Trip 38 / Entry 24 / The ACCI Gathering

Thursday to Sunday, May 28-June 1, 2014

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IMG_3035Sometime last year I suggested that we have a get together in Italy. Mostly, I thought this would consist of about a dozen Italian workers and some of our staff members. Well, before I got this out of my mouth, Ann had it on the griddle. Within three months Ann had assembled a team of Dawn Mann and Francesco Abortivi in Italy working with her on the idea. Soon, along with about seventy others, board members, missionaries, and ministry partners,  I had an invitation to three days at Spiaggi Romea on the Adriatic coast south of Venice and near Rimmini .  Not much later I was hearing of a large number of takers so in the end we had forty-eight adults and twenty-three children registered.

Sunday morning closing service

Sunday morning closing service

IMG_2962In all, over the weekend, we had representatives from eleven nations in attendance.  On Saturday we had another twenty ministry partners in attendance. Many of these people I had not yet met so it was fun to see how much the work had grown since beginning in 2000, some fourteen years earlier. Besides the Canadian contingent where this all began, we had attendees from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Slovenia, The United Kingdom, and The United States. In several respects, this was beyond my expectation! First of all, I never expected that ACCI would grow to this size and international influence.  Secondly, I never suspected that people would be this committed to the mission and future of ACCI that they would go to such trouble and expense to come together in this way.

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It was obvious to all that there was a tremendous supernatural affection that each member had for the others. From the first minute of acquaintance all seem to feel an affinity and shared purpose to advance the cause of Christ together. There was an authentic collegiality from the first day that only grew as the days went by.

If I died right now… it would have been more than enough.

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Spiaggia Romea is a beautiful resort with everything one can imagine to do. Yet, the spectacular recreational options didn’t seem to attract people. Mostly, I found people in small groups huddled around tables, getting acquainted or visiting with those they already knew.

IMG_2974The meetings were filled with engaging personal and field reports followed by guided prayer where we were able to supportively gather around our fellow workers. There were amazing words of personal encouragement and lots of tears – the kind of tears that left all feeling refreshed and filled with joy. I am not allowed to share the details and anyway, it would all just take too long but the most important thing is that our hearts were knitted together in love.

Trip 38 / Entry 23 / Spiaggia Romea

Thursday to Sunday, May 28 to June 2, 2014

Southeast of Bologna on the Adriatica

Mariela came for us at 11:30 and we packed ourselves into the car with her and her daughter Rebecca for the two and half hour ride toward the Adriatic sea coast.

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IMG_2975We drove into the gateway of this spectacular resort, got registered and went to our rooms to settle in. Before registering we began to get the bad news, there has been a spotty train strike with one of the couples having to come by taxi from Bologna 250 Euro away ($325 USD).  That wasn’t the worst news, another couple while in the IMG_2977Bologna train station, had their bags taken with their passports and money. Surprisingly, both situations were soon rectified. In fifteen years here in Italy, I have never heard of the police returning anything that was stolen or lost. Yet, they got it all back in tact within an hour. No one knows exactly how but we were thrilled to say the least!!! This is a miracle akin to Moses crossing the Red Sea.

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IMG_2993Then as for the other couple forced to pay 250 Euro for a taxi ride? Imagine? There were special donations made to The Gathering and this allowed the leadership team to reimburse those who were out because of the train strike. All in all, it didn’t turn out as bad as might be expected.

Trip 38 / Entry 23 / The Hinrich’s Team

Wednesday, May 27, 2014

Parma, Italy

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With unpredictable jet lag, we were reluctant to schedule a meet up with Ann, Luke and Wendy but by noon we were feeling up to the challenge of taking a pizza lunch with them at La Duchessa in Piazza Garibaldi.

Of course, we have done this before so it was a bit of a reunion. We chatted over pizza and prochiutto and melone  (an in season must) and then went our separate ways.

The rest of the day was spent finding me a pair of sandals and re-arranging our gear for the travel to Spiaggi Romeo some three hours away. Later in the evening I took Jeanne to Pollo Oro (Gold Chicken). This name makes almost no sense at all since there is almost nothing chicken on the menu. Their most memorable items are tomato and olive based stew with coniglio (rabbit) and torta fritta (prochuitto, ham and salami’s stuck between pieces of light deep – fat fried bread). The weather was ideal – a perfect evening and with almost no room for gelato we, nevertheless choked down a single scoop of Nocchiola each on our way back to our room and bed.

