What is Italy Like?
The tourist haven of Italy is home to spectacular vistas ranging from Alpine peaks and forests to rugged coastlines, volcanic fields, and pristine beaches. Culturally, Italy's diversity ranges from the modern industrialised north to traditional southern communities knit together by bonds of kinship and religion. From Estruscan and Roman ruins to the fruits of the Renaissance, the art holdings of even small villages attract art historians from all over the world. The tourism, fashion, and automobile industries fuel the high-powered Italian economy, with skilled craftsmen plying their trades too. Italian culinary arts are lauded and imitated around the globe, and the Italian lifestyle revolves around food.
Pizza and pasta in hundreds of forms are dietary staples. The cities of Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples, and Pisa welcome millions of tourists per year to enjoy the culture and beauty of past eras. Many are attracted to La Dolce Vita, the so-called "sweet life" in Italy amidst the atmosphere of aesthetic beauty in art and architecture, opera, religious traditions and historical pomp.
Italy is a thriving cosmopolitan business community perched on the edge of the European Economic Community yet plagued by bureaucratic inefficiencies and government instabilities. Disillusionment regarding public institutions is common, this is true for the church as well as for government. The Roman Catholic Church is strongly integrated into Italian culture, and yet the number of non-participating church members grows. The evangelical population in Italy is small and beleaguered by divisions and self-consciousness, making very little impact on society. Occultism is prevalent with three times as many consulting magicians as Catholic priests being identified.
What is the present state of the work?
Approximately 250 students in 21 university communities comprise the Italian GBU. There is a growing staff team assisted by volunteers. Most GBU groups have weekly meetings for Bible study and also some form of outreach. Training in evangelism and apologetics is being offered through national conferences, recent publications, and lecture tours by university apologists. A series of seminars for discipleship training is being planned for immediate presentation. There is currently an InterAction team in Bologna. InterAction team members have a wide range of possibilities for significant ministry even in the sometimes difficult circumstances found in Italy.
What do the Teams do?
Team members minister among both international and Italian students, contacting new students through friendship evangelism. The gospel is shared through evangelistic book tables and Bible discussions, guest lectures on spiritual themes of relevance in particular faculties, social activities, and concerts. Discipleship of believing students is accomplished through gatherings for Bible study, prayer, and worship, as well as retreats and other special events. Sometimes team members are involved in establishing new GBU groups in student communities without other Christian witness.
What about accommodation, living costs, courses, jobs?
Normally team members rent a room in a student flat, at a cost of around €300 per month, with three months' rent often payable in advance. The Team Leader can arrange short-term temporary accommodation while team members look for permanent accommodation. Living costs per month are around €600, including accommodation (€300), travel (€60), food, living and ministry costs (€300). There is in addition the cost of travel to and from the home country. Team members have often done Italian courses part-time. Costs vary according to the number of hours studied per week, but €200 per month is the minimum. Erasmus students will find it a fairly heavy load being on a team as well as studying. For those coming from EU member countries and needing to work, tutoring or teaching English is a possibility whether privately or through a school, although the work load and income can be inconsistent. Other possibilities are house cleaning, child care, sales, or clerical work in a bilingual setting. For those from non EU countries, work is restricted to private tutoring, child care, or housecleaning positions.
What special requirements are there for joining these Teams?
Visa: A visa is required for non-European Union citizens, and application for a student or a missionary visa should be made 4-6 months ahead at the Italian Embassy or Consulate. The Team Leader will advise individually.
Language: Team members should be willing to learn basic Italian and further knowledge is highly recommended, as much of the work is in Italian. However, it is possible to be used by the Lord with limited Italian ability.
TEFL: A TEFL qualification is useful.
Character: Christian and social maturity are necessary, as well as flexibility, patience, and perseverance. This is due not only to the cross-cultural nature of the work, but also to the spiritual apathy and resistance typically encountered in Italy. A sense of humour is also a good survival tool.
Rome (popn 3,300,000)
Roman Catholic 78.4%, Protestant 0.82%, Evangelicals 1.01%