Church history

Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the

just shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2:4

Testimonial of Luigi Francescon

This trustworthy testimonial to the things our Lord hath wrought in the City of Chicago is given, not to boast of him who makes it but rather for the glory of God who works all things according to the counsel of His Will. Ephesians 1: 11.

I, Luigi Francescon, born March 29, 1866, in Cavasso Nuovo in the province of Udine in Italy, a worker in mosaic, came to America upon completion of my military term, arriving in Chicago on March 3, 1890.

That same year, I heard the Gospel preached by brother Michele Nardi. In December, 1891, I was born again in our Lord.

In March of 1892, with a company of evangelized persons under M. Nardi and a few families of the Waldensian persuasion, the first church of Italian Presbyterians in this city was organized having Mr. Phillip Grilli for pastor. I was chosen one of three deacons, and a few years later was named Elder.

Then one evening in the year 1894 while working in Cincinnati, Ohio, it fell out that as I was kneeling and reading the second chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, and having come to the twelfth verse, I heard a voice which addressed me, saying, thou hast not obeyed this my commandment, and I answered and said, Lord none spake unto me.

As a member of the governing body of our church, I had now and then spoken concerning the scriptural baptism and of how our Lord himself bade me to hearken unto him. But all set themselves against me, that pastor himself whom I had informed by letter that very night, of how the Lord had spoken unto me.

On January 1, 1895, I was married to Rosina Balzano (she too having been saved in the beginning of the year 1892).

In the year 1898 it pleased our Lord to save Giuseppe Beretta through agency of the American Free Methodists; this same man then, a short time later, associated himself to us, the Italian Presbyterians. I had frequently enjoined him concerning the baptism (of which I shall treat below) but at that time he did not grasp its meaning. Arriving at Elgin, Illinois, at the beginning of September, 1903 (where brother Marin and I were engaged upon certain work), I spoke to Beretta anew, and this in the presence of G. Marin, of how we ought to hearken unto our Lord's bidding; and this time (God availing himself of other measures) he was persuaded, and two days later baptized on the spot by an American brother member of the Church of the Brethren. I addressed him saying, Brother Beretta! Now art thou baptized - Monday, which is Labor Day, must thou do a like service for me.

The Sunday following Beretta's baptism, that is September 6, it fell to my lot as Elder to preside at services for that our pastor tarried yet in Italy; thus I found occasion to impart to the congregation that which lay in my heart, and I said: Now, nine years after that time when the Lord bade me do His Will, tomorrow shall I so do, and all who wish to share with me, must come to the lake at such and such a place. About twenty-five persons did come, and of these eighteen did as I did - were baptized by brother Beretta.

Shortly thereafter, our pastor, P. Grilli, having returned from Italy, and it being the first Sunday that services were held, I requested that I might say a few words to the congregation before his sermon - this was granted, and the first I did was enquire of those assembled whether I had worked them any grievance, and they answered. None. Then I exhorted them and made question whether they would share in God's Promise, that if so, how they must submit themselves to His Will. Next, I resigned my position as Elder and secretary and broke off membership with them. All were astonished, and besought me that I should leave them not, but I held fast and showed them how this decision was not mine but rather the Lord's. Then it fell out that those who had obeyed resigned themselves to God's Will together with me, wishing to leave that place, and yet did it seem needful to gather together, one place or another, to expound God's Word for the edification of those unable to read. At the first meeting then, held at the home of Nicola Moles (and at which I was named Elder), I proposed that brothers Beretta and Menconi open services on alternate weeks. At that time it was also determined to assemble in my home.

December 2, 1903, I left for Italy, that I might visit with my family. Upon returning to Chicago in the first part of May, 1904, a seditious tendency among certain of our group was discovered to me, which, occasioning endless strife, I determined to seek counsel of our Lord how most prudently to proceed in this matter. He replied that I must depart until such time that He bid me return. Now all these things took place in October, 1904. The families of N. Moles, Alberto DiCicco and several others left with me and we gathered now in one and now in another place on stipulated days and every Sunday we brake bread in memory of the Lord's Passion.

