Time. Something happens to it. It keeps disappearing. I don’t know how or where exactly it goes, but it seems I no sooner turn around and it’s gone. Or maybe I’m just moving slower, and time seems to speed by. Anyway, I decided if we’re going to have a Winter 2016 News Update, it’s now or never!
And our biggest news is that we’ve joined the church!
“WHAT??” you wonder. “Shouldn’t missionaries already be in the church?” Well yes, and we were — in the sense of the great universal church…
But since moving to this southern area about 6 years ago to plant a church, we’ve been without a church family. We knew this work would go slowly. Italians are suspicious in general, and especially of anything non-Catholic. And the mountain villagers most of all.
So yes, we knew it would be slow, though not quite this slow. And people often ask, “Aren’t you discouraged?” Our answer is, “Yes, and no.” We get discouraged when we see people around us dying without Christ. And facing life’s difficulties without the Lord’s marvelous help. And discouraged because when we share our faith they say, “That’s nice,” but are too afraid to grab hold it for themselves.
But our earlier 20 years here were great preparation. And we have enjoyed fellowship elsewhere. We often visit the church we helped plant and pastored for 11 years in Emilia Romagna.
And shortly after moving here, we got a call to help start a church in the Lazio region. And until that group got well established, we visited at least once a month. We also got calls from around Italy for teaching and help. So the frequent travels helped fill in for missing fellowship. But the outside work has dwindled some.
So these two missionaries have joined the church!
We often visited this church (where Mario has also preached), in a larger town about 45 minutes away, in-between travels. It’s a vibrant, growing church, with a good mix of older and younger people. The pastors Giovanni e Fiorella (John and Flower), pictured above with their daughter Gloria, do a great job. And we’re pleased they accepted us as members.
It’s a new experience for us to simply be church members. We’ve almost always held some leadership role ever since first coming to Italy. But all we’ve ever wanted is to serve, both in and out of the church. And we pray the Lord will help us simply be good servants, and an encouragement.
News from the Northern Church
We made at least 3 trips up there since our last news update. Two of them quite special! The first was for the baptisms of several youth, including our two oldest granddaughters!! What a joyous day. But sadly, we didn’t get any photos. I was hobbling around with a cast and crutches, and Mario was up front helping with the baptisms. We’ve got to remember to get some from our daughter!
Then we also went to ordain church elders. And did get photos! (It’s amazing what one can do without crutches!) Such an encouragement to see this couple, Giuseppe and Loide (Joseph and Lois), growing strong in the Lord. And we’re sure they’ll be a great help to the pastors there and a blessing to all the church.
Please keep them, and all these dear folk in prayer. They are such a blessing and encouragement to us. And to all the people around them!
The refugees we work with have become like family.
We no longer hold church meetings with them. At our 1st camp they manage just fine without us. Which is wonderful! We still visit there, though distance and time make it difficult.
They transferred some of the men from the 2nd (closer to home) camp. Leaving a handful coming to church. So with the help of a brother in our new church (Luca, with New Tribes Mission) we take them out to church. And Luca also picks up others from a 3rd camp! They like going, and it’s good for them to have more exposure to Italians.
One young man, in particular, has become particularly attached to us.
Joseph, ill-prepared to live away from home, and to handle the small stipend refugees receive, got drunk and violent. And as it was his second offense, they threw him out, sending him to another city for a hearing. Where he learned he couldn’t go back to the camps, leaving him on the street with no documents and little money.
So he came back to our city, thinking to call us for help. At which point, we bought him a McDonald’s meal (it was late), and brought him home to sleep here. Many have said we were crazy to do so. Many say it lacked wisdom. All we could think of is, “What would Jesus do?”
So we set up a camp cot for him in the dining room, closer to the pellet stove, as he was frozen through. He felt scared and worried, but we yelled at him anyway, hoping to keep him stop doing more stupid things. He seemed to think that little cot was a luxury bed, and was ever so grateful.
We couldn’t keep him here, and he needed to get somewhere where he could receive better help. So we got him a ticket for Naples, as a friend of his said he’d keep him, which didn’t work out. But to make a long story short, we had him go to the Catholic relief aid. And we’re thankful he got in with a good priest (who is also a lawyer!!) who let him sleep in the church. He’s been in their Caritas center about a month now. And if all goes well, should get a 6-month document this week.
We did so little, but he seems to think we saved his life. But we just send him to Jesus. He’s the only one who will always be there for him, and the only one who can really turn his life around.
The needs among the refugees are so great. But the authorities don’t really like us helping them.
When unsure what to do about Joseph, Mario took him to the police (who also handle immigration issues). They wanted to arrest Joseph, but didn’t because Mario has done interpretation work for them. They also told him to stop helping the illegal ones or he could get arrested.
“Arrest me then,” my husband said. “Because I will continue to help anyone who comes to me. And my door will always be open.”
We cannot, with good conscience, leave people outside to freeze to death. Or send them away hungry from our door. If feeding and helping others is a crime, then we are guilty. But we think of people like Corrie ten Boom, and knowing we’re in good company, will continue to do it.
Seems like I could go on and on today. Life is full, with busy days. But we don’t want to take too much of your time, other than to leave these special requests with you…
Special prayer requests:
I could use special prayer, as I’ve pulled a chest muscle. Even breathing hurts, and it’s worse laying down. Between pain and lack of sleep I feel a bit worn out. But don’t worry, I’ve learned to not move the sofa-sleeper alone any more! 🙂 As Johnson, one of our African immigrant friends said while visiting, “Mama, you are not so young any more!” He’s right; sometimes I still think I’m 20!
And we’d also like you to keep our Summer Base in prayer. We need to get down there. We’ve just lacked time. And we still haven’t solved the heating problem there. That shut-up house is like a freezer! We need to buy a stove! But we hope to get down around Easter time, or soon after.
Let me close simply asking you, as always, to keep us and the people we serve in prayer. That we may always be a blessing, and ever pleasing to our Lord.
Know that you are each special to our heart. We appreciate all the words of encouragement, the giving, and most of all the constant prayer. We couldn’t keep on with out it, and you are very much a part of anything we do here!
Love in Christ,
From Italy — Mario & Sheila
Thank you for joining us… We pray God will pour his grace and peace out on you!