After the Quake: Six Ways to Pray for Italy

Today marks one week since a 6.2 magnitude quake struck a string of mountain towns in Italy, killing at least 290 people.  The powerful quake inflicted excruciating pain on those left behind—many people lost every member of their family or several of their dear friends. 

As the international media moves on may we be found interceding on behalf of Italians for weeks and months to come.  Below are seven points for focused prayer, based on the input of missionaries working in Italy right now.

1.  The province of Rieti, where the quake struck, is one of the least-reached areas of Italy.  In the whole province of 160,000 people, there are no more than six of Evangelical churches.  The lack of gospel witness in Rieti is a great tragedy.  Pioneers International has only three missionary families serving in Italy—none in the quake affected areas.  Pray that God would send workers to Italy for His name sake. 

2.  This past weekend over 40 Christian aid agencies within Italy gathered to strategize relief efforts for the quake victims.  Typically, both missionaries and Italian Christians report conflict within and between churches and amongst agencies.  It appears that this disunity was overcome on August 29 when all of the agencies signed a declaration, committing their prayers and unified efforts to help earthquake victims.  Praise God for this unity and pray that it would continue.

3.  Small church bodies near the epicenter have been earnestly pursuing ways that they can help.  One local pastor said, “We quickly gathered in prayer and we wondered how we could make ourselves useful.  Our community is tiny and consists of people who work for themselves and cannot take leave. However, as a church, we would like to be present, to show our solidarity and be put to work.”  The church commissioned a 17 year old member to go and work alongside the Civil Defence Civitella d’Agliano in the relief work.  Praise God for the faithful Italian churches who are giving their best efforts to their suffering fellow countrymen.

4.  Only 1.28% of Italy is Evangelical Christian.  Over half the population of Italy lives in towns with less than 50,000 people.  Most of these towns do not have a single Evangelical church.  Additional populations within Italy which are virtually unreached with the Gospel include: college students (230,000 in Rome and 180,000 in Milan without a substantial campus witness), the upperclass, and migrant communities and refugees.  Pray for the Light to shine in the darkness in Italy. 

5.  Comments from Italians affected by the quake reveal a belief in the divine or supernatural.   Additionally, statistics show that there are 150,000 practicing fortune-tellers in the country (three times the number of priests).  Pray for the spiritually hungry in Italy to have their eyes opened and for believers to be ready to share their only Hope.

6.  And, in moving forward in Italy, we must consider the past.  While in the past the Roman Catholic Church vehemently opposed any Protestant work in the country, there has been a recent shift toward ecumenicalism and focus on shared words such as Jesus, faith, and grace.  However, indigenous believers report that Protestants and Roman Catholics pour vastly different meanings into these words.  One missionary says, “Underneath the kinder, gentler veneer of the RCC, the dogma of meritorious works is still essential teaching... it is not gospel, it is works righteousness.”  Pray that Italy would embrace Grace and Truth

Two Tragedies In Italy

As news comes through, it appears evident that the earthquake that struck a remote, yet beautiful area of central Italy, is a devastating one. By the hour there are more reports of missing and of deceased. Old people and young children. Seven years ago the nearby city of L’Aquila, 60 kms away, was hit by a similar earthquake. As then, so now, we face the tragedy of lives lost and the anguish of devastated families and communities.

One of my first thoughts early this morning, however, was how this present tragedy points to another tragedy. Recently I have been researching the presence of Evangelical churches throughout Italy. The province of Rieti, where the earthquake happened, is one of the least reached areas of Italy. Rieti province has an overall population of 160,000 people; 50,000 people live in the city of Rieti (60kms distant from the earthquake area), the rest of the province’s population live in small towns and villages. In the whole of the province of Rieti there are no more than half a dozen Evangelical churches (of any denomination) and they are almost all in the city of Rieti. A simple conclusion: the area affected by the earthquake has, as far as we can tell, no witness to the gospel! That is a great tragedy.

As we think about that, three important elements emerge:

  1. vast areas of Italy still have no local, evangelical witness
  2. the challenge of reaching not only the cities, but the small towns and villages as well, is great; research indicates that over half of the Italian population lives in locations with less than 50,000 inhabitants, 35% with less than 15,000 inhabitants and 15% with less than 5000
  3. and as the evangelical church, we are thus unable to love and serve these communities practically and spiritually if we are not present

How can we be present? The church needs to discover God’s passion for his mission.

Please pray for Christians throughout the country: that they might be present in this time of tragedy to bring comfort and to present the gospel of hope, with compassion and empathy, in the midst of darkness and desperation. We want to reach into the destroyed communities with hope and light so that a radically different narrative can be proclaimed about what is happening, with the gospel at the centre, redefining everything.

JD Gilmore, born into a missionary family, grew up in Italy and was touched by grace as a teenager. Passionate for the spread of the gospel in Italy, with his wife Annette, they have been involved in church planting (and growing), most recently in Budrio (Bologna). He now coordinates Impatto (Acts 29 in Italy).