Attend now a few of God's marvelous works performed by the Holy Spirit in behalf of the Italian people!

The last of April, 1907, the Lord brought to pass that I fall in with one of the American brothers from Los Angeles who was among the first to receive the promise of the Holy Spirit - this being in 1906. Through him I learned of a mission at 943 W. North Avenue which preached the Promise of God, and that the pastor himself (W. H. Durham) shared therein. One week I visited them alone, and the Lord assured me that this was indeed the work of His hands. The following Sunday the others of our group went with me.

In the month of July my wife was the first among the Italians to be sealed by the Holy Spirit with the gift of speaking in the Swedish tongue; sister Dora DiCicco was second, speaking Chinese. On the twenty-fifth of August, it pleased our Lord to confer a like gift upon me.

During what time we were awaiting the fulfillment of God's Promise, the Lord made known to brother Durham, among others, that He had called and set me in readiness to carry His message to the Italian people. At the beginning of September, I testified to the family of Pietro Ottolini and within the space of several days, they were sealed of the Holy Spirit. On the fourteenth of the same month, brother Giovanni Perrou coming to the mission on North Avenue, I asked him whether he were acquainted with the Gospel and he replied that he had been born in an evangelical family; then I continued to question him, asking him whether he had the understanding to be saved, to which he replied that he knew not. Then I implored him to entreat God's forgiveness with all his heart and then seek the Promise of the Holy Spirit. He did as I bade him and in that same moment, he fell upon his knees and our Lord washed him with His Blood and he, likewise, was sealed of God. Falling in with brothers G. Marin and Agostino Lencioni, which latter had formerly opposed us, but now, seeing how the Lord had worked upon brother Perrou whom he knew personally, was himself persuaded to seek the face of the Lord.

The unforgettable fifteenth of September of the same year at a meeting at 1130 W. Grand Avenue, the Lord manifested himself to brother A. Lencioni, and those present, not understanding, made haste to call me. They entreated me to go with them to their assembly. First, however, I prayed God for guidance and He bade me go. When I entered, the Lord opened my mouth to speak unto them of the power of the Blood of the Eternal Covenant and how by it alone, may one come to stand in His Presence in fulfillment of His Promise which is ever faithful. On a sudden, the Lord made his presence known, confirming the brothers P. Menconi, A. Andreoni, and A. Lencioni, among others. And the fame of our Lord and his mighty works spread abroad and became known of all who came to behold; and the Lord persuaded them and convinced them-those both old and new in the faith: and in this number were brothers G. Marin and Umberto Gazzari. The first week the Lord called many of those of Carrara - those faithful, of whom one, brother Alessio Adriani, yet lives.

Returning to the meeting at Grand Avenue, brother P. Ottolini opened services and P. Menconi presided. The third time it chanced that as brother Menconi mounted the pulpit, brother P. Ottolini (driven of the Holy Spirit) gave a great leap and called out, saying, Brother Menconi, cease! The Lord has sent Brother L. Francescon among us that he might minister unto us. Then was brother Menconi persuaded to retire to his seat and I again assumed the post of Elder - until the end of June, 1908.

Towards the close of the month of October, the Lord sent my wife to Los Angeles, California, to testify to the family of brother N. Moles, they in that city having been strengthened about a year before through a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, which thing brought to pass that several of them were scaled and they united themselves with the American Brethren of that city.

At that time, several brothers and sisters in the faith from Hulberton, New York came to pay a visit, having heard how the Lord had set Himself to work in our midst. After several days they also were sealed and returned to their own with earnestness in their hearts. Shortly thereafter, brother G. Berretta appeared and he too received the gift of God.

