April 13th, 2014
The biennial conference that we were at last week was one of the more helpful for me for a while, mainly because the children are a bit older and a bit more autonomous, which meant that Pinuccia and I were a freer to participate and for relationships with the other missionaries. That was true especially in the first half of the week; in the last few days half the family was sick. But in between bouts of fever, head and throat aches, and vomits, Pinuccia and I managed to sneak out for 20 minutes to watch the sun set over the sea (one of Pinuccia’s favourite activities, as they get great sea sun sets near her home in Sicily) on Thursday, which was our 10th anniversary. Thanks also to the Australians who helped me out, babysitting sick children, giving romantic advice, and serenading us with beautiful songs in the background, whilst we sat watching the sun set. On the first evening, I won a free entry to the hotel’s saunas and spas, which Pinuccia enjoyed as an anniversary present. I’m thankful to God that the children loved the time here – Stefania would insist that she was not sick any more the moment she realised that the children’s program was about to start – and so pleasant to be with – we had some great family outings together in the spare time, at least until the illnesses started to take over.
This Saturday there is the fulfilment of Pinuccia’s 14 year old dream, to start a Kids’ Club. Pray for the team that is organising and running it, and for the children that will come. There is also a Pakistani service on Friday, so you could pray for the witness as well. Both are hoping to become monthly events in the future.
April 5th, 2014
In a few hours’ time, the whole family will be going to Croatia for the biennial conference of the mission. Pray for a helpful time for us, and that we will be a help to others, and energy to get through it as we are all coming out of an extended period of sicknesses and tiredness.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Pakistan member of the church here whose son had been kidnapped. The son was found a few days ago, but had been beaten up and left for dead on the side of the road. He is now in hospital in Pakistan. Continue to pray for him and his family.
March 30th, 2014
My Sunday today was dedicated to the Sunday School, and more of the Sunday School than usual. As we move towards the end of the school year, we tend to do some activities together for the two older classes, preparing for the transition of some of them to the next class after the summer break. So in the morning there was a lesson for the two classes together, which I did, and in the afternoon we had an outing together. It was supposed to be an afternoon on the snow at the beginning of the month, but it got postponed a couple of times and become the first picnic of the year. Despite the arrival of the Spring weather, I had to do this with a pretty bad cold. Doing the lesson with no voice was no fun (although since I could not speak up the children did have to keep quiet to hear me), and at the park I just collapsed and had to sleep. But after I work up I managed to be a bit more useful and sociable.
After the church service, Pinuccia made an announcement which, she said, greatly excited her. When she came back to Italy from Switzerland 14 years ago, so had a dream and a desire of starting a kids’ club. For various reasons it has not been possible. But in the last few weeks she has been meeting with a handful of other people from the church, to prepare the first church Kids’ Club, which will be held on April 19. She is grateful for this team that has the same desire, and are working together on the same vision. The aim for the future is to start regular meetings of such a club.
This Saturday the family will be going to Croatia for a week, where there will be the biennial conference for ECM. Pray that it will be a helpful time for all four of us, and a time in which we can help other missionaries. We also can count it as a special trip to celebrate our 10th anniversary during the conference – quite appropriate as half our honeymoon was spent at an ECM conference. Although to be honest, Pinuccia does not consider a missionary conference such an appropriate way to celebrate our anniversary.
March 17th, 2014
A couple of prayer points from our church I wanted to share more widely:
1. Today, one of the church members (who pastored a church in Pakistan before have to flee the country) will be speaking at the United Nations at Geneva on religious liberty in Pakistan.
2. Another member of the church, who also had to flee Pakistan leaving his family behind, had his son kidnapped last week.
December 30th, 2013
We are having a crowded Christmas break. Instead of visiting family, we invited them to Trento, so there are nine of us in the house at the moment. This means spending a lot of time with them – especially it seems playing Sicilian card games, as some others at Lavis take advantage of their holidays and the fact that there are a lot of extra Sicilians in town at the moment. But I also get some good time to work on my projects, with my mother-in-law looking after me and taking over most of my house work responsibilities. So I was able to publish a new version of my Android program this week, and having been making good progress on some other projects as well.
December 13th, 2013
…where Church is with a capital C, ie the whole Church, although now I am thinking I should have entitled this message “International God”.
Last week someone sent an e-mail to the church, in English, asking to talk to someone about faith. After a few difficulties working out when and where to meet, I managed to go to see him last night, and it turned out to be one of my best evenings for a long time. We went to a nearby bar, where he told me a bit of his story. He is from Pakistan, and had been attracted to Christianity for a long time, but could not even ask questions about it. Now he had come to Trento on a scholarship to do a Masters degree, and wanted to learn more about the Bible. After hearing this, over the noise of the bar and the football being played at maximum volume on the TV, I realised that this was not the divine appointment. 500 meters down the road lives the person who was a pastor in Pakistan before he was forced to flee the country a couple of years ago, and who now attends our church. So we left the bar to go to visit him, who happened to have another Pakistan Christian with him. So I had a wonderful evening listening to them tell their stories and evangelising in Urdu, giving thanks to God that he brings people from the other side of the world and puts them near to each other, and that he is using a little kitchen with a couple of stools in a village just outside Trento to bring about his purposes. Later I spoke about the evening with the person who runs the international Bible study in the church, and he said that he had been praying for more contacts with the Indian and Pakistani students, so that helps to explain the evening as well.
