Thinking Globally…

We are committed to building relationships and inviting God’s Kingdom to be present and real in lives here in Italy. We stay in touch with friends from all over Italy, we chat with our student friends from the Bible College, and we pray for the churches that God will do amazing things in Torino, Roma, Milano, Bologna, Venezia, Verona, Bari, Palermo, and beyond!

  • We also stay connected with students (and others) who are from other cultures. We met with our Tun1si@n friend for pizza last week; she is “on the way” to discovering Jesus. We do online devotions with our Madagascar friends every day. They are growing in love with Jesus. Each day is a chance to do life with them.
  • When this journey in Italy began nearly two years ago, we asked (and continue to ask) the Holy Spirit to open doors to serve from Italy and into other nations. On Easter weekend, Susan and I will join Doug and Joan Dorman and several “catalyst” thinkers who are poised to join the movement we believe God is creating among the many European nations who have, somewhere along the way, abandoned Christian discipleship. Our goal is to expand our influence in making disciples who will increase their influence by multiplying disciples.

Please pray for this key meeting in Geneva with leaders from several countries that we will hear what the Spirit is saying. Pray also for N. and P. (our Malagasy friends, and for M. our friend from Tun1si@.

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Living the City Life…

How would you change your life if you found yourself in a city of 300,000 people from multiple cultures who speak different languages – and 1/3 of them are either students, faculty, or immigrants & refugees? Here’s what we prioritize:

  • Invest time intentionally. We shop mostly the same stores so we can see the same faces and be in their lives. Cristina served us pizza last night – we know her kids and some of her life dreams. We now have a relationship over which we can build a bridge to the Gospel.
  • Invite and engage. In April, our Christian Dance School friends from V.O.W. will visit us for cultural and missional work (dance in the piazza, teach dance to children, visit the hospital children’s care wing, as well as outreaches to internationals and refugees. We invite students to visit and live with us for 3 weeks to 3 months for ministry, discipleship, engage in a mission.  We also invite teams of 4-14 people to come for 7-14 days for short-term mission work.  (If you are interested in Mentorship or Short-term Missions, let’s begin the conversation!)
  • Take it to new levels when we can. This week, we (meaning Susan) had the bright idea (and brilliant) to decorate our apartment building foyer for Giornata di San Valentino. Colors, hearts, streamers, signs, and the name of each resident with a chocolate heart greeted each person here when they walked in or out the next day. And we build on our relationships. Yesterday, the check-out person at our closest grocer asked us why we moved to Padova or even to Italy. We got to share with her and talk about why we are here. And we take the conversations deeper.

So, now you can pray for us: that doors open when we knock, that we know when and how to take the conversations to new levels, and that we can build bridges to the Good News about Jesus.

A Local Focus…

We changed lanes recently in a major way (some of you know this or read about it in Rick’s blog) – we are now worshiping and serving with the leadership and pastors at International Christian Fellowship (ICF).* Additionally, we worship as often as we can in the evening at the Italian Baptist Church (IBC). This stretches our ministry impact with immigrants, refugees and the academic community broader than ever before in our city of 300,000!

  • (From both of us). We get to “hang out”  (and lead the Bible study on occasion) with the students at The Gathering. Last week, there were 15 different nationalities and we treated them to an American dinner.) We’re both planning how best to help them reach their friends at the university.
  • (From Susan). I was invited to lead worship at the Giornata di San Valentino women’s event after word got out I play guitar and sing (I’m blaming Rick). I enjoy the opportunity to encourage women from multiple cultures in their walk with their husbands and their pursuit of Christ.
  • (From Rick). I have become a fill-in guitarist on Sunday mornings with the worship band. More importantly, I am helping to develop the discipleship strategy and curriculum for new believers and newcomers for ICF.

*(From both of us). Many of you know that, when we first moved to Padova, we began serving and worshiping with a small church called Calvary Chapel-Padova (we were number 10 and 11 on our first worship service with them.) After 1 1/2 years with our friends at Calvary Chapel, and after much prayer and counsel with mentors, pastors, and friends, we determined our work there had stretched beyond the place where we could encourage and contribute to growth and success at CC-Padova. We love and treasure our friends there and stay in touch however we can. We also stay solidly committed to our local church community.

Hoods down; masks off

For the first time since the Sixties (when I was a teen) race conflicts are consistently above the fold and lead stories nearly everyday. I understand that the battle for racial equity is just that – a fight. Ongoing, understandable. Uphill, yes, since as a white guy, I don’t always understand the nuances in interactions that can be triggers for racial offense.

