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Ciao a tutti!

Hello everyone, we hope this newsletter finds you well. For some reason our October newsletter did not get sent, so this month you get a double issue! It's pretty long, but there is a lot of good news to share. We hope you will be encouraged by it. 


Youth Activities

One of the things we have decided to do since our return to Italy is spend more time with the youth at the Florence congregation. The youth group consists of four kids/young adults: siblings Luigi (20) and Eleanora (15), and siblings Deborah (18) and John (15). The four of them get along very well and are all four great kids. All but John have been baptized. Since there is just the four of them we have been including the 4 Avanti volunteers in our activities too. 

We decided to try and at least eat lunch together after worship once a month, plus do something fun when we can. For October we went to lunch at a restaurant called the 1950's American Diner (this is Violet's favorite restaurant. Until recently she called it the 1519's American diner). They have an extensive menu and pretty good burgers. All of the kids got burgers and shakes or cokes. None of them had eaten there before and they all really enjoyed it.

After lunch we went to an escape room. It was a lot of fun. This was the first time I had been to one. Thankfully two of the kids had done one before so they knew what we were supposed to do. We decided to do the room in Italian, even though three of the kids speak English well. This made us have to work together even more to figure things out.  We did a zombie room and, thankfully, managed to escape without about 8 minutes left on the clock. 

In November we decided to just eat lunch together. Unfortunately, all of the Avanti volunteers either had plans or were sick that weekend, so it was just Rebecca, Violet, three of the kids (Luigi had to work) and me. We also invited Giacomo as he has worked with the kids in the past. The kids wanted to eat sushi so we found a place close to the building. It was a great meal, but even better, a very good time. As I said these are all really good kids and we all get along well. 

In December we plan to have them to our house for dinner and a game of dirty Santa. We look forward to getting together with them each month and hope that we will be a good influence on their faith. We were very happy in November when Deborah and John's mom said, "The kids were very excited to come to church today!" 

Please pray for these kids, by name, and our efforts with them. 

Preaching/Teaching in Italy

In October and November I had the opportunity to preach in Florence and Pistoia and teach Bible class online for the Milan congregation and in person for the Prato congregation.

In Florence I asked the members to allow me to preach a youth focused sermon every first Sunday of the month. They all agreed saying that they think it is a good idea. The lessons are for everyone, but with topics that are particularly of interest for the kids. In October I preached on the example of Daniel and in November I preached on, "Let no one despise your youth." For that particular Sunday we had each man of the congregation get up and preach a special prayer for each individual member of the youth group (and a couple of others who do not attend) and then for the final prayer we prayed for the younger kids. It was well received and everyone was happy to participate. 

In Prato I am teaching a class once a month on the book of Acts. Every second Sunday of the month we are going to worship with them and I teach the class. It would be better if I could do it more often, and they have even asked me to come two Sundays per month, but we would take away from other congregations if we did so, so for now we are just going there once a month. The class is going well so far. 

In October when we went to Prato after worship we went to the home of Michele and his wife. Their adult daughter, her husband and their two sons joined us. The meal was amazing, and the company was very good. The only problem was there were 5 courses and I ate too much for each course. The meal was an event and we were there well into the late afternoon, but it was a great time and a great experience.

I preached in Pistoia the last Sunday in October. The attendance was low because most of the women were at a Women's Retreat. Rebecca was there too, so it was just Violet and me. We had a good worship service and my lesson was well received. When I got up, since most all of the women were gone, I told the men, "Today I am going to preach on how women need to be more submissive." They all got a good laugh out of that (I actually preached on how we, as men, have to be faithful.)

My classes with the Milan congregation on Tuesday nights continue to go well. I am teaching the book of Genesis. Though the class does not meet until 9:00 PM, and I am exhausted afterward, it is the highlight of my week. The brethren are so encouraging and the study has helped me learn more about Genesis, and has improved my Italian. Lord willing, we will be with them for worship the third Sunday in December. 

Bible Studies

All of our Bible studies continue to go well. We have multiple studies every day of the work week. The one I am most excited about is my study with Fabrizio. We meet on Wednesday nights at the building. Why I love this study so much is because it is not an English through the Bible study. It is just a Bible study. Fabrizio is very interested in learning about the Bible and the church. We have covered a variety of topics, and just recently studied "What must I do to be saved." One of the good things about this study is that he also attends the Sunday services regularly. This is usually a good sign (if a person won't come to worship when we are studying together, in my experience, they normally will not attend faithfully even if they are baptized). 

Even more exciting is that Carlo has recently started to join us for the study. You might remember that Carlo started attending worship last year after contacting us and stating he wanted someone to walk with him on his faith journey. Having Carlo in the study has been helpful because he speaks nearly flawless English and can help me when I can't think of an Italian word or phrase. Fabrizio does not speak any English at all, so sometimes I can miscommunicate if I am not careful. 

Please pray for all of our studies, but especially the study with these two men. 

Trip to Colmar France

In October we decided to take a trip to the city of Colmar, France to visit Aaron and Betsy Palmer, who work as missionaries there. You might remember that Rebecca's immigration was finally finished in September so now we can travel out of the country. 

We first met the Palmers through social media and had been following their work for some time. They moved to France about the same time we moved to Italy. We have talked a couple of times through video calls, but had never met face to face. Colmar is 7 to 8 hour drive from Florence. We decided to pull Violet from school and went up on a Thursday morning and returned after worship on Sunday. To get there you have to go through Switzerland, which might be the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life.

The trip was just fantastic! Colmar is a nice little town in the eastern corner of France where it meets Germany and Switzerland. Culturally they are probably just as German as they are French. The town and surrounding areas were nice, but the best part of the trip was the time spent with the Palmers. 

