Newsletter 37c - September 2001

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In the past





My Australian sojourn is almost finished; on Friday afternoon I leave to return to Italy for another three years. Last weekend I completed all of my official activities, and so am just wrapping up a few things and preparing to depart. But before leaving I wanted to report on what I have done, and briefly mention what I will be doing in the first few weeks after I get back.

In Australia

I wrote in my last newsletter about the first part of my stay here, a month of holidays and time with the family. The rest of the period, although it was not planned that way, fell into two parts. The first was mainly in Sydney, visiting various groups and spending time with friends there. In the second part I did more travelling, with trips to Canberra, Newcastle, Tamworth, Brisbane and Maroochydore.

I can not describe everything I did in these 10 weeks since my last newsletter, so I will just mention some personal highlights and special occurrences:

  • For three consecutive Sundays visiting university churches in three different cities, talking with people involved in university ministry, and seeing it happening at the ANU. It was good to be reminded what God can do through such ministry, that it is not always just one or two students.
  • Talking to a Youth Group. I have some apprehension about starting working with this age group again, 10 years after I stopped doing it, as I am not sure if I can still relate well to them. So it was a good sign that I enjoyed the night and being with the teenagers. As the leaders told me, they started a couple of years ago with just one person, and have grown in that time to almost 20, so again it was good to be reminded of this, as we start with four.
  • Being in Brisbane whilst the Goodwill Games were on there - I'm sure that it was not quite the same atmosphere as being in Sydney for the Olympics, but I could pretend that it was just as good.
  • My first visit to Tamworth, meeting some people that have supported me from even before I went to Italy, despite the fact that I have never met them. To make me feel at home, they even made sure that it snowed for me! Although generally speaking, I certainly can not complain about the weather, with a very warm time for the second of my three consecutive winters.
  • A family reunion last weekend, with seven of my grandmother's 11 grandchildren, and all five of her great grandchildren - we have never had so many together at the same time.
  • Speaking at a couple of retirement homes - always one of my favourite venues, as I meet people who are serious about praying and mission. I hope I get like them when I get older!
  • Running into people that I had not seen and in same cases not even heard of for many years. For example, I went to Sydney Missionary and Bible College, and discovered there a friend from school and two from Newcastle that I did not know were studying there.
  • Attending a two day preaching conference, which gave many helpful tips that I want to put into practice when I return - and again at which I met a few friends I had not seen for years, and that are now serving in other parts of the state.
  • My last deputation meeting was at a school, where I was asked to do a 15 minute devotion. I understood that this would probably be a small group of Christian students there, but discovered when I arrived that I was to speak to the whole senior school (Years 10-12), plus some of the teachers and some parents - about 500 people. I have never had the opportunity to speak about Jesus to such a large group before, and it was great, and humbling, to be able to do it.

Back in Italy

As I said, I return to Italy on the 14th, after having notched up another year two days previously. I should arrive home about noon on Saturday - with my first visitor arriving to spend a couple of days at Trento a few hours later. I hope this is an omen to indicate that there will be lots of friends and others coming to visit in the next few years! One aspect of returning that I am really looking forward to is seeing the changes that have occurred in my absence. From my experience, I know that when I am involved weekly in something, I do not notice the small changes that happen gradually. But the advantage of going away and coming back after awhile is that these small changes accumulate, and I know I will see big changes in peoples' lives.

After my return I have a couple of weeks to adjust again and catch up with what has happened. In that period I also need to get things moving with the Youth Group, meeting with the people that have agreed to help me to lead it, and trying to decide on the best format to run it. I will also probably have to get the group in the Valsugana going again; the rest of the church activities probably will or will have recommenced without my input. In the first week of October I start my trips away, with an ECM 'think tank' on the use of media (ie radio and the Internet) in church planting from the 1st to the 3rd at Milan, and a GBU staff meeting at Florence from the 4th to the 6th. After that, it will be time to start thinking about starting up at the university.

Finally, thank you to all those that made my time in Australia so enjoyable and so productive, and that spent time with me, showing an interest in and supporting my ministry. Sorry to the few that I was not able to catch up with - there is always next time!