Newsletter 35 - October 2000
With the start of the academic year a few weeks ago, the emphasis of my ministry has shifted towards the work amongst university students with the Gruppi Biblici Universitari. At the local level, this has meant the usual advertising, looking for students interested in reading the Bible, in Italian or English. Not a lot of response to that so far. But I have met a German Christian student (Markus), who is at Trento for five months on an exchange program - an answer to my annual prayer request. Next week we will start reading the Bible together at the university. That way, if we do meet other students that are interested, there is something that we can invite them to.
The last couple of weekends I have also been to two meetings for the national GBU work, which turned out to be an interesting crossover between the past and future faces of the ministry. Last weekend there was a camp to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the GBU, with many memories of faithful witness at Italian universities for half a century. The weekend before there was a staff meeting. Now, since I have been in Italy, the staff have always been foreigners (although there were Italians on the staff previously), and for me these staff meetings have been a refuge of Anglo-Saxon culture in the midst of the Italian in which I live. In fact, they are often the only time I speak English for months! And in the last couple of years, the staff has been a stable group of four people, myself and three Americans. So it was a radical change when this time we had suddenly become a minority! Because over the summer five Italians had started working with the GBU part-time, two couples at Florence and a single at Naples. Their presence obviously changed the character of the staff meeting. And since for a number of years our aim has been having Italians working for the GBU, we were obviously overjoyed at seeing this change. May they be the first of many others. If the 50th anniversary weekend showed us the past of the GBU, my prayer is that this staff meeting may be a sign of how it will be in the next 50 years.
An idea which was born at the summer mission in July, and which is now taking on a more concrete form, is to have a mini-mission at Trento at the beginning of second semester. Thus we are organising a few evangelistic events for the 5th and 6th of March: booktables, surveys, an evangelistic public meeting, and other things we will think of in the meantime. I say "we", because it is not something that I could do by myself. So I have been, and will be, recruiting help from the other GBU groups in Italy; I have already found some people interested in coming to help. So one reason for doing this is to do some evangelism at Trento that would not otherwise be possible, with the desire to start a Bible study group again amongst students that we will meet. The second reason is to give an opportunity to Italian students to be involved in such a mission. For various reasons, it is very hard for Italian students to be involved in the summer missions that we organise, and the teams are composed almost exclusively of students from other countries (and this year of some Italian students of the city where it was held). So we thought it would be easier for them for a shorter period, in a time of year when they are less likely to have exams.
I am mentioning this idea four months before it happens firstly so that you can pray for it: that Italian Christian students will come to it and benefit from it, and that God will prepare the hearts of those that we will meet during the mission. But also because we need help with the finances. It would be difficult to ask the Italian students to come up with the money necessary for travel to Trento, and then as well for their accommodation and meals here. So I have set up a fund with European Christian Mission; anything that comes into the fund will then be divided between the students that come to help pay for their expenses. If you would like to contribute to this fund, you can send a gift to European Christian Mission (PO Box 15, Croydon NSW 2132), indicating that it is for the Trento Mission, and they will send the final sum to me in March.
In the church, there have been quite a number of new faces in the past couple of months; you could pray that they become a part of the life of the church beyond just a Sunday attendance. These people are either Christians who have moved to Trento, or Christians already at Trento that have not been attending any church for a while. On the other hand, there have been few non Christians coming lately. You could pray also therefore for more contact with non Christians through the activities of the church. There is a lot of personal witness, although as a congregation we could do more public evangelism. Our major evangelistic event of the year is coming up on the 9th and 10th of December, with a bookstall at the town market weekend. As has been the norm for the past couple of years, we will again do something a bit different, this time with an emphasis on reaching the foreigners that live at Trento, with more foreign literature than previously, and with the help of an Italian evangelist to Muslims. (Islam is the second religion of Italy, with more Muslims than Protestants in the country.)
Personally, this year I want to spend more time with individuals, rather than having a mainly public and group ministry. So I have started reading the Bible every week with a couple of young Christians; pray that they would mature through the work of the Word of God in them. I also want to spend more time with non Christians, which I have been able to do helping various people with their computers, and learning the clarinet with the town band. Pray for my personal witness to these people.
Thanks for you prayers for Godís work here at Trento,