Word of Salvation Church
This letter is a presentation of the work that God has done through us since 1985.
My name is Nicola Spuria and I am 57 years old. I serve as senior Pastor of the “Word of Salvation Church” in Catania, Italy. 27 years ago the Lord completely changed my life, when He touched my heart in a powerful way. That was in 1985 and at that time I was a member of the Anti-Mafia Squad in the Catania Police Force. I began to attend a church Pastored by Philip Wiles, who came from England to Italy after the II World War. The Lord used him to bear much fruit in Sicily. It was a joy for me to serve God alongside this man who taught me to love Jesus and His Church and also to have a real love for the lost.
Catania has a population of about 350,000 with about 90,000 that live in Librino, a very poor and marginalized district where there are many drug dealers and people involved in organized crime. As a policeman I really didn’t like that reality. In 1997 I was serving in the youth ministry and with the evangelistic team of our church. That same year I had my first missionary experience when I drove a truck full of school supplies for the children in a very poor area of Albania. Through that experience the Holy Spirit gave me a real passion for the people of Librino.
This produced a strong inner conflict because I asked myself how could I preach the Gospel in those areas of the city where I had arrested so many people. I took to the Lord in prayer and He answered me, “I am the Lord of your life and I decide how I will save people and who I will use.” I surrendered to God and with tears I told Him I would obey. Shortly afterward my Pastor confirmed that he felt the Lord was leading in the situation. So I started the mission in Librino with about 10 other young people.
We began to evangelize in front of the big housing projects that make up this neighborhood. God told me to stay there until He started saving those people. We gave testimonies and preached the Gospel every weekend using an outdoor amplification system. I usually didn’t give my testimony because of the type of work I did. But, one day I felt the need to share my experience. There was a woman standing on her balcony and listening to us for a good while. We foundout later that she had wanted to commit suicide because three of her sons were sentenced to life imprisonment and her nephew was sentenced to 23 years in prison for murdering a policeman. This woman didn’t like me because of my job; but, inspite of that she still felt the Lord speaking to her, “What you are hearing is from Me.” God did a wonderful work in her and she began witnessing to all her neighbors about the grace of God.
Then we began to have weekly church meetings. The number of believers grew and within a few years we had used two different places of worship. The first one was a workshop where stolen goods had been hidden; but, shortly it wasn’t big enough. The second location was bigger; but, soon we outgrew it because so many people were giving their hearts to Jesus. In 1998 we moved to the place we are now using. It was an abandoned building where criminals hid drugs and weapons. The Lord gave us favor with the City government and they granted us the use of this building for at least 30 years.
The members of the original group of believers that started the mission with me provided the money necessary for the renovation of the building. We contributed 36,000,000 Italian Lire (about $25,000 USA). We were able to obtain a loan of 130,000,000 Italian Lire (about
$86,000 USA) by morgaging my own home. In this way we were able to completely restructure the building which now seats about 300 people.
In 2012 we opened a third place of worship in Mascalucia, a small city in the Catania metropolitan area at the foot of Mount Etna.
In these two locations we hold weekly church services, prayer meetings and teaching sessions. About 500 people attend our church. Some of them were involved in crime, others are relatives of mafia families and many have had very difficult lives. This is how God answered our prayer, “Lord, send us the worst people so that they may become the best in your kingdom”. During times of official police work in a prison I spoke with a man who was responsible for 50 murders, 35 of which he commited personally. Jesus touched his heart and even though he remains in prison he has been set free by the truth of the Gospel since giving his life the Lord. For the last 5 years I am in full time ministry because the Lord made it possible for me to go into early retirement. Twice each year we have a 2 or 3 weeks tent campaign and during the whole year we have 2 evangelistic teams that do street evangelism throughout the city. We have also started several home groups, and we do weekly youth meetings and women’s meetings. Every Saturday evening we prepare and serve pizza in our main church building as a time of fellowship to strength our relationships.
Along with these ministry services we have started an association of volunteers to work with children and needy people who we help with food distribution and any other way possible according to their many needs.
