Newsletter 50 - October 2004
Last time I mentioned that some new people had started attending the church whilst we were away. Since then there have continued to be some new arrivals, but also all have become more regular in their attendance. At least, that is the only way I can explain the fact that in three out of the last four weeks, we have had more adults in the service than ever before. So we are regularly getting 45-50 now (plus children and guests), which is starting to create a few problems in the hall that we use, as it becomes too small. Always nice problems to have! The other problem that I see forming is that although the church is growing, the number of leaders in the congregation is not growing enough to be able to lead them in the future. (At least not at Trento; for some reason almost all of the developing leaders are in the valleys.) The development and training of new leaders is above all my responsibility, and something that I hope to do in the cell groups this year. I will be working with Carmelo and Miriam especially in this way, but although there are some with pastoral gifts and some with teaching gifts and others with other gifts, there is no-one else that I can identify as having the mixture of gifts needed to be leading cell groups in the future. At least, not yet. I will be giving some responsibilities to some others in the next few months, and see how they respond.
The cell groups have started now for this new academic year. As well as promoting the reading of the Bible and prayer together, mutual edification and, as said above, leadership development, we also have the aim this year of explaining the doctrine of the church. With many new Christians, and new people to the church with different backgrounds, we thought it important to go systematically through the doctrines of the Bible. So all of the five groups (three at Trento, plus the Valsugana and Val di Non valleys) will be doing this every three or four weeks.
In the Valsugana valley
But it has really been in the Valsugana that there have been the most changes. There are two new couples in the group. Leandro a Spanish Christian and Maddalena a non Christian from another part of Trentino have just moved here from Barcelona, and my ex flatmate Samuele has brought a house in the valley, and will be joined by Sara when they are married on the 31st. But it is more what the group has been doing that has been encouraging. At the end of last month they presented an evangelistic puppet show in a park by the lake. It took about six months to prepare, but partly because the preparations were designed to involve the children in the church, and some not in the church, as well. Then friends were invited to see the puppet show, some came because they saw the advertising, and others just happened to be in the park at the time and came to see it. Altogether, there were about 60 children present, plus parents. They all heard the Gospel through the story of the puppet show. Quite a few stayed around afterwards to chat with the people in the church who were present – having a bit of food on offer certainly helped! And everyone that watched received a Bible calendar (there were versions both for children and for adults). Even Jessica, who turns twelve next week, was moving around giving away calendars. I am always particularly interested in her growth, since she was born a month after I arrived in Italy, so some times I parallel my experience in Italy with hers!
One of the members of the group (Mario) spent some years in Switzerland and has many contacts there still. He has organised a group of about 10 Italian speaking Swiss to come to the Valsugana from the 8th to the 13th of November for a week of evangelism. They will be going to various towns in the valley (and to Trento on Thursday morning, when there is the weekly market), handing out Scripture calendars for 2005 and trying to speak with the people. It will be a great opportunity to have the Bible read more in the valley, and to make the group more known.
After the puppet show, the group discussed what would be the best next step. They have already been invited to do the puppet show again in a nursing home (probably towards the end of the year), and for next summer are looking at producing a new show, involving some of the children that were met last time in the construction of the new puppets. But for the moment they decided that the best thing to work on now would be a service. So on the afternoon of November 21 there will be the first service of the church in the Valsugana. With this date, the Swiss group will be able to hand out invitations to the service as well as the calendars. At the moment, the plan is not to make the services a regular occurrence, although they hope to do a couple more before next summer, but nevertheless it is a big step towards the fulfilment of our desire and prayer to have an independent church in that valley, composed of people from the area witnessing to God's grace and teaching the Bible to people in the valley. And of course, it has brought me a lot of joy, as it is what I have been working towards in the six years that I have been attending and (until now) leading the group.
On the computer/At the university
A double heading, because a message that I received a few days ago linked these two ministries.I began to use the program "La Parola" [that is, "The Word"] in the last few days. It really is a useful and complete tool. A masterpiece! Congratulations!
The strangest part, however, happened when I wanted to discover who the author was, in this enormous sea that is Internet - and I saw that he lives right next to me, at Trento. Yes, because I too am Trentino and I studied at the University of Trento where for many years I saw the leaflets of the Bible studies. What the leaflets did not manage to do, Internet did.
I wanted to thank you for your commitment and let you know that even if your commitment at the university has finished, new Trentinos, thanks to your program, draw closer to the Bible in a new way.
Thank you for praying for her work, even though it started slowly. The schools reopened on September 1, but in the first four weeks of term she had only one half day of work. Then she had a week of work, and immediately after started five weeks of full time work. This is almost the most she could have hoped for, and gives her (and us) some stability in her life, which she wanted, instead of changing school almost every week like last year. You could pray for another long term job when the current one finishes on November 10.
In the meantime, she has also been preparing with Daniela and Miriam the monthly women's meetings that start on the 22nd, and with Mariangela the program for the senior Sunday School (7-13 years old). On the 17th we have invited the whole class to our house for lunch (eating crępes, one of Pinuccia's specialities), so that should be interesting!
More photos (and a film) of the puppet show that I took for the church.