03.23.11

Hanging out with the guys

Posted in church, Newsletters at 8:24 am

Every now and then the subject of a “guys night out” comes up in church. We usually go to Maurizio’s apartment (which overlooks the Adriatic and is beautiful in the summertime) and order pizza or fried seafood or something else “manly.”
Last weekend we were just sitting around and stuffing our faces with seafood I’ve never seen before, when Matteo said something that really surprised me.
He turned to Daniel, who was recently baptized, and said, “Even if I didn’t believe in the Holy Spirit, after seeing the change in your life since you were baptized I would have to believe in Him.”
I have heard statements like that about Daniel from others in our church as well. The change really has been dramatic to watch. And it’s not like he and his wife were these horrible “sinners” before. They have been believers for some time, have attended our church for years, and just recently decided to show their obedience to Christ by getting baptized. But there is an intensity to both of them now. Their lives have a different purpose, there is something (someone) inside of them that is changing and transforming them.
It’s really an incredible thing to be a part of. To see someone take their first, hesitant steps as a new Christian makes the work “worth it.” And (between you and me) I’m pretty sure it’s about to happen again very soon with another couple in our church!
As summer gets closer we’re starting to think more and more about our home service. The tickets are purchased and we’re starting to fill up the time with visits with churches and supporters, family and friends. We have lost some support since our last time in the US, and need to raise about $1,000 per month. Kyle, our teammate, faces an even larger deficit. If he isn’t able to raise the funds he needs, we will have to seriously consider whether or not he will be able to return to the field. And we need him here!
We often hear from missionaries that serve in other countries who are facing rough times financially. The economy stinks all over. But God’s Kingdom is much stronger than any IRA or stock market index. We believe in the work here, we believe in seeing the people of Ancona experience a change like we’ve seen in Daniel & Simona. And we believe that God will continue to make our work possible. Will you join us?

03.21.11

I Think We Missed the Point

Posted in Ancona, church, culture at 11:46 am

The season of Lent started a week or so ago. It’s a preparation time for Easter, when many will fast by giving up certain foods, hobbies, entertainment, and other pleasurable things. So naturally, to prepare for this season of fasting (which begins on Ash Wednesday), the faithful invented Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). The thinking is, if we’re going to have to give up a bunch of stuff for six weeks, we may as well live it up the day before.

This guy knows how to party

This guy knows how to party

We went to a Martedì Grasso festival at a nearby town that is known for its yearly parade. It was a lot of fun. Silly string and confetti were everywhere, and there is an annual competition to make the most elaborate float. Some were as tall as the four-story buildings that lined the parade route. Most had kid-friendly themes like Disney characters. But one had the theme of “Italia Sexy Party” complete with topless, 20-foot-tall paper mâché dancers. A really great thing to explain to your 12-year-old.

It really got me thinking. Doesn’t it bother anyone that we have a whole holiday devoted to “sinning” before we get down to business and be serious and fast and stuff? I think seasons where we devote more time to growing in our faith are a great idea, but it sort of shows our true intentions if we precede that time with a bunch of last-minute goofing around before the clock starts.

In our city, the Mardi Gras parade was held last Saturday, a good week and a half after Lent began. If that doesn’t show how unimportant Lent is, I’m not sure what does.

03.07.11

Winter Doldrums

Posted in Ancona, church, Newsletters at 9:35 am

Last year I did some studying on the season of lent. I found that even through the cold and nastiness of the winter, I really was enjoying watching God’s plans laid out before me. We’ve heard it all before, I guess. You have to go through the Winter in order to get to the Spring. The cold comes, the wind blows and beats against the house, oh wait … that’s another story.

All kidding and cliches aside, the seasons do happen for a reason. Have you ever stopped to notice the fast pace of life to which we have grown quite accustomed?  What happened this year when many were forced to take snow days? Did you feel like you had to practically sit on your hands in order to stop, relax, and enjoy your time?

But, I believe that God made our world this way for a reason. A huge, undeniable, illustration for all of us. The weather changes, the leaves fall, the rain comes, and we are forced to slow down. We long for times in a quiet chair with a blanket, a book, and a hot beverage of choice (coffee, of course). Then, colder temperatures come. We must spend more time indoors. While we are spending time inside, we are watching everything die outside. Flowers and plants are dying. Trees have no leaves, and often dead, dry limbs fall making room for new growth. The ground lays dormant, but something is happening. And, just when we can’t take it anymore, we see it. The first bud on the tree. The first sign that the roses made it through the winter after all. The first truly warm, sunny day. Joy comes to rest for a while. Sunshine and warmth fill us.

I need the winter. I didn’t think so before, and it doesn’t always make me happy now, either. But, I slow down. I look at people’s faces more. I’m less distracted. It is cold. It is even scary. It is often sad. Dreary. But I would never appreciate the spring if I didn’t have to live through the winter. I wouldn’t appreciate the sunshine and flowers if I hadn’t just experienced darkness and death.

Surely we’re all experiencing a little darkness. But, oh what joy comes when God reveals Himself in the Springtime of our lives. May you usher in a beautiful season of growth in your life. Please pray that our little church here in Ancona can experience an Amazing Spring of growth and wonder!