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Happy New Year!

Buongiorno tutti e Buon anno! Hi everyone and Happy New Year!

We hope that this newsletter finds you well and that you had a good holiday season. We were on lockdown for most of Violet's school vacation, but we ended up having a great holiday. We spent a calm few days at home just enjoying one another's company and the season.

We have had a very good start to 2021 and have big plans for the coming year. Let's get right to the news! 

Kingdom Business Continues Unabated! 

It's been a crazy year, huh? The political situation in the States is...let's say...tense? Or maybe, completely insane would be a better way of saying it. Next month we will hit the 1 year mark since Covid made its first appearance here in Italy. It's hard to believe just how much the world has changed since then. Covid changed many of our plans for 2020 and it has changed how we do our work. But despite of all that the work continues and we are so thankful to you, our loyal friends and co-workers for making that possible. 

We continue to have multiple Bible studies everyday Monday-Friday. It is interesting to me that when we lived in Pohnpei, where people are generally more open to Bible study, we never had as many studies per week as we do now. One of my students, Valentino, had taken a few months break, but he contacted me this week asking if we could study again. I've always enjoyed studying with Valentino and I am glad to continue this study. 

My newest student, Marco, has been a great student and I am enjoying our lessons. He is the boyfriend of Chiara, our Italian tutor who is now one of Rebecca's students. Marco speaks English very well and is one of the nicest people I know. We studied last night and had a very good conversation about the love of Christ. We have both worked in third world countries before and we spoke about how that experience can change your life. We talked about how hard it is to see materialism that exists in so much of Europe and the United States after being with people who have next to nothing. I was able to use that common experience to speak about how Jesus wants us to treat one another and it was well received. Marco, it turns out, went to Brazil to work in a Catholic mission when he was 18. He talked a little about that experience and it was very interesting to hear his perspective. 

I also continue to study with my class in Milan. This past Tuesday, I decided to try and stray from my notes more than usual, instead of just reading what I had prepared. I am so thankful to have such patient students! They were a great encouragement to me and helped me with my pronunciation when I needed it. Thankfully, I didn't say anything so incorrectly as to be offensive (like the time I said the Pohnpeian version of the F word from the pulpit). I enjoy this class so much and cannot wait until they lift the travel restrictions and we can be with them in person again.

Because Tuscanny has been in the yellow zone for a couple of weeks, Rebecca has been able to start studying with Marina again. Rebecca is doing a great job with the studies. Marina seems to enjoy the classes and we are glad that we are able to have her in our home each week. 

We have several other studies going on and we appreciate your prayers for each one. 
Study with Valentino, pictured above and Stefano below. 

An Exciting New Opportunity! 

This past Saturday I received a phone call from an unknown number. When I answered, the person said, in Italian, "Hi Scott! This is Michele (that is pronounced Mick-eh-leh, and is a man's name) from Prato." He said it with such familiarity that I said, "Oh, hi Michele!" But the whole time I was wracking my brain thinking, "Do I know a Michele from Prato?" It turns out I don't know him, but he got my number from one of the members in Pistoia and asked if I would be willing to start preaching for them once every month or two and if I would teach a weekly class for them over zoom. 

Of course, I said, "YES!" I have met one or two members from Prato, but we have never visited there before. Prato is 17 kilometers north of Florence, on the way to Pistoia. The population of the city is just under 200,000. I know very little about the congregation, other than they are, like most congregations in Italy, small with an ageing population. Prato is somewhat famous for having a very large Chinese population. The estimated population of Chinese in Prato is around 45,000 (this will become important in the next section). 

With this addition to our schedule I am now preaching regularly in 6 congregations in Italy and we have students in 8 different cities. That is only possible by the grace of God and your generosity in supporting our work.

We are excited about this opportunity and I look forward to telling you all about our first Sunday with them and our new class next month. 
 
Prato is about a 35 minute drive from our house. We will use an hourly rental car or take the train to get there. 

