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As Fred and I have been far from our beloved church in Perugia Italy and quarantined for months so that we could not attend church in the USA I have been reminded of the importance God gives to belonging to a local church. It is not only a place where we hear the Word of God taught (I can get lots of messages online any day of the week.) but the local church is where we learn to love, serve, edify with our words of encouragement and even correct when needed (Matthew 18).
Ephesians 5:19 says we are to address each other in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. I hope you have missed all of that.
Wednesday recently, our pastors had some of our folks share their testimony and how God is meeting their needs in this time of separation and what we need to pray for them about. Wow how precious was that? Those were my sisters and brothers in Christ who shared a piece of their lives – joys and their burdens in a few minutes on tape. I loved that. I know better how to pray for them now. Are we willing to be vulnerable with our fellow church members? They were.
As you read the New Testament note how many “one another” there are. Don’t be satisfied with an online message once a week. God wants us to part of a Bible-believing and teaching local church where we can grow together helping and encouraging one another.
Additional Scriptures to encourage you:
Acts 2:41,42, 46,47; Ephesians 4:1-3; Titus 2; Romans 12:9-16; I Corinthians 12:14–20 – One body
Fred and I left Italy at the end of February with a brutal schedule which included reporting in supporting churches every weekend except one ending the 5th of November when we fly back to Italy. We would be traveling from California to New York to Ohio to New York to Houston to Saint Louis, Missouri to Chicago to Edmonton, Canada to Richmond Virginia to New York where we would speak in the majority of our supporting churches. We made it as far as Ohio when most states were shut down and our friends allowed us to quarantine in their basement apartment for 50 days.
Our tenth furlough is the first one in which we have had a “long restful time”. But we soon realized we needed to redeem the time and find useful things to do. We were able to continue our contact with the church in Italy through the internet and have lovely prayer times on Wednesdays with different members. They too are only allowed to worship through the internet. Fred began spending an hour a day studying his Hebrew course but what could I do? Would retirement look like this? Would I no longer have a way to touch the lives of our precious nation of Italy?
After a few weeks, I was contacted by a man who had asked me in our furlough of 2016 to translate a booklet that could be used to help Sunday School teachers and parents present the Gospel to the children in Italy. This booklet will now be distributed in Italy on kindle and they wanted the translation of the revised version. Yeah. I could take on this project. The booklet is, Helping Children to Understand the Gospel by Sally Michael, Jill Nelson, and Bud Burk. Why am I so passionate about getting this booklet into the hands of our folks? I am convinced that in many churches and in many Christian families children are encouraged to say a prayer to “accept Christ” before they have understood the Gospel. As adults, though they have never loved God nor obeyed him they feel safe from eternal damnation for the prayer said.
I am an example of that kind of evangelism. I only understood and came to know God during my second semester of Bible college. God made me realize during prayer meetings as I listened to people conversing with the God they loved and served that I had never truly been born again.
I highly recommend purchasing Helping Children Understand the Gospel through the organization Truth:78
This week we and our host family here in Wooster Ohio got to go on a car tour in the Amish country. We saw beautiful farms and seeming simple way of life. I marvelled at the wide spread fields and cows grazing peacefully and it made me remember moments in my younger years. You see I am the granddaughter of a Pennsylvanian farmer. I have fond memories of parts of summers spent on the farm with Grandpa Shreckengost and my three cousins who lived there. Grandpa would let us ride on top of the hay wagon or go watch the cows being milked in the barn.
I liked the smell of the fresh cut hay but not so much of the smell when grandpa had spread the manure on the surrounding fields. When we were hot and sweaty from playing outside we could go to the spring house and drink from a metal ladle the wonderful ice cold water.
I can still picture the beautiful plowed fields and watch as the machines dropped the seeds in place. We knew that one day the corn would pop up and soon the fields would be full of corn waving in the wind. We never questioned whether there would be a harvest. Grandpa was a good farmer and he had dedicated a lot of time to make sure of that. He had a strong faith in His God and I can still see him now sitting with his Bible in his weather worn hands after a long day in the fields spending time with His Lord. Thank you for this great heritage and the memories that those Amish fields brought to my mind.
It made me think of a promise that God made to Noah back in Genesis 8:22:
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.”
God, who was in control back in the time of Noah, is the same God who is in control of our world. We can trust Him.
“My prayer this morning was that God would use me in the lives of the 6 children God had put in my path these weeks.
We thought we were going to be running from church to church with little rest and now we are quarantined in a home in the hills of Ohio. Lord what can I do to not waste this time.
I can use Whatsapp to stay connected to our church people but I cannot have long talks with my grandchildren about my faithful God. So what am I to do that has eternal value in a house as a guest of seven?
I’m asking God to help me use this time with this family to share my faith and be a testimony to them.
Let’s not waste this quarantine. Ask God how He wants you to use it with eternities values in mind!”
After many years of service on a very difficult field, we arrive at this point in our ministry with grateful hearts, full of anticipation for what God will continue to do for the sake of His name in Central Italy.
Please pray for the next generation as Fred has transitioned to Pastor Emeritus and passed the ministry baton to Jonathan and Daniel. Pray as they work to disciple and train men to shepherd and serve the church. Pray that God would raise up a man to lead this church as a non-missionary pastor. To God be the glory!
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