I get the obvious, since I grew up in the South and heard the racial jokes, felt the attitudes of superiority, and saw businesses close shop when a black family wanted to take advantage of the goods or services offered. And I was abhorred by it all. It was wrong and I felt the hurt all this caused – at least, from the white side of the exchange.

But this is more than just about being offended, or not getting one’s way. People offend people. And none of us are entitled to getting our way.  It is about values and respect. And above all, principles. No one person is less because of color, cultural origin, creed, or choice of lifestyle. They should each be valued as they are by God…period. More unpacking about this another time.

If this Ferguson, and now Baltimore, conflict is about principle, then stand for you principle.Don’t hide in the darkness. Say what you need to say in the public square, not with bricks tossed from behind a burned out car or with your own hurtful slurs; but with honest, from-the-heart dialogue. And build a coalition of people who want to help bring equity to the community.

I hurt for the parents of Michael Brown, and for Darren Wilson who has the weight of shooting him hanging over him for a lifetime. I hurt for Freddy Gray’s family. And I hurt for our cities and nation.

Don’t settle for hiding hoodies and masks or behind the pundits who claim to speak for us. Live out the principles of fairness and compassion and mercy we each, black or white or latino or wealthy or poor or Left or Right, are called to extend.

And above all, take down the hoods and take off the masks. If you want your voice to be heard, let your face be seen.

Believing the Best,

Rick

Collateral Damage

It’s almost Easter again (2013) and the Cross gets the headlines in churches and news-blogs. Most of us relegate crucifixion to the Gospels, but what about today? Men will be crucified on Good Friday in the Philippines as a sign of desperate devotion (one woman joins the parade of the crucified – her fifteenth time – hoping for a miracle for her sister.) The cross as execution tool is still used against Christians (and other betrayers) in the Muslim world. Egypt, Iraq, Indonesia and other nations have had recent crucifixions to punish the infidels.

For some, this is collateral damage to show the world that Islam rules. Or in the case of the Filipino devotees, a way to display a profane dedication to their God’s holy demands. For many, it’s a religious sideshow. For this Christ-follower, it breaks the heart.

The message of the Cross is simple, liberating, life-altering, and resolves the soul’s deepest cravings… for those who believe. For those who deny or oppose, it is a foolish thing for anyone to think God would take on the pain of the Cross for a barely worthless person. Such an idea would trip up the rationale of anyone with the sense the world gave him or her.

In some ways, the collateral damage that hurts the most is the sacrifice willingly made by the Son of God. (Maybe we should, at least around Easter, feel the pain of what God allowed in the crucifixion.)But beyond the Cross (and really for the Cross) Christ-followers have been willing to sacrifice themselves to show the message of the Cross to generations of cultures. Some have been willing participants of collateral damage, crucified or otherwise executed for the Message… a part of the legacy of getting the Good News to the world.

Collateral means parallel or alongside of, a good picture of what we as Christ-followers do in sharing the Good News with others through our lives, prayers, resources, gifts and talents… and of course, our words. But collateral also means payment or bond or guarantee (as in bail money).

The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is the bond paid forward and offered to be received by faith. And the sacrifice you and I make to take this Message that is so offensive to some in hopes they will received the gift? We may or may not be a part of the collateral damage, but it’s worth the risk and the reward.

With a view to the Cross,

Rick

Cracked Logic

Few times do crackpots become more visible than presidential election year in America. Jonathan Maxwell ran some years back as the candidate for the Vegetarian Party. Vermin Brewer is a candidate again, always campaigning with a large rubber boot on his head (haven’t gotten that metaphor yet). And a guy named Tim wears his Santa Claus hat while promising to cut taxes – because that’s what his spirit guides have empowered him to do! Oh yeah, it does get a bit crazy.

The clearly crazed aren’t the ones who scare me, though. It’s the undercover insanity that causes the real problems. Candidates promise to deliver the very gifts that we value in the US – freedom, provision, relationship, happiness, security – while ignoring the very God who gives these things. That should be the wake up call.

A prophet from the Old Testament named Jeremiah gave a wake up call to his nation:

“For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
that can hold no water at all!

His nation had chosen to install in the place of the God who really provides, a system of wells and holding tanks that would provide water in times of drought, war, and want. The problem? Nearly invisible cracks would leak out the life-giving water into the surrounding dirt. The illusion this gave? You can have all the good stuff God promised (safety, quenched thirst, water for crops, etc.), but without the need to follow after God! Just trust in my system!