A Bold New Plan for the Gospel

As I mentioned in the last section the city of Prato has around 45,000 Chinese immigrants. Italy's population is approximately 60,360,000. According to the latest census data around 10% of the population is made up of foreign nationals. However, that number likely does not include the very large illegal immigrant population in the country (for example, in Prato there are said to be about 10,000 legal Chinese immigrants and over 35,000 illegal). The vast majority of these immigrants are poor and struggle to get work because they do not speak Italian well enough. 

Because of the success of our English through the Bible program, I have asked our elders to allow me to develop an Italian through the Bible program. While they may like the idea of learning English, the immigrant population is generally more concerned with learning Italian. Because many of the immigrants in Italy are from third world countries, they are likely to be more spiritually minded than most Italians (this is, obviously, not true in every case. But, as a general rule people from poorer nations are more spiritually minded. That is why the church grows faster in those countries than in the U.S.). 

Unfortunately, right now I am not qualified to teach Italian. I understand it very well, and I speak it well enough to get by, but I am certainly not in a position to teach it to someone else. The University of Siena has an Italian program for foreigners. Each course runs 10 weeks and costs €300.00. The classes meet remotely once a week and each week there are reading assignments and group projects. A friend of mine went through the program and he said it was effective for him. For European languages there is a scale of proficiency. The levels are A-1, beginner, A-2 elementary, B-1 intermediate, B-2 upper intermediate, C-1 advanced and C-2 proficient. 

I can pass a B-1 exam, and could do well on a B-2 exam, but in order to teach I need to be at least at a C-1 level. Since I am unfamiliar with the program and want to make sure I have a good foundation for the classes I have decided to start with the B-1 course. Lord willing, I will be finished with the C-1 course by the middle of Fall 2021 and then I can start to teach. 

I am excited to start this program and I believe it can be a great project for growing the church in Florence and throughout Italy. Please pray for me that I will do well in my courses and I will get to where I need to be.  

A New (to us) Way to Support the Work

I've resisted using Paypal to accept donations for the work because I prefer all support go through the church and then be sent to us. But, several people have asked us if they can send support this way. I finally broke down and set up a paypal account. The way it will work is, if someone donates to us through Paypal I will tell the church and then that money will be deducted from our next pay check. 

If you want to support us that way, rather than writing a check to the church every month, you can use my email address - scottshanahan@hotmail.com 

One word of warning, I do not think you can deduct these donations from your taxes so keep that in mind if you donate money this way. If you do send money this way I will send you an email telling you that it was received. I will copy our deacon of missions and Andrea, the woman who handles our funds at Margaret Street on the email so everyone will know how much is coming in. 

 

...And in Big Girl News

Well, this was a surprise. Violet gets out of school at 12:10 on Tuesdays and Fridays. There is a mall near Florence that, shockingly, has a Claire's store in it. Violet thinks Claire's is the best store in the world, so this past Tuesday we decided to take her there after school. She was very excited because she had saved €10.40 and they were burning a hole in her pocket. We got to Claire's and I jokingly said, "Do you want to get your ears pierced?" She thought about it for a minute and while she was thinking a clerk came up to us and said in Italian, "We have. sale if you buy three things you get three things free. Also, if you want to get your ears pierced we can give you 20% off. Do you want to get your ears pierced?" Violet, immediately, said, "Sì!" Rebecca and I were shocked and I really had no idea she would say that, or maybe I would not have jokingly brought it up. 

Anyway, long story short she was very brave. They did both sides at one time and then Rebecca said, "Did it hurt?" Violet, with a big smile on her face, said, "Just a little." Then her face melted and she burst into tears. It was all very cute and heartbreaking. 

All three of us are doing well. Violet is back in school and learning new things everyday. She is getting good at math, and can read both Italian and English well. Amazingly, she has basically taught herself to read English. She is one smart cookie! (She gets her intelligence from the same place she gets her looks...one of her parents). 

Rebecca and I want to thank you for all that you do for us. We greatly appreciate hearing from you and we look forward to seeing you all again as soon as we can. God bless each one of you!

Scott
 
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