Marcos Lovaglio is leading the youth of Arco and Treviso Churches of God. Every week he travels back and forth between the two cities and spends his weekends sleeping on the floor of the church. We discuss his idea of "church-in-the-house," why the youth groups are growing, the difference between Northern and Southern Italy, the Italian Mafia and much more.
3W: How old are you?
Marcos: I'm 23.
3W: Where do you live?
Marcos: In Treviso.
3W: But you actually have to go back and forth between Treviso (by Venice on the Northeast coast) and Arco (in the Northern mountains) every week? Why?
Marcos: I feel called by the Lord to do that to win souls for Christ. It's a long trip, of course, but you do it for love, love of the mission, love of the brothers and sisters, and to obey the Lord. It's a call that I have. I feel fine about it and I feel I'm doing what the Lord is calling me to do.
3W: How are the churches in Treviso and Arco?
Marcos: In Treviso we are still small, in Arco, thank the Lord, the church is growing. And the beautiful thing is that whether the church is small or big, there is a real genuine warmth with the brothers and sisters. You don't get tired helping them and they really appreciate you. That gives you strength to continue.
3W: How do you get there each week?
Marcos: I catch the train at 6:30AM from Treviso and go to the town of Trento. From Trento I get on a bus, because Arco doesn't have a train station. If I don't have to study, I can go on Friday. It takes me about 5 hours to make the trip. I do get a discount because I'm a student. Once I'm not a student, it will cost more.
3W: What did you study in college and how does it help you in your work?
Marcos: I usually work in a factory as my regular job. For ministry, psychology is real helpful to understand how people work--especially youth. It's helpful to understand people's behaviors. Even the way people sit, or the posture they have has a meaning. Psychology helps you understand that. It's very useful. It's not that you study people like they are objects, but it helps you understand people. It's very necessary for what I am doing. I chose it because I liked it, not because I thought it would help for youth work, but it has!
3W: The youth group in Arco has grown fast. What happened?
Marcos: There were people in these churches before that had a very negative experience in the church. When we started our church we did our homework to see how we could help. We decided to accept people for how they are NOW, not how we want them to be. Nowadays, the youth may call me to pray for one of their family members because they are sick, but they also ask that you help them learn how to pray. I was surprised when one of the young people asked me about masturbation. You have to be able to handle those moments. I was actually very happy that they were asking such intimate questions. It's often hard to talk with others about such private things like sexuality. I explained that it's not very clear in the BIble, but we do know that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. These are delicate questions, but it shows you that they have confidence in you.
3W: What are you focusing on now?
Marcos: I see that the new youth that are coming to the church are seeing the example of the other youth. My objective is that the youth that are going deep will be able to be good models for the newer kids that are younger. It's much better if these younger youth have older youth to look up to than just me. So I'm really focusing on these older, fast-growing, new Christians. And we are having great results. Every once in a while, someone goes off the deep end--maybe over a girlfriend or boyfriend--but it's not very serious. I am really happy with where I am, and I feel like I am exactly where God wants me to be.
3W: You are doing something really cool. You are starting to take the church on the road in something you call "Church in the House." Tell us about this unique idea.
Marcos: A lot of the kids come from non-Christian homes and we meet on Saturday nights for youth group. The parents were a bit nervous about where their kids were spending their time on Saturday nights. So we asked the parents, can we come to your house to have our youth Bible study. They said "Yes," so we started to have church in the house--taking it on the road.
This actually killed two birds with one stone. On one hand, the parents felt better because they now know exactly what their kids are doing. But also, even though the parents are busy around the house, they inevitably see what is going on and start to hear the Gospel message and get to see what church is actually like without having to go on a Sunday morning.
3W: I just love this idea. Taking the church on the road!
Marcos: The kids are changing. The parents see that their kids are changing: the way they speak, the way they think, the way they do things. The way their lives are more orderly.
One girl was always swearing when she came to church. Now she doesn't swear at all. It's not because I told her it was bad. It's because nobody spoke like that in our group. And she decided on her own to stop swearing. Now her mouth is always filled with praises for God.