Trip 38 / Entry 22 / Collecting Jeanne

Tuesday to Thursday, May 26 – 28, 2014                            

Milan and Parma

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On Monday morning I flew from Alesund to Copanhagen and then to Milano then went to The *Best Hotel (*in name only). It is a suitable 2-Star if you only want a bed and a shower. If I had thought of it, it would have made more sense to stay at an airport hotel rather than shuttle all of the way into the city then back out again in the morning laden with baggage. It cost me twelve Euro but I left my bags in the train station while I went back out to pick up Jeanne who had traveled all night from Charlotte with the Haley family.

We made the connection and then took the shuttle back down to the central train station in Milano, and then went directly to Parma and or Bed and Breakfast at Ducale where I always stay. Giovanni was thrilled to see us and gave us a nice room on the breezy side of the hotel.

Hostaria da Beppe

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

IMG_2910 cropAfter a short rest, Jeanne felt awake enough in the evening to go for amazing risotto at da Beppe just behind our hotel. I have written about Beppe before when last October I ate there for the first time (scroll back). I told her that she just had to do this once before she died. Beppe does everything (EVERYTHING) himself. Parmeseani turn their noses up because Beppe is from Napoli but foreigners have discovered him.  Seated across from us were three tourists from England and within an hour there were at least sixteen others. In one group alone there were ten people to feed all at once.

I think there is an unspoken rule you should know about. If you eat at Beppe’s Hostaria, you must just relax. He washes every dish, sets every table up, then delivers the “liste” and takes your order. Then he goes behind the door which is posted with a clear sign “ENTRATA VIETATO” (Entrance Forbidden). There a mystery takes place. Somehow from his menu of thirty or more risotti and other items, he turns out plate after plate and delivers them to the table with lightning speed. Oh yes, and somehow he serves up the right wine with flair.

Jeanne admitted to being impressed. After devouring his specialty (ham hock – for the specialty “ossobuco di vitello da Beppe”) and a small, but perfectly grilled steak we stumbled back to our hotel three blocks  away. For more information on what people have to say, see Trip Adviser.

“Lord willing…” Ministry and Health PRAYER UPDATE

029HEALTH…

This coming Friday I will go see my surgeon, Dr. Ganem who, after meeting with me, will conspire with his Oncologist friend, Dr. Haake about what to do to me next. Last March 19th., I underwent bladder surgery and came out of that one pleased that there was no cut, blood or pain. I would doubt if he really did anything at all except for the fact that his promise held good, “I can stand next to a twenty year Marine who just downed three beers and put him to shame.” So after almost four months of recuperation they are ready to insert fifty to eighty little radiation seeds into my prostate. Once this is done I am told that for four months I should not allow pregnant women, animals  or small children to sit on my lap. This I am happy to do and will not turn out to be too much of a loss since I can’t remember ever having pregnant women sit on my lap. This is pretty much holds true of small animals and babies as well.

Here’s how you can pray.

1.   Pray that they will be able to perform this procedure. This is the most non-invasive method for someone of my age. Here’s the problem. Unlike most older men, my prostate is smaller and in order to do this trick, there is a certain size requirement. Pray that I’ll measure up.

2.   Next, it takes a while to fry the prostate, killing the cancer in the process. There is no immediate indication regarding the “lifestyle issues” that might follow. As you can imagine there could be a number of inconveniences for one who travels as much as I do. Pray that I’ll be “good to go” in mid-September.

MINISTRY…

EUROPE…

My current plan is to head to Germany on September 15. From there I will go to Slovenia, Italy and finally Norway returning home on or around October 25th.

ASIA…

While in Germany I will meet up with ACCI / NLL missionaries Daniel and Irene Kort who served for five years at the NLL (New Life Literature) publishing house in Sri Lanka.We will discuss our travel arrangements for a possible visit to Sri Lanka, Thailand and China.

