Thursday, October 29, 2009
Having to rush form the train after my arrival back in Parma, I am picked up at the train station by Aldo then off to get Victor and then to Corcagnano , then to the small mountain village of Fornovo. All of this to arrive for the inaugural meeting of Progetto Archippo (Col. 4:17). This is the culmination of seven years of dreaming and planning… “but in the fullness of time.”
I first arrived in Italy in 1997. Since then I have made twenty-six trips. When I first came I kicked around Italy for at least six years doing what I could, preaching and personal evangelism wherever I could. It was in 2004, while visiting Gianni and Fanny Basta in Napoli that they simply said, “If you are ever in Parma, you should meet our friends Aldo and Mariela Cerasino. They have just moved there from Bologna and are starting a church. When I heard this, I was immediately struck by the notion that this was it! This was the connection God had in mind for me. As soon as I returned from Napoli to Trieste, I called Aldo who spoke enough English to understand me. I simply told him that I heard of him and his work and felt the Lord was leading me to come and see them. He was very happy to receive me in their apartment on Via Zanguidi. I showed up on the hottest day of the year and suffered through the first night with no fan (moving air) or air-conditioning.
In the morning, we met on the back porch with coffee and immediately made friends. It was then that we begin to discuss how we might work together. Before leaving, Aldo handed me what he called their “Progetto.” It was a three or four page document in Italian, none of which I could yet understand. I acted interested and put it aside as an, “It’s an all Greek to me,” to me sort of thing.
For the next three years or so we worked together, watching the church grow along with trust and friendship. After the church was somewhere around twenty persons, the Lord gave me a dream and scripture to confirm it. I wrote both of these down and shared what I had seen with my wife, accountability team and friends. It was all so clear that I wrote it all down for posterity. I felt, for me, it was a clear word of prophesy. All the while these developments are taking place, I am learning bits and pieces of Italian but still Aldo and Mariela’s “Progetto” remained buried in a file.
When I shared my vision with Aldo he said, this is our “Progetto!” It was only then that I found the document from four or five years before and began to decipher it. He was right. It was their “Progetto”.
Later, about three years more and we meet an area Operation Mobilization outreach director, Francesco Abortivo who (guess what) had the same vision that from Parma would be a missionary training, church planting and sending institute which would send missionaries throughout Italy, Europe and other parts of the world. If one draws a circle of one days’ air travel from Parma they will see that within that circle are about fifty distinct cultures and more than eighty language groups. In Europe alone there are 741 million people with less than 1% “Great Commission” believers, not to mention the opportunity afforded us to take the Gospel to North Africa and the Middle East.
Here it is, the day that we have been looking forward to. Nothing is easy in Italy as the church is divided and incredibly competitive, suspicious and isolated one believing group from another so there was, from the beginning, any hope that Pastors would come together for this purpose. This is when Aldo and Francesco began to bring together the lead missionaries already active in Christ centered, kingdom conscious work as we all are.
We, ACCI members, were encouraged to see these folks putting their heads and hearts together for the purpose of fulfilling the “Great Commission” in Italy and elsewhere. Though remaining in the background so this is a national initiative, ACCI has played an integral part from the very inception and I was happy to be in the area when they came together for their first organizational meeting.
There was the customary “getting to know you time” where men and women politely shook my hand, made attempts at courteous small talk in English and then quietly drifted toward less intensive communication challenges.
I could sense that, as predicted, there was a certain amount of suspicion regarding, what they consider to be my “American” (American and control are the same words to an Italian) interest so I kept quiet and snapped occasional photos and made video of the proceedings.
The well organized (afterall, it was Francesco’s work who should have been a German) Power Point presentation was brief, attractive, precise and informative. Now it was the time we all dreaded as Francesco put up his last slide, “Domande ‘e Suggerimenti.” Italian’s must all have questions and suggestions and we could feel tension build in the room. There is a general cultural, negative attitude, the “it won’t work” or “it will ultimately fail” syndrome. This is Italy where nothing works as it should. As we predicted we got our fair share of this sort of objection but in the end, after everyone had their territorial say, we all left happy, shaking hands, kissing and hopeful that we have more with us than “agin” us.” The first course in the two-year program will commence in February.