One of my best catches ever…

A mosaic from San Marco in Venezia

When I read Acts, I am always surprised how things went. Paul would go into a city, preach in the synagogues, get thrown out, in the process win a few folks, pray for them, appoint elders, commend them to the Lord and move on. Some time later he would come back “to see how they do.”  For the most part, they seemed to do alright.

Today, we marshal everyone into discipleship classes, mentor, train and maybe after thirty years we have a mature believer. In the first century, the Holy Spirit just taught people into leadership. Often there was no Christian formation of any kind except perhaps in a few places like Antioch, Corinth and Ephesus.

On Wednesday, still in Ljubljana we woke up at about 4 in the morning and got ourselves ready and out the door by 5:30 on our way to the train in Trieste and on to Venice where I promised the Norski’s a day along the canals. I told them to get a map which would be of little use and back to the train station by 3:30 for our trip on to Parma.

Piero e mi

I took Aurora with me, bought her a pizza and called my friend Piero Pugiotto who had, by divine coincidence, (or so he thought) the day off from the Hilton where he works as a concierge. In no time he was there at Piazza San Marco. As we walked and talked I could tell that Piero continues to grow in faith, grace and knowledge.

About seven years ago and before he was married to Natasha, before he owned a home or had a son, Cristiano, I was introduced to him by a former student of mine from Brazil. She had met Piero on the internet while doing research. She had given up on him as he was argumentative and seemed to intellectually corner her time after time. I didn’t look forward to spending hours on the internet arguing with an Italian that wasn’t fluent in English. We wrote back and forth enough that Piero became fluent. He would say this and I would counter with that and so it went, parry-thrust, parry thrust. 

Finally, I said Piero, I’m coming to Venice could I stop by, we meet and have a face to face talk about all that you object to? He was very happy with the idea so we met in front of the Venice Central Train Station. We walked and talked and in process learned to really like each other. In fact Piero is like a son to me and I a father to him. Now that he is married I include Natasha and Cristiano into our little family. After several similar visits, Piero committed his life to Christ and though he has never gone to church (there are no churches except for a Filipino), doesn’t attend a Bible study and has no Christian friends, he is clearly a growing and committed Christian with sound biblical convictions.

After all, this is the work of God and not man so no one should be surprised. Isn’t this how it should be? Should we have to badger people into Christian belief and action? I have an opinion. Don’t I always have an opinion? If someone doesn’t want to be a disciple you can’t make him or her one with a thousand, fill-in-the-blank study booklets and if they intend to be a disciple no one is able to stop them. Such is the case with Piero. He simply made up his mind where he would stand and it wouldn’t matter where he was or what support systems he had available to him. I have invited him to Parma to give his testimony next Sunday.

Entry 26 Venice and the Pugiottos

Venice and Pioggia, pioggia, pioggia…

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tony RetouchSome of you may know that I first became acquainted with Piero through a Brazilian friend who introduced us over the internet. Piero had about a billion questions and whether my friend didn’t have the answers or tired of the questions remains to be known. All I know is that he eventually handed off to me and apparently I was convincing enough that he invited me to meet him in Venice at the train station on my next trip through the region. At that time, Piero was a single man about town and known by just about every life- long Venetian. I did meet him and in the short time that we had we walked the streets, along the canals, had lunch, then finally sat on the steps of a cathedral and talked about , what seemed to me everything that had ever popped into his mind. In the end, I must have come out on the best side of the conversation because over the next several years, Piero warmed to the idea of Christianity as a life and eternal option.

Rain, rain, rain…

Venice 11 09 09 007

Venice on a rainy afternoon

On one of my trips he came with me to Parma where he met my friends, Aldo and Mariela along with many of the church members. During the same period he took a trip with his father to Brazil where he, once again, encountered Christians who shared their faith with him.  All the time I was noticing a warming of his heart toward the idea of being a follower of Jesus. On his second trip with me to Parma he made a clear commitment to Jesus.

Pugiooto's cropped

Piero, Cristiano and Natasha

Piero’s  new wife Natasha is Moldovan and Russian Orthodox (one of those, “I was born Russian Orthodox and I will die Russian Orthodox”) types. Yet, now it seems that I am like her father and she treats me this way. She insisted that I have supper and stay the night. She calls me Anthony and I like that. She loves for me to pray over the meal and bless them and their house. I have given her the gospel in Russian and I wait to see. Piero is always explaining how Russian Orthodox is not in the question, in the end, systems will mean nothing. I believe with Piero that circumstances of their coming together were so providential that there is nothing that will keep her from becoming a full-out Christian. It is my view that I could not have wished for a more lovely mate for my friend.

Venice 11 09 09 028
Piero’s Apartment on Isola Judiaca

Natasha posses every Christian virtue.

Can you imagine? Piero has no church or Christian community to rely upon and yet he has grown exactly as he should. He gets most of what he knows from the internet but it is amazing to me that with all of the stuff he could land on, he seems to have come up with the right stuff. At first he had issues concerning the exclusiveness of Christ but now he is clear on this and even while working as a concierge at the Hilton and surrounded by people of various faiths, much atheism and homosexuality, he appears to have emerged as an undeniable witness to the gospel. He gives credit to God for every improvement in life of which there have been many.  I still believe that there is something more in store for this young couple.

After a delicious cena di sera (supper), exhausted, I went to Cristiano’s room fell upon the bed and awoke at six with the sounds of Natasha readying herself for work.  Later, after Cristiano started to complain, Piero got out of bed to make me breakfast and visit until I went by water taxi to the train station at ten in the morning.