Trip 38 / Entry 37 / Meat in the heat

Sunday, June 8, 2014

 

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After a long drive into the mountains we arrived at a small house with cars parked along the side of the road. As we made our way into the yard we saw young men playing football (soccer), while older women sat talking under tall poplar trees trying to stay out of the sun. There was not a hint of a breeze.

We were invited inside the one room house to change into our casual clothes in the bathroom but when we went through the door we were immediately arrested by the air conditioned interior and the couch along the wall. We sat and waited our turn as we watched six Spanish girls chop tomatoes, lettuce and cilantro. We regretted to hear that the bathroom was now free, we could change our clothing and go out under the roof or the trees with the other forty hot, sweating people. Being the oldest people in the crowd allowed us few special privileges.

Outside the unfinished, three sided building was empty except for two guys playing ping pong and three others standing around a grill turning mounds of meat. I wasn’t surprised to see our guests and my Brazilian friend from Portugal giving a hand. Brazilians, barbecue and meat are synonymous. After what seemed like a very long time due to the heat and the lack of shade an incredible sit down meal was laid out for about forty or more people. We all had more than we could eat and frankly, some of the food had to go home with folks as leftovers. Bacon chunks and rice found its way to the table and almost always does when Spanish or Brazilians are prepping the food.

It was a wonderful time of fellowship and since I didn’t know everyone attending I took up a conversation with five people who were apparently unbelievers but I didn’t know so they all got plan “A” as I explained the purpose of apologetics by presenting several examples which caught their attention. For one thing, I talked about it means to have a Christian worldview and what it means to be human (Imago Dei) and the meaning of the fall using the text, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Indirectly many of my comments were affirmed though as it often happens, once the conversation gets too deep some retreat into obvious but utter silence.

In reality though, this is the most effective method for doing evangelism in a gospel resistant culture like Italy. The party model where Christians having a good time are put together with non-believers is most convincing since people can see the gospel before they ever hear it. The chances that any of these unchurched friends will find themselves in an evangelical church anytime soon are beyond remote unless they have prior positive exposure to the message or messenger(s).

 

Trip 38 / Entry 36 / The Last Day of Mnistry

Sunday, June 8, 2014

1,300 nights on the road

Perhaps some of you wonder why I go to this trouble of writing 36 blogs over a period of seven weeks? There are a variety of reasons but probably the most important might be this, it is a way of document my missionary journey. I doubt if anyone will care once I am dead and gone but for me it is quite interesting to have this history now documented over eight years or more in some 470 small vignettes likely been missing from my bed for at least 1,300 nights over the last thirteen years so this all stretches into quite a story for a boy from small town Oklahoma and Kansas.

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Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano

I wound up the seven weeks on the road in my home church in Europe where I have such old and good friends. This morning we had an attendance of around one hundred twenty or so in the sanctuary, so altogether, there were probably 150 in attendance when the children are added.

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This church has pretty much what it needs from parking to sanctuary and classroom space. It also has the advantage of good music and leadership. I mostly just sit back and enjoy it all until it comes my turn.

IMG_3239Today, I preached a message I have been carrying with me (something I think folks need to hear), “Disappointment with God.” What’s the meaning of disappointment? What does God have in mind by putting his people through it?

It all went well and I gave no real altar call but it almost always turns out people came for prayer for various needs and this morning two couples who happened to attend for the first time came with the intention of serving God in this church. There were several others. I love the openness of Latin people. It is so difficult to move a comfortable American by any appeal. 

 

Trip 38 / Entry 35 / Fidenza Outreach

Since I was to be picked up in Parma at four for a new church street project outreach in Fidenza we went back to Parma in time for a short rest and getting picked up by Francesco. Off we went.

It was a terribly hot in the afternoon without a breath of air when we arrived in Fidenza at about five-thirty. We parked and walked the four blocks to the city center where there was a festival. In Italy almost anything that features a balloon is called a feste.

Fidenza

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It wasn’t hard to find our outreach team. There were about fifteen young people from various nations gathered in a loose circle enthusiastically singing to the sound of a strummed guitar and another fellow beating on something that served as a drum.

The Brazilians

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10296994_733365286686696_4521078741189322577_n (1)Almost ten years ago I made about three subsequent visits to Portugal where I connected with Brazilian, Free Methodist missionaries to Portugal, Cindi and Eduardo. They had now come from Lisbon, Portugal to Italy and Parma, renewed acquaintance and be introduced to the Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano leadership. Two new Brazilian workers who feel called to Italy, Moses and his wife, Jacione have been in Portugal establishing EU residency for this very purpose. Ten years haven’t seemed to make much difference in Cindi and Eduardo and to me they looked the same as when I left them. They also brought along another pastor, Cida whom I had met but frankly, hadn’t come to know because of the limitation of language for both me and her.

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After so many years we enjoyed reconnecting and promised to talk more on Sunday when we would have more time to socialize but for now we had to go to a service where I would preach.

IMG_3212The evening was shared by a band from Brecia that had come down to help. Even in the heat, they certainly held the attention of the audience with lively music interspersed with testimony and videos.

Trip 38 / Entry 34 / Alberto and Karla’s

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Leaving Jeanne in the B and B for a couple of hours, I went down to Pulchinella (a coffee shop) to meet Pastor Aldo. All along it was planned that we would carve a little time to talk about recognized ministerial training for a new generation of pastors and the anticipated growth of biblical Christianity in Italy. We were together until noon until I rushed off to get Jeanne and go to Karla and Alberto’s for lunch.

