By Mark Ellis —
His mother was urged to abort him. A childhood brain tumor meant he never grew taller than 4’1”. Yet this pint-sized Italian street-preacher became a mighty voice for the gospel, leading many to Christ throughout Italy and Africa.
Alessandro came from humble roots, born into a poor family in Sicily. While his mother carried him, one of her relatives said, “you are so poor, why do you make so many children?” With a relatively small amount of money, “you can abort and delete the problem of the fourth son.”
His mother briefly considered abortion, but a close friend said, “You don’t know what God wants to do with this child: Do not kill him!”
In 1983, doctors discovered Alessandro had a brain tumor the size of a small orange. During surgery to remove the cancerous growth, Alessandro entered into a coma. Doctors advised his mother there was little hope for his recovery.
In Alessandro’s personal testimony, he recalled the family crisis. “When my mother knew this bad news, for the first time in her life she opened her heart to Jesus; she began to pray saying: “Lord, I obeyed you and so I refused to abort, and now you want me to take away this child that I love?”
Then God intervened in a wonderful way. Unexpectedly, Alessandro awakened from the coma the day following her prayer. Then doctors began experimental medical treatments that involved chemotherapy and cobalt therapy. Alessandro believes the cobalt therapy led to his many serious health problems throughout the rest of his life.
“I went back home,” Alessandro said. “For many years I had difficulty walking on the street and a lot of people always looked at me with pity, making me feel like an abnormal person.”
In school, Alessandro was mistreated by other children. “They brought down my pants and derided me because of my paralysis. I was not able to do anything, not even play football. One day at school, I had to write an essay about what kind of job I wanted to do when I grew up. Crying, I realized that I had no answer.”
When Alessandro walked along the road, sometimes children spat on him, threw stones, and even urinated on him. “Soon I began to be depressed and I did not want to live anymore and I thought to commit suicide,” he said.
“I hated myself and everybody else around me.” Alessandro isolated himself in his house and decided he would never go out.
With his Roman Catholic upbringing, he prayed to a large number of saints. “None of them responded to my cry, until one day I said to my mother: ‘Mom, I want to see Jesus.’
Vision and hope
In 1986, Alessandro was crying in a corner of his house after a fight with his father. At this low moment in his life, when he felt rejected by his father’s love, he received a vision of Jesus. “Suddenly I saw Jesus. Initially I could not see his face, but then I saw him clearly.” Alessandro fell on his knees and began to pray, then ran to tell his mother.
Alessandro’s mother inquired about the vision with a woman “of evangelical faith,” who told her there were others who had similar experiences.
Later, Alessandro and his mother sought out the woman at a store where she worked. “After that meeting, I and my mother decided to receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, confessing to God our sins, and accepting his sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of our souls.”
A few years later, Alessandro heard the still small voice of the Lord, when he received a call to go throughout the world to preach the gospel. “But I refused that voice because of my physical problems.” At that time, he was not able to wash or even dress himself.
In 1992 the evangelistic group “Christ is the Answer” came to Palermo with a large tent, and Alessandro began to attend their meetings. At this time, he received another vision, “I flew above the clouds and then I saw myself in front of Jesus, who held in his arms my body full of wounds and blood. With his hand, he touched my body, and then my wounds and blood disappeared. Then, he pointed at the sky and said to me, ‘Up there in the heaven, there is a place for you too.’
In 1995 Alessandro joined Christ is the Answer and began to travel with them as part of their evangelistic team.
A doctor’s exam
In 1998, he received difficult news from a medical exam. Doctors informed him he had a short time to live because of various complications associated with diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides, thyroid and pituitary deficiencies, arthritis, scoliosis and osteoporosis.
After Alessandro received the jolting news, he returned to his tent and began to cry out to the Lord, “I’m not afraid to die; I’m afraid to suffer because I have already suffered a lot.”
Then God gave him another vision. “I saw my body as a small thumb and the hand of God covered me, and the Lord said to me, ‘You will not die until my hand will be above you. Your journey of life will be difficult, but never fear! I will be always with you.’
At the close of Alessandro’s personal testimony, he made this sobering assessment of his prospects: “To this day the doctors say that I have only two years of life due to other health problems.
“In fact, I have one lung that is not working well and I am allergic to dust and mites, and this could cause a fatal asthmatic attack. But I have decided to serve the Lord in the mission against any adverse circumstance, because I know that He cares for me and I can have peace only being in His presence. So, dear friends, if you have big problems, know this: at the foot of Christ’s cross there is an answer for your life.”
Alessandro traveled with Christ is the Answer for 15 years, living in a small container house that was transported along with the ministry tent. Only recently did he have the luxury of his own shower.
Then he joined Joni and Friends ministry and toured Albania, South Africa, Malawi and other African countries. In 2011, he stayed six months in South Africa, where he led a serial killer (accused of more then one hundred killings and rapes) to repent on his knees and give his life to Jesus, according to Francesco Abortivi.
“He loved children and children loved him, maybe because of his size,” Abortivi notes. “He did everything he could to help a couple of orphanages.”
In the last few months, he joined Adventive Cross Cultural Initiatives and was going to visit American friends after a one-month stop in Mexico.
Tragically, Alessandro Sacco was killed in an auto accident in Mexico City in March, 2012, at the start of a two-month North American evangelistic tour. He was 34.
An unusually large hole in the road caused his car to flip. Alessandro died immediately, while others in the vehicle had minor injuries.
On the eve of his departure for Mexico City, he received this striking vision posted on Facebook:
“Peace to all of you. I’m leaving for Mexico. I wanted to share with you something that happened to me. Yesterday night during a prayer meeting, the Lord gave me a vision. I could see myself from the back, I was tall and thin and in front of me, there was a long golden staircase.
“Suddenly four steps disappeared and I ran towards them and I opened some kind of door. The sky was wonderfully blue and suddenly a very strong light passed through my body and a voice told me: ‘Still a little time and we will meet.’ I am in peace. Pray for me, for this travel and for my difficult health condition. I will be back in April, God willing. A hug to all of you in Jesus Christ.”
“We had him in our church and our house two weeks ago,” says Francesco Abortivi, a ministry associate who worked with Alessandro at Adventive Cross Cultural Initiatives. “He kept telling us about his fights with God about his health. He joked saying he almost had an illness for every letter of the alphabet. I can remember arm palsy, diabetes, a blind eye, a tumor in his hip, just to name a few. “
Alessandro prayed often for an improvement in his fragile health. “He prayed and fasted so much for his healing,” Abortivi notes. “When Jesus in person told him ‘my grace is enough’ he got so angry at Him! But he obeyed and preached the Gospel wherever he went.”
“God used his disability to reach people that would not normally listen: prisoners, killers, robbers, suffering people, orphans, students… wherever he went people would listen to this child-faced little man and be changed. You just can’t argue when someone who lost everything talks to you about God’s love. You just accept it. As a brother in the church said, ‘he’s a little man, but a spiritual giant.’
“This is one of those things that leave you breathless,” Abortivi adds. “God told him what was going to happen, he was prepared, and he actually told many of us he expected to go soon ‘where he would not suffer anymore.’
A few days before he left for Mexico Alessandro instructed Abortivi about how he should use his small savings if anything happened to him. He wanted it used for the orphanage in South Africa.
“We joked with him… ‘Stop it, you’ll be with us for long,’” Abortivi insisted. However, Alessandro’s spiritual discernment was correct.
“With so many physical problems, he died of a car accident. It’s as if God wanted to say, ‘I take him when I want, the way I want. I could keep him alive despite all his illnesses, but I’ll show My glory taking him this way.’
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