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Slowly Getting Back to Normal

Buongiorno a tutti, We hope that this little newsletter finds you all well. Before I get into this month's news let me ask you for a favor. Can you please let me know if you receive this? I just recently had someone respond from a newsletter that I sent out several months ago that they just received. I have made no changes to the addresses, but it looks like not everyone is getting our news, so if you'll let me know if you are receiving our newsletters it would be very helpful. 

We are doing fine here in the lovely city of Florence, the birthplace of the renaissance (and some people too!). Life is still a little different since the lockdown, but things are getting somewhat back to normal, or we are getting used to our new normal. We still have to wear masks when we go anywhere (Tuscany, the region that Florence is in is unique in that it is one of the few places that is requiring masks outside), but that is just a minor nuisance and we are still very thankful for the freedom to move. 

One of the best things about the lockdown being over is we can worship together as a congregation! There are a few members who join us online as they are either older or in poor health and keeping themselves isolated, but for the most part everyone is at the church building. The first Sunday we were able to worship together was just beautiful, and I think we all appreciate the fellowship that we have now just a little more. I've noticed each Sunday that we are spending a little more time chatting with one another before and after services. 

One interesting thing that happened before the lockdown ended was that we had two Sundays in which multiple congregations worshipped together on zoom. The first one seemed to be mostly congregations in the North, but it went so well that we all decided to do it again the next week and more congregations participated. I am not sure how many people were involved, but I'm fairly confident there were over 100. 


Preaching in Florence and Rome

Since we are now meeting as a group I've had opportunities to preach in both Florence and Rome this month.

In both places I preached a lesson based on the idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute prior to becoming a Christian. We read every verse in the New Testament that mentions her by name. I noted that not only does the Bible not say she was a prostitute, it says nothing at all about her life before she met Christ other than she had been possessed by seven demons. We then examined how the rumor that she had been a prostitute started (it was Pope Gregory who first stated it way back in the 6th century) and the mistakes in Bible study that led to this wrong conclusion. The point was that we MUST read and study the Bible for ourselves and not rely on other people to tell us what the Bible says. The lesson was well received. Several of the members told me they had always just assumed this rumor about Mary was true and were glad to learn that she was not. Several also told me that this illustrated well the importance of studying the Bible for yourself and they would take this more seriously. 

I am hopeful that I will have more opportunities to preach in Florence and Rome, and also that I can start preaching again soon in Pistoia. 

Bible Studies 

All of our Bible studies continue to go well. It can be tough to schedule things in Italy during the Summer because people take extended vacations. Some are on vacation for all of July, or August or BOTH! I don't know how they afford it or get the time off work, but in any case that is the way it goes. However, this years seems to be a little different. Because of the coronavirus lockdown people have less money or time off so we have been able to have most of our studies. 

As of now all of our studies are online, except one that Rebecca does at home with her student Marina. Marina is a Russian woman married to an Italian man. They have a four year old daughter named Maria. Marina comes to the house every Friday for a study and Violet plays with Maria in her room. The studies are going very well and Rebecca is developing a closer relationship with her. Also, Violet and Maria get along very well and they seem to have fun together. 

One interesting thing is that every time they come over Marina brings a gift. Usually a snack or dessert or something, but last week she brought an alarm clock with Elsa (from Frozen) on it for Violet. We assume this must be a part of the Russian culture and have determined that if we are ever invited to her house that we will bring a gift. 

We are trying to set up more studies. I am going out during the day to pass out cards and see if I can find people interested in studying. Please pray that we will find more students soon. 

Hopeful Signs

There have been a few things to happen the last few weeks that give us hope for the future of the work here. 

First, a couple from Torino was baptized the week before last. I want to emphasize that we had absolutely nothing to do with this. But, the reason I want to report it here is to ask you to pray for them and because baptisms are rare here it is always a joy to hear of one. From what I understand the couple, Luca and Marianna, came in contact with someone from the church and were interested in learning more. They studied with a man named Franco online and decided they wanted to be baptized. There is no congregation any where near them so they took the train to Pistoia and were baptized there. We are trying to get their contact information so we can call and maybe make a trip to their home to meet with them and help them get started in their walk with Christ. I think they are worshiping with a congregation via zoom. 

Second, a couple from Peru who live in Milan have been studying online with some missionaries in Peru and they wanted to be baptized as well. There is a congregation in Milan, but the missionaries in Peru did not have any contact there. They contacted us and we put them in touch with one of the men of the congregation and I am almost positive that they have been baptized now. We have their contact information and are working on getting to Milan to meet them as well. We are hoping that they have contacts here in Florence that we can work with. Please pray that, that works out. 

Third, two ladies came to worship with us in Florence three weeks ago and have visited every Sunday since. One of them went to Harding University in the '80's so she has some connection to the church. We are not sure why they decided to start visiting, but we are glad they did. They are both very kind and we hope to get to know them and encourage them to study. 

All of these things show us that there is an interest in the Gospel here, we just have to work hard to find opportunities. Please pray that God will give us opportunities and we will make the most of them.  
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