Entry 27 / Evangelism Services at SBI

October 15 -17, 2010

They had planned to have me preach every night from Thursday to Saturday and on Sunday morning before leaving for Oslo in the afternoon but a change of direction came when we learned that I was to preach on Sunday morning in a Brazilian church in Oslo so I was scratched out for Sunday.

On Thursday and Friday evening I preached sermons primarily directed toward Christians and the student body. On Friday night, however, they hosted a youth service and I leaned the message toward evangelism with several young people indicating decisions to trust the Lord Jesus. In particular two fourteen girls unashamedly made it clear to me that they were touched by the message. 

The worship team

Our gifted worship leader is blind

Sara is rather good-natured and accommodating so she said, “Just say whatever the Lord gives you and I will do my best to follow.” At the end, I gave an invitation with so many responding from different directions that Reidar had to run around with his Bible in his hand leading people to Christ while I stood and prayed for people at the front of the hall. Who knows, but later I heard that as many as five made commitments to Christ.

Translating a rather awkward message

After glow celebrationsMore rejoicing

Celebrating

All and all it was a happy night with lots of celebration.

Entry 26 / A Week of Evangelism

October 11-18, 2010

The Class

I have about fifteen enrolled students and another three or so who are sitting in. This is not a big class but the good thing is they are all pretty focused and serious. Since my style is rather unorthodox, the first couple of days the students have the proverbial “deer in the headlights” expression on their faces. Though most of the students are English speakers those that cannot get me “first person” are really stunned because they are not able to relate my antics and facial expressions with my words. Nevertheless, at the end of the week we are all friends and comrades. The goal is to go out with the gospel on Friday and Saturday so I am working in this direction to prepare them to aggressively and intentionally encounter complete strangers, not a very Norwegian thing to do.

Andreas being strapped in

Within a couple of days everyone is getting the idea that I am not going to force them to stand on a soap box in the village square and shout their testimonies or go door to door with canned gospel presentations so they are settling into the idea evangelism as a good thing – just a way of life.

My student friend Sara happens to be a naturally gifted evangelist so she is already figuring our ways to connect with people and has a pair of  bouncing shoes (See the photo) and since she has a broken thumb she convinces Andreas to try them out.

Prayer Meeting

On Friday, I made Italian spaghetti while they went to two nearby towns. Leaving at 11 they arrived back at 2 in the afternoon with many stories of engagement and this made it easy to go out again on Saturday when I went to a coffee shop and shared the gospel with about ten people, Terier helping me by translation. After I drew a portrait, I had everyone asking and talking so from there the conversations began, invitations extended and the gospel shared.

Getting final instructions

The soup kitchen outreach

We also had a FREE Soup table with an invitation with every hot bowl of soup.

Entry 26 / Off to Norway and SBI

October 10, 2010

Ryan Air from Bergamo to Torp

This is the second time to teach at Smyrna Bible Institute, south of Oslo and Drammen, West of Tonsberg and near the village of Holmestran. It is a very beautiful area and the college sits at the top of a knoll. There is everything one needs with dormitories, classrooms, chapel, diningroom and student union.

Twenty degrees cooler than when I left Milan, I was met at the Torp airport by Reidar Gamst, the Headmaster and his brother Terier. An hour later we were unloading and taking things to my room to get ready for an early start the following morning.

After a nice lunch of Caribou (yes, Caribou) and mashed potatoes, I took a nap to catch up on the lost sleep from the night before. By now, Larry is on his way to Canada.

Entry 25 / Final Days in Parma

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Communion

Larry and I returned from our little vacation in Florence and Cinque Terra on Thursday afternoon and back at the church by 7:30 where we celebrated communion with about forty or so people. I was asked to speak again and talked from Hebrews 9 comparing the two words, “Often” and “Once.”

Friday and Saturday, October 8 and 9

Progetto Archippo

I was advertised to teach on Mormonism to the Progetto Archippo, Ministry Training School on Friday evening and Saturday for most of the day. This is not a big group. They regularly have about twelve students but wish for more. The cost is prohibitive for most potential students at 35 Euro a month. The problem is, if we charge less we can’t afford the teachers expenses and if more we can’t attract the students so we are trying to get people to adopt a student at about $350 a year. This is something I hope to give a push. It really isn’t much money to prepare people for future ministry.

Anyway, I gave it my best and they were all good listeners as I explained the nature and criteria of a cult and then showed in general ways how to do apologetics and theology. I used Mormonism to demonstrate their erroneous thinking and the unbiblical use of biblical terminology. I am hopeful that some will be able to detect false teaching (cults and aberrant Christian teaching) without becoming overly suspicious as are some Christian groups in Italy. I once read that, “A cult was simply any group that does not believe exactly what you believe.”

