Before I give you an update of our labors here in Rome, let me give you quick facts about the upcoming It Is Written evangelistic series:
1. The meetings open on Saturday night, February 6, and close on Saturday night, March 6.
2. There will be five presentations per week, from Saturday to Wednesday, at 8 p.m. Yes, 8 p.m.—because Italians eat late and stay up late. Most evening programs in the city start at 8 p.m.
Our massive advertising campaign is in full gear. In the two weeks preceding opening night, we have been distributing 800,000 flyers. We are using two different types of flyers—400,000 of each.
Our strategy is to hit all the homes of people living within a seven-mile radius of the hall twice. If they missed or disregarded the flyer the first week, we hope and pray that the second flyer will catch their attention.
The Italian postal service is notoriously unreliable. Since this flyer is so valuable, we decided not too risk it with the local mail service. So we are hand distributing the flyers in all mailboxes ourselves. We have become God’s mail carriers. Some of you may be wondering if it’s legal to do that. Well, unlike the United States and probably other countries, it isn’t illegal for people to place advertising directly in people’s mailboxes.
Our churches in Rome have been distributing 200,000 flyers and we have hired 30 out-of-work local church members to distribute the remaining 600,000 flyers. The good thing about these "mail carriers" is that this is more than just a job; this is a mission that they have embraced wholeheartedly.
Even though it is legal to place advertising in people's mailboxes, that doesn’t mean it's always easy to do it. Let me explain. All the people who live in this seven-mile radius, live in apartment buildings.
Single-family homes are practically non-existent in Rome and in all urban areas in Italy (and, for that matter, in Europe). That means that in one apartment building, we can distribute 25 flyers in one swoop. That’s the equivalent of two or three blocks in the United States.
That’s the easy part. Now here’s the challenge: Getting into the buildings to access the mailboxes. Outside each apartment building is a box from which one can call any resident in the building. The residents can let anyone in by pushing a button that unlocks the front door.
Thus, as we distribute these flyers, we have to convince someone in the building to let us in. Not easy. Then, once we're in, we often have to contend with the "portiere," the doorkeeper, whose job is to be the building's security guard. Somehow you must convince him to let you put flyers in the mailboxes. Not easy either. Do you see the challenge?
Last weekend I participated in the distribution of flyers with the members of the Appian Church. About 30 of us went out in pairs to distribute the 17,000 flyers assigned to that church. I was paired up with Paul, an 11-year old who insisted on going with the "American pastor." His parents entrusted him in my care and off we went.
We took the subway to our territory. Once we arrived, Paul and I decided to distribute on Via la Spezia (La Spezia Steet), a very long street. At the first apartment building we randomly selected a person to call and pushed the button. We waited anxiously. A few second later, a crackling voice responded with: "Chi e?" — "Who is it?"
Thus, in my Italinglish I stuttered, "I have an invitation for you to attend special meetings in Rome that I want to place in your mailbox. Can you open the door?" "No grazie." Click! was the response.
So we called another person and another until someone let us in. Once in, it was like hitting the jackpot because we had all these mailboxes to fill. In one place, we had 81 mailboxes. We were thankful that we didn’t encounter too many doorkeepers, and the ones we did were generally congenial. Paul and I worked side by side and in five hours distributed almost 2,000 flyers. Praise Jesus!
I tell you, that little Paul was a hard worker. He ran from building to building and with his sweet little voice got in with little trouble. His favorite apartment number to call was #5. For whatever reason, apartment #5 worked very well. (By the way, I’ve attached a picture of little Paul and myself at the end of our long day. We were both tired but happy.)
The work is going forward. Friend, please pray for our 30 workers this week. Their work is tiring and challenging but so worthwhile. Pray that the flyers we are placing in the mailboxes will convict many to attend the meetings. Thank you for all your prayers and support.
God bless you,
Pastor Yves Monnier
It Is Written Evangelism Coordinator in Rome