There is simply not enough good I can say about this family. Aaron and Betsy are doing a tremendous work in their little corner of France. They have two daughters, aged 3 and 6 months. They moved to France, under the oversight of the Crieve Hall congregation, all by themselves and started a congregation from scratch. Aaron has had many studies with people in his area and the attendance for worship is around 12 most Sundays. They have had at least one person to be baptized. They told us they had actually wanted to move to France with a team, but they could find no one who was interested in moving there and learning the language, so they decided to go on their own. We thought about how it is too bad our paths did not cross earlier or we may have gone there instead of here. But if God wanted it to work that way it would have, so we will just keep on doing our work here in Italy. 

Most of our time in Colmar was spent just visiting with the Palmers. One of the very nice things about the visit is that we are very like minded both doctrinally and in regards to how to do mission work. A great benefit of our time together was that Aaron introduced me to the resource of World Bible School. It is through WBS that Aaron has gotten almost all of his studies. I have, as a result, just met with a director of WBS and we are going to start using that program in Italy too. (More on that next month). 

We only got to spend three days with the Palmers, but it was a great experience and we hope to see them again soon. Please keep their efforts in your prayers. 


Ladies Retreat and Bible Study with Alice (by Rebecca)

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a great fall and will experience a wonderful holiday season to follow. When we returned home from the USA, we were immediately busy, bombarded with school, studies, and church work. It felt good to get back in the swing of things.

In the middle of September, several of the ladies of the church from various congregations in Italy, came together in the Tuscan country side for a retreat. It was held at a large villa, on a hillside. Don't let the word "villa," trick you into thinking it was fancy or expensive. A "villa," in Italy, is just a large house. It can be old or new, fancy or plain, contemporary or run-down. This particular villa is old and is now set up with bunk bed quarters and basic restrooms with showers. It was a couple steps up from summer camp. Thankfully the weather was gorgeous that weekend and not too hot or cold, with sunny days. We came together at different parts of the day for singing, Bible study and prayer. I do not like being away from my family overnight, especially for more than one, but this was a good experience for me. It was good for my exposure to the Italian language, to meet some of the sisters that I had never met, and to strengthen my relationship with the ones that I have met. I especially enjoyed my time there with the sisters from Milan. Even though I really have only ever met them a couple of times, I feel a warmth and bond with them. I cherish my relationship that I am developing with all the sisters in Italy, and I hope that it will only strengthen in the years to come.

I have several English/Bible studies going on, but the one I am the most excited about is my Chinese student, Alice. We met Alice because her daughter, Rebecca, was a classmate of Violet's for two years. We were invited to an outing with them one day, and Alice asked me if I would teach English to her. I explained to her that the lessons would have Bible study in them. She was hesitant at first, but then agreed that she would do it. Alice spent her young childhood years in China, but then her family moved to Italy when she was a teenager. Her husband also has the same situation, strong Chinese roots, but moved to Italy when he was young. Her husband, Mirko, doesn't speak any English at all, but is fluent in Italian, as they both are. They are a very affluent family, so it's a much different experience than my Bible studies i conducted in Micronesia. 

I go to Alice's house every week for her lessons and her little two year old daughter runs around while we chat and do the lesson. I have discovered so much about Alice. When I first met her, I couldn't see far beyond the designer labels, the materialism,  and the secularism of her life. I have found out that she is so much more than that. I discovered that she was raised in the Buddhist faith, and though she doesn't strongly hold to those traditions, she respects the strong spirituality of her grandmother. I have also discovered that she has questions about Christianity, about the Bible and that she has watched videos on YouTube about Biblical events, just for the sheer fascination of it. She asked me one day about the Tower of Babel, did I believe that that was really the beginning of diverse languages. I explained to her that since I believe in the Bible, that yes I do. I also told her that many just think its a myth, a fictional story. She said to me right after that, that she thinks she believes it. The next week, I showed her how the ancient Chinese character for boat, has what means eight people in it, like the story of Noah. She was shocked and told me that she shivered. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We have many deep conversations, and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. I don't think she's close to being saved. I know that we have a long way to go. Part of what we have learned over the years in doing this, is that you just teach those who give you that opportunity, and you don't stop till it's clear that you have to. God is glorified every step of the way, and if they choose to obey, that is up to them.

It is so good to write to you all and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued support.


Family Stuff

We are all doing well. We had a nice Thanksgiving with just the three of us last week. We let Violet take the day off from school and we mostly just stayed home and ate. Rebecca worked very hard to make us a nice meal and it was delicious! After dinner we put up our Christmas tree, which Violet was very excited about.

For Halloween Violet decided she wanted to dress up as a scary fairy. She put on an old fairy costume she had and then Rebecca made her up. She ended up looking pretty frightening. Halloween is really a new thing here in Italy, but it is really starting to catch on. We went to the center and Violet and her friend, Tahlia, went around to the different shops and restaurants getting candy. It was a lot of fun.

Violet is continuing to do well with her violin lessons and last week she started taking a theater class her school offers on Wednesdays. She has enjoyed the first two classes and wants to continue. She is doing okay in school. Her Italian has greatly improved, but she is not doing so well in math. We have a lot of work to do, but I am sure she will catch on soon. The most important thing, to me, is that her teacher says she is the most well behaved and polite child in the class. 

We had one very interesting experience this month. As you may know we have one olive tree in our yard. Last year our landlords told us when to harvest them and we did it ourselves. This year, one afternoon, we saw our neighbors (the brother, sister-in-law and nephew of our landlord) out in the yard starting to pick the olives. Violet saw them and said, "Can I go out and help them?" We let her do that and then went out too. We had a great conversation with and picked a lot of olives. What was best was seeing Violet be so comfortable with them and hearing her talk to them in Italian. She has really become proficient at it. 

Thank you all for all you do! We will write again soon. 
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