Francesca felt like she was going to explode — and being around Christians only made things worse.
They were so happy and peaceful. They prayed like they really knew God and shared Bible verse with real conviction. But when Francesca tried the same things, it all fell flat.
It wasn’t just her Catholic church that was the problem. Francesca had tried going to church with the evangelicals. She read Scripture. She prayed. She even went to extra Bible studies with her church friends.
So why did Francesca’s evangelical friends have so much peace while she just felt tired and upset?
It would take her 11 years to figure out her problem.
Francesca Meets Evangelicals at Sports Camp
Francesca first met the evangelicals through basketball, around 2007.
Every year, friends like you give to TEAM so missionaries and local believers can hold a Christian basketball camp. Your gifts help secure the space and supplies, as well as recruiting Christian American coaches to share their tips and tricks.
Francesca’s son, Matteo, played basketball, so Francesca decided to sign him up for the camp.
The American coaches drew a lot of excitement, But Francesca quickly realized that even the Italians in this group were special. Most Italian coaches shout at kids and shamed them. They lived lives that no parents would want their child to model.
In contrast, the evangelicals seemed to truly care for the kids.
During the week, the camp staff invited everyone to join them at their church, Il Faro. After all she had seen, though, Francesca was still skeptical. And then a tragedy hit her family.
Husband’s Stroke Leads Francesca to Church
Francesca’s husband, Giuseppe, was hit by a stroke. He seemed too young — and yet, there he lay in a hospital bed. There was Francesca, sitting by his side.
And, strangely, God was at work.
Giuseppe’s roommate was related to one the members of Il Faro Church. The church member visited and shared Scripture. Francesca and Giuseppe were intrigued.
After Giuseppe left the hospital, the couple decided to try out the evangelical church. Like most Catholic Europeans, they had their doubts. Could a non-Catholic church be anything but a cult?
The church slowly earned the couple’s trust. Francesca joined one of the church members for a one-on-one Bible study, but she also contested nearly everything the believer said.
“She was really harsh and critical, and … you could just tell there wasn’t any peace,” says TEAM missionary Gene Coleman.
It seemed like Francesca was too hardened to really hear the Gospel. After about seven years, she and Giuseppe lost interest in the church.
But God wasn’t done with Francesca yet.
Friends’ Faith Baffles Christina
Francesca stayed in touch with her evangelical friends, even as a new job made her travel for long stretches. She got to see, intimately, how they lived their lives, how they lived their faith.
It was almost inspiring, but it was mostly frustrating.
“How can you have peace?” Francesca would ask. “I try to do it. I try to read the Bible. … and I can’t have peace.”
Francesca tried another Bible study, this time with TEAM missionary Susan Coleman. But each session ended with Francesca in tears. She had given years of her life to church, and God still seemed so far away.
God Breaks Through in Church Service
One evening, during church, Gene asked everyone to stand up and share any prayers or thoughts God had put on their hearts during worship.
Francesca burst into tears. “How can you do it?” she begged everyone to tell her. “How can you praise God?”
They were the same questions Francesca always asked. And yet, something was different tonight.
“You’re trying to do it in your own strength,” one believer said.
“You have a problem because you don’t have the Holy Spirit,” said another.
Francesca felt like she had been slapped in the face. She had been baptized in the Catholic church. Of course she had the Holy Spirit!
Still, Francesca couldn’t deny that something critical was missing from her life. After the service, she sat down with a TEAM missionary to talk some more.
That night, after 11 years, Francesca gave her life to Christ.
Francesca Boldly Lives Faith in Christ
Looking back, Francesca says she knows what her problem was. She wanted one foot in the world and another in the church. Now, she says, it’s all or nothing.
Il Faro Church saw an immediate change in Francesca. She finally had the peace she had longed for, and she immediately started telling people why.
Francesca’s friends were so upset, they confronted her over coffee.
“What are you doing? You’re leaving your Catholic heritage,” they said.
But now that Francesca has finally found peace, she needs others to know how they can find it, too. After her friends’ confrontation, she started studying apologetics so she can give them better answers.
In spring of 2019, Francesca testified to her faith through baptism. The church expected just a few friends and family, but 50 people showed up for the service. They cried as Francesca shared her testimony.
“What a joy to see her radiant with the love and peace of Christ and know for certain she is forgiven,” Gene says.
If you’ve ever given to TEAM, we want to say thank you for making this story happen. Faithful friends like you poured into Francesca’s life for 11 years. And now, Francesca finally has peace in Christ! Thank you!
Will you give to TEAM because people like Francesca need Jesus? Your caring gift will let missionaries serve on the field for years to come — giving time to reach even the hardest hearts! Please give today so people like Francesca can know their Savior.