3W: We greatly enjoyed sitting in one of your Bible lessons recently. It was really good. Recently I heard that you asked the question in one of your Bible lessons: "What if we treated the Bible like we treat our cell phone?" Can you explain?
Marcos: I thought of this because it is something very common today. We use the cell phone for everything. They are often better than computers. Every 30 seconds you are looking at it, you are getting messages, talking to friends, and you expect the cell phone to guide you through a city you don't know well. Obviously you use it to speak to people. When we forget it in the house, we run back to the house right away because we need it so bad. So the question was "What if we used the Bible in the same way?" To send messages, to call God, to "call" others. What if we ran back into our house with urgency to get our Bible to respond to all of our questions and to guide us. Wouldn't that be wonderful if we depended on the Bible as much or more than we depend on our cell phones. What do we do with Wikipedia? We look for explanations to important things. Do we do that with our Bible?
Which one should we be most dependent on? The Bible or our cell phone? In the BIble you can find emergency numbers. Psalm 90 is one of those emergency numbers. When the world seems too strong for you as a Christian, read Psalm 90. It's an invitation to believe that God will help you with everything. He created the world. He is above creation. If we are the children of God, we have authority. It's difficult to do, but if you try it sincerely, we will be super prepared and stronger than we are today. We spent 2 months talking about different "emergency numbers" and the kids loved it. What type of Christians would we be if we treated the Bible like we treat our cell phone. It's a challenge for us. And of course it's with other things that we put more importance on than the BIble.
3W: Americans and others may not realize how divided Italy really is. Can you expalin, what's the difference between Northern Italy and Southern Italy?
Marcos: There's kind of a hostility between the North and the South. A lot of times, the ones from the North say that they are more Italians than the southerners. And the ones in the South say they are the ones that provide the food and the work that the rest of the country is dependent on. The North is industrial (wealthy) and south is poorer and more agricultural. A southerner will say the greatest beauty and the best food is in the South. But a Northerner will say the north is more modern and beautiful.
The North has always been rich. And the south has always been put to the side--not just economically but politically. Even in the times of Mussolini, they didn't put important fortresses in the South because they didn't care about it. So the Americans came in through the south in World War II because it was less fortified. The South has always been left isolated. And so that's why you see so much mafia in the South and people in government that are actually connected to the mafia. In the South, the mafia can move without much problems and they are powerful. And they are growing and expanding up in Rome. There's no control in the South and it's always been that way in history. Even previous conquerors ignored the South. The countries near the South are African countries that people don't view as important. In the North the neighboring countries are Austria, Switzerland, France--the "more important countries."
There was a famous patriot in Italy named Garibaldi. He wanted to unite Italy but when he went to the South, he found all these uneducated peasants and they knew nothing about politics. When he tried to unite them down South, he lost a lot of soldiers. The Southerns killed many. The only real power in Italy has always been the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church was very against Garibaldi uniting Italy.
It's very interesting. Italy is only 150 years old, but it is still not a unified country. It only appears to people as though it is a united country. There's also a division with the capital and the center of the country. It's a disaster. But that's my opinion.
The people of the South are definitely more warm and friendly. The Northerners are more cold and they were part of the aristocratic families so they feel superior. I originally come from Venezuela, and the people are very humble, so I prefer the South. (laughs) I consider myself a peasant of the world because I was a peasant southerner in Venezuela and my Italian ancestry is from the peasant South.
3W: Tell us about your family's hometown in the South of Italy.
Marcos: We come from a small town called Sala Consiina in the mountains of Southern Italy. All of my father's family is there--my aunts and uncles. My grandfather was a very famous General in World War II and there is a statue of him in the middle of the town. It's in the provence of Sardenia (the shin of the Italian boot).
3W: How can we pray for you and the churches in Northern Italy?
Marcos: The first thing would be that the people of that area would have softer hearts. And that God will give strength to those working with the youth: strength meaning discernment, patience. LIke the kind of petition Solomon made when he asked for wisdom. There are always very delicate problems and you can easily make mistakes that cause bigger problems. I just keep saying it over and over: patience and wisdom.