Italy is the home of the oldest Protestant church in the world, the Evangelical Waldensian Church. Dating back to 1170, the Waldensians took the discipleship asked for in the Bible very literally, much as Francis of Assisi did a generation later. Named after Peter Waldo, an itinerant preacher, the Waldensians gave up their possessions and devoted themselves to caring for the poor and preaching the gospel within the Catholic Church. Unfortunately their efforts were not understood by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church or the secular authorities, both of whom tried to suppress the Waldensian movement. The persecution continued off and on until 1848. During World War 2 the Waldensians did their best to rescue as many of Italy's Jews as possible from the Nazi death camps. Since the end of World War 2, the Waldensians have dedicated themselves to welcoming refugees from Africa and the Middle East and to working for peace.
The Reformed Church in America established a partnership with the Waldensian Church in 2002. Since then an RCA missionary has worked with the Waldensians, first in an ecumenical center near Rome and now on the island of Sicily. A number of other people have served as volunteers in a suburb of Rome and in the Sicilian towns of Palermo and Paquino. A key North American partner for the Waldensians as well as for the Reformed Church in America is the American Waldensian Society. A number of Reformed Church in America members and pastors serve on the society's board of directors.