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.
A couple of years ago Daniele was diagnosed with a relatively bad case of scoliosis – his back bone was both curved and twisted. So he has been wearing a back brace since then, and having regular physiotherapy appointments. We were told that at his age the brace did not actually do much, but it was important to wear it now so that everything would be ready when he would have his teenage growth spurt. However, when Daniele had a radiography in June, his back had straightened, so he did not have to wear the brace over the (northern) summer holidays. Yesterday he had an appointment with the specialist, who confirmed that the back bone was straight, although it is still slightly twisted. So Daniele can continue without the back brace, and also without the physiotherapy, and will have another check up in June. When I asked the specialist if it was normal that the back straightens up like that, he only said that the brace had done its work. This despite the fact that we had been told that the brace was not supposed to have such an effect until adolescence, and that we had been regularly rebuked at previous check ups because the brace had not been worn enough and was not tight enough. A couple of times we were told that, since the brace had not been used correctly, Daniele might just as well not worn it for the previous few months – the brace could not have done its work properly. And yet, it did… For Daniele, it is the third time that he has seen a big answer to his prayers, after the cases of the non exploding balloons and the little brother(s).
Life begins at 52, as they say. Well, maybe they don’t say it, but I think I will be entering a new phase of my life now. With Luca and Mattia doing a gradual beginning at the nursery the last two weeks, and school for Stefania and Daniele starting only on Thursday (and only in the morning for those two days), I was spending most mornings at the nursery and most afternoons, when Pinuccia was at work, looking after 4 children. So on Saturday I celebrated my birthday playing in a chess tournament. I won a salami, 500g of mortadella, 1kg of pasta, a bottle of wine and a bottle of balsamic vinegar as the best of the not so good players – a nice birthday present, and very Italian! Tomorrow all the children will start their normal hours, which means I will have a few hours free every morning for work and ministry. A new life beginning! Although I’m not sure if they will all actually make it to school tomorrow since they all have a cold, then Tuesday one has a dentist appointment and Wednesday another a doctor’s appointment, and on Friday I will be in a Skype meeting for the mission, so the life beginning may be more theoretical than real. But the mornings next week are looking pretty free at the moment, so maybe life begins at 52 and a week.
Tomorrow Pinuccia, Luca and Mattia start school, and just today we got all the details of where and when. It turns out they will be neighbours, but not at the same time. Last year a new structure was built in our town, 10 minutes walk from our house, containing both a nursery and a preschool. The twins will be going there from about 8.30am to 1pm each day, starting tomorrow. However, there is a gradual insertion, and this week it will only be for about an hour a day, and next week two hours a day. Pinuccia on the other hand was offered a job for the whole year at the preschool next door, from 1pm to 3.30pm each day. She is very happy and thankful with the location and hours of this job. Pinuccia and the twins will be able to greet each other as she goes to work and I bring them home, but at least they will have most of the afternoon together. The rest of the family will restart school on the 10th.
We have arrived back home. The trip went well, and I have suffered only a bit of vicarious jet lag – my body clock adjusted quickly, but with the children waking up at 4am so was I. But sleep seems to be back to normal now, even the twins are sleeping better now in their own beds than their two months of repeated wake ups during the night whilst in Australia.
Today we were in church, meeting friends and catching up on news – 3 new pregnancies, a few conversions at the children’s camp, a couple of families that will be leaving shortly. On the other hand, there was another refugee from Pakistan who had come for the first time today.
This week Stefania and Daniele will be doing a holiday program run by the town council, which will hopefully give us some time to start preparing for the coming year. In church, I will need to begin thinking about restarting the small groups and preparing Bible studies for them, and Pinuccia about the Sunday School. In the family, Pinuccia might start receiving some job offers, we need to organise Luca and Mattia’s nursery commencement, and there are a few other things to do around the house.
Now that the family chicken pox epidemic has ended, we have come out of our quarantine and started doing some more interesting things. On Saturday there was a wonderful lunch with the extended family, and on Sunday a trip to Newcastle to catch up with friends there. Since it is 27 years since I lived there, there are not a lot of people I know left, but it is great that the friendships continue even though we see each other so rarely. There is a solid base of lives lived together almost three decades ago that does not go away. I did feel a bit out of place, as we caught up on what has been happening, which for the others was often children finishing school or university or getting married or having children. We are a long way from getting to that stage of life!
This week, we are finally able to do some holidaying, and some things that the children want to do rather than what the parents want/have to do. So there are a few visits to parks and museums booked. On Wednesday it is Pinuccia’s turn to speak, with a talk at a women’s meeting. Always difficult for her in English! Then on Saturday it is time to pack and move again, as we will be spending 10 days in Canberra visiting two churches and various friends (let me know if you would like to see us during the week sometime), as well as doing a bit of tourism.
I had a wonderful weekend in Melbourne, returning to my Italian roots – eating Italian food, giving and getting lots of kisses, having Italian coffee, going to visit someone in the afternoon and ending up staying for an impromptu dinner for 10. It was good also to see Pinuccia’s cousin again, with his new family. And also to talk about God’s work in Italy in one of the few Italian churches left. But it was also great to return home and be greeted by smiles from the twins when I walked in the door, even if they soon turned to two simultaneous cries of combined hunger and tiredness.
Pinuccia did not have quite such a good time with the children… She survived looking after them, with help from some friends for which we are very grateful. But just after I left at midday on Friday, Daniele got a fever, and on Saturday morning he had spots from the chicken pox that he had caught from Stefania. And a couple of hours later Luca and Mattia came down with chicken pox as well, which is not the best thing at 8 months old. This despite everybody being vaccinated. So we have cancelled our “social” and tourist appointments for this week. I have a prayer meeting to go to tomorrow and a couple of talks to give at a Bible college on Tuesday, and then I will finally get three free days – probably free only to do some nursing, but at least free from other commitments.
We are at the end of our theoretical rest period at the beginning of our time in Australia. “Theoretical”, because looking after the family is still more than a full-time job here as well, so there has been little time for resting or doing other things we enjoy to have a break. At least I got over the jet lag faster than on previous trips to Australia. We all still have bouts of tiredness, but it is hard to distinguish the effects of jet lag from the effects of two eight month olds. And in Stefania’s case, also the effects of the chicken pox that she came down with immediately after arriving. Daniele on the other hand crossed off one item on his life’s bucket list: not only did he see Colin Buchanan live in concert, but he sang with him on the stage. Daniele was terribly excited by it, whereas Stefania coped quite well with the disappointment of missing out due to her illness. We have also packed and unpacked for the second time in a week, and tomorrow pack again, this time for four days of prayer with the mission, which is the start of our official meetings. We get back to Sydney on Thursday, and on Friday I will be going to Melbourne for the weekend. This is an unexpected opportunity for me, and if any of my Melbourne friends want to see me I’ll be speaking at the Italian church in 196 Blackburn Road, Syndal on Friday night (in English) and Sunday morning (in Italian), or we could arrange to meet sometime on Saturday. Pray also for Pinuccia during the three days I am away – it is hard to look after the house and family when we are both at home, and impossible when one of us is away.