I’m not on a rampage against irrigation systems or crusading against preparing for future problems. But, laying systems of safety and provision apart from acknowledging God as the one who provides and is our safety? That’s cracked logic.

Oh, the dangers of building security apart from reliance on the God who secures. Jeremiah called it two evils. Departing from God, and trying to replace God with a system. Can we see the cracks in this logic? Do you see the dirty ground water rising around the cisterns?

Filled up and spilling over,

Rick (John 7:38)

Telling the Greatest Story Through Art

Can the Arts take a significant place in global missions through OM? Field and area leaders from Europe invested a day discovering how professional artists are effectively declaring the Gospel through the Arts on the mission field.

Leaders from Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Central Europe and the Ships took part in the OM Arts Forum in Mosbach, Germany on November 23, 2009. The participants explores how the Arts can be integral to the mission of reaching the world for Christ and how artists can be effective colleagues and team members at the OM field level.

OM Arts Director Bill Drake led the forum and defined the vision and growth plans for the newly formed OM Arts International.

Drake addressed how an OM field can embrace Arts Ministry as a part of the field’s direction, how to best communicate Arts in the field’s vision, and how the field can lead, care for, and release the professional artist to fulfill their missions calling.

Consultant and Arts in mission catalyst Colin Harbinson led the forum participants through a Bible study of Bezalel, the artist chosen and called to work with Moses to create the tent and elements of worship commissioned by God on Mount Sinai.

Harbinson reminded forum participants that Bezalel was called and filled with the Spirit for the work of creating art for God’s glory.

Artists who are called to missions can be released to create art with excellence in the context of the OM field. Harbinson encouraged the need for professional artists in missions and warned that “art done poorly communicates poorly.”

Quoting writer A.W. Tozer, Harbinson affirmed that, “Christians are obligated to excellence because God is supremely excellent.”

OM Arts will work with field leaders to identify artists who are ready to serve in missions and help the fields and the artists to prepare to establish unique arts teams.

A leadership training seminar for artists preparing for missions will take place in Rome, Italy in conjunction with Transform 2010 in July. For more information about the training seminar or about OM Arts, contact info@arts.om.org.

Street-level Missions

What’s the best thing for short-term missions leaders to do after four days of training, planning, and meetings?

Go on a mission trip, of course!

Twenty-five Global Challenge leaders from Europe and the Mediterranean region plunged into the middle of what has been called the largest daily open-air market in Europe to share Christ with Italians, and immigrants from the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Porta Palazzo’s market fills nearly a square kilometer of piazzas and side streets with furniture, clothes, fish, vegetables, flowers, home appliances, shoes, cheese, jewelry, pirated movies… and most importantly, thousands of immigrants.

The team set up a market tent each day with several tables filled with Bibles, booklets, DVDs addressing faith in Christ, as well as boxes of winter clothes. Hundreds of internationals and Italians received Bibles and a chance to hear about the Good News of Christ personally from a team member.

Jill McAfee, a worship leader from the USA described, “Some people from our team would stay at the tent and talk to people who came by.  Others went out to talk to people.  One group came with me to different locations where we just sang and worshipped.  It was very cool.”

“I enjoyed watching people on our team, who normally wouldn’t be able to share freely, having the chance to share openly about Jesus.  It was beautiful. The atmosphere was different…freer even.” McAfee explained.

The outreaches were organized by OM-Italy and local churches and the team was joined by META (an Italian evangelism organization) and members from several evangelical churches in Turin.

Language barriers can be a problem at times on short-term trips, but this team came prepared with skills in French, Arabic, Italian and several other languages.

Tim Barlett, a Global Challenge leader in the Balkans, said, “One of the greatest thing was to have so many varieties of languages ready and available to talk with the people who visited the booth.”

For six days, the market is set up for normal trade and it closes down Sunday. However, the sidewalk fills with a different kind of market for Sunday as Arabic music fills the air and various items are displayed on sheets of cloth or cardboard.

The Sunday vendors, mostly men, visited the outreach tent and openly discussed the claims of Christ with the team members.

One employee from a Turin museum argued by declaring aloud to the team, “Convince me! Convince me!” Team member and Italian Field Leader Eliseo Guadagno recalls “I just kept coming back to the Cross and to his personal need for forgiveness in Christ.”

Not long after this discussion, one Italian man asked Guadagno, “Who won?” Short-term missions leaders would say that, after the tent was packed and the few Bibles and booklets remaining were boxed and loaded into the van: “Christ, and His Kingdom won.”