In the mountains of north-west Italy – not far from the city of Turin – a community of Christians lived humble and quiet lives for centuries. This community’s core belief was their faith should only come from the Bible’s teachings – and not from any man-made traditions or customs.
This “church in the wilderness” of the Italian Alps became known as the Waldenses – meaning “People of the Valley”. It was in these mountain valleys, high up and far away from the excesses of the surrounding cities, that families and communities lived safely and simply in their belief in a risen Saviour.
Their simple, genuine and life-affirming belief in Christ amongst these mountains would be contrasted with the pride and indulgences of the headquarters of the medieval church less than five hundred miles south in the city of Rome. While the Waldensian communities held their worship services in mountainous caves the official church was building massive monuments and cathedrals all through Europe.
And the reason for the uncomplicated and contagious faith of the Waldneses was these people of the valleys had long been in possession of Bibles translated into their own language. The Waldensians of north-west Italy didn’t require a priest or Pope to interpret the values of God’s kingdom to them. Instead, they would read the Word of God themselves and teach it by memory to their children. It was in communities like the Waldenses that God preserved precious truths such as salvation by faith in Christ alone, simplicity of life, service to others, and honouring the seventh day Sabbath as a symbol of obedience to the Creator.
It was in God’s Word the Waldenses knew they were to take the good news of salvation to the world. Waldensian missionaries – young and old – walked out of the valleys, over the mountains, and into the world with a message of hope.
As these missionaries from the mountains encountered others they would sense some were open to biblical truth. When they were lead by God’s Spirit they gave these people sections of Holy Scripture. Sometimes their gift was only a page or even a few verses, sometimes it was an entire book. These gifts were words of life to people who had never seen the Bible in their own language, and in doing so the Waldensians were daily risking their own lives. In sharing the Gospel these people from the wilderness sowed seeds of salvation that would bring spiritual enlightenment to thousands.
The Waldensian motto became “lux lucet in tenebris” – meaning a light shining in darkness.
So, it was only a matter of time before the dark forces of kings and popes – realising their hold on their kingdoms would be lost if people read the Bible for themselves – would unleash multiple massacres on the Waldnesians that would shock the world.
(To be continued in Part Two – click here)
About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.
Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read what the Duke of Wellington can teach us about taking Communion.