Posts Tagged ‘ferrara’

ferraraSitting at breakfast this morning in Ferrara, Italy, I had time to reflect a little on the whirlwind trip that Sherrylee and I have just completed in Italy.  It started down south in the boot heel and finishes when we fly from Pisa to France.  During our six days so far, we have been in contact with six churches, meeting with their leaders and often having an opportunity to speak to the entire church, to talk about their work and if LST might be of any help to them.

In virtually every case, we found Christians who wanted to grow, who wanted to be a brighter light, but were faced with significant challenges.  I don’t suppose that is much different from most smaller churches anywhere in the world.

We also met some wonderful Italian saints:  Pino and Evalina, Angelo, Alessandro, Paolo, Umberto, Marco, Luca—these are just a few of the names that I can spell, but there were many more sweet people.

And I don’t want to neglect mentioning the wonderful American couple that we met in Florence, David and Debbie Woodruff.  About five years ago, they gave up their comfortable life and home in the States to take on the work of directing the Avanti Italia program.

Avanti Italia was begun in the late 80s by former Italian missionaries to encourage young Americans to give two years of their life in missionary service, specifically in Italy for the encouragement of the Italian Churches of Christ.

The program was housed in the former Florence Bible School building in Scandicci, just outside of Florence.  I don’t know how many young people have gone through this program, but surely, each one has had a life-changing experience.

Different directors have had different programs, but they have all included outreach among the Italian young people, service to the Italian churches in the vicinity, and service to the community in general.

David, the current director, told us that the seven current Avanti Italia workers offer English conversation classes to about 80 people currently. In addition, one day a week they are encouraged to just pick someone they have met and spend extra time with them, developing a deeper relationship.

And another day each week is “work” day, when they let their hands do the talking.  In the last five years, with the help of their workers, the Woodruffs have completed much of a needed remodeling and updating of the Scandicci facility.

Maybe therein lies part of the answer for why anyone would want to go to Italy to do Christian mission work.  What sense does it make to go to one of the most “Christian” nations in the world?

Houses fall into ruin over time. Even those houses that are lived in and maintained need a fresh look, a renewal.  Our experience in countries like Italy is that

  • reading the story of Jesus again is a special blessing to many who would claim a church, but who have never really read the story for themselves.
  • A relationship of a deeply committed Christian can encourage a weaker or nominal believer to a closer walk.
  • Some people have never personally chosen faith in Jesus for themselves. Our conversation may be the first time they have ever been asked whether they really believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
  • Some people know the story and are true believers but they have never experienced the family of God as it can be experienced in a small congregation, where every member is known and cared for.
  • Every country has those who come as guests or visitors and who are not part of the Christian tradition at all.  Two of the young people in the church in Ferrara were born in Ukraine of Russian-speaking parents, but have been in Italy since they were small children.  They are thankful for those who told their family about Jesus and did not assume that everyone knows who He is.

I know of no church that is not plagued by human frailty and error. I would not presume to know when God blows out candlesticks.  I tend to lean more toward Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

I’m thankful for this week in Italy and for every Christian here. 

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