At that time, brothers Leopoldo Tedeschi, and Michele Iacovetti, both knowing the Gospel, came to us. At the beginning of December, the Lord spake through my lips, saying: I the Lord have established my name in this place; if ye harken unto me and show yourselves humble, I will send among you those whom I am determined to save, which state shall continue for a time after which I shall send certain of you to gather in others of my sheep. And this is the token by which ye shall know that it is I, the Lord, who have spoken, namely, this place shall be too small to hold, by reason of their numbers, those whom I shall send hither.

Soon after this prophecy, one of the Brethren decided to buy sixty seats to add to those which we already had.

In those days the Lord had set to work upon brothers Giacomo Lombardi and Giovanni Rossi, and certain whole families, members of the Italian Presbyterian Church as well even as some belonging to the Catholic Church; and among these was brother Luigi Terragnoli. The Sunday following the prophecy, all the seats were filled and some few persons were constrained to remain standing. A Baptismal Service was held for these the beginning of January, 1908, and close to seventy obeyed the Lord's commandment, many of whom were sealed with the Promise.

From September 15 to the end of December, 1907, the Lord worked wondrous cures upon long standing illnesses whose nature was past man's knowing or help - and four of those sick were: G. Lombardi, P. DeStefano, Lucia Menna and Fidalma Andreoni.

And the Lord suffered that we be proved by many cruel persecutions but not one of our number weakened for that the Grace of God abounded in our breasts and we knew that God ever keeps faith.

In January, 1908, brothers P. Ottolini and G. Perrou, being moved thereto by the Holy Spirit and in accord with the church set out for New York City (passing on the way through Hulberton, New York, where a few were persuaded, among them brother Silvio Margadonna).

P. Ottolini having taken leave, brother A. Lencioni assumed the duty of opening services.

In February the Spirit moved A. Lencioni to go to Hulberton, New York, to re-baptize the faithful of that place for they had not been put into the water according to God's ordinance. At that time brother G. Lombardi discharged the functions of A. Lencioni until the fifteenth of July.

In March of the following year, the Lord made known His Will unto brother G. Lombardi and me in this that we should leave off working for worldly ends but should rather place ourselves at His disposal - and although we two had little of this world's goods, each of us also having six small children, we doubted not the Lord would be mindful of our dear ones. This revelation soon being confirmed by the gift of interpretation of tongues, we were in no little measure comforted and strengthened to submit our wills wholly to that of God.

The first of April, four of our brothers departed from us within the space of two weeks, bound for Italy; of these, three returned without event but one lingered yet awhile with his family who were saved, whom it later pleased the Lord to bring to Chicago. The name of this brother was Demetrio Cristiani.

The month of April, the Lord foretold many happenings and the fulfillment of one of these prophecies was this: A brother, having given his testimony, spoke in a strange tongue and sat down; then one of our sisters, having the gift of interpretation, rose and said: The Lord makes known today through the mouth of our brother that the saints of Italy shall be persecuted in the reign of Victor Emanuele III (observe that when this prophecy was made, the testimony of this work had not yet reached Italy). Now all this prophecy was fulfilled to the letter in 1936. By Order of the Italian government all meeting places of our brothers were closed, and it was forbidden them to meet anywhere and those who were surprised at meetings were fined and imprisoned; their sole transgression being that they had served God according to the Apostolic teachings.

The twenty-ninth of June, the Lord moved me to go to St. Louis, Missouri; before leaving, I ordained Elders for our church the brothers Pietro Menconi and A. Andreoni. Brother Lombardi joined me in St. Louis the fifteenth of July and we left for California. The first of September, Lombardi, returning to Chicago, departed thence for Rome where the Lord was pleased to save a few who were planted to be a testimony for that nation.

I remained in Los Angeles at the home of N. Moles, where I gathered together several sisters who had been saved and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the church of that city. At that time, the Lord also saved brother Serafino Arena and his family along with several others. Some time later, brother S. Arena was taken with the desire to carry the faith into Sicily, which thing he did with much success.

March 3, 1909, I returned to Chicago.

