Richard Wilson has served the local church in Italy for 30 years as a missionary with European Christian Mission (ECM). Last year he moved to the town of Rovereto, with his wife Pinuccia and their four children, where they are helping a small church plant to grow.
When I came to Italy 30 years ago, my desire was to work with university students and help a small church, which I did do for many years. In this period, I started playing with the electronic text of the Bible. My background and training in mathematics and interest in computing when I was in Australia made it a fun hobby for me and something that I could do well. Gradually, more and more people started asking me for a copy of what I was doing and I started distributing it. And it kept growing.
Now, I manage the most important internet site in Italian on the Bible, with downloadable programs and apps for all the major operating systems, desktop and mobile. As well as seven Italian Bible translations, there are other resources like Bible commentaries, a Bible encyclopedia, a Greek-Italian dictionary and interlinear Bible studies, and a lot more, much of which I have written over the years because there is a lack of public domain, electronic texts in Italian, unlike in English where a lot can be found.
My site is still out there, and 15,000 people use it every day to find out something about the Bible …
There are days in which I have too many commitments and deadlines – in the church, for my mission, and in the family – and I can not do anything on the computer. However, my site is still out there, and 15,000 people use it every day to find out something about the Bible. The programs and apps are still downloaded, and people use them all the time, even if I do nothing.
However, the ministry does need to be developed and refashioned as technology changes. From floppy disks to CDs to internet to mobile to social – each change means new trends to understand and then new skills to master to cater to the new ways to access information. So a part of daily life in my ministry is learning how to do the same thing – distribute electronically the Bible in Italian – in new ways. And then applying what I learn, programming or writing HTML code or whatever is needed.
The production of new resources for Bible study is also an important part of daily life. This may mean writing new texts for the site and the programs, which is enjoyable. It also means transforming and improving texts that I obtain, so that they are in an appropriate format to be used, which is slightly less enjoyable. For example, at the moment I am going through a New Testament commentary, two chapters per day, retyping all the Greek words so that they are in a modern format, rather than using the technology of 20 years ago when the text was produced.
Earlier this year, in order to add an Italian Bible translation to my available resources, I had to go through more 10,000 distinct words over a period of a few months, connecting a “root” to each word so that searches can be made for all the forms of a certain word or all the spellings of a certain name. I am sure that a search will never be made for most of these words, but I don’t know now which ones will be searched for in the future, so day by day, I analysed all the words.
This was not the idea that I had in my head before I came to Italy about what a missionary does …
Managing the principal site in Italian on the Bible also means that I receive quite a few email inquiries from people who use my site or who are looking for answers to their questions. Sometimes there are technical questions about the site or the program. Sometimes there are questions about what a certain passage means or what the Bible says about some theme. Sometimes I receive personal questions, like “Should I leave my boyfriend or stay with him?”. And sometimes people want to convert me to other religions. Daily life also involves replying to these messages, which is difficult without knowing the people who write and what is behind the questions that they ask.
I must admit that all this was not the idea that I had in my head before I came to Italy about what a missionary does, and it was certainly not what I was expecting to do. However, in hindsight, I see that God had been preparing me for this while I was in Australia (through my studies and interests), and that God had called me to Italy to do this, as well as the other ministries I thought that I had come to do.
God prepares us for what he wants to be done, and wants us (missionaries and non!) to use all of our abilities to serve him. These might be teaching and pastoring and church planting, but they also might be working with computers, fixing cars, teaching missionary children, helping people with a disability, singing and playing instruments, and a thousand other talents that missionaries can use in their daily life.