On a summer evening in San Severo, Italy, a group of Christians performs mimes in the piazza, the town’s public square. Most of the locals walk by or pause only briefly to watch. But the performance captivates one Italian girl.
Afterward, she approaches the group of missionaries and listens as they share the story of Christ. Still interested, she continues to see the missionaries and meet with church members from her area. The 17-year-old tells them she’d made a vow to become a nun two years earlier, but is now doubting that decision. After days of continual questions and time spent with the missionaries, the young woman realizes what has been missing in her life – and she accepts the Lord.
“This kind of thing happens rarely,” says Daryl Hanson, a missionary in Italy. “From a human standpoint, it can be so discouraging, but it’s the Holy Spirit who is the one turning on the lights. God’s the one doing the work.”
Hanson, an alumnus of Western Baptist, became involved in Italy missions in the late ‘90s. Although he visited Italy as a teenager, his two mission trips as an adult changed his perspective of the people and their need for Christ. He gradually became more part-time at his old job to work in ministry full-time.
Currently, Hanson serves as the West Coast Representative for Saints Equipped to Evangelize, a mission organization whose primary focus is Italy. Hanson visits churches and colleges, while also leading short-term missions during the summer. For the past nine years, Corban students have been a part of his teams, and during this past WOW week, Hanson generated even more interest in summer mission trips to Italy.
Hanson’s heart for Italy and its people is evident in his repeated trips to the country and his knowledge of Italy’s desperate need for the Gospel.
“Less than 1 percent of the population claims to know Jesus in a personal way,” he says.
Even though Italy is mostly Catholic, only 5 percent actually practice, and secularism and materialism permeates its culture known for its in fashion industry and production of fast cars.
“To accept the Lord personally, that means someone would be turning his or her back on the culture,” Hanson says, “so there is a fear of being ostracized.”
Saints Equipped to Evangelize uses many different ministries in Italy to interest people, including mimes, puppet shows, and tract distribution. Hanson, who used to teach high school drama, is a firm believer that God uses our talents and interests in ministry. For him, that’s drama, and he enjoys using mimes to share the Gospel in Italy.
“Italians are generally willing to listen, because they’ve never heard this before,” Hanson says, “but it takes a long time for it to sink in.”
Although Hanson may never see a huge evangelical revival in the various villages in Italy that he serves, he knows that his work is not in vain. “My hope is that in heaven, there will be people thanking me for what they heard me saying on the streets, and I think this is part of our reward as Christians.”