Saturday Evening

I spoke one more time to the youth. “Youth” here is not what it is in America. Youth could range anywhere from sixteen to twenty-eight years of age. In all, about forty showed for a two-hour service. I spoke on “Self Deception” and though it was a serious subject they were laughing their heads off at my own stories of self-deception.

I had wanted to stay home for the evening, pack and be ready to go the next morning at 4:30 to catch the train for Milano and the shuttle to Bergamo for my 10:20 flight to Oslo Torp. I wondered why there was such an insistence for me to show up. At the end of the meeting, they had a big cake with a Grazie, Tony on the top and celebrated my visit. I can’t tell you how generous they are to me. They don’t have money but they sure know how to express their appreciation and affection. This is my home church in Europe, so when I am here they are the sending church and are proud of their part in my ministry.

Entry 24 / On to Cinque Terra

Wednesday, October 5, 2010

Monterosso

The Baia Hotel on the Sea

When possible I try to slip away to the five quaint but brightly painted villages that run from La Spezia toward Genoa along the Mediterranean Sea. I usually stay in the third of the five, Monterosso but would be just as happy in any of them. The little harbors and beaches are just the thing for making a holiday. Over the years , Rick Steeves has made these into a hot destination spots so the hotels have begun to fill up and though advertised as a place where rooms are abundantly available, don’t believe it. We were there at off-season and people still complained that they just stepped off of the train as advised in the travel guide and no one was there offering them a room.

I suggest you stay at Monterosso’s, Baia (where we stayed). You’ll pay more but ask for a room with a window that opens out to the sea and even better, try to get a balconetta so you can sit out there in the morning and catch the breeze. If you go another fifty feet or so you will be at La Spiaggia (The Beach), another nice ocean front hotel where you can walk directly down to the beach.

A beautiful mistake. Abstraction at its' best

Brune looking quite "GQish"

You’ll hear lots of English spoken with tourists coming from America, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. German and Austrians also abound, completely decked out in hiking gear and their own personalized walking sticks. They come to hike along the mountain trail which winds from one village to another. I enjoy watching them go by as I have my coffee and cream filled pastry.

Here we stayed until the following day when we returned to Parma for the weekend.

Entry 21 / Firenze and the Pugiotti’

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Pugiotto's, Piero, Cristiano and Natasha

I have friends that live in Venice. Lifetime Venetian, Piero and his Moldovan wife, Natalia, both work for the Grand Hilton just a few blocks from their apartment on Isola Judiaica. I met Piero on the internet through a Brazilian friend who made for us the connection.

All of us at once

When Piero heard that I was passing trough the Venice area on a day in which he had to work he began to look for a way to get together. He suggested that he come down and meet Larry and I on his next day off. At around 12:30 he arrived at the train station with Natalia and little Cristiano. This kind of trip was a cost to him of more than 200 euro and a lot of money for hotel employees so I saw it as an amazing act of friendship and did not want to miss the chance to be together and introduce them to Larry, my traveling companion.

Larry selling purses

After arrival we walked until hungry and then ate once more on the same street as the night before but while they had the Fiorentina, we settled for lighter items as Caprese and Lasagna. Then it was off for gelato, photography and a walk over Ponte Vecchio and a walk  along the Arno River

Of course, that Piero and Larry would hit it off so I just sat back and watched them discuss Italian culture and world events.

Entry 20 / Florence, Italy

Monday, October 4, 2010

Night dining in Firenze

Can you imagine? Not a single, "Wow!"

This may have been my twentieth trip to Florence and after the first time it was always to do one of two things – to buy a purse or take a friend on a little sightseeing trip into the heart of the Renaissance. This time I did both.

About ten years ago I bought Jeanne a little brown and black, back pack purse that everyone raves about. “Oh,” they say, “If  Tony ever goes to Florence again, could he pick me up one of those cute little purses?”  It appears that they stopped making this exact little item about three or more years ago so I must go from kiosk to kiosk until I score it or something like it. After several hours of putting my nose to the ground, I found a close enough match.

Searching for a purse in the massive outdoor market

Next, I took Larry around the various important landmarks but learned right away, that he doesn’t look up much. I took him to the Duomo begun in the 13th century and finally completed by Brunelleschi between 1420-1436. The dome of the cathedral is a most amazing engineering feat but, true to form, Larry didn’t even provide one, “Ahhh or Wow!” when he saw it. Some people cry.

A Brune ""WOW!" moment

Oh, well he did say, “Wow!” when the waiter brought to the table a two kilo steak called a “Fiorentina.”  He does prove to be a respectable tourist after all.

After taking the EuroStar (240 k per hour) from Bologna we ate our way through the city of Florence on the first day.

