By Mike Genung
Earlier this month I took a trip to Austria and Italy to speak on freedom from pornography and sex addiction.
Several weeks before leaving, I broke a toe, and was fitted with a post-op shoe. Then 36 hours before my flight, my back got messed up and had to run to the chiropractor. A chest cold/viral thing I’d been fighting got worse; I was running on fumes out of the gate.
In spite of this, God came through and provided what I needed every step of the way. The first day I shared was Saturday, in an eight hour event near Vienna put on by Phil Poeschl’s Loveismore ministry. Phil’s ministry has been printing my books in German and English for the past 10 years. On the way to the church I felt weak and run down, to the point I was asking God how I was going to make it through the day. I was scheduled to speak three times; once in the morning to everyone, then twice in the afternoon; once to the wives and once to the men. They were there from all over Europe; Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and more.
Before I got up to speak I asked Phil if there was anything he didn’t want me to say or touch on; he gave me the green light to go for it, no holds barred. While calm on the outside, inside I was thinking “YES! Game on!”
As soon as I got up to share, all of the weariness faded away; there was a complete sense of peace, freedom, and boldness. I shared in clear terms about the brokenness of my story, which includes porn, masturbation, promiscuity, sex with prostitutes, and adultery, and how God radically changed my life. At the lunch break, men and women were continually coming up to me and sharing stories of how God has used the books to change their lives. They also expressed appreciation for my no-holds barred approach to a topic that few churches talk openly about.
The afternoon session with the wives was one I won’t forget. I felt like the Lord wanted me to begin by restoring their identity in Christ. Many wives have their self-esteem shattered as a result of their husband’s sexual sin, so I shared on who they are: Daughters of Christ, beloved of the Lord, the most important person in their husband’s life, and that they should never see their identity through the distorted lens of their husband’s sexual sin. By the looks on their faces… and the tears… I knew God was ministering to them. At the end when I asked if anyone who was hurting would raise their hand so I could pray for them, many hands went up.
The picture at the top left of this newsletter shows Phil and the girl who works for him; the top picture shows me speaking and the guy who translated (everything was done through a translator). Below is a picture of coffee at a café in Vienna. The espresso in Austria and Italy puts anything we have in the States to shame. A church near downtown Vienna is shown in the shot below on the right.
Then it was on to Boligna, Italy. Sort of. Monday morning I missed my flight, then did a mad dash to find a new flight that would get me to Bologna on time (I was scheduled to speak that night). I found a flight that got me there at 4:00PM.
Daniel Wiens, who heads up Liberati in Cristo, a ministry to persons who struggle with porn and sex addiction and their spouses, was my host in Italy. They’re in the process of translating my first book into Italian and will have it ready this summer. Dan was also my fellow warrior and translator when I spoke.
The next three days included sharing at an event Monday night in Reggio Emilia that two churches put on, speaking at a church in Porto Sant’Elpidio on Tuesday night, then topping it off Wednesday by taping a radio interview that aired in Italy in the afternoon, and speaking at a church in Lissone that evening. The Italians are late-nighters; every night the church services went from 8:30PM-10:30PM.
Highlights of the three days in Italy:
As with Austria, I was weak from being sick (and starting late at night), but every time I got up to speak I received what could only be described a miraculous burst of energy, along with the peace, confidence, and freedom to share openly.
At every stop, including when we taped the radio show, they gave me the green light to go for the topic of porn and sexual sin, no holds barred. They told me that the Catholic Church in Italy had taught for decades that sex was dirty, and was only to be used for procreation, even to the point where if people enjoyed it they had to confess it as sin. The result of this lie was that, like here in the States, sex and porn were rarely addressed in both Christian and Catholic churches.
In addition to sharing about porn and sex, I pressed in on the idea that the Christian life is not about Bible knowledge, quoting verses, or faking it, but a heart relationship with God that is alive and flourishing. There were challenges to look beyond mere theology, or looking good, and take a hard look at the heart to see if they were truly filled with God’s life, love, and peace… of if they were empty like I was in the days when I was in bondage to sexual sin.
There were also challenges to embrace what our reputation as believers in Christ should be: fatally flawed, deeply broken people who have been showered with the grace of God. We don’t often “boast about our weaknesses” as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9. As God has taught me many times, He shines through the cracks in our lives; I encouraged them to allow God to use them by sharing their weaknesses.
The response everywhere we went was overwhelmingly positive, with men and women asking questions and expressing appreciation that we took on the topic of sex without tip-toing around it.
I wish you could have seen the looks on their faces. Many were locked in to the message. Some were on the verge of tears. A few had their heads down, which, I was told, might have been from conviction. God was speaking, ministering, encouraging, and convicting the hearts of those we were blessed to minster to.
This trip was everything I believe church can be when God’s people face the tough issues and share from a starting point of brokenness (mine).
If you’d like me to speak at your church or event, please let me know by replying to this newsletter. I’m open to sharing in venues outside of North America as well as within.
For those of you in Europe who might want to contact the ministries I worked with and/or get help, here are their websites:
Loveismore, Austria: www.loveismore.eu
Liberati in Cristo, Italy: http://www.liberati-in-cristo.org/