Newsletter 37 - April 2001
March is typically one of my busiest months, and this year was no exception. With most of the first half taken up with the preparations, doing and wrapping up of the mission at the university that I have already written about, for a week at the end I was constantly busy with other events. I should have had even more to do, but twice I was double booked and so had to miss some things.
On the 18th the church had, as usual, a bookstall at the town market day. As we had originally planned to do in December, we had the help of a gifted evangelist who came from Milan to talk with all the Muslims that he could meet. I do not know first hand how it went; I helped to set up the stall in the morning, and then went to church and was busy in the afternoon, as I will explain. But I heard later that there were some good conversations, especially when the people on the stall saw their friends pass. And the evangelist left us with a list of 19 people who were interested in knowing more. So now Angelo, one of the elders, and Amed, a member of the church who comes from Tunisia, are working on visiting these people.
A new agreement
That same weekend, the person in the European Christian Mission responsible for the work in Italy (Cees Verharen) came to visit, and on the Sunday afternoon met with the elders of the church to draw up a collaboration agreement together. Since both the church and the mission have a vision for planting evangelical churches in the province of Trento, we have agreed to work together as partners towards this aim. This is an important step for both the church and for the mission. For the church, in a sense it formalised what has been the case in practice for the past couple of years, even if not always clear: that the church is independent of the mission. But at the same time we, who are actively working at planting churches here, can draw on the resources of the mission. And for the mission, it is also a new step. In the past, the churches that have been planted and become independent from the mission have been totally separated from it. But lately, it has started to implement a new policy: not only plant new churches from scratch sending missionaries, but help churches that they have planted in the past to plant second generation churches, using missionaries if there are, but in particular the local Christians. The church is happy to be a part of this new vision.
After a trip to Venice on the following Tuesday for the biannual prayer day for northern Italy, I was then supposed to go the next weekend to the ECM-Italy prayer days. But unfortunately this year it clashed with the annual GBU student weekend, where about 50 students and others involved with evangelism at universities gathered from around Italy at a place on the sea near Rome. It is about the fifth time I have been to this place, but the first time with constant sun and not a hint of rain. Obviously I was not used to this, as by Saturday evening I was quite red from sun burn. It does not quite make up for missing the summer this year, but every little bit helps!
There was a bit of a group from Trento this year, as I travelled with Markus and my flat mate Samuele - who had been invited when he met the group that came to help with the mission last month, and was able to contribute to the music playing the drums. Since I was also playing (the clarinet), between us our household composed half the band. There were some good studies on evangelism in the Italian culture, and it was a good opportunity to meet other people from around the country with the same desire to talk about Jesus on the campuses. It was good as well to see again most of the group that had come to Trento for the mission. Talking with them, I also noticed that some of them were keener to be involved in evangelism where they were as a result of participating in the mission.
Whilst I am writing about the GBU, I should mention that there have been some new faces at the studies at Trento lately. Anya, Markusí friend, has come once, and hopefully she will come again in the future. There is also someone from England who teaches English in a private school here, and who has started attending regularly. With two non university people in the group at the moment, it does mean that it has lost a bit of its principal aim (it is more a study for foreigners than for evangelism at the university), but this new person will only be at Trento for another couple of months, so it is not too drastic a change as yet.
In the home stretch
After all these events, I have pretty much finished my major commitments for the year. There are still the regular activities, and a couple of trips away, but mostly to participate in events rather than having to prepare for. I will even have my first public performance on the clarinet with the town band - I was supposed to play in a concert the day before the bookstall, but it got washed out.
This means that it is time to start thinking about and preparing for my return to Australia, which will be at the end of May. As is usual, I will have a few weeks of holidays and time with my family to start with, and then three months visiting churches, universities and small groups, with a few longer trips to Canberra and Queensland. There are still a few opportunities left on my schedule; if you would like me to visit or to talk somewhere, please get in contact with the ECM office. The address is elsewhere on this newsletter.