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The Bible on the wall

CMS missionaries Jess and Simon Cowell work with the GBU (Gruppi Biblici Universitari) in the south of Italy. Jess had a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel inspired by a fresco (wall painting) in a museum. 

Siena is a city filled with art—much of it inspired by stories from the Bible. In our first year in Italy, I was taking Italian lessons and one day visited a local museum, Santa Maria della Scala, with a class of students. This museum was once a hospital, and is incredibly rich in history and artefacts. As we walked around the huge chapel, built in the 13th century, I noticed that the painting on the front wall depicted a story about Jesus. The fresco illustrated the healing of the disabled man at the Bethesda pool by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem.  

The front of Santa Maria della Scala.

As we circled the room, I quickly looked up the Bible reference, found it in John 5, and read the story, trying to remember the action point by point. During our missionary training at St Andrew’s Hall, we had been encouraged to try drawing the story frame by frame, like a comic, to help us remember it. It was time to try doing this on the fly—I remember how fast my heart was beating! After a few minutes, as we were still in the chapel passing once more in front of the painting, I said to the young Irani and Turkish women who I was walking with, “Would you like to hear the story from the Bible that the painting is about?”   

They both agreed enthusiastically. So, I took a deep breath and proceeded, in my then very basic Italian, to tell the story of Jesus’ mercy on the man and his power to heal him.   

I still remember the exchange with my Muslim Turkish friend afterwards. She was fascinated by the healing and asked, “I wonder if the pool still exists?” I replied that I didn’t know, but wasn’t it amazing that the story showed us that Jesus was able to heal without the pool—he was more powerful than that! “You’re right!” She replied eagerly.   

One of these women still contacts me every now and then. I am glad I had the opportunity to share with them about the Lord Jesus, from the Bible, in a situation where we wouldn’t even have been able to sit down together!


Thank God for the spur towards Bible storytelling that St Andrew’s Hall training provides, and pray that CMS missionaries will find opportunities to use it for sharing the gospel.