Newsletter 51 - January 2005
We returned a few days ago from two weeks in Sicily to stay with Pinuccia's family - the first time we have been able to go to see them since we were married. We did have a good break and came back rested, even though there were lots of things to do to spend time with people whilst we were there. The first week we went to visit everybody to greet them, and in the second week again to say goodbye to them. And as is usual, this usually meant a lot of eating, maybe even more than usual since it was over the holiday period. On the last night of the year for example Pinuccia's church meets and has a big meal together. Then on the first of January Pinuccia's mother's family has a tradition of lunching together. However, some of the family have moved to other towns lately, so there were only half of them - 30 uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, etc. Since one of her uncles has his birthday on the 1st, we all then returned a few hours later to celebrate that with a dinner. All this meant listening to a lot of dialect, which I understand a bit more off but still not a lot, especially when Pinuccia's relatives pulled me into a card game when they tend to get quite excited, and the Italian language disappears!
Despite a lot of rain in the first week, I even managed to get a bit of a sun tan in the second week. Although in general I actually felt colder in Sicily than I do at Trento, because there is no decent heating in the houses. But the warm sun was a nice contrast to the snow we left behind at Trento - the first snowfall of the year was on Christmas day, so once again there was a white Christmas. After years of getting invitations from families for Christmas, we decided to invite a few family-less people from church for our Christmas lunch. So we had Anna from England, Robin whose parents live in Switzerland, and Camilo e Ritta from Colombia and Peru (and their eight months old son). The snow fell a bit harder during the night, which meant that we couldn't get our car out. But after a bit of work clearing the snow and ice we got to church only 10 minutes late - and were among the first to arrive. At the end only 12 adults could get through the snow (about a third of the usual number), but we had a good time worshipping God together. I remember when I arrived 12 years ago that that was the arrive size of the church service; those who have been around longer than I reminisced of the days when six would have been a good number.
In the church
On the weekend of 11-12th December there was the usual bookstall at the town market days. It was good to see a lot of participation from the church members - a couple of years ago we had trouble getting enough volunteers to man the stall the whole time, whereas now Jury and Carmelo organise it and lots of people help out. I usually get the slow shift, from 12 to 3pm, when the shops are closed and most people are eating and maybe sleeping. So not many people pass by in this period, but this time there was one man who stopped and after looking at a few books asked if God punishes all sins. It was a hard question to reply to, as obviously there was a reason for him asking this that I didn't know. A bit later he said he had committed some big sins, and so I got him to read 1John 1:9. He said that he had asked for forgiveness but did not feel forgiveness. I emphasised that what is important is not what we feel but what God promises, that he remains faithful to. Obviously God has been working in him; I pray that God will continue to do so, so that he can find full assurance in Jesus Christ.
Pinuccia writes (and Richard translates):
The women's group is going quite well, we meet once a month in one of our homes. This year we wanted to emphasise the qualities that each one of us has. Looking at the group we find: a poet, a sociologist, a pedagogue, a therapist, a few teachers and several that work with craft. All this variety allows us to enrich each other. In every meeting one or two of the ladies speak about some experience or difficulty that they have overcome with the Lord's help. This is very encouraging for us. We have looked at the theme of communication and did some practical exercises (role plays). In the future, we will look at being a woman, bringing up children, etc. A few years ago the group was composed of about seven people, now there are 15 and the meetings help us to know each other better and encourage each other. Many families in our church live a long way away from their relatives, and the women often feel this solitude and miss their extended families. Our group aims therefore to be a support for each other and to build sincere friendships. We thank God for the growth of this group, but please pray that the faith of the new people might grow and that we can know how to welcome and encourage these people.
In the Sunday School we have two groups with a total of 14 children. This year a new teacher has joined the older group. This group is formed of 3 girls and a boy from 7 to 12 years old. They are very eager and full of curiosity about the Bible, and this stimulates us a lot in our teaching and gives us a lot of satisfaction. Their faith is seen at school and in their friendships. We ask you to pray for them because they are close to adolescence, that this new phase of their life will not draw them away from God but rather make them draw closer to the true Life.
On the computer
One day while I was in Sicily, I was reading a book whilst someone was watching a program on TV about love, which said that the word love appears 184 times in the Bible. I looked up, and saw a screen shot of my Internet site, with 'La Parola' in big letters at the top of the screen, and then they scrolled down the page to quickly show the verses that contain the word.