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Buon Natale a Tutti! 

Hello everyone, we hope that this newsletter finds you well. The holiday season is my favorite time of the year and Rebecca and I hope that you all are enjoying the season as best you can. Like everything else this year, the holidays will be a little different, but we are thankful to be together and to have technology that allows us to video chat with our families back in the States. 

December has always been a quiet month for us in our ministry, but we have had a few opportunities to share God's word and grow in our faith. Let us share with you a little of what's happened in YOUR work this month. 

New Student

One thing we are happy to announce this week is that we have added a new student! As you will, hopefully, remember we have been studying with Chiara off and on for about a year. She was our Italian tutor for a long time, and then she asked us to teach her English through the Bible. Chiara has a longtime boyfriend named Marco. We first met him last year and he told me he would also like to become a student. Unfortunately, he got very busy with work and life in general and we were not able to begin studying. Marco is a microbiologist and with the development of Covid he has had to work a lot of hours over the past ten months. I reached out to Chiara last month and asked her to tell him I am still available whenever he is. He then reached out to me and asked if we could start studying. 

We have met twice now and Marco is an excellent student. He speaks English very well which makes studying with him a lot easier. He is a very nice guy and I enjoy our classes. Earlier this year, just before Covid hit, he had moved from Florence to Verona (the setting of Romeo and Juliet) temporarily. However, after Covid began he was offered a full time position in Verona and he took it. He and Chiara are now living there full-time. 

This means we now have active Bible students in Florence, Pistoia, Milan, Vicenza and Verona. We are hoping to add students in Rome, Taranto and Turin next year. We are very blessed to have all of these opportunities and we pray that God will give the increase (1 Cor 3:6). To my knowledge there is not a congregation in Verona. Please pray that our efforts with Marco and Chiara will lead to one being planted there. 


Study with Marco

Making the Most of a Tough Situation

Italy continues to struggle with Covid and we continue to be restricted in travel and our ability to work in other cities. Unfortunately, I was not able to go to Pistoia the last Sunday of November, and I will not be able to go this month either. We were supposed to go to Vicenza mid-November and Rome the first Sunday in December, but we had to cancel both of those trips. But we have plenty of work to do right here in Florence and we have tried to make the most of our opportunities. I have had one opportunity to preach this month, which was last Sunday in Florence. I have also been asked to lead prayers and the Lord's Supper. 

You may remember that here in Florence the men take turns preaching every week. I usually take one Sunday each month. But, more men have volunteered for December and January than normally do so I will not be preaching a sermon in January. As much as I enjoy preaching, I am very happy that other men are also taking an interest and sharing God's word with the congregation. I am reminded of 1st Corinthians 14:29,30 where Paul says, "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent." While we do not have prophets today and nothing is being revealed to us supernaturally or apart from the Bible, the principle remains. Far be it from me to take an opportunity from another man who has a lesson to share. 

One of the men who preached this month is Giuseppe. He is 81 years old and only became a Christian a few years ago. He was one of the first Christians I was able to work with in Florence and he has helped me a great deal. It was Giuseppe who set up my first English through the Bible class and for several months he came to the class to help me. Incredibly, Giuseppe speaks 5 languages: Italian, French, Spanish, German and English, fluently. I do not mean he can say a few words or sentences in those languages. He speaks all of them well. He can also understand several Italian dialects, Portuguese, Catalan and he can read most of the Nordic languages. In other words, Giuseppe is really, really smart.

He has shared lessons before, but his last time he did an outstanding job. After his lesson I told him how impressed I was by his lesson. He said, "Thank you, I am learning to preach by watching you." I was at a loss for words. Here is a man in his twilight years who not only was humble enough to give his life to Christ, but also continues to learn and try new things. It made me ask myself, "What is my excuse for not growing?" I am so thankful for Giuseppe and I pray God will giver him many more years in His service. 

Benevolence Opportunity and Prayer Request

Rebecca is on a group on Facebook called, "Foreigners in Florence." As you can imagine its a group for people who live in Florence, but are foreigners. A few weeks ago there was a British woman who posted something about how she had lost her job and needed a place to stay. Fortunately, she was able to get that taken care of on her own. A week or so later she posted saying she had a place to stay, but had no food and asked if someone could help her. The church here in Florence has a pantry so we offered to get her some food. She was very grateful and nearly cried when she saw how much the church gave to her. We included with the groceries an invitation to come to worship. When we gave her the groceries she said she should be starting a new job soon and would like to pay us back when she started receiving her paycheck. I told her we would not take any money from her, but she was welcome to help someone else when she had an opportunity to do so. 

