Newsletter 30 - October 1999
As usual, I have divided the news into three sections. But this time the order is different, which reflects some changes in my work and responsibilities lately. Partly this is due to the fact that this letter includes the summer period, when there is less happening in the church and especially at the university, and partly due to changes taking place in my position in the church. I am becoming less and less a missionary to the church, and more a missionary (working in other areas - computer and university) that happens to be in the church. So like any church member, I have particular responsibilities (in my case, especially with the teaching), but not as a missionary. Which, of course, is a good thing, as the church learns to run and take responsibility for itself.
On the computer
The main part of this ministry - the distribution of a computer program to study the Bible - continues on as always. It seems that I have reached a sort of plateau, with the number of downloads from my site stabilised at about 17 new users of the program, and 36 copies of the Bible distributed, every day. How long I can keep up this level before I exhaust the market I do not know. But those numbers are just from my site. There are other places from which it can be downloaded or copied. In fact, the program was put on the CD-ROM attached of one of the biggest selling Italian computer magazines last month, which means that tens of thousands of additional copies were made and distributed for me.
As I have mentioned in other newsletters, one of the consequences of having an Internet site dedicated to the Bible is that people then know that they can send me Biblical and spiritual questions. Especially in the last month I have had a lot of opportunities to write about the Bible to people, and tell them about its message, Jesus. For some reason, I seemed to become a marriage guidance expert as well! In two days I received a pair of messages from:
∑ a Catholic that was studying the Bible with some Jehovahís Witnesses, and now wishes to marry one of them; he does not want to become a JW, but knows that they will not allow the marriage;
∑ Christian, from Milan, who has a Catholic background, and that from reading the Bible (in good part with my computer program) now has Protestant beliefs. He has become engaged to an American evangelical from a Jewish background. His parents are totally opposed to the union, believing the girl has dragged him into a sect. I put him into contact with Maurizio (that was part of the GBU group at Trento but now lives at Milan, and has a similar background), and they have spoken together a couple of times.
My computer ministry has also branched out in other unexpected directions. It seems that I have started a sort of computer consultancy work for other missionaries. In the past year I have made a number of trips to other parts of Italy to help other missionaries I know to set up and learn about their computers. Others I have helped over the phone or by e-mail. I have also created two sites for other organisations I am connected to. One is for the Edizioni GBU, the publishing house of the Gruppi Biblici Universitari (http://www.musictus.com/gbu/) and the other for the Fellowship of Evangelical Missionaries in Italy (http://www.csnet.it/femi/). The site for FEMI, by the way, is in English, and some of you might be interested in having a look at it to gain a wider perspective of evangelical work in Italy that what you get from my newsletters.
At the university
As I write this, I am in a waiting period. I have done quite a bit of advertising for the beginning of the academic year, and need to wait to see what response I get before I decide how I will continue with the university ministry. So first of all, you could pray that I find new students interested in reading the Bible. I know that I have made that same prayer request innumerable times in the past year. But it has also been answered, because a few weeks ago an English Christian student (Patrick) arrived to study here for a year on an exchange program. So keep praying for another student, so that we can start a group to read the Bible together at the university.
In the church
The church has restarted all of its activities after the summer pause, and in fact we have already held some special meetings. Since we recognised the need to improve the Christian education of the children in the congregation, both in the family and at Sunday School, we invited a couple to speak to us on this last month. We continue to think a lot about ways to improve the church, and Iím always happy to see that for the most part the congregation do not wish to just let things continue as they have already done, but look out for ways to be better servants of God and witnesses to the Gospel as a church. So you could pray in particular for those that are working on these changes - the elders Angelo and Pippo, and the other members of the church committee, Salvo, Amos, Salvatore and myself.
One area that I in particular want to work on this year (together with Pippo and Salvo) is the mid week Bible study held in the church. It has suffered from a few problems over the years, and especially from a lack of commitment as those who come donít identify it as their group, but as part of the church activities. (This is not the case in the two Bible study groups we hold outside of Trento, where there is more of a sense of ownership and commitment.) So we have thought to try to change some things this year. Probably the most important is to work together on a common project, to create an identity for the group. And to make sure that this identity is Christian, the project is to hold two evangelistic events as a group during the course of the year. At the moment we are looking at running an evangelistic Bible study in early December, to which the group members can invite their friends. Pray for this, both for the meeting itself (we have never tried something like this before in our evangelism as a church), and for a positive effect on the group.
Apart from those already mentioned, there are a few important events in the next few months that you could pray for. From the 3rd of November I will be in Portugal for a week for the wedding of Paolo and Joana. Paolo you may remember came to the Bible studies at the university for four years, until his graduation last May. So you could pray for he and Joana as they seek to serve the Lord together as a couple. I will be making the trip with Maurizio, so it will be good to spend these days together again. On the night before we leave, we hope to arrange a meeting together with Christian at Milan.
On the weekend of the 11th and 12th of December there will be the usual bookstall at the town market days. Although this year it will be a bit different. A couple I know (Giuseppe and Rachel Palermo) will be coming to give a few puppet shows during the weekend. The idea is that this should attract a bit of a crowd to the stall, and we will have a few hundred calendars to distribute to those that pass by.
In the meantime, I am getting closer to being able to do the test for my Italian driverís licence. At the moment it looks like it will be at the end of November, although there is no hurry. I can use my Australian licence until March anyway.