Entry 19 / Missing the Divine Moment

Monday, October 4, 2010

On a train to Firenze (Florence)

I have always wondered about the young man who went to sleep while Paul was preaching until midnight and fell out of a third story window and onto the floor in front of everyone, what does he think about it now? Assuming he was a believer, he might be thinking, “Boy, was I a dope! Here I was, listening to the APOSTLE PAUL and what did I go and do? I fell asleep. What could be worse? But now everyone in heaven knows about it. When they meet me, they’ll say, ‘Ahhh, I read about you, weren’t you the guy?”… so on so forth. Look here, in my defence, to me, he was just some ole guy that went on and on. If I had only known he was going to be the ‘Apostle’ Paul, I would have made a point of listening more closely. How was I to know?”

We shouldn’t be so hard on this guy as we all do the same thing all of the time. We miss “Wow!” divine moments – moments when there is a visitation from God.  I just wonder how many missed being a part of Pentecost because they tired of sitting in the same room day in and day out with a bunch of smelly people? We aren’t told how many began, we are only told how many were there at the end.

Larry and I were rushing to catch the early morning train and in front of us, was a mother pushing a small stroller, and three cute little girls rushing on ahead of her. She was African and pregnant with her fourth child. I noticed that she wore a heavy wool wrap around skirt, hardly attire for the hot day ahead so to me, this meant that she was poor as are most African’s who manage to make it to Italy and Europe.

Larry was staying close behind me and as we came to the first door to board the lady pulled on the handle but the door was locked (broke). In frustration she pushed on to the next and down deep I was thinking, “This lady is going to cause us to miss this train.” We couldn’t go around her due to a large fence separating the platform from a construction zone. She did make it to the next open door but when she attempted to lift the stroller with the baby in it, she couldn’t get it up the three stairs. The oldest of the three little girls jumped ahead of her and tried to help but was just not strong enough. I saw the situation unfolding and inwardly thought, “The doors are going to close on this woman with the baby only half way on board, I must do something to help.” I am sure that, my real concern was my own welfare. “Come on lady! Let’s go!” With time ticking like a bomb about to go off, I pushed my fat self through the small opening and lifted the front of the carriage onto the deck. ‘Thank you,” she said, and in she went the littlest one in tow. 

Two of the cute little girls took a seat in front of us with the momma plopping down exhausted in an aisle seat some five rows away. I sat in one aisle seat and Larry posited himself just across from me and the train began to pull away. “Whew!”

Less than five minutes went by when the conductress  came through the door, “Buon Giorno! Bigiletti! – (Your tickets please).” Happily I reached into my jacket vest pocket to await my turn. It was then that she came to the exhausted and perspiring African woman, took her ticket and displaying some displeasure with her gestures, waving the ticket as she spoke. I know what she was saying, “Madame, this ticket is not a proper ticket for this train. You you will have to pay a “supplimente.”  This is simply another word for a fine and conductors like to assess it as it means a slight bonus for them. Almost no one gets a free pass even if they are tourists and strangers. In the early days, I paid a few of these  fines and they are extremely unfair and unreasonable amounts of money. Often the fine is three times the original fare. I watched  as the conductress, fanned the ticket back and forth from one side to the other. The African lady looked up not knowing what to say or do and that is when I went abruptly down the aisle holding out toward her my closed fist with a fifty Euro clinch tightly inside. I’m sure she didn’t know what to think of this gesture from a man she had but only seen for a moment as she tried to get up a set of stairs and into the train. Puzzeled, she took my hand and as she opened her palm she looked and broke into tears. This does not happen in Italy. Almost never does anyone help a poor, African immigrant. Certainly, no one offers to give them an unsolicited fifty Euro. For her, this was no less than a miracle. I know what it is to be an underdog.  I love to deliver the oppressed. It is a thrill to silence the haughty accuser. 

Suddenly, there was a change on her face as she confidently handed the money to the conductor. Stunned by the turn of events and feeling out manouvered, the conductor made the necessary exchange, issued a new ticket and handed it back.

In a moment, when the aisle was clear, the African lady came toward me still flushed with relief and said, “Thank you.” I pointed upward and gave glory to God. 

The chances are good that I will never see her again. Perhaps and who knows, I may see her in heaven, I don’t know. Maybe she was a sister and I was simply there to provide for her need. This one thing I am rather sure of. That night when she returned to her little apartment and her husband came through the door she quickly offered this about her day, “You will not believe what happened! I had a miracle today!”

Larry was keenly watching all of this. He was asking all the way through what was going on. Remember, this is his first ministry visit to Italy so all of the dynamics were new to him. But as the story developed, he was all for it and I felt as though he was God’s one man cheering squad. When it was all done, he did what he almost always does. Perhaps he doesn’t want me to get all of the glory for myself but he stepped in and insisted on paying for it. Ah, ha! another divine moment. I wouldn’t want to have missed either one of them. Just as I was there for this lonely African mom, Larry was a provision of God for me. I love to do miracles with other people’s money. I do it all of the time.