Moved by the Holy Spirit, I left, April 18, for Philadelphia, Pa., where the Lord saved brother Giovanni Marcucci, his wife and son; his sister Carolina, and one of the daughters and sister Concetta. The Lord labored well in the vineyard of this city among the Italian People as was shown by the fruit it so soon yielded to the glory of God our Father.

Having returned to Chicago July 22, and having been assured by divine revelation, brother Lombardi, Lucia Menna and I departed for Buenos Aires, where the Lord worked upon the family of Michelangelo Menna in the countryside of that province. I later returned to Buenos Aires with brother Lombardi - in this city one door was opened for us and in a suburb another.

March 8, 1910 (the Lord directing), we left Buenos Aires for Sao Paulo, Brazil. The second day of our sojourn there, the Lord brought about that we meet in a certain garden called Della Luce, an atheist, Vincenzo Pievani by name, who dwelt at San Antonio de la Platina in the State of Paraná, and we discoursed to him on the grace of God.

After two days Pievani returned to his own countryside and we remained in the city of Sao Paulo until the eighteenth of April, at which time, by the will of God, Lombardi departed for Buenos Aires and I for San Antonio de la Platina. Arriving there, I met two Italians, one that same Pievani, and the other a man called Felicio A. Mascaro. Their wives and all the other inhabitants of this place were Brazilians of the Catholic Church.

To go there where the Lord willed, I had no guide, but had the aforementioned Pievani's address. There was but one railroad into the state of Paraná, the terminus of which fell about one hundred and twenty miles short of the beginning of the railroad to San Antonio which lies in the northern part of the State. At that time there was no road at that point which would help bring me to San Antonio and I had misgivings about taking such a way as there was.

Being of a mind to go to the depot to study the maps of the railway, the Lord made known which way I ought to take and that was the Sorocabana, which ran through the State of Sao Paulo and the terminal of which lay in the north of Paraná where the last outpost at that time was Salto Grande. At five-thirty a.m., I left Sao Paulo suffering so from an unwonted pain in the spine that I was unable to take any food all day. At eleven in the evening I arrived at Salto Grande when the Lord advised me that He had set all things in readiness to speed me in my mission, albeit I was constrained to journey some forty miles horseback through virgin forests infested with jaguars and other wild beasts of that country; making this journey with but an Indian guide, I arrived by the grace of God, at San Antonio on the twentieth of April. Yet another difficulty beset me in being ignorant of the language of the country - adding to which I was without money or health, but God, who holdeth the hearts of all in His Hands, showed me a miracle in that as soon as I came into that country about San Antonio, whom should I meet but the wife of that Vincenzo Pievani. She was at the window of the house and a voice said to her: Behold the man whom I have sent you; (although I was not expected there). And some days later the Lord touched their hearts - in all, eleven of these people were baptized in water and confirmed with the sign of the Most High. These are the first fruits of God's handiwork in that nation.

Then the Adversary made trial to undo what God had done, but in vain, for he had not the power.

The others of this place, hearing of my arrival and being told of my mission, set a priest at their head and conspired to set about to kill me and there had been no other escape for me, had God not stretched forth His Hand. It was the Lord's Will that I remain there until the twentieth of June and in this trial I was ready to surrender myself to my enemies in order to spare those who believed and whom the others were of a mind to kill with me. God is witness unto this as well as are those brothers in the faith still living in that Place.

Leaving San Antonio the twentieth of June for Sao Paulo, I had scarcely arrived in that city when the Lord opened a door unto me and about twenty souls accepted the faith - some Presbyterians, some Methodists and some Roman Catholics, and almost all savoured the Divine Virtue; some were healed, others sealed with the gift of the blessed Holy Spirit. Towards the end of September, I departed for the Panama Canal, leaving them in the Hands of God with such counsel as He bade me give them, knowing that He was able to continue His work in that nation through them.

Up to this day, God has sent me to Brazil nine times and each time I have noted greater progress among our people there, spiritual as well as material.