Even though the student is freer to ask questions and learn about Christianity in Italy, he is not completely free. The other Pakistani students at Trento are already a bit suspicious, and ask why he does not go to the mosque or say the daily prayers. So the Pakistani pastor warned him to be careful, because he could create problems both for himself and the pastor, but promised that he and the church will support and help him in every way possible. Pray for them, and give thanks to God with me for how he is using our small church for his Church in Pakistan (and many other countries).
December 4th, 2013
Last Sunday there was the Sunday School’s annual fund raising event for a school in India. But more than fund raising, the aim has always been to have the children give what they can offer for the good of other children. This year we did something new, transforming the monthly church lunch after the service into the Sunday School Sandwich Shop, with the children busy making bread rolls and waiting on the tables, and the “clients” making a donation for the lunch. The church hall was nicely transformed into a restaurant for the occasion, and unexpectedly more people turned up than usual for a church lunch, which stretched our resources. But we found enough space, even though not enough tables, and had enough food, with a little left over which we could give to a couple of homeless people who have been attending the church lately. We raised over €400 for the school, but more importantly it was the children who, indirectly, gave the money.
Daniele and I however had to leave half way through the event, for his first chess tournament, which he was excited and enthusiastic about. He had two draws and five losses, which is not bad considering all the others were 3 to 6 years older than him. He proudly wore his medal (which all the participants won), and was really happy to win a Christmas bag of chocolates as the youngest player.
In local news this week, Trento topped the table this year as the best Italian city to live in. And there are lots of events in town to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the end of the Council of Trento. It is indeed a great place to live, where we can proclaim the grace alone of God in the place in which that doctrine was cursed.
November 24th, 2013
Sometimes I refer to what I did in Australia as “my previous life”, as it seems so different and distant from what I do now. But every now and again things happen that bring back recollections of my past life. For example, on Friday I was remembering a conversation I had with some good friends at Newcastle at least 25 years ago, when Don Carson’s book Exegetical Fallacies had recently come out. One of the group said, “That would be a book for Richard!”. An accurate assessment, and in fact a few years ago I was asked to translate it into Italian by one of the local publishing houses. It is just been printed, and on Friday I received a few copies of the book for my work, and for my memories.
Last Easter, Stefania and Daniele saw me look at some chess news on Internet, and wanted to know all about it. So they learnt the rules, and started going along to a chess club at Trento, although only Daniele has continued after the summer. As I have taken them to the children’s lessons at the club, I have got to know some of the other members, and regained a bit of interest from my teenage years. It is also another opportunity to meet people outside of the church circles. Since the summer I have played in three single afternoon friendly tournaments, being a bit the unknown and unrated dark horse. The third one was today, when I also picked up my first placing (3rd). Which was the best result I ever obtained in my teenage years as well. Next Sunday there is a family day, with a tournament for children and one for their families, so we’ll see how Daniele fares in his first official matches.
But what made me the most excited all week, and brought back lots of memories, was discovering on Saturday morning that the Dr Who special (to celebrate my 50th anniversary a couple of months ago?) would be shown on Italian TV that night, at the same time it was shown in England. Usually I have to wait a year for shows to be dubbed and come out in Italy. Instead, I had an expected evening being nostalgic about my previous life.
November 17th, 2013
A few days ago, I finished preparing the Bible studies for the church this year. This means that until May, when I will start preparing the studies for after the summer, I have a bit more time for other projects. Which is principally the computer work, of which I have quite a few ideas which I would like to implement. What is different now is that I have a virtual team helping me: people that I do not know, but who have offered to help me with their time and abilities, and that I give direction to and incorporate in the whole LaParola vision. So in the next few months the main computer projects I will be working on are:
New graphics for the site – after 12 years essentially the same, it is getting a bit dated. But I am no good on graphics, so someone is working on a new site design into which I will slot the contents of the site.
Bible quiz – someone has sent me over 1200 questions on the Bible, for which it was easy to create a web interface (it should go live this week), and I will put into my Windows program and create an independent Android app.
Windows program – I’m working on this by myself still, because it is a mature program with little work needed. But last week I finally added an often requested feature, to project the Bible text onto a second screen. So once I have added the quiz I will publish a new version of the program.
Android app – I wrote the core part of this program, and someone else the interface. There is not much else to do in the core, but I give advice to the other person as he adds new features to the program in the interface, calling the parts of the core that are already written.
iPhone/iPad app – I have two volunteers to work on the interface of this new program. First I have to modify the core of the Macintosh program to create a new core for an iOS program – they are similar, but not identical.
Hard Passages of the Bible – answers to common questions on the Bible that I am writing. I am continuing this by myself, both to keep it consistent and to keep me studying the Bible whilst I am not preparing Bible studies.
November 3rd, 2013
On Saturday the church has its first leaders’ “retreat” – a day at a house in the mountains for the leaders of the church and of its various groups and ministries, including a few who are in preparation. There were 29 adults and 18 children, plus five others to give us input and help with the food and children. It was a privilege to be a part of this group, many of whom I have served together with for over 20 years, others who I have helped in becoming a leaders, others who have helped me a lot. Also the other leaders expressed their appreciation of being able to get away for a day, with other people to look after the children, and concentrate on their relationships with the other leaders and on how they can help even more the church to grow as a community. And the children loved having a whole day to play together, rather than just a few minutes after church. Definitely something to repeat in the future.
An update on Pinuccia’s family situation I mentioned last week: her nephew has been taken off the drugs which were keeping him in a coma, but he has not woken up yet. From the worry, Pinuccia’s mother’s blood pressure shot up, and spent a few days in hospital as well. So Pinuccia has been feeling the distance from her family even more.