Paul Vizzini - Phoenix, Arizona

The gospel came to our family in the mid 1830’s when my great-great grandfather (Giovanni Lenti from Italy) was touring in England.  He was an opera singer and entertained large crowds.  One evening as he was leaving the stage after a performance, the curtain puller passed along a gospel tract to the tired singer.  Giovanni eventually read the tract and trusted Christ as his Savior.  He associated himself with Christians gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in England.  Sometime later he moved back to northern Italy where English missionaries soon followed to preach the good news of the gospel.  In the mid 1800’s an assembly was planted in his hometown, Spinetta Marengo.  Through the years many missionaries have called this little town home and it has been a center of gospel outreach in northern Italy for decades.

In 1905 my grandfather Carlo emigrated to Argentina as he knew of assembly workers there.  But after working hard for a few years and too remote to contact local brethren, he returned to Italy.  In 1908 he emigrated to the USA and settled in northern Massachusetts in the little town of Methuen.  He went there as he had a cousin who was preaching the gospel amongst other Italian immigrants.  He helped his cousin while working in a textile mill as a pipefitter.  He met a young Italian girl, Febronia, who had already been saved through his cousin’s labors and they were married in 1912.  Three children were born to the family.  All the while, they knew of no assemblies in the area.

In 1935, a servant of the Lord, Mr. Rocco Capiello, stopped at my grandfather’s home to deliver a gospel tract.  When he realized what the tract was about, my grandfather told him that he and his wife were already saved.  They rejoiced together in the knowledge of a loving Savior.  And when my grandfather found out that this man was associated with an assembly gathered alone to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, he rejoiced all the more.   Carlo and Febronia soon made plans for cottage meetings to be held in their home.  Before long, others were saved as they heard the good news of the gospel.  Several other preaching brethren came for tent series during the summer months and a good number were saved.  In 1937 an assembly was planted at Cook’s Corner, Methuen, MA.  It continues to this day.

I was born ten years later to Christian parents that were part of that assembly.  My earliest recollections include attending Sunday School and gospel meetings.  I knew many verses by memory both in English and Italian.  I can recall that I wanted to be saved from my earliest days.  My lost condition bothered me at times.  Often, after a solemn gospel meeting I would return home and think about salvation.  Sometimes I would even try to believe the message.  But then I would forget about it and go off to sleep.  I can remember being upset that our family went to so many meetings.  The other kids on the street had every night open to play.  It seemed to a little kid that our family was always going to a meeting either at the assembly in Methuen or to another nearby assembly.  And so it went for several years.

In 1958, I became increasingly concerned about my sinful condition and about God’s salvation.  That year, I received an encyclopedia for my birthday.  My parent’s home had bookshelves along the staircase going to the upstairs bedrooms. And that’s where mom and dad placed the 24 volume encyclopedia in hopes that I would read some of it.  I soon discovered that the “B” volume had a section on “Believing” and what was involved when a person believes something.  I often took that volume up to my room where I would place it alongside my open bible.  I’d select a gospel verse and carefully read it, then as quickly as I could, I’d read the encyclopedia – all the while trying to apply what I read in the encyclopedia to a specific bible verse.  The more I tried, I became more frustrated and aware of how lost I really was.  With all that I knew about God’s salvation, I couldn’t get it for myself.  

In June of 1958, Frank Pizzulli, a servant of the Lord who had worked in the Methuen area for many years, called to say that he had a burden about coming for a week of gospel meetings.  This was very unusual as we would normally have two preaching brethren come for an extended stay for a series of gospel meetings.  But Frank just had a week open and a burden to come.  Little did I realize that the Lord was sending him to preach to me!  Frank came and as he usually did, he lodged at my grandparent’s home.   He spoke on Sunday night and his message went like an arrow to my heart.  I knew that I was a lost sinner.  That night when we returned home, I asked dad to come up to my room to speak to me about the gospel.  It was to no avail, finally Dad prayed and I went off to sleep still in my sins, lost and on my way to hell.

On Monday morning, mom asked if I’d like a visit with Mr. Pizzulli.  I immediately said, “Yes!”  We went to my grandparents’s home and I went into the little bedroom to speak with Frank.  The scene is still vivid in my mind.  Frank was sitting on the large stuffed chair and I was sitting on the edge of the bed.  He asked me to read gospel verses, several of them over and over again.  He asked me if I wanted to be saved.  I did, but I thought it futile to read some of these verses as I knew them by memory.  I had read many of them on my own for months.  We spent about an hour together and I became increasingly aware how lost I really was.  In fact, I became sure that there was no hope of me ever being saved.  Salvation seemed too hard for me to grasp.  All the while I was convinced that I just wasn’t believing hard enough.  The awful realization finally struck me – I’m lost and lost forever, I can’t get salvation.

Just then as I was reading John 6:47, “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life,” the thought came to me – Jesus died for ME!  Like I had never heard this truth before, the fact that Jesus died became personal to me at that moment.  Why, after months of struggling, did this truth become precious to me?  I think that it was when I finally realized that I was hopelessly lost and helpless to “believe hard enough.”  Just then, my eyes opened to the truth that the work of salvation was already complete by the Lord Jesus Christ.  All my effort of believing was getting me nowhere.  I could see this, as salvation was becoming more and more remote the harder I tried.  It was only when I surrendered, stopped my useless efforts and trusted on the work that was already finished, that I found salvation through faith in Him.  Peace flooded my exhausted soul as I found rest in His finished work of Christ!  I recall telling Frank, “I’m saved!”  He probably already knew, but it was such a relief to have the matter settled! 

There have been times over the past 48 years when my salvation has been most precious.  On one occasion I lay in a hospital bed with both arms attached to IVdrip lines, I was so weak that I couldn’t even open my eyes, and the nurses thought that I wouldn’t survive until morning.  I rested in perfect peace knowing that I was ready to go out of life, into eternity saved!  If my last breath on earth would occur that night, my next sight would be of my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.  Mind you, I didn’t want to die and leave my wife with two small children, but if it happened, I was at peace and ready to go! 

Dear reader, do you know peace with God?  Are you settled that if you should leave this earth today that you’d be in Heaven?  If not, you CAN know this most important fact, and you can settle the matter right NOW.  Trust God’s word in what it says about the death of His dear Son.  The Lord Jesus Christ came from heaven to provide a full and complete salvation.  He declared from the cross, “It is finished.” John 19:30. You cannot add anything to the work of salvation as it was perfectly completed almost 2,000 years ago upon Calvary’s cross!  You are helpless to save yourself, just accept what Christ did for you, and you’ll know peace with God.  There is no other way to be saved (Acts 4:12.)  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me!”  John 14:6

Paul Vizzini - Phoenix, Arizona
Sunnyslope Gospel Hall