The language of Love

by Rachel Palermo

‘Be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you’ (1 Pet. 3:15). I have always been a big fan of friendship evangelism, maybe because I find it so easy to talk to people. I am often told that if there is no one around I would speak to the wall and they would not be far from the truth.

A small window was opened to me when my children were young. Some of the mums in the playground asked me if I could teach English once a week to their children. At first, I laughed. I had no qualifications in teaching English and I did not have a clue where to begin. On the other hand, I thought, ‘wow, people are asking me to have their kids in my home once a week on a long-term basis, how could I say no to that?’ And that is where my English evangelism teaching journey began.

Not only did I get the chance to see young people on a regular basis but I also discovered that I loved it. As a result, I started making friendships with children, teenagers and their mothers. As we live in a small town, Binasco, a comune (municipality) in the Province of Milan with a population of 7,000 people, we have the advantage of continuing to see people regularly.

Not long after beginning to offer English lessons, I felt the need to keep a prayer diary. I started to write down the names of the children and their parents, and began to pray for them by name on my daily walks. It was after this that many people began to open up to me and I have been given opportunities to share Christ in ways I never imagined. I was blessed to see so many people come into my home and I knew that this was God’s plan. Praying for those people by name opened up new situations and I believe that God has given this type of evangelism to me to glorify His name.

Developing Relationships

In 2022 three of the children I teach, sadly, lost their mothers. I had become very close to one mum in particular, I had helped her sons for many years and continue to do so. After battling cancer for years, she passed away at the beginning of that year. I attended the funeral and have become even closer to the family. When the eldest son had to choose which high school to attend, he phoned me to ask for my advice and help to pick the right school for him.

Although it saddened me because his mum was no longer around to help him in this important decision, I considered it a huge privilege, and praised God, that he felt there was something in me that he could trust.

Over the years I have been amazed at how the teenagers have opened up to me, sharing their worries and struggles – some serious. I have built up a great relationship with many young people who live in our community. I am so grateful that God has opened these doors for me to get to know them and their parents, along with the opportunity to share Christ in a natural way.

I have been given opportunities to share Christ in ways I never imagined.

From Milan to Liverpool

In recent years we have begun to bring small Italian groups to England. In 2018, we brought a group of teenagers who have been learning English with me for a number of years, to my hometown of Liverpool. They stayed for ten days and were hosted with people from my home church, so their time was spent exclusively with believers. We had a wonderful time and we still see them around town regularly.

On their return to Italy, one of the young people wrote, ‘My experience in Liverpool was fantastic! It was an emotional trip full of new experiences. I loved the method of learning English and visiting beautiful places. The people I met have happiness coming out of every pore and, as a result, I felt the same. I loved the houses but more the hosts we stayed with. I pray that I can relive this experience again one day.’

The teenagers also attended my local church, which opened up the way to have a conversation about the differences between Christianity and Catholicism. Many of them commented on how they felt more at home in our church and how they understood better the simple message that was preached. These are all small steps on their spiritual journey, which we pray will one day lead to their salvation.

Teaching English has also opened up opportunities among adults, some of whom have joined us for trips to the UK. Each time, we visited different cities with more than 20 participants from our small town. Again, each trip and the time spent together helped in building up long-term friendships. It takes a lot of preparation and every time we wonder why we do it. However, on our return we always see how the Lord has used this experience to show His love. These visits to explore the UK, while learning and practising English, create natural opportunities to show them who our God is through our daily living.

Worth Pursuing

Perhaps it is living in Milan that brings so many wanting to learn English. As the English language is widely used globally, it is seen as an important skill for developing career opportunities. People are very busy, especially in the city, and they do not have much time to give. However, they see learning English as part of their future, so they are willing to make time for it in their busy schedules. I am pleased to use teaching English as an opportunity to share the gospel. This does not always mean teaching English using the Bible, although at times that may happen. Rather, it is more about teaching using God’s love, which is so powerful that people see something different in you and begin to open up, giving you the opportunity to share His message in a natural way.

God has given me a ministry that I could never have dreamed of. He has given me an ability I did not think I had. This has not only opened a window or a door but a floodgate of people wanting to learn English, who are, at the same time, hearing about Christ! I am grateful I left my comfort zone and threw myself into something I did not feel equipped to do. As always, God gave me the passion and tools I needed. Please join me in prayer that this ministry will be used for His glory, and that we will see people coming to Him through learning English.

Pray

  • for the young people that as they learn English, they will also learn of the Saviour
  • for their parents to see the Light through our daily living
  • for us, as we reach out to our community, building relationships and sharing the good news of God’s love.

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