We have a website that offers news, information and sermons. In 1994 the Lord encouraged us to start a publishing house called “Verso la Meta”. Because the market for Christian books in Italian is small it has not been possible to make a profit. But, we continue to invest finances to translate and print Christian books knowing that we are offering an important service to the Church in Italy. It gives us joy when we consider the Lord’s help by which we have been able to publish about 70 books written by different authors such as Spurgeon, Wigglesworth, Tozer, Murray, Derek Prince, Phil Pringle, Mike Brown and others.
We have been enabled by the grace of God to do much and we want to do even more. This is possible because of the vision God has given me and because all the members of the original group of co-workers together with others (about 70) have commited to the vision. Over the years I have formed a ministerial team which consists of several Pastors, teachers and evangelists. I have encouraged other people to be faithful to the call of God and I pray that God will bless them “more than me”. A strong friendship, loyalty and fellowship has helped us become a tightly knit team. This encourages us to dream big dreams for our Lord Jesus because we know that everything is by grace, and that the teamwork we have developed will be fundamental to everything we will do for Him. As a Pastor, I could not do it all alone.
In 2009 the Catania city government gave us 8’800 square meters of public property. We have prepared a building project to be realized on that lot. This is a big financial challenge and another was added in 2012 when we were “miraculously” offered the possibility to buy a 2.500 square meters of land in Mascalucia for €60,000 ($80,000 USA). We have also developed a project for this lot which is above Catania at the foot of Mount Etna. This project is less expensive and we have already started the work. In fact, because of the generous giving of our church members and the careful administration we follow (although the area we are in is a poor area) we have a fund of €250,000 ($350,000 USA) to continue the construction. I will sell my house, where I am now living, to invest half of the proceeds to complete the building. God is faithful! We plan to finish the constuction there in Mascalucia by 2014. The project is for 1,800 square meters of floor space on 3 floors.
The project for the lot in Librino will require more resources and we are praying for the Lord’s provision. There will be a place of worship of 1,200 square meters, a center for social services and other activities that will occupy 1,800 square meters and 6 apartments.
1 – Librino buildings project
In my heart and in the heart of the members of the church the buildings in themselves are not important. We do desire to complete the building project as quickly as possible because all of these places will allow us to serve more comprehensively the city of Catania and beyond. Together with all that we are already doing we want to use the new centers for these projects:
- A Bible and ministry training school. In Italy there are many young believers who love God; but have not had a proper formation for a life of serving God.
- A place to receive missionaries from around the world, particularly the members of the mission “Christ is the Answer”, many that have been serving in Italy and other countries for about 40 years. They do not have a pension plan or a place to go when old age will no longer allow them to continue their missionary service. Even now they would need a place for periods of rest and restoration.
- A place to receive ex-offenders, drug addicts, alcoholics and prostitutes who want to abandon their old life; but, need a place and help to make the necessary changes.
- A soup kitchen to make and serve hot meals for the poor and homeless.
- A center for children and young people to do after school activities, recreation and sports, to keep them away form the streets.
Obviously, all of this requires consistant economic resourses to complete all of the construction and to maintain it all together with the activities.
Our church is experiencing a historic moment. God is enlarging our vision and we are no longer thinking only of our local church; but, of the Church of Jesus Christ around the world. We want to develop a global missionary mindset because we feel the Lord is calling us to this. Sicily is right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea; therefore, a ministry training center here is strategic to reaching Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
In the last couple of years we have been visited by several men of God who have helped us to be sensitive and open minded to the many possibilities to serve God globally.
- Jim and Pat McInnes, a Canadian couple that has served as missionaries in Costa Rica for 40 years with LAM(Latin America Mission) Canada.
- Jack Hawkins, a Canadian Pastor who now serves with OM (Operation Mobilization) International and has ministered for several years on the Doulos and Logos Hope in many parts of the world.
- John Fornelli, a Pastor from the USA who serves with ECFA (Evangelical Free Church of America) and Global Reach. He travels around the world teaching the Word of God and the Bible Story Telling method.
- Paul Schafer, a leader of the mission Christ is the Answer serving in Italy for 37 years.
- Mike Brown, American writer, lecturer and Radio Host.
All these people have given a lot to our organization over the years and have helped us to arrive where we are now. They have ministered to us with prayer, preaching, teaching and encouragement.
They have also encouraged us to write this letter and to let others know what God has done, what He is doing through our work and what we would like to do for Him.
Catania, 2013 June the 20th