Marge and Andy Randazzo were an Italian couple living in Chicago in the 1940s. They attended a small storefront church known for having student pastors. Often these young men came from Moody Bible Institute, but on January 4, 1948 a new student pastor was installed by the name of Royal Peck.
Royal, a boisterous California boy of 21, was a junior at Wheaton College, soon to be married, and now the pastor of Crawford Bible Church.
Early on the Randazzos approached him and said, “Pastor, you’re not missionary minded. We feel that you should go to the mission field and see what it’s like and if you ever get a chance to go, the first $500 will come from us.”
I can still hear my grandpa’s voice say, “My salary was $100 a month so $500 was a pretty big offering.”
He tucked the thought away in the back of his mind, but really had no vision for being a missionary. He wanted to be a pastor.
But in Chicago at that time there was an organization called Youth for Christ and one day the director approached my grandpa and said, “Royal, we’re sending 100 teams to evangelize Europe this summer. Each team will have an evangelist along with a singer and a musician, and we’d like you to be the evangelist on one of our teams. Where would you like to go?”
“Well, I’m one fourth Swedish,” Grandpa responded, “So I’d like to go to Sweden.”
He and Grandma began praying about it, but there was a hitch. They were expecting their first child in May and Grandpa was to leave June 1st and be away for the whole summer. And he would have to raise $1500.
In that moment the Randazzos’ generous offer came rushing back. “We’d be a third of the way there!”
Next, Grandpa called his home church, First Baptist Church of San Jose. “Come out on the train, speak at our church and we’ll take an offering for you,” they said.
A few weeks later they counted a $700 offering after the service! Soon, another $50 came in.
Grandpa and Grandma prayed and prayed and prayed about it. They had saved $250, but that amount was for the hospital bill for their baby. Finally one day Grandma said, “Let’s give the money we saved for the baby and trust God.”
Their decision was made. Grandpa was heading to Europe.
On the 13th of May, Grandma went into the hospital and their son was born. “We had no money to pay the bill,” Grandma remembers, “So we prayed.”
Mothers were kept in the hospital for eight days back then, and every day Grandpa came to see her and every day she’d ask the same question, “Did you get any money yet to pay for this baby?” And for six days the answer was, “No.”
But on the seventh day, a letter came from the United States government. This was 1950 and the letter said, “We have recalculated your life insurance payments for your service in the Navy for WWII and we’ve figured that you overpaid. Enclosed is a check for $250 to reimburse you.” The exact amount they needed came just when they needed it.
“It was our first huge step of faith,” Grandma would say, “and God taught us to trust him in amazing ways.”
After Grandpa’s summer in Sweden he took a train to Italy for a week of sightseeing and remembers writing in his journal, “Italy is the garbage dump of Europe.” In those post-war days Italy was dirty, chaotic and the opposite of pristine Sweden. Grandpa had no idea of what the Lord was about to do.
Within a few short years, a second invitation to Europe came, this time to start a Bible school in Rome, the Instituto Biblico Evangelico Italiano. Grandpa and Grandma said, “Yes!”
In 1955 they sailed to Italy with their three young boys and for the next forty-two years Grandpa and Grandma taught the word of God all throughout Italy. They saw many people come to know Jesus. They launched a Bible school that continues to this day. And they influenced many of the next generation pastors and Christian leaders.
And behind my grandparents’ first big step of faith were the Randazzos, their first Gospel Patrons. The Randazzos believed God, cared about the world, and generously stepped forward to fund my grandpa’s first missions trip. They could never have imagined the lasting impact of their $500 in Italy and in the generations of my family who carry Grandpa and Grandma’s legacy.
What might God do in the generations to come if we were all a little more like the Randazzos?