Newsletter 41 - June 2002
I have just completed the last of my regular commitments for the year, with the church Bible studies having a two month pause for the summer, the university ministry having already finished a couple of weeks ago, and even the band having a break after a couple of big concerts this week. (It was great playing to 700 people, or having 100 people on the dance floor, being able to give pleasure to so many people.) This leaves just the Sunday services, in which I will probably be doing more than usual as Angelo, Pippo and Salvo go away on holidays in the next couple of months. I will then be away for the first two weeks of September, when they will have returned, on holidays with my parents. I certainly will not be unoccupied though, just because my regular activities will not be on. It will be a period for working on a few projects that I have been putting off until I had more time. Now that I have made a list of the things I want to do, I have realised that I still probably will not have enough time to do them all! But the things I will be working on are the Italian version of the ECM Internet site, a complete rewrite of my personal site (almost done – you will be able to see the new improved version next week), improvements to the structure and more articles for my site on the Bible, a new version of my Bible program with a lot of improvements I have in mind, the creation of a version for palmtop computers, and some preparation for an ECM conference at the end of September. I also want to do some more serious study than that which I usually have time for during the year. I have decided to work through the book of 1Tessalonians in depth, and I have a pile of books to read that have accumulated over the past few months. I will also be spending more time with friends (at least, those not going away on holidays), including some Bible studies with a few people that want to meet over the summer, have a few visitors passing through, going for walks in the mountains, and basically enjoying the hot weather after three winters in a row! (For more than a week the temperature here has been getting up to the mid to high 30s, as well as being very humid. And the hottest part of the summer does not arrive until August usually.)
In the church
The main event in the church recently was a houseparty we held last weekend, in an ex-refuge in the mountains about half an hour from Trento. It was in fact the first time that the church has ever organised a weekend away together, although I am sure it will not be the last. There was not a high proportion of the church present – one problem that we will always have is not a lot of Italians work all day Saturday, so many could not come the whole time for that reason. It was also a bit late in the year, which meant that a few families had already left for their summer holidays. There were also a few last minute withdrawals, due to sickness and a death in the family. But the time together and the studies on Saturday were good. Then more people came up just for the service on Sunday, and there were a few guests from other churches as well. It was in fact a special service, because it included the baptism of Claudio and Nicol, the couple that arrived in November and that I have been meeting with fairly regularly. They gave a good testimony about how God had brought them to himself, and encouraged us as well as they described what they had learnt from their experiences in the last few years. Then, as in any serious Italian meeting, there was a large and long lunch, and then a few hours talking and sharing together.
We have been making a habit of surprising doctors this year. Two people in the church have moderately serious long term health problems, one with a heart condition and the other with multiple sclerosis. They are both diseases which can be controlled, but not healed – in the case of MS, once part of the nerve disappears, it does not grow back again. At least in theory. When one had her regular test done in January, and the other in May, both times the doctor, shocked, asked what kind of treatment they had been receiving. And both replied that they had done a few things, but that especially a lot of people had been praying for them. In fact the first had had an improvement which should not have been possible, and the second had had the worse hole in her nerve protection disappear. In the second case, the doctor was quite explicit in saying that she had received a miracle. Give thanks for the power and grace of God's work in the lives of these two people, and for their continuing witness to the doctors and others.
At the university
As I mentioned earlier, the university ministry finished up at the beginning of June. Both Julie and Robyn have returned to England, so now I am praying for new students for the new academic year in October. On June 1 I had a bookstall at the end of year festival at the university, as every year. There was not a lot of interest (not even for the other associations); students go to the festival for other reasons. But there were a couple of good conversations, and quite a few people took literature and did a survey. Maybe these things will make them think, certainly as they were filling out the surveys a few were surprised at what they did not realise that they believed, or had never thought about. The answers to one series of three questions in a way surprised me, in that for me they do not really make sense, although I could have predicted the results from my experience of students at Trento.
Question 1: Do you have a copy of the Bible at home? Yes 87%, No 13%
If they have a Bible and think it is important, why do they not read it?
Recently I also heard from Perugia, where some of the people in the group came across Estino again – he became a Christian during a Bible study I did with him at the summer mission two years ago (see Newsletter 34). He is continuing on, wanting fellowship with other Christians.