ebook: Pasta, pizza, and Pinocchio: Questions and answers about cross-cultural missionary
service in Italy (part 7)
Missions in Italy
6. The Cerratos, Alabaster churches, and work crews
In this ebook), "Pasta, pizza and Pinocchio,"
Howard Culbertson answers questions he has been asked about missionary work in Italy.
Originally published for the Nazarene mission book series by what is now called The Foundry,
this book carried ISBN number 0-8341-0612-4. Some material has been updated for this ebook
- Why missionaries in Italy? Isn't Italy considered a Christian country?
- True, it is. But Italy's ecclesiastically institutionalized
heritage seems powerless to combat a spreading atheistic materialism. Italy is today a country of
unrest, dissent, and discomfort. We maintain a focus therefore on Roman Catholic Italy, not
because it is Catholic, but because there are people there with definite spiritual needs.
America is considered a Christian country too, but nearly 30 percent of every Nazarene World
Evangelism Fund dollar goes to stateside ministries ... because there are people in the U.S. with
definite spiritual needs.
- Italy was one of the countries where Christianity really got its start. What quenched the
- It was a combination of factors, including the decision
by Emperor Constantine to declare everyone living within the empire a Christian. That so diluted
the church with sinners that it never recovered. Then, with the collapse of the Roman Empire, the
church stepped into the political vacuum. This politicization of the church distracted it from
fundamental spiritual concern and destroyed the independence of its moral authority.
- Did we just recently open the work in Italy?
- No, the work officially began in 1948 though the first
missionaries, Earl and Thelma Morgan, arrived in the fall of 1952. The Cerratos, the Paul Wires
and Roy Fullers have also served in Italy. Both Earl Morgan and Rocco (Bob) Cerrato were of
After spending nearly nine years of ministry in Italy, Roy
Fuller and his family left Italy in 1977, turning the reins of the district over to a national
superintendent. He went from Italy to pioneer work among the French-speaking people of
Canada. Montreal has a large concentration of Italian immigrants, and Roy soon had our Italian
radio program on the air in Canada. You can take a man out of Italy, but you can't take Italy out
of the man!
- Since you grew up in Oklahoma, did you know the Paul Wires?
- Yes, I knew them before they went to Italy in 1964 and
we have kept in touch since they returned home in 1968. We are, in fact, now both living in the
metropolitan Oklahoma City area.
- Why do so many missionaries leave when the nationals take over the work?
- Normally the change from missionary to national
leadership spawns other changes on the district. It's tough for a strong leader to step aside and
watch someone else doing his job, and it's tough, too, for a new leader to step in and feel free to
work effectively in the shadow of the former leader. Sometimes it seems wiser for the outgoing
missionary superintendent to transfer to another field.
- Is the Church of the Nazarene really an international church or is it an American one
imposed on other cultures?
- We're in the process of becoming an international
church. Until this point, most of our policies, programs, and procedures have grown out of the
American culture, American political system, and American church world. Change is coming,
however, and I believe God is going to guide into creating the necessary structures to function
- Do we have any "Alabaster" churches in Italy?
- Yes, we do. The church in Sarzana was built with
Alabaster funds. A warehouse in Moncalieri was purchased and converted to a church partially
with Alabaster funding. The initial building we used in Catania was purchased and finished with
Alabaster money. While we were in Italy, a remodeling and reconstruction project on the
Florence property was partially funded by Alabaster.
Incidentally, alabaster (the rock, not the money) is mined
near Florence in great quantities and has actually been used in the construction of some Italian
Catholic churches. None of our Nazarene "Alabaster" churches have used real alabaster,
however. [ more on Nazarene Alabaster offering ]
- I've noticed in pictures of our Italian churches that the sign out front sometimes reads
"Chiesa Evangelica Del Nazareno." What does that mean?
- It translates as Evangelical Church of the Nazarene.
Some of our congregations like the word evangelical in the title to distinguish them from
Catholic churches. Other Protestant churches also use evangelical in their titles, so
"evangelical" has become kind of an identifying mark for Protestants in a country where they are
such a tiny minority. Using the word "evangelical" gives our people a sense of brotherhood with
other born-again Christians.
- From what I've seen in photos, the sanctuary interiors of Italian Nazarene churches seem to
be quite simple. There aren't even any crosses, are there?
- No. In their reaction against idolatrous excesses of
Italy's majority church, the Italian Nazarenes like their buildings to be very simple. They prefer to
put a scripture verse across the platform rather than a painting or a symbol. One of their favorite
verses is: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in
Italian evangelical believers also hang little scripture plaques in their homes in places where
formerly they kept tiny statues or paintings of saints or the Madonna
- You don't really have a need for Work and Witness crews, do
- Yes, we could certainly use some. We have building
renovation, remodeling, and reconstruction projects which could be done by Work and Witness
teams. There's plenty of plastering, masonry, electrical, painting, plumbing, and carpentry work
for anybody who can get a team together and come. The church or district sending the Work and
Witness team must first have paid its World Evangelism Fund.
- If we came on a Work andWitness project, where would we sleep?
- It would depend on the job location. In some cities the
church might be able to set up a makeshift dormitory. In other cities we could put a team in
retreat/convention facilities owned by other denominations. In some instances we might have to
go to inexpensive hotel accommodations called "pensions."
- I'm single and teaching school. So I have quite a bit of free time in the summers. Could you
use a person like me?
- Yes, we certainly could ... that is, if you're willing to
work and pay your own way. We could use you in office work, in work projects, even in ministry
with young people. The best thing to do would be to contact the volunteer coordinator in the
World Mission office at the Global Ministry Center in Lenexa, Kansas. We funnel everything
like this through them. . . . [ continue reading ]
The Leaning Tower, the Lira, and
Women's Lib |
2. Italian, Illegal Drugs, and Insulated
3. Fiats, Florence, and Furloughs
4. The Military, Missionaries, and the
5. Marco Polo and Ronald McDonald&
6. The Cerratos, Alabaster Churches, and
Work Crews | 7. Communism, Catholicism, and the
8. Sincerity, Self-support, and Sowing
the Seed |
9. Books, Broadcasting, and the Bible
10. Culture Shock and Carpeting
| 11. A Word from My Heart
| Next→ |
Communism, Catholicism, and the charismatics
|Do you think it's possible that the pope
is a born-again Christian? . . . Don't you find that the American Catholic church is quite different
from the Italian Catholic church?. . . Don't you think we'd be a lot better off praying for the
Roman Catholic church than fighting it? . . . [ more
ItalyL Alfredo Del Rosso, an Italian captivated
by a vision Building St.
Peter's Christ and
Mussolini CIA plot? Little baby Jesus Open
doors Rookie Notebook: Our first nine
months as missionaries in Italy
Other ebooks: God's Bulgarian
tapestry Mr. Missionary, I have a question
The Kingdom strikes back: Signs of the
Messiah at work in Haiti Paul McGrady, Mr.
Evangelism Our balanced attack: How
Nazarenes finance world evangelism Jonah,
reluctant missionary Rookie Notebook: Our
first nine months as missionaries in Italy Other
books and articles
10/40 Window explanation and
map Seeking God's will?
Mission trip fundraising
Nazarene Missions International resources