CENTRAL AMERICA…

My friend Scott McClelland of FX Missions suggested that we team up for a visit to Mexico and while going that far we would go on to visit friends and ministry partners in Guatemala, Belise, Honduras and Nicaragua

After initiating ACCI and seeing it grow into an international mission – after thirty-seven trips to Europe, I feel it is time for my ministry to shift into the role of Ambassador. This would mean more and varied travel with shorter stays, connecting and building relationships for ACCI in new regions of the world.

Can you help?

RECRUITING THROUGH CHURCHES, CAMPS and COLLEGES…

Should funds be available for travel, I would like to do what I can to continue to enlist new workers for ACCI and other missionary agencies. I am aware that denominations have good mechanisms for recruiting, funding and placing missionaries all over the world. Nevertheless, I have learned that many in denominational congregations are never exposed to the possibility of service abroad, Then there are the huge numbers of  independent churches that need organizations like SIM, OMF, OM YWAM and ACCI as a means of providing mission ministry options. After fifteen years, I believe ACCI does this as well as any other organization and though we are not a good fit for everyone we do make it possible for scores of people to enter the field.

If you (home meetings are incredibly effective) or your church would like for me to visit and talk about the vast opportunities available, just get in touch. If I can do it  I’ll be there.

So then, I am neither dead or retired. Your continued financial encouragement is a great help and by having enough funding, I don’t have to worry about raising funds. This leaves me free to always say, “Yes!, I’ll be there!”

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Beth Bearden’s ESL Class

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IMG_2821On several occasions Kevin, Jeanne and I have been invited to come and share with a class made up of about ten Spanish, two Italian ladies a Persian and Indian, all trying to either learn or improve their English. Beth is our pastors wife and like ourselves has a heart for the nations. On the last visit to the class, about a week ago, I invited all to our house for a party. Most have never been a guest in an American home. Some have cleaned American homes but they have never sat at the table or been a guest so this was our objective. We simply wanted to show them some hospitality. At first they appeared a little nervous but soon, once they relaxed and saw that we were just normal folks,  their cultural personalities surfaced and the  decibels went up considerably.  They brought some really great food items and we all interchangeably shared. At the end of the morning, Jeanne and I had invitations to the Italian homes which as you may know, we don’t mind one bit!

ACCI, IYT, FX Missions and Guatemala

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Last week we had visitors from Guatemala. Actually they were guests of Ecclesia of Rock Hill (Church construction company) and IYT (Invest Your Talents) a business as missions mission led by John Haley, Director ACCI. Collaborations is something we all like to do. Annually John Haley along with the Ecclesia, President, Jeff Whittle and a team comprised of volunteers comprised of a variety of churches go to Guatemala to serve a local church in a variety of projects.

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IHOP Introductory Breakfast

This was my chance to finally meet two of the leaders, Claudio and Eric who were in the city for a few days. This was also an opportunity to introduce missionary Scott McClelland of FX Missions (Ft. Mill, SC) who regularly takes teams into Mexico, central and south America. It’s always fun to meet people of the same minds and hearts and have something to do with joining them hand in hand in ministry.

Teatro Toscanini Concert, Parma

The idea was simple enough. We would rent a well recognized venue, advertise by inviting friends and those we meet while playing short sets of three songs in different areas while on the street.

Teatro Toscanini has about three-hundred seats and for an unknown band and music in English we knew they might be hard to fill. Further complicating the situation was the fact that Friday night at 8 is no easy sell for people who work until 7:30. When it came time for the first song the theater was only half full but knowing Latino’s as well as we do, we expected the room to eventually fill up as it did giving us a respectable audience. Better still, many people, perhaps twenty are more were people who do not attend the church at all. The aim of the concert was to acquaint people with the church and the gospel. It was our hope that members of the church would make new friends.

The concert lasted two hours during which more people came but no one left even though Fred and Joel pulled no punches as they transitioned with the gospel by explaining how and why the songs were written. Francesco had gone to the trouble to translate and print into an attractive brochure the words to about five songs which people were encouraged to read as the band played and sang.

Pastor Aldo Cerasino “texted” me last night with the following comment (I give it exactly as written without grammatical changes).”Good evening, relaxing evangelism, 120 people with about 15 new and other 10 not believe or just born again. Few came from your invitation by street. The aim was to sing to unbeliever, you with have done, winner night. Thanks we learn a lot, we have seen a new system to do. blessing aldo”

I meet some very nice people!

