Newsletter 37a - May 2001
There is by now little more than a week to go until my trip to Australia. I am in fact currently enjoying the only week that I will get this year of weather that could remotely be described as summery! This imminent departure means that I am fairly busy. I still have my usual activities going, although that part concludes with my last Bible study on Wednesday night. On top of that, I am busy preparing what I need to take with me for the four months in Australia, as well as trying to finish off some projects on the computer before I depart. So this newsletter, my last from Italy for a few months, will be brief, but I thought it good to tell you that have been praying how a few things have finished up, and how to continue to pray.
In the church
Although the biannual Youth Rallies for Northern Italy have been going on for a few years, at the end of April I went for the first time, having some youth to take along with me. The four girls that I hope to be the core of the Youth Group when I return (Lidia, Giovanna, Lucia and Giovanna) all went, plus another three other youth who could also end up in the group. It was the first time that they had all done something together, apart from the usual few minutes at the end of the Sunday services, so just for that the trip was a success. The idea is to start a program of Bible studies and other activities in September, although the details still need to worked on. Amongst other issues, there is the usual geographical dispersion of the church to consider, with two of the girls living half an hour away in the Valsugana.
Of course, life does not end just because I go away, and the church will continue without me. Being away for almost four months (even if for two the church will be in reduced activity mode for the summer) means I have to miss some things that I would have loved to be a part of. On the 3rd of June there will be a baptismal service; from the 15th to the 17th the first weekend away of the church; on the 22nd of July there will be the annual outdoor service in the mountains. I will miss most of all the baptismal service because of who is getting baptised: Amedeo, from Tunisia, and Ellenor, the Scottish lady who has been one of the pillars of the group at the university this year, and a good friend.
At the university
Last Thursday I went to my last Bible study at the university, although I was able to persuade the others to continue meeting at least for the next few weeks, until the end of the academic year. A couple of times this semester we managed to equal my all-time record for people at a Bible study in the eight years that I have been organising them, that is six, although not all of them were students. Two of the regulars will be leaving Trento during the summer, although I have already heard of a couple of English Christian students that could be coming to Trento to study next year. One possibility that I am considering at the moment is creating two groups, one for evangelism at the university, one for ministry to English speakers at Trento. This year we ended up doing both, although perhaps the second dominated by the end, whereas my desire is to do the first. But I would not at all be against starting a Bible study in English: it would fit in well with my role in the church of doing new things or things that would not otherwise be done. And I could see the possibility of handing over the responsibility of such a ministry to someone else in a couple of years.
But neither at the university do things stop because I go away. As I said, the studies will continue for a few weeks. On June 2 there will be the usual end of year party at the university, which has some space for the associations. I usually have a stand there in the years that I am not in Australia, so I thought that I would have to skip this year. But even without my asking him, Markus volunteered to be there, so this week I will get things organised for him. Pray that he will have good contacts and conversations with people, and be able to direct them to the studies next year. Possibly a couple of people will be able to help him out, we are still working on that.
Another one of my regular summer activities, when I am in Italy, is the mission at Perugia - I have been to three of the last four. Of course this year I will be absent, but pray anyway for the team in June and July. A "first" this year is the participation of someone from Trento apart from myself. Markus will be going, to be a part of the Italian speaking team. So pray also for his contribution, and his growth as a result of taking part.
For me, it is naturally time for farewells, even if (on the whole) temporary. Next Tuesday it will be with people in the band (I have already played in two concerts - I hope the photos of me in the uniform turn out well!), then a few days later with my friends who also work for the GBU in Italy, and then on Sunday with the church. Saying goodbye has never been one of my strengths, despite the fact that it is one of my regular activities, both due to my mobility and the fact that I tend to mix with people who move around a lot. At least I know I will be coming back and seeing most people again. In the meantime, my car, my computer, my keyboard and my bedroom have all been claimed for at least some of the time, so I am happy that they will be put to use instead of gathering dust and rust in my absence.
When I go to Australia, I will have a month of holidays to recover, spend time with my family, and finish preparing for the following three months, when I will be travelling around various churches, friends, university groups and Bible colleges to talk about what I have been doing so that they can pray better for me. And who knows, perhaps also considering them too serving God somewhere like Italy. So pray also for these meetings that I will have. (It is not too late to ask me to come and visit!) It is also time for me to stop and reflect and receive, without the constant commitments of ministry to keep my busy. So in the program is also a two day preaching conference at the end of June, and a week of prayer with ECM in July.
17-19 May: GBU staff meeting - perhaps not ideal timing, but at least it gives me an excuse to conclude my regular ministry six days before leaving, rather than two.
With my thanks for your support,