This week she called me and said she had several articles of clothing that she would like to donate to the church to give away. I explained that, while we greatly appreciate that, the church gives only food not clothing. We talked for a little while and then she asked if a person were able to ask for help more than once. I told her, of course they could. She then asked if we could help her one more time. She is now working and receiving a wage, but she had to spend it on rent for her new place. We told her it was no problem for us to help her and were able to provide her with more food.

When we went to drop the food off she told me she was on her way to the hospital as she was having some difficulties and might need an operation. I do not know what the results of that visit are, but would ask you to please keep her in your prayers. I do not wish to share her name at this time, but God will know who you are talking about. I am assuming that if she needs a surgery that will keep her out of work and she obviously cannot afford to miss paychecks right now. So please keep her in your prayers. We ask that you especially pray that the church's generosity will lead to her becoming a Christian. 

Family Stuff

We are all doing well. Violet continues to do well in school and is excited for Christmas break. Her best friend, Tahlia, went back to the States for two weeks so Violet has been a little out of sorts lately. She has played with a few other kids at school and after school, but she misses Tahlia a lot. On Monday the first thing she said to me was, "Well, I had a weird day at school without Tahlia!" They have talked on Skype most days and Tahlia will be back soon so Violet should be able to make it until then. 

We were able to have a very nice Thanksgiving despite the restrictions that are in place. There was one funny things that happened though. I had gone to a butcher around the corner from our house and said, "I need a roasted turkey for next Thursday."
He said, "Ah, for Thanksgiving, yes?"
I said, "Yes, I need it roasted, because our oven is too small to cook both a turkey and the sides. Are you able to get me a roasted turkey?"
He said, "Yes, no problem!" (You probably see where this is going).
Rebecca worked really hard to get all of the sides cooked and to bake some desserts. I went to the shop at 1:00 and said, "I am here to pick up my turkey." The butcher very happily walked to the back of the shop and came out with a beautiful 15 or so pound turkey. It was perfect, with one exception; it wasn't cooked!
I said, "I asked for you to roast it for us."
He said, "Oh, we don't do that."
Now, I know my Italian is not great, but it is not that bad so I am not sure how we miscommunicated so terribly. Anyway, I brought the turkey home, we ate the sides (which are the best part anyway), then put the turkey in the oven and ate it later with leftovers. The good news is, I have never tasted a better turkey. I am guessing it's because it was never frozen. In any case, it was juicy, tender and delicious. Though it caused just a little bit of stress it was well worth it in the end. Rebecca made a turkey pot pie out of it this week that was amazing. 

Our plans for Christmas and New Years are very exciting. We are going to stay home!The Italian government can't seem to decide what to do in regards to a lockdown. We've been in what is considered the Orange Zone since mid-November. Tuscany was supposed to turn to Yellow last week, but we did not for reasons nobody understands. We do know that all travel between regions will be closed from December 21 through January 7th. But since we are in the Orange zone we are not able to travel out of Tuscany anyway. We are supposed to turn Yellow for a day or so before the 20th which will allow Tuscans to travel on that day (if I understand everything correctly). Everything is supposed to be opened from the 20th until the 23rd, then closed the 24th, 25th and 26th, then opened again until the 30th through the 2nd, then closed again the 6th and 7th. In other words, we'll be locked down for the three holidays coming up (Christmas, New Years, and Epiphany), but not the days between them. It is all very confusing. In any case, we will just stay home, exchange presents, eat food, watch movies and maybe jump on our beds. 

That's all the news we have to share for this month. We hope and pray that each of you will have a great holiday season, and that 2021 will be a great year for you all! (Please don't anyone say, "well it can't be worse than 2020, that's just asking for trouble). 
Hot Chocolate and Antlers
She said, "I'm a princess reindeer, who is also human."
Best turkey I've ever tasted! 
Christmas tree in Piazza del Duomo 
Looking at the Christmas lights in Florence
Our house
My queen and my princess
Carousel at Piazza della Repubblica 
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