One More Message
After 24 hours of travel (Rome to Frankfurt to San Francisco to Bakersfield, CA) I landed at Meadows Field in Bakersfield on Sunday night. Since I was seated near the front of the small plane, I was the first out of the aircraft.
Leaving everybody in the dust, I rushed through the small airport toward the exit to my waiting family. As I saw my wife Cheryl and my daughter Lauren from a distance, I started to cry and began to run. What a joyful reunion! My son Daniel was not there because he's away at Pacific Union College, but he called me about three or four times just to talk with dad. It's good to be home.
I'm writing this last message not to tell you about how happy I am to be with my family again (I just couldn't help doing it) but to respond to the request that many of you made to It Is Written. That request is about the results of our meetings in Rome. I could give you the answer in one sentence but, instead, will do it in a few paragraphs because as a pastor I can't help myself (there I go again).
Of course, you can scroll down to the bottom of this e-mail and go straight to the numbers, however, these meetings (or any meetings, for that matter) are about much more than numbers. These meetings are about the stories and the experiences behind the numbers.
So for just a moment, let me pull back the curtain and let you see the behind-the-scenes stuff--the kind of stuff that warms your heart and makes the numbers come alive.
First of all, there's YOU. "Me?" you ask. "What do I have to do with the evangelistic series in Rome?" A lot more than you realize. When the appeal was made to pray for our meetings, so many of you prayed your hearts out at home and in your churches after reading the reports on this website.
Supporters from around the world sent me the most encouraging messages. I heard from people in the United States, Canada, Ecuador, Bangladesh, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Malawi, Vanuatu, Kiribati (a tiny island in the South Pacific), France, Poland, Romania, and many other places.
I read every single message and was truly blessed and strengthened by them. I also passed on many of them to the workers in Italy. Thank you. In a way, I not only made new friends in Italy--but I made new friends all over the world. Wow!
It's great to be part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church family. I want you to know that your prayers were absolutely essential in the success of our meetings. This tells me that prayer works. Lets never stop praying--and not just for evangelistic meetings in Rome, but for outreach all over the world.
Then there was Shawn's health. Unbeknownst to most people, Shawn was sick during these meetings, especially the last two weeks, which were the most crucial. The poor guy caught every bug there was to catch. He had the flu, multiple colds, fever, gastrointestinal issues, etc. Before many meetings he felt and looked so terrible and devoid of energy. I often wondered whether he would even be able to preach...and if he didn't, what then?
But here's what happened every single night. The moment the meeting started, he had a surge of energy, a spark in his eyes, and a radiant glow. He preached like nothing was wrong--trotting from one side of the platform to the other. His messages, especially designed for Rome, were powerful and clear. What I'm trying to say here is that it wasn't Shawn preaching but the Holy Spirit through him to draw hundreds of people to Jesus. This tells me that God can use broken vessels to spread the everlasting Gospel. We just need to be willing like Shawn.
In addition, we had some amazing responses as the result of the Adventist radio station (Voice of Hope/Voce della Speranza), which sits just one mile from the Vatican. The station's programming includes quite a bit of music, devotional thoughts, and health talks. In other words, it carries very little doctrinal stuff. However, all that changed with the arrival of our evangelistic meetings.
Unbeknownst to us, the manager of the radio station started to place Shawn's nightly recorded sermons on the air three times a day (morning, noon, and evening).
What happened next totally took the Adventist leadership by surprise, because nothing like that had every happened before. They started getting numerous phone calls every day from people inquiring about the sermons, wanting more information, and wanting to know where the meetings were being held so they could attend in person.
Consequently, we met people who had come to our meetings because they had heard the sermons on the radio. This tells me that there is a deep-seated hunger for Bible truth in Rome.
I have to tell you about Sergio, the barber of Rome (many of you may have seen the lively video about him). It's not easy to keep the Sabbath in Italy because Saturday is perceived as just another workday--even schools are open on Saturday.
Sergio really struggled with closing his barbershop on Sabbath, especially since it was his biggest day of business. We went several times to his shop (Shawn had one haircut and two shaves, Victor had one haircut and one shave, Palmer had one haircut, and I had three haircuts) to encourage him with his decision.
He hemmed and hawed about it--indicating that he was going to eventually close his shop...in about a year. He needed time to transition. We didn't give up as we prayed for him and encouraged him to make the decision.
Guess who was there at church on our final Sabbath? Sergio the barber, whose store was closed! Yeah! He was all smiles. This tells me that God still convicts people to take their stand for the Sabbath even in tough places like Italy. May it inspire many others there to do the same.
Finally, there's Betty. Betty is a longtime Adventist church member who was in charge of registration during these meetings. On the last Sabbath morning, we were sitting in the church office together. She was sorting through appeal cards when she interrupted the silence (I was getting ready for a child dedication) by announcing: "Yves, I want to be an evangelist."
I looked at her and I could tell that she was dead serious. All I could do as I saw her sincere determination was to tear up. You have to understand that, all along, one of It Is Written's desires in Rome was to see people hear the call of Jesus to be evangelists--to continue what we were starting.
To be honest, we were focusing on the pastors and praying that they would catch the vision. Many of them did. But additionally, another one who caught the vision was an unlikely candidate: A sweet stay-at-home mom. As I teared up, she did too. This tells me that God calls the unlikeliest people to serve, like a bunch of fishermen or a mom. I can't wait to see what Betty is going to do as an evangelist.
The above experiences absolutely thrill my heart. God is good.
Because of the historical difficulty of the work in Rome, Pastor Shawn had people telling him that they didn't expect more than 30 visitors to attend the meetings. That proved to be so wrong. In fact, that was the baptism figure by closing night!
Scores more have made their decision to join the remnant church, and a major baptism is being planned for the month of May. That means that in a city where it was thought impossible to reach anyone, the first wave of decisions is already between 70 and 100, and the numbers are growing.
For Italy--for Western Europe, in fact--the results have been something of a shock, shaking up the long-held belief that the days of public evangelism are over. The first crack (and it's a big one) has appeared in the devil's armor. We'd been praying that something would turn the tide of opinion in Western Europe, and it has clearly happened.
This is a new day, and the start of something very big. Thank you for supporting It Is Written and its evangelistic efforts around the world.
Pastor Yves Monnier