Newsletter 32 - March 2000
I often think, as I write these newsletters, that they do not give a real picture of what I do. It is easy to write about the special events, the highlights of the past few months, the big moments. But, like any Christian ministry, the normal part of my work is in the weekly meetings, spending time with other people, and preparing for these things. The "big events" are the abnormal aspects. I thought to mention this in this newsletter because, as I sat down to write it, I realised that I had nothing to say! That is, I have had a couple of months without trips elsewhere and without any special events at Trento. This for me is quite strange, and I will certainly be making up for it in the next couple of months. But I was able to exploit this extended period at home to spend more time on the ‘usual’ activities, which turned out to be time well spent. So I will speak more on these things, and then at the end give my program for the next few months, which will be almost exactly the opposite.
In the church
The main regular activities I have in the church are the Sunday services, where I either lead the service or preach on average one week out of every two, and preparing studies for two midweek Bible study groups. The Bible study group at Trento has certainly grown numerically this year, although there is a problem with regularity of attendance - there is almost always a good number, but hardly ever the same people. This is probably both a cause and a result of a lack of group spirit or ownership. In general, people come if they can, but they are not committed to it. So as well as leading the studies, I have been trying to create this group spirit, so that it functions more like the body of Christ together. With some success, although there is still some distance to go. Doing evangelism together has certainly helped. As a group we organised a public meeting in December, and will do another one in May, these do give the group a gospel centred vision.
In the last newsletter I mentioned that I had started to attend the Valsugana Bible study group, which for various reasons needed some help. I still go up there every week, which is not a problem; the problem is that my presence has not been helping the group grow, as they have instead become more dependent on me. But that has just started to change, with the desire coming out of the group to start evangelising again (through monthly letter box distributions), after a pause of many months. Although my presence has been good to keep the group alive, and trying to move it along in the right direction, it turned up that my absence will be even more effective. I will be away five out of nine weeks shortly, and I kept warning them that they had better decide what they would do in this time, or nothing would happen. And eventually two people approached me with the desire to at least lead the studies when I am not there. Of course, this involves more work for me, as I have to help them prepare the studies in any case, but it is a good long term investment, and I am happy that the group is starting to take responsibility for itself again.
Moving away for the activities, I have also tried to use this time to improve my relationships with other people, especially people in the church. So I have been trying to visit as many as I can, and others I have invited to my place. Certainly the set up of my current apartment allows this a lot more than my previous place - there are only two of us, instead of four, and my flatmate belongs to the church, so we are freer to use it as we would like. So Samuele and I have had quite a few guests in these months.
Finally, the extra time at Trento meant that I could also get around to doing my driver’s test, which I did pass, so now I have an Italian licence. And I got the car fixed up after its collision with a roof tile. It looks much better now - so much so that a couple of people looked at me a bit surprised when they saw it and asked, "Have you got a new car?"
At the university
Last newsletter, I wrote about how, after not receiving any responses to the advertising for the Bible studies at the university, Patrick and I offered a course to learn English reading the Bible, which we had started. However, shortly after I wrote that the course dissipated, as one by one the students stopped coming. This also coincided with the end of first semester and the beginning of the exam period, and Patrick going away for a few weeks as well. But now that second semester has started, we are going to start on Plan C. At the moment Plan C involves only a new round of advertising, offering again Bible studies in Italian and an English course reading the Bible. Having had a bit more experience now, especially in the latter, we pray that there will be more response this time. And Patrick, now that he knows more students here, and certainly more than me, hopes to invite some of his friends. Depending upon the response to this advertising and invitations, we will see in what direction we will go in the next few months.
It is spring, so there are quite a few. As well as a few day trips to various meetings, and other events I would have gone to had the dates not clashed, these are the principal dates that you could pray for in this period:
19 March: The bookstall at the biannual town market day.
24-26 March: Annual Italian Christian student weekend for the GBU. For the first time since I have been here, there will be an Italian going with me from Trento - although not quite in the way that I was expecting. Pippo from the church, an ex-GBU member, has been invited to do the talks, so you could pray for him as well. The theme of the weekend will be discipling others, and Pippo will be speaking from 2Timoteo.
27-28 March: Seminar on church planting in Italy with people from the churches ECM is working in.
29 March-13 April: Holidays! My parents are coming to visit, so we will be during a trip around central Europe together.
19-25 April: European Christian student conference in Germany. Unfortunately, with all my other commitments this year, I won’t be able to go. But pray for a good group from Italy (and other countries), and that the students will return with a broader and larger vision for student work. Patrick will be going as well.
23 April: The other reason that I couldn’t go to Italy - on Easter Day we will have a baptismal service in the church, with four people being baptised (Amedeo and Silvia, Carmello, Enrica).
4? May: An evangelistic meeting at Trento, with a visiting speaker. We are still working on the details.
6-13 May: Biennial conference of ECM in Spain.
24-26 May: GBU staff meeting at Florence.
19 June-14 July: Summer evangelism team at Perugia. I can’t go for the full period, but I will probably go for a couple of weeks to help out.