.00.Ã‚ As I wandered around 'Termini' I realised that there were two 'MacDonalds' but our prayers were answered and I was very glad to meet Anthony and his family, more or less at the appointed time.Ã‚ They took me out to 'Tiber Hostel and Camping' at Prima Porta, a place on the fringes of Rome.Ã‚ It turned out that the cabin I had booked was a very basic setup but, given that the weather over the Easter period was the worst I had ever encountered in Italy, I was grateful for it, especially the heat from the electric fire which was included in the price!Ã‚ There was a nice restaurant on the campsite and we ate there every evening.Ã‚ The restaurant staff were a friendly crew who were greatly taken by the charm of the ever smiling Levi!
On Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday we made our way to the Vatican and spoke to as many as would listen to the gospel; on Easter Sunday we attended the service in the Calvary Chapel in Rome and had wonderful fellowship with the pastors, their families, and members of the congregation Ã¢ ” € it was like the first century church, I imagine.
I was in fact surprised by just how many of those outside St Peter's did want to listen, just how many responded in a meaningful way, without total cynicism or ridicule, to the question "Where would you go if you were to die today?"Ã‚ My memory isn't the powerful tool it once was so I have to try to give you the flavour of our encounters with folk from all over the world, rather than attempt to give you a line by line account of what we did each day.
One morning, travelling in from Prima Porta to Flaminio (on the Roman tube system) Anthony and I were discussing how amazing it was that Roman Catholics who were familiar with Hebrews 9 and 10, especially Hebrews 10:10,12,14 could possibly believe in the doctrine of the Mass and remain within the iniquitous, binding system of Roman Catholicism.Ã‚ A chap sitting next to Anthony piped up, intrigued by the fact that we were discussing the scriptures.Ã‚ He turned out to be a Jehovah's Witness from Dunbar, almost home territory for me.Ã‚ We reached Flaminio unconvinced that we had made much progress in enlightening this man Ã¢ ” € the Lord alone knows; he had some extraordinary ideas about the Cross and seemed to think that the Lord Jesus had been crucified on a pole.Ã‚ Perhaps the Lord will bring to his memory some of the things that we said, and he may yet come to a knowledge of the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.Ã‚ I learned a simple lesson: just talking about the Lord can draw others, even in a foreign country.
Most of our meaningful encounters took place outside St Peter's.Ã‚ One morning, we were drawn to talk to two men who turned out to be from Ireland.Ã‚ As our discussions progressed it became clear that they had more than a superficial knowledge of the basic truths of the Christian faith and up to a point it was hard to identify precisely where we differed in our understanding of the Gospel.Ã‚ They both appeared to believe all the things that a preacher back in England would tell an unregenerate soul were necessary for his salvation; that Jesus was God's Son, He was born a man, He led a sinless life, He died on the Cross where He paid the price for my sin and yours; He rose again and now sits at the right hand of the Father whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.Ã‚ One of these men reminded me of the man of whom it is recorded in Mark's gospel " ¦.that Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest" ¦" ¦; this man was a very gracious, loving person who on the face of it seemed well endowed with all the Christian virtues.Ã‚ What was it that he lacked?Ã‚ Maybe the give away related to his obsession for Christian unity but, as we pointed out, true unity has to be based on a unity of the Spirit where we speak the Truth and call a spade a spade.Ã‚ I am always suspicious of anyone whose main emphasis relates to the need for Christian unity (although true unity is a beautiful thing Ã¢ ” € and Jesus demanded it) and in the case of our two friends I think we came close to identifying the real difference between them and ourselves as we attempted to identify the 'Jesus' whom they worshipped.Ã‚ Was He the real Jesus whom I described above, or was he the 'Jesus' of another gospel (which as Paul points out in Galatians is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:7)), the Eucharistic Jesus, transubstantiated by the priest from the emblems of communion, whom Roman Catholics are encouraged to worship on their 'altars'?Ã‚ Time and again we discovered that the faith of many Roman Catholics lies in this sacramental Jesus, not on the Jesus who is the Son of God, who shed his holy blood upon the Cross for our sins, who "by one offering hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified". (Hebrews 10:14)Ã‚ Ã‚ Who were the two men whom I have just mentioned?Ã‚ We talked to them for well over an hour and there came a point when one of them said to us "Didn't you realise we are priests?"Ã‚ It then transpired that one of them was on sabbatical leave as a visiting professor of theology in Chicago, a theologian of some distinction his colleague assured us!
