Italy, Church Planter
Giacomo Lerici serves as a church planter in Mantova, Italy. He works alongside Andrea Artioli in the local church and in the ministry of Coram Deo. The vision of Coram Deo is to educate pastors and lay people through the distribution of biblical literature and the sponsoring of Bible conferences throughout Italy.
My name is Giacomo Lerici, and I am married to my wife, Michela. We have three children: Sefora (20), Gabriele (17), and Miriam (5). I was born again twenty-one years ago. My experience with Christ is a bit special. I was born in a Christian family that has been Evangelical for three generations. Since I was a child, I have been listening to the preaching of the Bible at home, at church, and at Christian camps.
I grew up with very high moral and ethical standards. When I was seventeen, while listening to some evangelistic messages at a summer camp, I understood that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. So after a few months, I was baptized. In the beginning, it was exciting; but as time passed by, it became harder and harder to live what I thought I believed. When I was eighteen years old, I made an emotional decision to attend a Bible School. Unfortunately, I could not stay longer than six months. I could not accept some of their contradictions and extreme positions; so, in tune with my impetuous nature, I left. However, my time at the Bible School was not entirely wasted, for there I met the girl who would become my wife. After two years, we were married. At that time, she did not know that the boy that she was marrying would prove to be a really difficult person. A year after the marriage, we were already considering separating because of our constant disputes.
At home, I was not the same person that I was trying to be in church. In church, I would sing, pray, and be very polite. At home, I was always nervous, short-tempered, and violent. One day, after a dispute with my wife, my anger led me to the point of destroying the door of our bedroom’s wardrobe.
What was wrong with me? I was not consistent, and I could not control my anger. Why? Nobody noticed anything in church, but something was definitely wrong. The only person who realized that there was a problem was Stefano, my older brother. One Saturday evening, he came over for dinner; after our meal, he asked me to do a strange thing: “Giacomo, tonight I would like to pray with you. Let’s go out to a quiet place, and let’s pray together.” I thought, “What a strange request!” Although it was late and I was tired, I agreed, because I loved my brother.
We got into the car and drove up a hill. We left the car in an open space and began to walk for some meters under a starry sky until we were able to see the whole valley. My brother began to pray, worshiping God and thanking Him for the having the opportunity to be there together with me. Before ending his prayer, he said, “Lord, I pray that You would open my brother’s eyes so that he can see himself the way You see him.” After his prayer, I felt strange and heavy. For the first time, I was before Christ, aware of my sin. My sin appeared horrible, tremendous, and unbearable to me.
I felt like I was in front of an abyss without any hope. With all the voice that I had, I began to cry out to God: “Lord forgive me! I am a hypocrite! A false picture! I need You! I need Your forgiveness! Without it, my life will have no meaning! Lord, now I know the reason why Christ died upon the cross. It was because of me! It was because of my sin that Jesus went on that cross. He took my place!” I did shout, but no one could hear me apart from my brother and God. When I finished praying, I felt as light as a feather. It was as if someone had removed a very heavy sack from my shoulders, a sack I could not carry anymore.
The day after, I was a new person with a new purpose – serving my Lord! My marriage was recovered, as evidenced by the fact that we will celebrate twenty-two years of marriage this year (2013). I told my church that I had truly been born again the night before; but the people, and even the elders, were dismayed and thought it was only a rededication.
I, however, am convinced that it was a real new birth. The church that I attended had many problems. No one nurtured or discipled me. No one told me what I should do. So I began to do any kind of service for the Lord that I could. Since this church believed that any man is automatically a potential preacher, after four months, the elders asked me to preach. I said, “How do I do it?” Their answer was, “Don’t worry. Read a passage from the Scripture and share some thoughts.” This was the situation. I preached, and I have tried to preach from that moment on.
I began to preach more and more. In the first years, I made many mistakes. Having no outside help, I would read the Bible much and pray, asking God to help me understand all that I read. God has been very patient with me. Although I never had the opportunity to attend a good seminary, the Lord prepared His own “Bible school” for me in my family and in our home.
After my daughter Sefora’s birth, our twins Gabriele and Giosué arrived. The whole pregnancy seemed to go well, but the delivery turned into a tragedy. Giosué died after two days due to a pulmonary hemorrhage, and Gabriele spent five months in the hospital, wavering between life and death almost every day.
Today, Gabriele is a disabled quadriplegic. He cannot hear, does not speak or understand, and he cannot feed himself or walk. But he is a happy kid. God gave us the strength to carry on and understand that Gabriele was not a faulty gift, but a good gift, because God does not give faulty gifts. This great discovery helped me to overcome this tragedy and understand the truth that Gabriele was a gift of God.
We moved to Mantova because Gabriele needed a special school for the disabled. In this town, we were near my coworker and best friend Andrea Artioli. Through him, I discovered the amazing doctrine of God’s sovereignty.
Andrea’s work of translating good authors from English to Italian gave me the opportunity to read Martin Lloyd-Jones, John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, etc. My mind was opened, and I began to understand the doctrines of grace more deeply. It was certainly a hard struggle for my pride and my presumption. But God won and showed me His sovereignty in a way that left me overwhelmed.
My ideas about God, myself, my circumstances, and even my history changed. My preaching changed. We came to Mantova, thinking that God wanted to use us to do good to Gabriele by letting him attend a school that was suitable for him. But we understand now that God was using Gabriele to do us good and to let us comprehend more about Him.
Ten years ago, God gave me the opportunity to attend a seminar (on expository preaching) that was connected to the Master Theological Seminary. I bless God for this opportunity. God’s grace has no measure. After twenty years of burning desire to serve Him full-time, He has provided in a surprising and miraculous way the financial support I need.
Now, I have been preaching for twenty years. When I look back, I can see the positive effects of my preaching on other people, and I say, “How can it be possible that God used and still uses a person like me?” My answer is that God is so sovereign that He can use the least of things for the advancement of His kingdom! To Him be the honor and all the glory!