Newsletter 45 - July 2003
I started my newsletter in April quoting poetry to describe the changes I was seeing in the Spring. I have to admit however that I did not tell the whole truth in the last two newsletters, and that there was more happening than what I explicitly said. So I will tell the rest of the story here, beginning with another poetry quote, this time from Tennyson:
At the beginning of April I started going out with a girl in the church here, Pinuccia. Falling in love was certainly unexpected for me, but to put it mildly, it has changed my life. I had next year all planned out, and was looking at various options for after that. But all that planning has been forgotten now. There will certainly be some changes to my ministry in the next couple of years that we are considering together, but more on that next time.
Even better, I have been changed in the last three months, and I much prefer what I have become. After half a life of singleness, suddenly having to think first about another person has made me more sensitive towards all others, and improved my relationships with others and with God. In fact, even before my going out with Pinuccia was public knowledge, a number of my friends noticed that I was different, even though they did not understand the reason for the changes.
I should tell you a few things about Pinuccia... She is 35 years old and comes from southern Sicily - the same town in fact as my flatmate Samuele, and five others in the church as well. She spent four years in Switzerland studying at a Bible school and working for Scripture Union, and then returned to Sicily for three years. She moved to Trento in September 2001, and has been working here as a pre-school teacher. Although even though it may seem that she came here for work, the real reason is that she wants to serve the church in Italy, and having done a lot in her home church wanted to help somewhere else. Currently at Trento she leads the Sunday School, started meeting this year with the teenage girls in the church, helps with the women's meetings, and informally disciples a couple of other people. So we have a lot of similarities in our ministries: we both have the desire to serve in Italy in a church, but are not rooted to one particular place. And our desire now is to serve God together. There are differences however: she is artistic whereas I definitely am not (but I am more musical), and she prefers working with children and adolescents whilst I prefer older youth and young adults (like students). But in these things we are complementary rather than different. I am really thankful to God that he has provided a partner not only for me personally I feel so happy when I with her but also to serve him better together. Other characteristics that make her attractive to me are her mature faith in God, a visible concern for other people, a stable personality, and to my biased eyes she is beautiful.
The other principal event for me since the last newsletter was leading a team of 15 on a mission at the universities of Perugia. I have been a part of this mission three times in the past, although this was the first time that I had led it. This meant that my role was to do less evangelism directly, but to work more on the overall organisation of the team and with the team members. Although I thank God that it was the best of the teams that I have been involved with, all committed young Christians with a desire to help, serve and evangelise, so that there was little I had to do for them except encourage them in the use of their gifts.
On the other hand, there were less friendships made and less opportunities to evangelise than any of the teams that I have been involved with in the past. In our Bible studies together we read 2Corinthians 1-7, and in particular chapters 3 and 4 reminded us that the results come from God and not from our abilities. I thought that this team was a good example the best team, but less results. But I did see God at work in various ways. Gene from New Zealand was on a spiritual search and spoke with many of the team members, before going to England. Lulia, a Christian from Uzbekistan, arrived at Perugia not expecting to find any evangelicals in Italy, and yet met us at our bookstall on her first day in the city, but only because she could not find her apartment and had returned to the university she found it in five seconds when she returned. Franco from Peru wandered into the church where we were eating, not having previously found a Protestant church in the five years he had been in Italy. And he wandered in just when for the first time in the teams I have been one there was someone from South America and not only from his continent, but from the same city in Peru. Ruth is in the same Italian class at Dublin as two of the team members, and came to visit Perugia; she was challenged by the fact that she had not read the Bible, having rejected Christianity without knowing what she was rejecting. So she will probably start reading the Bible with other students back in Dublin.
With the summer upon us, all my regular activities are having a break, which means more time for the computer ministry and for other people (especially, finally, Pinuccia - between her work and my commitments most evenings and my trips away, it has not been easy to find time to spend together). From the 8th to the 23rd of August I will be on holidays in Sicily, meeting Pinuccia's family as well. For a few days my parents will be there also, so it will be good to be all together.
Then it will be time to get things going again at Trento, especially the new system of cell groups that we have decided to create in the church. But more on that in my next newsletter.
And a special bonus this time. This file is a 23Mb MPEG file of me doing a Mr Bean skit (some have been known to notice a certain resemblance between me and Mr Bean) at the mission at Perugia. Although I had not taken my Mr Bean jacket or teddy bear with me, so the resemblance is not as good as it could be.