Archive for October, 2011

Helping others

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Today there was the meeting that I had been looking forward to for a couple of weeks. And rightly so as it turned out, because it went so well. We had invited the five university students in the church, and the GBU (the national university movement) staff member for north-east Italy who came from Bologna, to lunch, to talk about the forthcoming rebirth of the group at the university. So I could sit back and – well, I won’t say relax, as we did all the organising and hospitality. But it was a privilege to be able to facilitate this meeting together. It brought back happy memories of when I used to go visiting students to help them with their groups at the universities. As I come to grips that I am not as young as I used to be, and I can’t do (well) everything I used to do, I thank God for the possibility to help others and so still be involved in what I still believe is important. And I thank God also for Pinuccia, who shares the vision, and spent a lot of time in the kitchen to help this meeting to be a success. Anyway, tomorrow there will be a introductory meeting of the group at the university, with the first Bible study in a couple of weeks. It has been great as well to hear the stories of how the students have been finding others – Christians and not – who want to come also.

Next weekend Pinuccia and I will be swapping roles. Someone will be coming from Turin to do some training on Saturday for the Sunday School teachers, and staying for church on Sunday when we have also invited another family for lunch, so that they can speak together about the Sunday School. So I hope to be able to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so that Pinuccia is free to help the training event and also learn herself about leading this ministry better.

Growing leaders, growing churches

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

I’m continuing to work with the new and future leaders in the church, and I’m looking forward to meeting three people in the congregation in the next couple of weeks to help them to prepare Bible studies or to start a series of meetings to prepare them to serve. Three might not seem a lot, but it is a good proportion of the membership of the church, and a high proportion of the leaders who will be ministering in the church in the future. We (as a family) also have the privilege of hosting next Sunday a launch lunch for the university group, which will start meeting the following week. There will be five or six students, plus someone from the national student movement (GBU) to help and encourage them, and of course I’ll be there to help as well.

It was interesting to see the church hall full once again for the service this morning. There were a lot of visitors, but even without them there were not many less than there were before we sent a lot of people to plant the church at Rovereto. With the church numbers getting close to what they were, and this new generation of leaders quickly coming up, we should be in a position to plant another church soon. I’m looking forward to that too!

Reflections on small church, the world church, and World Championships

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Today there was a special church lunch, as many of those from Trento drove to Rovereto after the service to share the lunch with them. The Rovereto church actually rents its own place, so we all squeezed into that space to eat, have fellowship, and catch up with friends we have not seen in the last couple of months. Although I have been to the building once before, it is the first time I have been there on a Sunday, and seen the church (in the sense of people) there. It was great to see people there who I did not know, as a few have joined the church in the time since the separate services were started. And I could sense a different atmosphere there to what we experience at Trento, as I could feel the commitment and closeness of relationships between everybody, which comes from being a small church. It gave me a bit of nostalgia for the first few years after I arrived in Italy, when the Trento church was similar to how Rovereto is now. Ah, the joys of a small church! In the same way, it gave me a lot of hope for the future at Rovereto, that it too can become like Trento is now.

Another reflection during the week was on the changing state of the church, around the world and in Europe. On Wednesday night we heard from a Pakistani pastor, who had had to flee the country due to persecution, and ended up at Trento where we recently met him. And at Rovereto there is an evangelist who left Ghana, escaped from Libya (where his son was killed when their house was bombed), and is now in Italy as a refugee. As a church we do pray and help practically the persecuted church, but it is another thing to meet real people who are paying the cost for their faith – and yet consider it a small price to pay. It is a challenge to us Westerners.

And for those who missed the news, maybe because they were distracted by some other world cup, yesterday the Trento volleyball team won the club world volleyball championship for the third year in a row.

In Austria and at the university

Monday, October 10th, 2011

I am back from a flying visit to Austria. Not flying like an airplane, because although it was one of my regular ECM leaders’ meetings that are using held at Madrid, there was a change this time, and I went to a place which is only 200km away. That is, if you walk straight across the mountains that separate Trento from the meeting place. So it actually took 4.5 hours driving going around to the nearest pass through the alps. But it was flying in that I could get it all done in a weekend: leave at 4am on Saturday, arrive, get a coffee, be video interviewed, and be ready for the 9am start. Then meetings all day Saturday and Sunday, leave after dinner and be back just after midnight. Since I have become the secretary to this group of ECM leaders from each country where the mission works, I also have a fair bit of documentation to write, collect and distribute as a result now.

The most exciting moment during the weekend was however receiving an e-mail from someone whom I had asked to consider restarting the Bible study group at the university. She said she will do it! There are three post-graduate students in the church, who were all part of the group previously, as well as a couple of people who just started university this month, and a number of international students currently in an English language Bible study group. So I am excited that the witness at the university, that I came to Italy to be a part of 19 years ago, will be returning.

On the other hand, there was also the sad news a couple of weeks ago that one of the church groups I was leading was folding. The six families with small children in the Valsugana valley just could not get together any more, now that the children are older, so the group stopped and the members have gone to other groups. These two changes have made the changes in my ministry this year even more evident. Now I am leading only one group in the church, but visiting four others, and helping the leaders of four other groups, many of whom are leading for the first time. So there is a lot more mobilisation, encouragement and training of people for me this year. And I have found it exciting so far, and a pleasant change from the pattern of regular programmed groups and Bible studies.

Celebrating outside

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

We are enjoying an extended summer at the moment, with temperatures well above the average. When October arrives I am usually already wearing a jumper, but this year I still have my T-shirt on. So yesterday we took advantage of the good weather and brought forward Stefania’s birthday party. This has been the first year she has been able to have her party in the park, and will probably be the last for a while if the weather patterns return to normal. It was just as well that we could go to the park, because Stefania’s circle of friends has roughly doubled in the past few weeks. As well as inviting the friends from pre-school, there was a new group of friends that she has met in infants’ school in these three weeks. Too many friends for our lounge room now. So we spent 4 hours at the park on Saturday afternoon with them all.

Next weekend I will be going to Austria for some meetings with all the country leaders in ECM. I should actually be going for the whole week, but with Pinuccia’s work and the children to look after, I will have to miss the training part of the week (from Monday to Friday), and just go to the meetings on the weekend, where I also act as secretary to the group.