Here I submit proof that the work in Brazil was founded by God and guided by the Holy Spirit. In the city of Sao Paulo are thirty groups comprising upwards of six thousand souls rendering testimony to the Grace of God.

As of the year nineteen-forty, our groups in that nation numbered three hundred and five; from nine-teen-thirty-five to nineteen-forty, seventeen thousand seven hundred and sixty souls had obeyed the command of our Lord, Christ's be the Glory!

Behold how the good Lord began this work. Through baptism by water, according to the Word of Christ were we withdrawn from the merely human and its theories. By the gift of the Holy Spirit were we inspired and enlarged.

All these things could happen only as a result of those things of which we have spoken and speak yet again, namely, the great works accomplished by the mighty Hand of God to whom be all Glory through Jesus Christ the Blessed One Forever.

Each time that I have returned to North America, I have found something new amongst our brethren, things different from those which we knew at the beginning. But thanks be to God who hath ever given understanding and maketh able to perceive good and evil, I have remained steadfast in His Counsel and His Truth.

This testimony is a short story of the Lord's work, a record for my family, and a comfort to the brotherhood in Chicago, a part of whom sustain me constantly, faithful to the Word of God, also others outside of Chicago, taking with me the part of God; in another sense not compromising their divine calling for human ends nor fearing what mortal man may do unto them, nor yet weakening before enticements or fear of the enemy. In our Lord's battles, many have deserted, but God has sent replacements in their stead; and though many have left us, yet we know of a certainty that we have a True Friend who casteth not off those who put their trust in Him and that is He who is Lord Forever, and His Name is the Word of God, the Truthful and the Constant, who judgeth and maketh war in a just cause. Praise the Lord!

Brethren! Beware the Adversary and his words of allurement that ye fall not in his net, but strengthen yourselves in the Counsel of God in order to dwell with Him and with the Holy Spirit, serving our God in fidelity through the faith we have in Him through Christ Jesus our Redeemer. Thanks be to Jesus Christ that He has kept my mind alert and clear to this moment. Not having kept any kind of diary or yearbook or any record of the glorious missions which the Blessed One called me to undertake yet in the faith of the Lord Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, do I remember, ever contemplating from the heights of submission to the Lord, my God, the panorama of His mighty works, ever seeing myself part of it and ever ready to recount, when it be His Will, the history of His marvelous doings, His compassions, His Counsel and His setting-free. Behold His strength, see how He keepeth faith. Consider His judgments, yea even this record, a gift of God which man receives of Him to extol His long- suffering, to magnify His works and to render unto God all praise and glory through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Chicago, Ill., March, 1942

In this second edition of my testamentary document, several departures from the first are made, to which I now would append the following remarks:

The Lord being pleased to dispatch me anew to Brazil, this time accompanied by my wife, we departed Chicago the twenty-seventh day of October, 1947. We remained in Brazil until-October-18, 1948, where we found all the Lord's works greatly multiplied in their number and the brethren possessed of material blessings which continued with them. According to the official report for the year 1951 (which report must be submitted annually to the civil authorities of the State of Sao Paulo), our congregations numbered eight hundred and fifteen. During the years 1942 to 1951, 74,775 souls gave themselves to the Lord Jesus. The forty-six congregations in the city of Sao Paulo, and environs are represented in temporal matters by five trustees who must render account to the authorities according to the law: Render unto Caesar those things which are Caesar's.

Their spiritual needs are cared for by Elders under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and these foregather weekly in supplication to implore counsel of the Lord and then impart to the congregations those things which the Lord maketh known unto them; and the like is done by the Elders in the zones outside the city of Sao Paulo.

For baptismal services and services of the Holy Supper and for other needful matters, they come together in prayer that the Lord may order whom He will to attend in these services according to the promise in His Word, for it is God which worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure when our trust and confidence is entirely in Him, Halleluia.

And this is the road unto Heaven, vouchsafed us by the Lord who is from Everlasting to Everlasting. Amen.

311 N. Lombard Ave., Oak Park, Illinois

June, 1952