Archive for November, 2007

Bookstalls and groups

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

I need to catch up on some reporting of past events.

The bookstall at Rovereto went well, with quite a number of people stopping to talk and some mentioning interest to come to the meetings or leaving their addresses to be contacted. Certainly there were more conversations than we usually get at a bookstall at Trento. By the way, the next bookstall is in fact at Trento, on Saturday, so pray for that as well. I will be doing the 8.30-11am shift.

The Chinese lady on Sunday went to the group where half a dozen Chinese people meet, and did a Bible study there. She found it a bit difficult because their style was different from what she is used to; she will have to learn to understand that there are many different styles to meet together to worship God. Looking back she realised that she could have been better prepared for the Bible study, but that is a good thing, and quite normal for the first ever study that somebody prepares. Now the group is taking a break for a few weeks and will restart in the New Year, although they still have to resolve the problem of the group meeting at the same time as our church services.

God’s preparation and God’s timing

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

It is about time I told the story that I mentioned last week. But I was waiting to see how it would turn out.

There is a Christian lady from Hong Kong who has been coming to church for about eight years, although most of that time she wasn’t very involved in church life, partly because her Italian is not very good. A couple of years ago she started coming to the Wednesday night cell group, which has really helped her to become a part of the church, and although she still has problems communicating, at least in a smaller context she can ask for clarification and make a few attempts at explaining what she wants to say. Then a bit over a year ago she met a Chinese priest who is studying at the Vatican, and they have been talking and writing very regularly since then. She has been telling him what she believes; the problem was that at the beginning she was not sure exactly what she believed in and especially the differences with Catholic doctrine. So she has been consuming Christian books (which she had not read much before), asking others to explain things to her (the Wednesday night group has been very helpful in supporting her in this), and really coming to grips with what it means for the death of Christ to be central to the Christian life and sufficient for our salvation. She does however have communication problems here as well, because the friend speaks Mandarin Chinese whilst her mother language is Cantonese, but her Mandarin has improved a lot as a result.

About five years ago, there was a couple from China who started attending very irregularly, and it is now almost two years since we have seen them on a Sunday. They too have problems understanding what is said, and they own a shop at Trento which takes up most of their time. A couple of weeks ago they rang this Chinese lady and told her that there is a group of about 8 Chinese people, all from the same city in China as the couple and almost all non Christians, that are meeting together, and they need the lady’s help to do the Bible studies. A couple of years ago this would have been impossible for her, but these discussions with her priest friend have definitely sharpened the skills that she will need. She still thinks that it is beyond her, but that is a great attitude to have; it will put to the test her trust in the power of God to work through her, which these conversations have helped to grow as well. Many times she has wanted to give up because she saw no fruit, but she has learnt to continue to be faithful and leave the results to God. The other problem is that the group uses Mandarin, but once again her discussions have prepared her even for this; she now speaks it well enough, whilst a year ago she did not.
Often we don’t know what plans God has for us that are behind the events that happen to us. The obvious conclusion had been that God had the lady meet her friend only so that she could witness to him. But the friend returns to China next month, and it seems to us now that God was using these conversations also to prepare her for something bigger in her life, for a new way to serve him. There is still one practical problem, that the Chinese group meets on Sunday mornings at the same time as our services. But the lady will go to that meeting this week, and then see if it is possible to change the meeting time.
Don’t forget as well to pray for the bookstall at Rovereto this Sunday, as well as the one at Trento the following Saturday.

Finally Version 7

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Although I had few of the normal activities for the last few days, I have been kept busy mostly with other things. On Friday evening the ladies’ group came – the house has to be more than spotless when a dozen women come to visit. Then there was the teenagers’ meeting on Saturday afternoon, that indirectly kept me busy – since Pinuccia had to prepare the study, I had to look after the children more than usual. Immediately after that meeting we went out to the town band’s annual dinner. Then on Sunday, as well as the church service, there were volleyball and soccer matches organised by the church in a gymnasium in the afternoon, and then out for dinner with some friends from church.

But the major new thing is that finally I released today a major upgrade of my computer program to study the Bible. It was in fact a complete rewrite of the program, as the limitations of the previous version (that in some parts still reflected choices that I made in the first version that I wrote 12 years ago!) meant that it was becoming increasingly difficult to improve it. The rewrite took longer than I expected – almost two years – but that was due also to my having less time now than previously. I noticed that there was a sudden slow down in the writing of the program three months ago, which happens to coincide with Daniele’s birth. As the program does exist in English as well as Italian, if you want to see what I have done you can download it from http://www.laparola.net/program/ .

