Newsletter 36 - February 2001
At the university
After the Christmas/New Year break, we have restarted the studies at the university - having finished Ecclesiastes, we are now studying James. The studies continue to be very enjoyable, and helpful for all of us in our Christian life. It is currently exam month, so Jacqueline (who lives about 40 kilometres away) is not coming in, but she will rejoin the rest of us at the start of second semester at the end of the month. On the other hand, Markus returned from Germany, where he spent the break, and said that he has decided to stay at Trento until June, instead of February as was the original idea, so it will be good to have him the extra semester. The reason he gave: he likes Italy too much!
A big change to the group is that finally we have a room for our meetings. After seven and a half years meeting in houses, free classrooms, corridors and coffee shops, the university has given us a fixed room until the end of the academic year. Apart from being a big help for the group, it will be useful when we invite people to the meetings and do some advertising, as we will be able to say where exactly we meet.
As I have mentioned previously, we will be trying something new on the 5th and 6th of March - a mini mission. As well as us, there will be about eight people from GBU groups in the rest of Italy who will come for two days of evangelism at the university. For most of the time we will be doing bookstalls and surveys to meet students and talk about the Bible and the GBU, leading up to an evangelistic talk on the second afternoon. The talk will given by Marcello Bozzi, a ex GBU student himself that started working for the GBU last year. So pray for the preparations during the next month, especially since it will be the first time that we try it, so I am still unsure of some of the logistical matters. Pray also for the students that we meet in these two days, that there will be good opportunities to talk about Jesus with them.
On the national scale, another imminent change is the arrival of some new staff at the end of the month, who will eventually be working at Milan - getting close to 200,000 students, but no student Christian group. Their arrival will certainly be good for the movement, but I am looking forward to it for personal reasons as well - they (Dean and Jo Ingham, plus four children) are friends that I have known for 12 years, so it will good to have them here as well. Pray for their settling into Italy as well.
In the city
This is an aspect of my life that I have perhaps neglected in the past, so recently I have tried to get more involved in different things, outside of the church and the GBU ministry. One way has been learning to play the clarinet with the town band, and since the New Year I have become a member of the band, going to the weekly practices, and in the future I will play in the concerts that they put on. It is a good way to meet people, and I am forming friendships with people there. Since they are all Trentini, they mostly speak dialect with each other, which is a bit difficult for me to understand at times, and I can not speak it, but it is certainly good practice.
In the future
On the horizon for me is the end of my third term in Italy. It is almost three years since my last trip to Australia, so I will be returning in about mid May to spend four months there. Now I have to start thinking about the time with friends and supporters, and in particular make a program for this period. Until I return, the mission office will be looking after this for me, so if you would like me to come and visit, or talk about what I have been doing to a group or church, please contact European Christian Mission at the address elsewhere in this newsletter.
When I returned from Australia last time, I wrote in a newsletter (back in January 1999) that I had taken on a role similar to that of Titus: "to establish a church already founded, so that it can be run by locals (eg Titus 1:5)". For almost a year I have been aware that this role was coming to an end, and I would say by now that it has. Now the church has the ability to run itself without my help. So in the last few months I have been considering what I would do after my return from Australia. I went close to deciding to leave Trento, but in the end decided to stay, but doing slightly different things. In particular, I will only be doing things in the church that can not be done by others. In a couple of ways: although the church has the ability to run itself, the members do not have the time to be able to do all that we would like to do. So I will continue a couple of things, even though others are capable, because I have more time to be able to do them, namely leading the Bible study in the Valsugana, and preaching about once a month. Other things I will start, for example a Youth Group. With four people in the church now from 13 to 15 years old, a few contacts with others in the same age group, and many more becoming teenagers in the next few years, I see it as a priority. So it will be back to where I begun in Christian service for me, as I learnt a lot leading Youth Groups for nine years in three different cities. When I stopped almost 10 years ago I never thought I would return there again! I see this as a commitment for my next term (ie three years), in which time I will be working with other people in the church, teaching them to lead a Youth Group, so that in Newsletter number 48 in 2004 I hope to be able to write that I can confidently leave the group in their hands, and it will be time for me to do something else. The other new aspect of my ministry that I (and the church) want to develop is doing more visiting, individual Bible studies and discipling of people in the church, and especially people on the fringe. It is something I started this year with a couple of people, but which there is a lot more need for; again, the difficulty is that people that work full time do not have the time necessary to do this. I remain committed, also, to the vision of planting five other churches in the rest of the province. Apart from the two valleys where we already have small groups meeting, there are few though occasional opportunities to do this. But if I will have the choice between doing something at Trento and doing something outside of the city, I will choose outside. Doing new things like this means of course stopping others, so I will no longer lead the mid week Bible study at Trento, nor the Sunday service once a month. I believe that there are others capable of doing this things, and I pray that my stopping will provoke them into taking over these things.
Finally, my other ministries will remain unchanged: I will continue to work with students at the university at Trento, and be involved with the GBU movement nationally, and in my spare time do things on the computer like distributing my program to study the Bible, and creating and managing Internet sites.
4 February: Church annual meeting, with the appointment of a new church committee