Three things that change the world

Blame it on the inevitable process of aging, blame it on having kids, blame it on some major health problems in my not-so-remote past…or maybe just plain laziness (it takes a lot of work to be lazy)… I’m always looking for ways to be efficient with my energy and time and resources.

Eva

Fortunately, I don’t have to feel guilty about it because even the Apostles had to prioritize their time! Do you remember when they had to STOP doing things in Acts 6:2 in order to focus on the things that made the most difference?

With a growing ministry, the risk of burnout is great, both for us as missionaries and the people we serve with at Centro Evangelico Battista.

An Italian, Vilifredo Pareto, summed up this idea of how to do the best things, observing that as a rule of thumb 20% of what we do makes for 80% of the results.

So we have had to ask ourselves:  “What makes the greatest difference in our life and ministry?”

Our prerogative certainly cannot be too far off from what the apostles considered their main priorities.

The body of Christ has many responsibilities and commandments to follow, but at the end of the day there are three things that we cannot stop doing if we want to obey Christ and make the greatest difference.

  1. Preach and teach the Word of God
  2. Pray
  3. Share Christ

1. Preach and teach the Word of God

2 Timothy 2:15

This summer I had the opportunity to finish our preaching series from the book of Ephesians.  How exciting to preach on the armor of God from deep behind enemy lines!
I was also privileged to spend over a week teaching spiritual disciplines as part of a discipleship course that my good friend and mentor Giorgio De Angelis hosted in his church in Torino for young people from all over Italy and even Albania!

This weekend instead we will be hosting the Exegesis classes for men from our church and other surrounding churches.
Please pray as we identify and train men for pastoral and teaching ministry.  With the majority of the cities in our region still unreached, there is no time to lose.

2. Pray

Ephesians 6:18
Call me a broken record, but our life and ministry depends on prayer. As a church we just made an big decision: we moved our main prayer time to Sunday mornings after the worship service (the time traditionally set apart for Sunday School.)  If people can’t come on Wednesdays, can we afford for our church to not have a well-attended prayer time?

We concluded our study on Ephesians gathering the entire church in a circle in true Baptist Mid-Missions fashion (story for another day), praying for us a church to be united in being faithful servants of the Gospel, of God and of each other.

All the great works of God since Pentecost and even before have been bathed in prayer.

3. Share Christ

Ephesians 6:19-20
One of the most frustrating things is to evangelize until we’re blue in the face and yet not see conversions!  God must have heard my prayers of frustration…this summer we had two unexpected blessings.  In one of our “Sunday school prayer times” I prayed with a young teen in our church.  We will call him David. I asked him about his faith and he prayed to be saved on the spot!  Even more than that, in July Melodee and I had the joy of being together with Noah when he prayed to receive Christ as his Savior!  It just doesn’t get better than that!
This, plus the reminder of Ephesians 6:19-20 has convinced us further that we need to pray for boldness in our witnessing.
Every day we are out with people we love and care about, and we desire for them to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Every day people are going to hell because Jesus Christ is not their Lord and Savior. 

Every day people are hopelessly trying to get to God by their own strength.

PLEASE PRAY FOR BOLDNESS!!
Drop everything else and pray for boldness in sharing our faith!
Pray for opportunities to meet with unbelievers to study God’s word.
Pray for open doors.

Thank you for what you do to make a difference here in Italy!

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Summer is an interesting time in Italy…if traditionally we had a “siesta time” (to borrow a Spanish term), in many ways summer feels like three months of siesta.

It’s understandable because of the sweltering heat and the fact that many people chooses to go on vacation during this time.

However, there has been little siesta for us. Despite having to give up our Radio Luce radio frequency because of the maintenance costs and diminishing gifts (it cost us $5,000 a month to run), we have not really had time to slow down.

We had a WONDERFUL vacation Bible school in June, after school go out, continued teaching and preaching and ministering to people here.

VBS 2019 Staff “Treasure Island”
Venice with Mimi and Pappy

As a family we will be able to take a week off, then back for a wedding of a couple in our church and preparations begin for fall ministry already. The kids have enjoyed time with their grandparents( including grandparents from America!!), reading and playing!

Saturday I head to Avigliana (Torino) to participate in a discipleship course. They have asked me to preach and to teach on the subject of Spiritual Disciplines. I now have three days to finish preparing the course, so I need your prayers!!

Thank you for your prayers!

Pray for this weekend!

I sat down to work on my Bible Study for Sunday about an hour ago.  Compared to preparing a sermon it’s not nearly as challenging…yet I couldn’t get started!

I realize that I need wind for my sails and gasoline in my tank! God uses your prayers to make it happen!

So here I am taking a “break” to get you on board and praying!

Here are five vital and strategic prayer requests:

Entering Foligno
Entering Foligno

1. Church plant in Foligno
Foligno is the third largest city of Umbria, and most unreached of the larger centers in our region.

