Newsletter 38 - October 2001
I am back at Trento now, having had a couple of weeks to sort things out and get used to living here again. I noticed that my Italian language abilities had suffered due to my four months in Australia, with words missing and it generally not feeling natural, although with practice I'm sure that I will pick it up and start losing my English again. My first full day back was also marked by the first snow fall of the year in the mountains, so I can look out of my window now to be reminded that I have three winters in a row!
When I returned to Trento, a lot of the church's activities had already restarted after the summer break. The day after I arrived there was an afternoon service in the Val di Non which I was able to go to, and at the two Wednesday night Bible studies so far there has been a big crowd (16 people) - much more than we were getting last year. Even more encouraging for me was seeing a change in the format of the presentation of the studies, and people actually looking at the text to work out what it means, instead of just wanting to be told what it says, or wanting to say what they think instead of what the Bible says. It means that I happy with our decision for me to leave that group - certainly I will not be leading it, and perhaps not even attend it. They are going quite fine, if not even better, now, which leaves me freer to do other things.
Like the two parts of the church life which are still not going, having waited for my return. Next week we will have the first meeting of the Youth Group. Since two of the teenagers live at or just outside Trento (Lidia and Giovanna), and two sisters in the Valsugana (Lucia and Giovanna), the problem will be getting them all together. So for the first meeting we will meet after the monthly church lunch, and see if we can decide together how best to meet, and what we could do together. The following Saturday there will be a Youth Rally for northern Italy - they are held twice a year, and you may remember that the four girls and myself went in April.
On the negative side, the two people that I had lined up to help me will not be able to. So I will have to rethink what I want in the way of assistance there, and training people to take my place.
The group in the Valsugana should start in the second week of October as well. Since I will be away next week, I left it to them to decide on the best time. Which will not be easy, with two mothers with children born this year, two people doing shift work, and another that due to age finds going out at night difficult. Speaking of the children, last Sunday we had a mass presentation of the four children born in the last 12 months; not a bad ratio for a church with about 40 adults who regularly attend. The same day another pregnancy was announced, with will keep the rate up. With the many other toddlers in the church, the Youth Group will certainly be very important in a few years' time. On the other hand, I also learnt when I returned that one of the key families in the church will be leaving next year. Salvatore and Anna are one of the two key couples in the Valsugana group, and it is their two daughters who make up half of the Youth Group. They will certainly leave a hole, especially in what I want to be working on in this term, but I certainly can not complain about their motivation. Salvatore works in the prison, where he finds he has a great witness to Arabs. He even taught himself Arabic to be able to speak better with the many prisoners who are immigrants from North Africa. But since Rimini has an even larger proportion of Arab prisoners, he asked to be transferred there. I know few Italians that have chosen a job or a place to live on the basis of where they could best serve God in the proclamation of the Gospel, so it is good to see someone in the church becoming a 'missionary', in his own way.
The university ministry will then be starting towards the middle of October, with the usual advertising to look for new students. Although this year will be different to the past few, with at least one person carrying on from last year (Ellenor, who teaches English), so I will not be starting from nothing. At almost every group I spoke to in Australia, I said that every (northern) summer I prayed for at least one student to come to Bible studies the following year, and asked people to pray the same way. It seems though that God was one step ahead of me. Last year, there was a Dutch girl (Lydia) attending the church off and on, although during the summer, I have been told, she came more regularly. About the time I left for Australia, her sister Miriam arrived at Trento. When I talked to her last week, I discovered that she had come to study sociology here, and was interested in coming to the Bible studies. So even before I had prayed for a new student, God had already answered that prayer! On the other hand, of the two students that attend last year, Marcus has gone back to Germany (which I knew about), and I have just learnt that Jacqueline will probably not be coming to Trento this year, instead finishing her studies elsewhere.
Last year the university group was a bit strange, because it gradually mutated into an English language group, with a couple of non students. Which made my aim of witnessing to students a bit harder to carry out. I was expecting one of the non students (Julie, who teaches English in a private school) to leave Trento, which meant that it would not have been such a problem. But during the summer she decided to stay on. So even though the group is small, it will almost certainly be split. Ellenor, Julie, Yvette (from Hong Kong) and myself will have an English Bible study together, partly for the edification of the non Italian speaking Christians, and partly as an evangelistic meeting for the English speaking community at Trento (and any Italians that want to practise their English). Ellenor, Miriam, myself and any students we might find will then be the GBU group at the university. At least, that is the plan at the time of writing; it might still all change again!
Whilst I was in Australia, having a bit more time than usual, I took the opportunity to work on what I distribute on computer - so that in the next few months I can just leave it, and let the Internet take care of the distribution. I did not quite get to finish what I was hoping to do, but in the two weeks since I have returned I have completed and released the new version of my computer program. There is not in fact too much new in the program, but the main change is a new site that I created for it, transferring many of the tools available in the program to versions that are consultable on-line. If you would like to check it out, the address is http://www.laparola.net/. [LaParola is, by the way, Italian for TheWord.] Of course, it is all in Italian, but you might be able to work out how some of how it works. There are five Italian translations of the Bible, a commentary on the New Testament, cross-references, a Bible dictionary, a Greek-Italian dictionary, and various articles to help people study and use the Bible. It will be easy for me to add more material in the future, and I already have some ideas of studies I would like to add. The aim is for it to be the centre for the study of the Bible in Italian on Internet.
Whilst on the subject of Internet, I had a brief moment of fame this week. The city's newspaper is running a series of supplements on Internet sites about Trento, and mine got a mention amongst the sites of the associations. With not a little publicity for the church, the GBU group and my computer program. In fact, the day it came out someone at band practice said that he had seen the supplement and visited my site, and liked it. I also found out last week that I had got my photo in two papers back in August as well, as part of the group taking lessons from the band, on the day of our exam. It was a shame however that both times they called me Richard Wulson!
1-3/10: ECM meeting at Milan on the use of Internet and radio in church planting.
4-6/10: GBU staff meeting at Florence
7/10: First meeting of the Youth Group
13/10: Youth rally at Mantova
14/10: Lunch (provided by the local council) and concert for the 200th anniversary of the town band! Unfortunately, being away on the 6th, I will miss the big concert, when the President of the European Council (and ex-Prime Minister of Italy) comes to visit.
16/10: Prayer meeting for north-east Italy at Treviso
mid 10: Start up the studies at the university.