One of the pleasures I have is meeting interesting people of many cultures.

Unfortunately, I often spend entire days going from one “BAR” (not what you think) to another just waiting until a particular ministry appointment time or person is available to meet. Part of my work is to get to know people so I frequent coffee shops (“Bars”) in Italy and other countries. Sometimes I make a new contact but often I don’t and it’s just a way to “hang out” without having to stare at four walls all day. I get a kick out of people who imagine that I go to the beach. My work is often extremely boring and except for the language and cultural barriers,  I could just as easily be in Oklahoma as Italy.

Three hundred meters from Ducale Bed and Breakfast on Via Costinuente in Parma is the coffee shop and eatery, Caffeteria Pulciella (named after the bird not the clown). The owner and hostess Halla Margret is an opera singer who comes originally from Iceland. Her husband and co-owner, Paolo was equally as pleasant to both myself and The North Street Band.

At Pulcinella

Most often they feature classical music but after we were acquainted they invited North Street to play on Friday night and then begged them for more.

I met Halla and Paolo when I came through in late August, drew her picture and then proposed the idea of having the band perform to which she gave me an immediate “thumbs-up”.

Me with Lydia, my new “hottie.”

The main thing is this. While I sat there in their coffee shop, drinking tea and typing blogs, I observed something I had never seen before. Paolo seemed to know every old lady in the neighborhood and would, when seeing one of them hobble by, go over to the window and tap on it. Once he gained their attention, he would wave them in for coffee. Every so often he would actually leave his place behind the bar and race out to get them. One doesn’t see this sort of thing often (especially in Italy) and it caught my attention so I wanted to tell you about it.

North Street Band become “buskers” in Parma, Italy…

Francesco had this idea that we should go out on the street, where the people were, do some music and then hand-out invitations to the Friday night concert. To be honest, we weren’t too sure about this. I had my doubts because when I have tried to hand out invites or tracts, I have been thoroughly turned aside. I think this partly has to do with my being a foreigner and people thinking that, something I might give them would be in English and therefore irrelevant. Nevertheless, since we are guests and committed to supporting the ground team, we decided to try it. At two in the afternoon on Thursday we met on Via Farini, an area where many small cafes reach off of the curb and into the streets under large canopies of umbrellas. Usually at lunch (12:30 to 3:30) hundreds of young Italians sit and stand having their glass of wine, beer along with a Panini or slice of pizza. Regrettably, on this day it was unusually quiet with less than thirty percent of what might normally be expected. In spite of this discouragement, Fred, Joel and Asher struck up the Johnny Cash tune, “Grey Stone Chapel” which arrested people in mid- bite or mid-sip. No one expected to hear what they were getting. While the band went from song to song we (Dave Tysoe, the drummer and I) as well as others handed out invitations to Friday nights’ concert at Teatro Toscanini.

Usually, almost all street ministry is unproductive and often counter-productive accomplishing the opposite of what you hope for. In this instance, this was not the case with people eagerly taking our invitational cards. On several occasions I had conversations with English speakers who expressed their appreciation for the sound and skill. When I told them what we were up to, several said they’d come and many of those promises were fulfilled. About fifteen people at the concert were people we met on Farini and Cavour Streets in the center of Parma. Poor Asher had to drag a double-  base from place to place but it proved to be well worth the effort.

Here, I would like to re-iterate what I have said in other places. In all of my years of street ministry in Italy, this was undoubtedly the best reception I have ever had.

Let me give a little final advice at this point. This would not have been nearly as successful with about ninety percent apparently expressing approval if the band had been less than terrific. This is one of the problems with American style street evangelism (mimes and music) in Italy and Europe. Americans do not yet understand that Europeans are culturally sophisticated and will not tolerate mimes that feature tee-shirts turned inside out as costumes and card board boxes with hearts painted on the side as props.

As important as the audience and message might be, we must buy credibility by doing our best at what we do. Any audience must have some reason to listen to us share our story. Europeans are suspicious of the Church, “Christianity” and religion. They come into the conversation already having a bad taste in their mouths. Creating confidence is the big challenge and few will care about the message unless the messenger is credible.