Newsletter 28a - June 1999
In my last newsletter, I wrote about the unique experience at the annual GBU student weekend, with (amongst other aspects) by far the largest attendance for many years. At the beginning of May, there was another unique event: of the many evangelistic meetings I have organised at the university here over the past six years, for the first time no one new came - there was just Paolo and myself, plus a couple of people from the church. It was a shame too, since it was one of the better talks we have had.
We have in fact finished the university work now, with a pause of almost four months, as we have come to the end of the academic year. Paolo, the only student that has been attending the Bible studies for most of the past year, left Trento last Friday (immediately after a last study together); on the 11th he leaves for Portugal, where in November he will be marrying a girl he met in the GBU group when he was studying there. It has been a joy to know him these last four years, and to see him grow as we have read the Bible together and worked together to be witnesses to Jesus at the university. Looking back now I can see how much he has changed and matured as a Christian, although as is usually the case it was harder to perceive the growth when we were in the midst of the weekly meetings. I was struck particularly by how much he has changed immediately after the evangelistic meeting last month. He started saying to the speaker and the people from the church exactly the things I would have said - that it is our responsibility to do the best we can for Godís glory in the preparation and the invitations, but the rest is up to God. I canít ever remember explicitly these things to him, but Iím sure my way of thinking has rubbed off on him - scary really! So you could pray for him (and Joanna) as they seek to serve God together in Portugal.
The day after Paolo left there was the annual end of year celebration at the university. In a sense, an apt way to close the era, since it was at this event four years ago that I met Paolo. As always, they encourage the student associations to have a stand, so I was present throughout the afternoon. It is not the best place to have a stand, since most people are more interested in the music, the games and the drink than the clubs, and a lot of people only go for the evening anyway. But I did talk with a couple of people and gave away a few leaflets, so it was worthwhile. One other positive aspect was that when I e-mailed Maurizio (who attended the studies for three years, until he graduated a year ago) to ask him to pray for it, he decided that he wanted to help out. So he came up from Milan, essentially just to assist with the witness of the GBU group at the university.
Recently we had a meeting in the church to talk about our evangelism. Since there has been a change in the congregation in the past six months, as people have shown more interest in our public evangelism and have started doing more of it, we thought that it would be good to think about how we as a church could do it better. There were a couple of ideas for methods, although with the fast approaching summer we probably will not be able to get them going until September. But there were two in particular that we have already started, because we wanted to bring the Bible and prayer more in the centre of our witness. One is to encourage people to consider meeting with their friends to read the Bible with them, with help if necessary from others in the church. At the moment we are talking with people about it; hopefully they will take up the idea, although it is not something we can force on them. The second is to get everyone to start praying for three non Christian friends or relatives, and to pray for the friends of somebody else. In this way we hope to keep evangelism on the agenda of the church, and in particular of our prayers. At the moment we are just starting to implement these ideas; hopefully I will be able to write another time about the fruit of these plans.
This by the way is one of a series of changes that the church has undergone recently. As you may remember, the structure of the congregation changed in September, when we began to run ourselves instead of having a pastor. Since then, we have discussed various aspects of the church life, one after the after, to think about where we are and what changes we could make: leadership, pastoral care, prayer, Sunday services and now evangelism have all gone under the microscope. The next item on the agenda will be training and discipleship.
In the past couple of months there have also been a few new people that have started attending or having contact with the church. Mostly Christians who have not been attending anywhere else, but also at least one non Christian. So you could pray for them, and for the church, in this period, that we would be a help and an encouragement to each other.
Just one: on the 21st I will be going to Perugia in central Italy for three weeks for a summer evangelism team. This is the same team I was on two years ago, and which has been held annually for a few years. One difference this time is that in the last year a GBU group has formed at that city, and which works both at the Italian university and the University for Foreigners (where Italian is taught) there. So hopefully the team will be able to interact more with this group, have more of a base to work on and be able to leave knowing that the students in the group there will be able to continue the work. In the meantime, pray for the preparations involved, both on my part and by those based at Perugia that have had and have still a lot of organisational work to do.
On the move again
Although I donít do it on purpose, since I left Sydney thirteen and a half years ago I have never lived in the same place for more than three years. I have in fact already overtaken this limit in my current apartment - three years and one month - which means that it is time to move again. Although not a big shift this time, just to a new apartment about 300 meters down the road. So my new address from July 1 will be