Newsletter 46 - August 2003
My Big Fat Sicilian Wedding
The previous newsletter was out of date within a week of being sent out, as Pinuccia and I then became engaged. We have now fixed the details of our wedding - it will be April 10 (Easter Saturday) at Pinuccia's home town of Vittoria in Sicily.
After the wedding we will be spending a week in various places as a honeymoon, and then going to Turkey for a week for the biennial conference of ECM. It will in fact be a special conference this year, as 2004 is the centenary of the mission. So there will be a lot more people than usual, and a good part of the conference will be for supporters as much as for missionaries, explaining how ECM is working towards its aim of planting new evangelical churches in Europe.
Since I know that almost all of my friends - you that are receiving this newsletter - will not be able to come to the wedding, I will not be sending out invitations. But I want you all to know that you are invited. If anyone happens to be in the neighbourhood next year and would like to experience an Italian wedding, just let me know. I would love to have you here to share the day with you and will send you a formal invitation. You could also consider going to the ECM conference in Turkey - it would be helpful seeing how my ministry that you have been praying for fits into a larger context of the work of the mission.
Since we both had less work over the summer, we took the opportunity to make some trips together. The first was four days in Switzerland, where she spent four years at Bible school and with Scripture Union. It was great for me to get first-hand knowledge of all the places and people that she often talks about - now when she mentions a friend I know who she is referring to. It was also the first time that we had been able to spend a whole day together, let alone four. I even heard her speak French for the first time - I knew that she was good, but had never experienced how good she was. (Which also means that her learning of English looks promising - she will be starting lessons in September.) So I felt that I knew her a lot better by the end of the trip.
However, this was little in comparison with the 15 days in Sicily, staying with her parents, getting to know her (extended) family, doing things with my parents whilst they visited for five days, and checking out and making arrangements with reception rooms, photographers, florists, gift shops and the pastor of the church at Vittoria. Seeing Pinuccia with her family, and making wedding arrangements with her, meant that I saw new aspects to her character, all of which I must say I liked. Just as she was happy to not only meet my parents, but to see my relationship with them.
All these changes in my life mean naturally enough changes in my ministry and long term plans as well. There might only be a difference of one verse between 1Corinthians 7:32 and 7:33, but it means a big difference in my life! Already I did not have enough time to do all that I wanted to in the church, at the university, on the computer and with ECM, and now of course I want to spend time with Pinuccia, and her with me. Something had to go, and in the end I decided that it had to be the university ministry, which I will thus finish up in the course of the next few months. It saddens me a bit, because after being at the university in some capacity every year for the past 22, it is obviously a big part of my life. And I still enjoy being with and working with university students more than any other group. But I am happier more than I am saddened, because I have a new ministry, to Pinuccia and to a future family if that comes. It is in any case I believe a good time to leave, with an influx of new staff for the GBU, bringing new ideas to the Christian witness at the universities in Italy.
The original plan was to go flat out in the next 12 months, doing the last things I felt necessary before leaving Trento (mainly starting a system of cell groups and training leaders for them) and then moving on to a new ministry, probably in a different location. But plans are made to be changed. Now I will not have the time next year to do all that is required, and changing city and ministry three months after getting married does not seem wise. Also, as one of the elders said, the church might be able to cover my departure, or Pinuccia's departure, but both at the same time would be difficult. So as well as training cell group leaders, there need to be new leaders in the Sunday School, the ministry to teenagers and the ladies' studies before we can go. We are now saying that we will remain at Trento until at least mid 2005. In the next 12 months we will decide together whether it would be best to stay at Trento after that or to move somewhere else - we already have some good options that we are looking at.
Of course, as well as changes to ministries and to plans, there are also changes in me, which are continuing. Even my friends here are noticing it – they comment on the improvements in my character. One difference I noticed when I was in Sicily, and had more time to read the Bible and pray with Pinuccia, was that I pray much better with her than by myself.
Some people have asked me how to pronounce Pinuccia's name. The i and the u are both long (as in pea and gnu), the double c means that it is pronounced longer than normal, and ci pronounced ch, like the dance cha cha. The accent goes on the u. If all that is too difficult, you can just call her Pineta (long i, short e with the accent), which is closer to her original name. On the other hand, many people in Sicily had trouble with Richard, so there I often went by the Italian form Riccardo.
2-6 September: conference (with FEMI) for full-time workers in Italy, especially Italians. As a substitute teacher, Pinuccia does not know yet if she will be working then. If not, she we come, and meeting other Italian missionaries in Italy will help her to understand some of the joys and problems involved in what she will be doing with me.
mid September: my anniversary week - the 15th will be 11 years since leaving Australia, whilst on the 12th I celebrate arriving at a nice round figure. This means that I will be getting married at the same age as Moses, which can't be a bad thing. Since more than a tenth of the adults in the church reach the same milestone this year, we are organising a 200th birthday party for us all.
25-27/9, 9-11/10 and 16-18/10: GBU staff meeting, followed by two student training weekends, for northern and then for southern Italy
18-21 November: third conference on the use of multimedia material in church planting, run by ECM-Italy, in which I will have a part in the organisation