Two-degrees and roundabouts

One of my favorite quirks about living in Italy was the roundabout (la rotonda). Just between my house and the nearest real city, there were seventeen. The reasoning of the Italiani, why use stop signs when you can create a circle everybody can use at once? I loved the dance that happened in urban roundabouts when there were four lanes circling a statue dedicated to The Fallen … and five entry points. Ahh, the adventure and the danger!

When we left northern Italy to return to America, we felt the weight of a complete life turn-around – it was like a roundabout we chose to enter and knew it would spill out back toward America and, specifically, my hometown of Myrtle Beach. And it did.

After a conversation with a good friend, I realized that, with the return, much of my library is still in Italy, in the hands of fellow missional’s. One of the books was a John Trent title – The Two-degree Difference. This was one of many “only read the first two chapters” books; the premise is simple. Make two-degree adjustments in your actions, posture, life direction, habits, etc., and before long, you’re heading the right way.

While I agree that we need to make right choices and move toward health – spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and otherwise – it may take a greater act. Adjusting actions by small degrees is the way we are told to replace bad habits, but how boring is that!

I like what Jesus said, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Not two-degrees. More like 180-degrees.

There is incredible power in the simple act of turning around. An about-face unleashes God’s power to change. The get the presence of God’s Kingdom face-to-face with the act of turning.

What about the two-degree principle? It may be that in our act of repenting God reveals the next thing to change, or it may be that we have gotten “out of habit” with the practices that make life richer, and by all means are worth restoring. But if it’s sin, it deserves more than 2-degrees. It deserves the full 180!

I like what Jesus said to Peter even though he knew there was a major fail in his future: “I have prayed for your Simon, that your faith will not fail, and when you have turned back (read: repent), strengthen your brothers.”

Turn from sin. Yearn for God. Return to the things that matter.

From the Rotonda,

Rick

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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.”

One Person’s Perspective on the Outreach to Porta Palazzo

Below is a report from someone who is serving in the Middle East living the Christian life among friends and serving the culture in Arabic. To hear her tell the story in person was moving!

AM I IN ITALY OR NORTH AFRICA? – Italy
One OMer recalls her experience reaching out to people in a crowded Italian market:

“We were dropped off at the market place, and I stood in amazement at the great number of North Africans there. We were still busy unpacking the books when one Gospel of Luke was already picked up! I smiled and greeted people in Arabic. They would stop and turn back, surprised, and then would take almost anything I offered them. We had good talks with some people; others just wanted the books and DVD’s. Others were not interested at all. It was an emotional time because people were so open to hear and know more. Many walked away with a Gospel of Luke!

“Torino is truly a mixture of immigrants. At times I was sad to see how desperate people were for drugs, and yet we were right there so eager to offer them eternal hope. Later, we walked around in groups to intercede for these people in the biggest market in Europe.”

Please pray that OM Italy is able to reach Italians and immigrants with God’s love. Pray that those who received the literature would read it and desire to learn more about Jesus.

Praying for the City

Who wouldn’t agree that we need to pray… a lot… when we are faced with the insurmountable. But, “we need to pray” can become a phrase we say to segue to “the real work” of evangelism, servant-hood, social help, etc. Or it can at time sound tired, and almost empty, as if it’s the best we can do since the situation is, after all, insurmountable!

OM-Italy is convinced that the real work of ministry alongside churches, of servant-hood, of redemptive social help, and especially of declaring the Great News about Jesus, begins and ends with prayer.

“Our goal is to pray in preparation for ministry and outreach, pray throughout the campaign, and pray for the results after we pack up the tent, fold up the boxes, or put away the face-paint. We want to surround the ministry of the Gospel with prayer,” said Rick Harrell, discipleship leader for OM-Italy.

A recent cool Monday night, Rick and members of the OM-Italy team drove into the center of Turin to the Piazza della Repubblica to pray. In two weeks a team from all over Europe will join a dozen evangelical churches in an outreach campaign in the center of this busy piazza.

The area, locally called Porta Palazzo, is filled with high rise buildings of flats that surround the piazza and line nearby streets and alleys. The dense population is split among Chinese Buddhists, Moslem’s from various countries of Northern Africa, and a modest mix of various other nationalities, including Italians. Christ’s name is heard infrequently on the streets of Porta Palazzo.

Market day, everyday in Porta Palazzo, Turin, Italy

This night, however, the name of Jesus was heard, praised, and lifted up as the team moved from one corner to the next worshiping and interceding for the city, the churches, and the outreach campaign.

The format was simple with just a few words, or tags, to guide the prayer time.

Praise, to remember that God is Lord of this City. He is worthy of worship even in places other gods are honored. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and highest praise is due Him.

People, to remember that there are people groups, or “ethnos” clusters, that live here and need Christ. And more specifically, there are families, students, marriages, seniors, children, singles, widows, businessmen and women, all on the edge of eternity – and Christ left heaven to rescue them.

Pictures, to remember that God speaks to us and reminds us visually of what He has done, how He works, and what He delights in and longs for in this city. An image or metaphor brought to mind can be a catalyst for faith and prayer when we intercede (the Bible is full of these pictures, by the way.)

Promises, to recall that He has assured us that He will move on behalf of His children, and that He is active working in hearts and lives, even in the inner city of Torino.

Powers and principalities, to remind us that the enemy has designs and influential activity in the center city, that we need God’s Spiritual Armor to advance His kingdom, and that we can take the city for Christ.

The Italian word, inondazione, describes the growing prayer strategy of OM-Italy. “We want to flood the city with prayer before, during, and after the outreaches. Already, we see a coalition of churches who are reaching into Porta Palazzo multiple times this year. We want to see the churches and pastors join us in the streets and piazzas as we all intercede for the city”

OM-Italy invites you to join them in praying for Italy, for Turin, for Porta Palazzo, and for the outreaches planned on November 11 through 13.