Of course, prayer was a major aspect of the choosing of Verona as the target city for "Taking Christ to Italy: Go North". However, there was much research done as well. Here are some of the criteria for choosing the target city.
Criteria used for selecting target cities:
1. Geographic area in which there is no work of the Christian Churches or Churches of Christ.
2. Geographic area with a high scholastic level to facilitate the preparation of future teachers or preachers.
3. Area with the following structures:
b) industry in expansion
c) regionally and/or nationally important socio-cultural centers
d) hospital complexes of national importance
4. Economically flourishing area:
a) low unemployment level
b) high personal income
c) potentiality for future employment and demographic expansion
5. Area characterized by greater open-mindedness and receptivity; less closed-mindedness. (although I have yet to hear one area of Italy not refer to another as closed-minded -Matt).
6. Area with a good central geographic location, furnished with superhighways, rail centers and a port or airport.
Results of the survey trip
After narrowing our search down to four northern cities, Treviso, Venezia-Mestre, Verona and Parma, a prayer/survey trip was taken to help explore, pray and determine which city God was leading us toward. There were two things that happened in Verona, that did not happen in any of the other cities. We felt it was God through circumstances helping guide us toward Verona. Verona was the only city where we were invited by the churched and the unchurched.
Here is the story as told by our team leader, Matt Crosser...."Upon arriving in each city, we would check into our hotel and I would immediately check email and update supporters as to how the trip was going. One of the reasons why I wanted to check email, was that weeks before the trip I had tried connect with as many ministers and missionaries in the areas where we were headed. I had not had much success hearing back from those close enough to visit while surveying. I had communicated with Elio, a young Italian minister in Verona. As I checked my email in the hotel in Verona, I was happy to see that Elio had written on the day that we arrived! He said their church was having a prayer service and asked us to come. We said, "yes", and met him and his wife downtown after walking around a bit. Elio leads the Apostolic Church, which is a small congregation of around twenty to thirty people. As we were driving to the prayer service, he told us how he and his wife have been praying and fasting for two years for more workers to come to Verona. He said this aside from the fact we are from a different denomination. He went on to say that their church joined with them and for a year has been praying and fasting for more workers to come to Verona. He said if our team came, we would be an answer to their prayers. Wow! We were invited by the churched! That was great news, but we were'nt coming to a city to heal the well, but the sick. Which meant it wasn't finalized in our heads that we should go there yet."
"The next morning we split up into groups as was our custom so that we could spread out among the city to more fully seek answers to our question. We would go into cafes, coffee shops, small stores, etc... and ask questions about the spiritual state of the city we were in. In Verona, one of the guys on the survey trip, Eric, and I had stepped into a small coffee shop. We went in, ordered and started a conversation with the one barista (coffee bar tender) in the shop. Her name was Ellie and she told us how well she liked the city, that the infrastructure was very good, transportation handy, trash pick up clean, but no seaside beaches (Verona is about an hour from the sea, which is a travesty to most Italians). As we asked questions about spiritual life and the church, she replied that while she thought God might exist she herself did not go to church, then continued by giving us the reasons for her decision. We told her how my wife and I were coming to one of the four cities to share about Jesus and study the Bible with those interested. We continued to chat as we drank our cappucini and ate our pastries. As we were leaving, Ellie told us to come back and find her if we ended up choosing Verona. This was an invitation from the unchurched! This was getting exciting. Our small survey trip of seven members were growing in their excitement as we finished out the trip. Nothing else happened that way in the other cities. There were conversations of course, but nothing as clear and inviting as those."
"On the train ride back to Ancona, the survey trip team made a unanimous decision. Meanwhile hundreds of believers stateside were praying for this trip and for our clarity of decision."
Statistics on Verona
- Located in the Veneto region, this city of 260,000 inhabitants is a tourist center for Europe.
- The population density for Verona is 1,254 people per square kilometer.
- The county around Verona (861,000 population) has a population density of 277 per square kilometer.
- It is an economical-cultural point of reference for northeast Italy.
- There is an annual Opera season.
- There are several annual festivals (Jazz, Games, etc….)
- There exists a well known furniture industry.
- It is a major rail center for northern Italy and north Europe.
- There are 4 Evangelical, Italian speaking works as of 2007: Assembly of God; independent Christian Evangelical Center (Baptist); Waldensian/Methodist Church; Apostolic Church. There are several English speaking groups within the area, but they aren't reaching Italians.
- According to police statistics, it is one of the safest cities in Italy.
- Verona has the highest rate of divorce in Italy.
- Prostitution is legal in Verona.
- Abortion is free and legal in Italy.