  • This Sunday, April 14th, we will have our third monthly Bible study at 5 pm.  Pray for me as I finish preparing my study!
  • We are also meeting for prayer on Tuesday afternoons at 11 AM EST  (5 PM our time) to pray for that city in the home of a lady there.  Our hope it to encourage the few believers in that city to begin to build the foundation for a future Baptist church there.  Most of the ladies are members of an Evangelical church in Assisi, because there isn’t a solid testimony in their town.  Would you be interested in praying for Foligno during that time too?
  •  My Dad, Daniel, and I are also taking turns going to Foligno once or twice a week to work at a Coworking desk, in the same location where we  do our Bible studies.  We’ve made friendship with several people there.   Slowly but surely we are able to start some spiritual conversations! 
  • We have a core of people from our church who are involved, but as you can imagine their lives are very full! Pray for perseverance for all involved!
  • I also try to play in the local symphonic band every chance I get.  Melodee is even accompanying Cristina Ransom in a violin competition! Pray for the many musicians we are in contact with. 
  • In May I will be playing with my horn teacher and his wife too!

(Because of new European laws, I am not able to put names here like before, but feel free to drop me a note and I can get you more details).

2. Theological Training
We just concluded our first theological training
seminar of the year at our church.  We have several men attending, though some are getting discouraged because of the hard work.  Our friends at the Italian Theological Academy are doing a great job at bringing these directly to our church for us.  Please pray for them too!  Daniel has done an outstanding job organizing it for us despite his busy schedule including running our radio station.

3. Spiritual attacks
Ever since we started the Foligno project we have seen several minor attacks:

  • I had a small accident the day of our first event.
  • Another day, in Perugia, they attempted to break into our car.
  • Donatella’s husband fell last week too, so she is not able to participate in the prayer meetings in Foligno or the Bible Study (she is one of our core participants).
  • I have had eye problems, sciatic nerve problems, back problems. Yesterday I even had to go to a cardiologist!
  • For the last two meetings Melodee has not been able to come because Noah suddenly got sick on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Coincidences?


4. Preaching
I have been doing a lot of preaching in Perugia since the beginning of the year, which has been wonderful but also brings an added intensity and weariness to our life.  During the Easter season we asked my Dad to pick it back up.  I’m excited for the break, and we’re glad to hear him preach too!

5. Family
Please continue to pray for our family:

  • for the salvation of our children,
  • for a strong marriage
  • for wisdom in our planning and budgeting, especially in light of a probably move of our family to Foligno at some point. 
  • We need prayer for time management too…with all that has been going on I feel like I have neglected my family a bit!

There’s so much more I could say and want to say, but I probably should get going on my study for Sunday afternoon, since I only get one shot a month!!

Thanks for being God’s instrument for making it happen!

Jon and Melodee, Noah and Eva

Football Outreach Update

Thank you for praying for the Football Outreach!
What an exiting day!  How can I keep it short?

Even before we got to the field we could sense God working.

Here are a few highlights:

When I first walked in to our church building I saw several ladies of our church already busy preparing tables and decorations for the dinner with the football players in the evening.

As we were waiting for the bus with the Christian NFL players to arrive, Daniel and I were able to share the reason for our faith with some journalists that had come to do a documentary on the event for NFL films.  One of them in particular asked many great questions.  Pray that God would use God’s Word in her life!

We had several teams from different cities in Italy participate in the training and outreach with these Christian Pro Athletes.  The enthusiasm was in the air.

We were able to give away several Bible calendars, Bibles and books on the Gospel.

In the training huddles the players shared their faith as well as their skills.  In particular I enjoyed listening in as Jeremiah Sirles share quite clearly and the players were quite engaged.  Being a hopeless Buffalo Bills fan since the Superbowl days I was doubly excited to see him here.

After the training, another player, Justin Simmons shared a testimony about how God has worked in his life.

We concluded the evening with Daniel sharing the Gospel.  People were quite engaged and even applauded at the end!

After the camp we invited the team of NFL players and their sponsors from Olive Baptist Church to have Pizza with the Perugia team at our church.  More fellowship ensued until almost midnight!

Needless to say, our hearts are full for what God did here.

I am sure God used your prayers.  Many of you told me you were praying before, during and even after the event!
We serve a mighty God!
Pray that the seeds that were sown will blossom into an amazing work in the hearts of the many who had never heard the Gospel before.

Thank you for your part in this adventure!
Eventually I’ll have time to tell you more about Foligno and everything else that is happening!

Football Outreach

There is so much to tell about what is going on right now that it would be like drinking out of a fire hose.

Right now I only have one request and it is urgent for this afternoon.
My brother in law Daniel just sent out the same request so I am copying almost verbatim what he said.

“Dear friends, just a quick reminder, please pray for the football camp today (Tuesday, March 5). The camp will begin at noon EST, and I am scheduled to briefly share the Gospel at 2:30 PM EST.

Please pray for clarity of mind and speech, and that God would open the eyes of the participants as they hear the Gospel. There should be about 75 players and coaches from Central Italy.

After the camp, the Perugia football team will be coming to our church building for pizza with the players. Please pray for the conversations that will take place during this time, as most of these players will set foot in an evangelical church building for the first time in their life.

Thank you for praying for us!”

We look forward to seeing all that God will do!