The color coordination was a total accident!

The color coordination was a total accident!

Pietro

Pietro

Karla is married to Alberto and she is Kevin’s sister. Kevin is an Italian living with us and attending university. Karla and Alberto have a little baby boy by the name of Pietro and Jeanne wanted to see him so we got a free lunch. Karla cooked up gnocchi followed by salad, potatoes and a rolled Parmesan styled chicken item stuffed with pancetta and mozerella.

Trip 38 / Entry 5 / Milano to Ljubljana

Friday, April 25, 2014

JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES…

Note: Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy are much larger than protestant evangelicals. Perhaps only Islam and Occultism is larger.

I am now in Ljubljana and it took most of the day by train and car from Milan. As I arrived at the Milan train station early I had about forty minutes to engage the three Jehovah’s Witnesses at their Watchtower stand. I can only say it was not a good day for the JW’s. In fact, and this has never happened before, I countered everything so well that when I looked at what appeared to a “Newby” who had been intensely listening and told her to “get out now – it is a mind control cult”, she handed her magazines to the spokesperson and walked away. Perhaps she was late for work but by the way she listened, I don’t think so.

JEWISH COUPLE…


It didn’t end there. By divine providence a fair haired young man and his wife (I think his wife but who can tell anymore) spoke to me in Italian and took the reserved seats next to me. They turned out to be Israeli’s living in Milan. Now how do you think this ride went??? They got off at Padua and I went on to Mestre but I had a good time teaching Judaism to my Jewish friends. Pray for Nir and Inbal.

Trip 38 / Entry 4 / Lake Como and Emily

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Emily being Italian and taking a call

Emily being Italian and taking a call

I have a young friend in Milan serving with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). I first met Emily in Budapest when I taught at a week-long YWAM DTS. At first I thought of Emily as just one more of the sixteen or so young people in the building. Then on the first Monday it was Emily’s turn to prepare lunch and after the morning sessions we all made our way upstairs to the kitchen where Emily was making fresh tomato sauce, listening to Andre Bocelli and stirring a huge pot of spaghetti with a wooden spoon. I thought, this girl is in Budapest but she has an undeniable Italian heart and as we got better acquainted this became clear. Since that time, more than five years ago, I have stayed up with her.

I do listen, see.

I do listen, see.

It turned out that I eventually connected Emily with other missionary friends in Italy the Dilles where she stayed for a while. Now we have other friends in common so it was quite unsurprising for her to get a text message from me asking, “What are you doing tomorrow? Do you want to go up to Lake Como for lunch?” This is the kind of invitation that a young, poor missionary could hardly resist and so the answer came back quickly and arrangements were made to meet at the train the next morning at 8.

ThougIMG_1952h Como is a must destination, in all the many times I had been in Italy I had never gone. We spent a couple of hours walking then stopped and had lunch overlooking the lake on an unimaginably perfect day.

IMG_1949The conversation mostly centered around outreach methodology and the nasty subject of raising support.

 

IMG_1963It was a terrific time and later that evening after she did her English outreach class we went to Restorante Da Oscar where we enjoyed an amazing meal.

IMG_1964Whenever I have opportunity, I try my best to do evangelism and since Oscars is one of those places where you are squeezed up to those at the next table we became acquainted with the English speaker who was curious about us. While we worked our way through my incredible Frutti d’Mare and Emily’s Tagliatelle con Salmone in creamy pesto sauce we shared worldview with Nicola.

Treating those who could not normally afford this sort of thing to a special dinner out is one of my ministry privileges. Let me suggest that when you go on holiday abroad you find out who might be serving in that area and invite them out. Both of you will be encouraged and blessed.

Trip 38 / Entry 3 / Milan, Italy

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

LionelIt didn’t go as I had hoped. Once and a while jet-lag will really leave me spinning. Arriving at Malpensa Airport at 7:30 in the morning, I took my own advice and tried to stay up all day until a reasonable time to go to bed. This should allow me to get onto the Italian clock.  I checked at my hotel by 10:30 but since my room wasn’t ready, I left my case and took to the street. I kept my eyes pried open by going for walks, drinking coffee, having gelato and eating supper.

At nine I turned in but to no avail. It was three in the afternoon, Charlotte time. I tossed, I turned, opened the balcony door, closed the balcony door and took benedryl but my mind raced. I suddenly felt completely isolated and even worse – stupid. Why am I doing this?  I could be in my own room at home. This bed is hard, the room small and the streets are loud. This isn’t a new experience for me but no many times you go through it, it never gets better. I should know the drill by now. I have often had moments of regret and anxiety.

Around one in the morning Italian time, I made the decision to call Jeanne and get her in my corner. She answered, we talked, she prayed, I hung up, put on my clothes and went down to the small lobby.

I had seen him earlier. Even in the brief encounter I recognized this young Filipino to be a believer so I asked him. Lionel was as bright as a penny while answering my question. He had been converted in Milan about two years before and attends the “Jesus is Lord” church, a largely Filipino congregation of some seven hundred people. The fellowship proved to be just the shot in the arm Io needed and an answer to prayer.

I realized that I had heard of this church before from Filipino friends that attend Smyra Bible Institute in Norway where I teach. As I mentioned one of the Filipino student’s names he looked it up on Facebook to discover that while Lhyn (yep, with an “h”) was in Norway and he in Milan, they had between them forty-eight mutual friends.

With this nice visit (better than benedryl) I went to my bed and fell asleep. I felt assured that all was well and that the morning would look different.