Of bookstalls and cell groups

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

We are entering into the bookstall season now, with various town fairs happening in this period as well as people going shopping more often than usual with Christmas coming up. We usually have one bookstall at Trento in early December, but this year there are going to be four, so you can pray for these. Tomorrow (November 15) and on December 7 we have a table at one of the large shopping centres. On November 25 there is the major market day of the year at Rovereto, and we will have a bookstall there as well. This one is important not only to create visibility for the new witness in that town, but also to actively involve the group there in the vision we have to grow the witness and eventually plant a church at Rovereto. Then on December 1 there will be a bookstall in the centre of town at Trento.

I have finished my normal three cell groups for the week now, and it has been an unusually exciting week seeing how God has worked in them. Both on Tuesday at Rovereto and on Wednesday at Trento there were new people in the group; at Rovereto there was in fact more people than we have ever had, which is creating some problems fitting into the lounge room we use. There was also an increased feeling of being part of a group together in both of them; I got home later than usual both times, because the people just kept on chatting. The greatest thrill of all was seeing how God had prepared one of the members of the Wednesday group over the last couple of years for something new in her life and in the church. It is a complicated story, so I will leave it to another post in a few days’ time in order to give it the space that is deserves.

Hospitality, and changes at Lavis

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

If last week was the week of studies, this week is the hospitality week. As well as the teenagers’ group which meets at our house every Saturday, there is also the Monday night cell group at our house this week, and the ladies’ group is coming on Friday night for their monthly meeting.

Even though we had not seen or talked with them all week, the couple from our apartment building were at church this morning, which surprised us a lot. They also seemed to start to integrate a bit more as well, talking with one of elders about their evangelical “heritage” and buying some books from the bookstall that we have in church once a month. Pinuccia took advantage of hosting the ladies’ group this week to invite the wife of the couple, and she said that she would in fact come.

A dream I have: start another cell group of the church at Lavis, and in the far far future see an evangelical church also in our small town.

Still preparing

Friday, November 9th, 2007

I’ve almost finished my week of studies – today is the day without any, which means I have some time to prepare the study for the teenagers, which I have not even been able to start yet. As well as preparing and leading studies, we have also had quite a few visitors this week. Some came to play with Stefania for an afternoon, which gave us some time to do other things. There was also a family with four daughters (the youngest of whom is two weeks older than Daniele) for lunch on Sunday, and Stefania had a great time playing with the three elder girls (and they had a great time playing with her toys). On Sunday there was also a couple from our apartment building who came to church with us – the husband came from an evangelical family, although does not seem to have much interest now. We pray that we will be able to keep up the relationship and the witness with this family in the future.

I have also been doing some organising for a couple of bookstalls that the church will be doing in the next few weeks – at Rovereto on November 25 and at Trento on December 1. The bookstall at Rovereto, apart from its value in presenting the Word of God to those of the city, will be important to get the members of the group active and involved in the activities of the group, and to help them develop their vision for a witness at Rovereto.

A holiday and then work

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Today is a public holiday – although since it was one of my few nights off anyway there is not much gain. In fact the evening will not be free because a friend is coming from Milan tonight so we can work together on some Internet sites tomorrow morning, but I will try to do some less work during the day. After that it will be a busy week, because I have hit the jackpot: 6 studies or similiar to lead in 7 days. Apart from the two cell groups I lead every week (Tuesday and Wednesday), I will be leading the study on Monday night as well (which I do only once every two months) and for the teenagers’ group (every 3-4 weeks). There is also the cell group coordinators’ meeting on Thursday which I look after (again every two months) and to begin it all it is my turn to lead the service this Sunday (which I do about once every 6 weeks). It is not quite as bad as it looks, because as all the cell groups have the same program for their studies (Ephesians and the Christian character) the Monday and Tuesday studies will be repeats of ones I have already led recently, and since I am still about a month ahead in my preparation I just have to go over the Wednesday study to remind myself rather than prepare it. But it still leaves three meetings to prepare for.

A follow-up to the previous message: one of the church members is a free-lance cameraman, working for the various local TV channels when they need to do some filming. He recorded some of the tour around Trento with the church at Vicenza last Sunday, and one of the elders wrote a press release about the Protestants on Reformation Sunday in the city of the Council of Trento. These were then given to the various TV channels, and on Monday night the government channel broadcast a service on the event in its regional news bulletin. I have not seen it yet (my job was to watch and record another one of the channels, who did not show it), but it was good to get mentioned like that.