Often Roman Catholics are caught up in unscriptural man made doctrines such as the immaculate conception, purgatory, and so on.Ã‚ I spent a long time one afternoon talking to a highly intelligent young man from the United States but it was clear that he had been brain washed into taking on board all the false doctrines that the Roman Church has produced over the centuries.Ã‚ I challenged him on the immaculate conception, pointing out that although Mary is 'blessed among women' Ã¢ ” € as the godly Jewish woman chosen to be the mother of God's Son Ã¢ ” € she, as a descendant of Adam, was a sinner, a fact confirmed by Mary herself as she 'rejoiced in God her saviour' (Luke 1:47); a sinless person does not need a saviour.Ã‚ I could see the young man gulp, as he realised that the teaching of his church was not in line with scripture.Ã‚ I confronted him with what scripture says about Jesus' 'once and for all' sacrifice and how this was totally incompatible with the doctrine of transubstantiation which involves endless 'bloodless' 'sacrifices' on Catholic 'altars'; without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.Ã‚ Catholics lay stress on tradition, whereas true Christians stand on 'sola scriptura'.Ã‚ This young man sought to justify the doctrine of transubstantiation which, as I have said defies both scripture and common sense, by reference to the so-called 'Miracle' of Lanciano which allegedly took place in Portugal (half an hour's drive from Fatima Ã¢ ” € surprise, surprise) on 16 February 1247.Ã‚ Who can believe such stuff, which is totally incompatible with the clear teaching of scripture?Ã‚ Nothing could be clearer than Hebrews chapters 9 and 10; Roman Catholics by their doctrine of transubstantiation seek to perpetuate the conditions described in Hebrews 9, where the priests of the old testament had to offer sacrifices year by year " ¦. "the holy Spirit signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made, " ¦.." (Hebrews 9:8).Ã‚ But we who are true believers "have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he consecrated for us, " ¦.." (Hebrews 10:19.20)
Purgatory is another doctrine of demons that many have fallen for.Ã‚ We pointed out to several of those we talked to, including the young man I'm talking about,Ã‚ that scripture says "it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment". (Hebrews 9:27) "But what about those who have committed 'serious' sins, surely they have to get purified in purgatory? You're not saying they will end up in Hell, are you?"Ã‚ (a very common question) Well, yes, that's what the bible says, that's why we've come to Rome to talk to you while it is Today and while there is still time to know the Truth in Jesus Christ.Ã‚ Anyway, where does scripture talk about purgatory?Ã‚ This young man, who was beginning to clutch at straws, then dragged in the 'Gospel of Thomas', a book that I clearly have to read, because it was often referred to by those with whom we spoke.
On another occasion we spent a long time talking to a very intelligent young man from Switzerland (I think) who spoke excellent English.Ã‚ He was an atheist.Ã‚ He believed that everything evolved 'by chance' from the 'big bang'.Ã‚ I looked at him and said:Ã‚ Do you seriously believe that an intelligent being such as yourself, fearfully and wonderfully made, actually appeared 'by chance'? You need more than the faith that removes mountains in order to seriously believe that!
Did I get an opportunity to give the gospel in Italian?Ã‚ Yes, I gave it in Italian to an Indian who was now living in Italy and on another occasion to a Belgian who spoke Italian.Ã‚ But the fact remains that I have a long way to go before I can engage in detailed conversation with an Italian on the subject of his faith.Ã‚ For a start, there's the problem we also have in the UK of a Londoner trying to understand a Glaswegian or a Geordie Ã¢ ” € it's hard; but on top of that is the more fundamental problem of dealing with the fact that Italian Catholics don't realise that their salvation depends on their having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; their faith is in 'the Church' and its sacraments.Ã‚ What a tragedy!Ã‚ What a deception!
What did we achieve, you may well be asking?Ã‚ It's impossible to say, God alone knows.Ã‚ But one has to make a start, however great the mountain may appear.Ã‚ When I returned home and was praying for those to whom we had spoken, that the Lord would continue to speak to their hearts, reminding them of the words we had spoken to them, He drew my attention to two scriptures:
'So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
.........Ã‚ Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.' (from Isaiah 55)
'And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.' (Galatians 6:9)
I take that as an encouragement.Ã‚ In Rome we did not see anyone come to the Lord directly, as a consequence of words we spoke.Ã‚ But we proclaimed the Word, and as Isaiah 55 tells us:Ã‚ that word is not emptyÃ‚ but will accomplish God's purposes.Ã‚ Moreover, the Galatians passage tells us that if we persevere and don't give up, in due course we shall have the joy of reaping.
Perhaps you are old and feel, as I did, that I hadn't done much for the Lord.Ã‚ I haven't given up hope, nor should you.Ã‚ "Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.Ã‚ They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing. To show that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him." (Psalm 92: 13-15)
"The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." (Luke 10:2)
Maybe the Lord wants you to come with us next time?Ã‚ Think about it, pray about it.Ã‚
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