Each year, the church children’s camp is a bit different from other years, and this time it turned out that the main benefit was the time that the children spent with each other. This was in part due to the theme (sport and especially the Olympics), which meant more physical activities and less reflection, but it was also due to how the children are now. Certainly what our children were looking forward to most in the week leading up to the camp was seeing their best friends in the church for three days in a row. So the boys spent a lot of time on the football field, and the girls camped out in their bedroom, and I was happy to see that happen. There were also some children outside of the “groups”, due to differences in age or culture or personality, and although they did get a little bit better known, there is still a lot to do there.
On Thursday, the three day children’s camp of the church will be beginning. There will be 12 children, including two friends of church children, and that is more than we were hoping for. All of out family will be going, and it is good to be involved in this ministry together. But it will be interesting, as Pinuccia and I together will be overseeing all the camp, running about half the activities, pretending not to be the parents of Stefania and Daniele, and looking after Luca and Mattia, who will be the mascots for the first of maybe five times. So you could pray for the camp, for us as a family, for the work of the team of leaders and helpers, and especially for the children who will be present.
This morning I taught my last lesson in the Sunday School for this school year. (There are still three Sundays to go, but the 2 other teachers of the class will look after those.) We were up to chapter 4 in James, and it turned out to be a good opportunity to think back at what we have done together over the last three years (or seven years in the case of one of the girls), and what we want them to remember as the whole class heads off to Youth Group and High School after the summer:
- Be thankful for what you have, not complaining about what others have
- Don’t be friends of the world – be in it and critical of it, evaluating what it teaches, as we have done discussing together films and music
- We draw near to God through repentance – mourning for our sin and purifying ourselves from it, not reading the Bible, praying and going to church which are the usual answers from church children
- Think about your future (as they all are, having to make big decisions now about schooling that will determine what work they will be able to do) with humility before God.
So it was a good way to wrap up our lessons together, although I will still be spending some time with them in the next couple of months, and then more in the years ahead as well.
Yesterday seemed to be Family Day in church. First there was the new Pakistan family with 6 children who came for the first time, and who immediately created some space problems for the Sunday School. (It is a good thing that they will be getting larger classrooms in a few months!) Then during the service there was the simultaneous presentation of three boys born in February and March. All three fathers are in the music group (which created its own problems with the rosters in those months), so they collectively dedicated and played a song to their sons. Then we could joyfully celebrate all these new children in our monthly lunch together as a church after the service. There was then also the annual meeting of the church, but that too was a joy to hear about God’s working in the church this year, and not just bureaucracy!
Some more good news in the church. About 10 days ago one of the Pakistan refugees got his residency after about 5 years waiting. This meant that his family was finally allowed to come to Italy to join him. Thanks to the great generosity of one of the church members, the plane tickets was quickly arranged and bought, and yesterday morning his wife and five children arrived in Italy. I’m looking forward to meeting them all soon!
A couple of weeks ago we found a hall up for auction after a bankruptcy. On Tuesday we won the auction with the lowest possible bid. So we are now the owners of a 345 square meter hall at less than half the market price, and less than any but the smallest apartments at Trento. And with a 20 year mortgage we will be paying a third less than what we pay to rent a hall half as big. We are thankful for this opportunity to have a much better place at a lower cost. We will be moving in a couple of months’ time.
It is time to catch up on some news, now that I have a moment free.
We had a relatively good week at the ECM conference in Croatia. The time looking after the family took out a lot of time that usually we would have had to catch up and meet the other missionaries, but we were expecting that. It was interesting coming from our town, where I know of only one other family with four school age children, to a mission conference where four (or more children) is quite common. For the mission as a whole, it was a good time to reflect on where God is leading us into the future of Europe.
Next Sunday there will be a couple of special occasions you could pray for. During the service, the Sunday School class I help teach (10-12 years old) will be doing the lesson for the youngest class (4-6 years old). We did it for the first time last year, and we wanted to repeat the experience to give lessons in Christian service and help them to mature as disciples. Later in the day there will be a sports afternoon (with an evangelistic talk) for teenagers and young adults from our church, a few nearby churches, the camps we have run for the past few years, and any friends that are invited. This is something new for the church, as a few of the members have a vision to develop a ministry through sports.
For more than a year, I have not been making trips I should have been for meetings for ECM or with other missionaries in Italy, nor for conferences, because the family situation has not allowed it. But having my in-laws staying now means that I can make a quick trip to England for a meeting on Thursday, plus two days of travelling. This is for some of the leaders of the various countries where ECM works, to talk about the plans and projects of all the teams in the mission. So you could pray for this trip, and the family that is staying behind. Then I have some more meetings to miss in the next few months, but we are hoping to go as a family to a missionary conference in June.
Lavis was on the world stage last night, as it hosted the Italy-Finland test match, one of the qualifying matches for the 2017 World Handball Championships. With about 1000 people present, it was a much bigger event than the Italy-Germany cricket match I went to almost 20 years ago, when most of the time I was the crowd. As Daniele plays for the local handball club, he was part of a group of children who accompanied the players onto the field. So he had his 5 minutes of fame, as the photos I grabbed from the telecast show. Stefania, by the way, got hers a few years ago, as she is on Google Maps playing in the courtyard of the school with her friends (https://goo.gl/svykud , with the blue pants). For the record, Italy won 27-19.