Newsletter 31 - January 2000
In the church:
The main activity in the church lately has been public evangelism, with an open evangelistic meeting in early December, and the bookstall at the town market days shortly after. The evangelistic meeting was a success, with a lot of friends invited, and a good message on the reality of Jesus today - since we did the meeting Ďin houseí, with Pippo from the church speaking, we could be sure that the message would be what we wanted to present. Some people thought that it wasnít a great success, as only four non Christians came to the meeting, but from my experience, for something overtly Evangelical as it was, that was more than we could realistically have hoped for. The important thing is that people in the church are keen to do something similar in the next few months. We will need a bit of imagination, as we canít keep inviting friends to the same sort of meeting every few months. So deciding what to do will be on the agenda of the church for the next couple of weeks.
As we always do twice a year, we held a bookstall at the town market days. What we did differently this time was organise puppet shows and balloon tricks next to our stall. As puppet shows go, it wasnít a success, because people were too busy passing from our stall to the next to stop and listen to a puppet show for a minute. But that wasnít too important, because the point wasnít to have a successful puppet show, but to be able to distribute literature and talk to people as they passed. And in this the puppets and balloons helped to make the most successful bookstall we have held since I have been at Trento. This is certainly true in what I can measure - about 500 Scripture calendars handed out, and about six times more worth of books and other literature sold than what is normal. These measurable quantities are not actually what we aim for, but even measured in terms of what we hope to achieve through the bookstalls - conversations with people and making contacts - we had a very successful bookstall.
A recent change in my role in the church is that I have started attending the Bible study group in the Valsugana valley. After over a year of running themselves, due to a few changes in the group they were no longer able, so now I go up there most weeks to lead a study. However, I hope that this is only a temporary move, and my aim is to work with the group so that it is no longer necessary that I go up there every week. After all, this is one of the zones in which the churchís vision is to plant a new church, so it is important that the group learns to manage itself instead of being dependent on outsiders.
On the computer
The last few weeks over the New Year, with a pause in the usual activities, have meant that I have been able to work more on the computer ministry. Although in fact a useful characteristic of this ministry is that since a lot of it just sits on Internet, it continues to go ahead even when I am to busy to work on it actively. Anyway, at the end of the year I tallied up the numbers, and calculated that from my site alone I distributed 12547 copies of the Bible, which are then used with my computer program. This does not count the copies that others have made and distributed for me, copies downloaded from other sites, copies on CD-ROMs and copies distributed with computer magazines. It is certainly a fairly significant number when you consider that the main evangelical translation of the Bible in Italy has a print run of about 30000 copies a year.
At the university
Since no-one responded to the first lot of advertising that I did at the university for the Bible studies, I put Plan B into effect, and offered a course for learning English reading the Bible. I thought it would be interesting to see if the desire almost all students have for learning English was stronger than their apathy towards the Bible. And it was. There were quite a few enquires, although at the end there were two students that came regularly (Marco and Piergiorgio), as well as Patrick, the English Christian exchange student who has been helping me. There will be another student that will start coming this week. This was all an experiment for me, as I had never done something like this before, and didnít know what to do or how it would work out. But gradually I have come to understand how best to structure the meetings to be able to teach something useful to the students about English. What I need to do now is work on ways of making the conversation more about the content of the passages we read, and less about English grammar and vocabulary. I also plan on doing another round of advertising this month, now that I have clearer in my mind what we will be doing and we have a fixed meeting time, both of which will make it easier to convert interested people who ring me to people that start attending.
There are not too many events in this period, as there is the lull before the storm hits in late March, when, as is usual with the renewed activity every Spring, I will be constantly travelling to various events or organising them at Trento. But more on that next letter... In the meantime, you could pray for the GBU staff meeting for the university ministry, followed by the Annual General Meeting, from the 19th to 23rd of this month.
The last part of the long process of obtaining an Italian driverís licence will also be coming up next month, when I will be doing the practical test, having passed the theoretical test last month. In the meantime, my car had its first accident last month, although I was innocent. One night a strong wind came up, and blew a roof tile off the apartment building next door. Of all the cars in the street to choose from, it had to land on mine. At least the insurance of the apartment building will pay for the replacement of the bonnet.