They say that when in Rome, do as the Romans do. In summer months, that means leaving Rome for the seaside in a desperate attempt to escape the heat. Yet on 28 June, the Rome Envision Team was doing the exact opposite.

This was the first time that GBM has run an Envision team to Rome. We were going to support two Italian-speaking Reformed Baptist churches – the only two in Rome, as it turns out: Breccia di Roma, planted ten years ago, and Breccia di Roma San Paolo, planted in September 2018 in the suburb of San Paolo.

After arriving on the Saturday, we spent the first Sunday attending services at both of these churches. In the morning we went to San Paolo, which meets in a local primary school. This was our first experience of church life in Rome. There was a wonderful friendly and intimate atmosphere about the place, and the love and fellowship of the members was clear to see. In the evening we went to the ‘Mother church downtown’, which was slightly different. The love and fellowship remained, but being a larger congregation, there were a few more children running around!  

The Monday and Tuesday were spent getting to know the environment in which we were to work over the next week. The church took us on three prayer-walks around the city. We learnt about the various influences on the Roman people as we visited some city sights. Seeing places like the Scala Sancta steps, where it is believed that those who climb them can have their sins forgiven, gave us an insight into the dominance of Roman Catholicism. This makes things hard for the evangelical church in Rome. For the Romans, to be Roman is to be a Catholic. Breccia di Roma is therefore seen as an ‘outsider’ church, and it struggles to show people that salvation comes from a personal trust in Jesus, rather than Italian heritage.  

Throughout the week we also joined in with some of the outreach of both churches. This involved some street evangelism. So on Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning we gave out flyers for the British night we would be hosting and tried to engage people in conversation as we went along. In the hope of building bridges with the community, we also spent some time playing basketball and clearing litter in the local park in San Paolo.

In partnership with some other local churches, the church also has a strong refugee ministry called Il Soggiorno which we got involved in. We played games and taught English and Italian to the thirty refugees, most of them homeless, who come along twice a week.

On the Friday night we hosted a British night for the church, treating everyone to some of the delights of British culture – a quiz, a cream tea, and a ceilidh dance led by Rosie. Daniel also shared his testimony. This was heard by some of the non-Christian refugees who we invited from

Il Soggiorno. Pray that what they heard will take root in their hearts. Despite some technical problems, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves!

The week raced by despite the heat, and we were back on our flight to Stansted before we knew it. Our time in Rome was encouraging but also showed us the challenges the church there must overcome. It was so encouraging to see the work that the churches in Rome were doing, their clear love for their communities and their desire to reach them with the gospel. But we were also confronted with the great need for a reformation in Rome. As a spiritually lost city, there is a lot of prayerful work to be done and few workers to do it.

Working as part of an Envision Team was a great experience. From endless gelatos and Mady’s fantastic cooking, to learning how to cut anguria (watermelon) and play Monopoly Deal, there are plenty of memories to savour. Everyone played their part (Rachel was definitely the mum!) in a fantastic week. We may not have done as the Romans did, but maybe that’s no bad thing.

James Baldwin and Matt Beaumont

When in Rome…
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