Newsletter 44 - April 2003
"April is the cruelest month, breeding
So begins my favourite poem, "The Waste Land" by T. S. Eliot. It refers to the northern spring time when new life springs up – which for Eliot was only a delusion, as it was only a temporary and superficial change when the reality was death. But he wrote those lines about five years before he become a Christian, and no doubt would not have written them after that point in his life. So I don't have a problem disagreeing with them – although every spring I see many signs of new life, for me it is not cruel but a great joy, as they are changes that will have eternal consequences and not just until the next winter. And so this year once again (and even more this year than previously), everything seems to have been happening in the last few weeks, so it has been an exciting period. I mentioned a few of these things in my last newsletter, here I will add a few more.
The last time that I wrote, I was about to leave for Germany for a week at an ECM leadership conference. It was a helpful time, with some useful sessions on the vision and plans of the mission and on leadership training. There were of course also times for worshipping and praying and studying the Bible, which I found particularly uplifting, although that was also because so many good things had happened in the previous week or so that I could not stop thanking God. One thing that came out of all the analysis and plans done in the past year is that ECM is looking for 100 new missionaries in 20 countries, to extend the church planting work that they are doing in Europe. At least eight of those could be placed immediately in the province around Trento. So pray for new workers for the fields around Europe, and especially around Trento where there are so many cities and towns without an evangelical witness.
I returned from Germany on a Saturday night, and the following afternoon went to the evangelistic Passover/Easter lunch that the group in the Valsugana had planned. I was overjoyed by how it went. First of all, there were a good number of new people, in fact exactly half of the adults (11 out of 22). What was even more important was that other people were invited too, even though they did not come – it was important just that the group wanted to invite their friends to an evangelistic event, since how many actually accept the invitation is not under our control. Massimo gave an excellent five minute talk to welcome everybody, explain the meaning of the food we were eating, how Jesus is our Passover lamb, and to challenge everybody to trust in his blood for protection from the wrath of God. It was also good that I had been away the week before, because it meant that the group did all the work – I provided the idea, pushed them a bit a couple of months ago to start them working on it, and gave some notes to Massimo for his talk, but they did the rest of the organising, planning the meal and inviting people. It was also good timing for me, because after a week of German food it was great to return home to an Italian banquet!
The new cell group at Trento that meets every second Thursday night is starting to work well – since most of the people already know each other, we were able to skip the "getting to know each other" phase of a new group. I have already seen some good effects on some peripheral people in the church that come to the group, and the group members are starting to think about non Christian friends that they could invite to the group. In a couple of weeks we will also probably start a group in English, although we will decide next Sunday exactly what we will do when most of the English speakers will be coming to my house for lunch.
All these spring novelties mean that I may have over committed myself – when they all come together in the same week, it is possible that I will have five Bible studies in four days. Which would not be too bad, if it were not for some other commitments that I have made lately which I was not expecting when I planned all these new groups. But at least some of the groups (Valsugana, Thursday night) have reached the stage where I can attend and give advice, but I can get others to prepare and lead the studies when necessary. In any case, it will only be for two more months until the summer break, and in September I will be able to re-evaluate my commitments, and think about what I want to do long term at Trento and what best to do next year to prepare for this future.
A few prayer letters ago I asked you to pray for new supporters for my ministry here. Thanks to your prayers, there were some extra gifts in the past couple of months, which has meant that my support should be enough until my next furlough, due in the middle of next year. Then when I am back in Australia I will need to find more regular supporters, committed to financially giving for my ministry for a few years.
The annual spring events and travels have not finished yet, with still quite a few coming up in the next couple of months. So here are the main ones to pray for: