Newsletter 55a - April 2006
In the church
We are in the middle of our "Spring of Evangelism", with quite a number of events taking place. I mentioned last time the Valsugana group's Valentine's day dinner, the games afternoon organised by the Saturday cell group, and the public conference at Trento this Wednesday evening. The church is also organising an conference on the Da Vinci code for June. But the one I have been most involved in was the dinner organised by the Monday cell group. They certainly did a good job organising the night, and especially in inviting their friends. And lots of invited friends came, which was unusual for what we have organised in the past. But in Italy, if there is food involved then people are a lot more likely to come! I usually find that an equal number of non Christians to Christians is a good point to aim for, but in the end there were about twice as many non Christians as members of the cell group. There were also a few peripheral people in the church who we added, as well as a few other church members to help out. The other way to evaluate such events was if the Gospel was clearly explained, and Andrea did a good job in doing this with a brief and simple explanation of who the group and the church are, and what we believe in. But there were a lot more Gospel explanations at the tables, as people had an opportunity to speak with their friends. We have seen some fruit already, with someone coming to church the day after, a child reading a children's Bible that he had been given at the dinner and starting to ask his parents spiritual questions, and an SMS from Pinuccia's ex-flat mate that said, "Thanks for yesterday! Thanks for the gift of the Bible, I will pray with Michele [her boyfriend]".
Interestingly, when we talked about the night together in the cell group meeting, the others were a lot more critical than I was. This was in part due to the fact that some wanted a more direct approach, whilst others were only at the first stages of witnessing to their friends and wanted something more "soft". The fact that there were so many people (65, including children) meant there was more work, and so less possibility for some to talk with their friends as they had to prepare and serve food. But they are already looking at how to do things better the next time (probably towards the end of May), and want to organise something more "intimate" and personal.
As I have often said here and need to keep reminding myself my role in the church as a missionary in an independent church is to set up new groups and ministries, and train people to take over. One new ministry that I have been working on this year is a welcoming service, or sidesmen or ushers if you are used to those terms. We found three volunteers (Carmelo, Claudio and Fiorello), and after a bit of training they have been doing it for a few months now. The training was where my experience in different churches was most useful I made a list of things they should do which the church leadership discussed and agreed to, and I continue to meet with them occasionally to see how it is going and how they can improve. But they are very good welcomers, and for the most part manage themselves, suggesting themselves the improvements that need to be made. They have had an obvious and positive effect on the Sunday services, making them run better helping the members when they arrive, and making the services a lot more friendly and welcoming for the guests that come.
In the family
Next week Stefania turns six months, so she is going through a bit of a transition phase. She is starting to eat food once a day, and sometimes she has problems with sore gums as the teeth are about to appear. But she is healthy and joyful, and very joy giving as well both to her parents and to all she comes across she will stay in anybody's arms and give them a big smile, and is quite popular at the supermarket when she and I make our trips there together.