One of the highlights for me in Italy was the opportunity to speak to a group of women from the church one beautiful Sunday afternoon. There were a few non-believers too who came as guests. We gathered at a country home that offers meals in a lovely outdoor setting. We looked out on green fields and cows grazing not far away. In the distance we could see the outline of the mountains just south of Parma. They sang a few songs and prayed before Mariela invited me to speak. My friend Alessia served as my translator.
If you’ve never spoken in a situation requiring translation, let me tell you, it’s a challenge. You have to know how long to make each phrase to enable the translator to catch up with you, as well as keep the next thought you want to say in mind as you wait your turn. You have no way of knowing how you are being received, because there is no reaction to what you say in English. The experience helped me better appreciate what missionaries and foreign speakers face when invited into another culture to share the Gospel!
My topic was “Knowing God” and I began by sharing how, from a small child, I had always wanted to know God, but couldn’t figure out how to find Him. I thought if I was a really “good girl” – went to church, obeyed my parents, pleased my teachers and other authority figures, etc. – I would earn His approval. But it was through the difficulties that later came into my life that I finally understood that I was a sinner, and it was through my need for a Savior that I finally came to know God. Only when I was willing to humble myself and admit that I could not be good by my own efforts was I ready and able to know Him.
Some were very touched by the circumstances I shared from my life that helped me see my sinful heart. I stressed the importance of being real and authentic in our relationship with God and how we can live in freedom through His grace. When they were given the opportunity to ask questions afterwards, many were hungry to know more. After my talk, we all enjoyed torta fritta (a special Italian treat) and different kinds of cake while chatting at our tables. I appreciated the women who used the little English they knew to try to converse with me. I walked away feeling very tired but also very blessed by the experience.