Blessings to the Nations

According to the Torah, the raison d’être of the Jewish people is that we would be a blessing to the nations (see Genesis 12:3). It is overwhelming to me (in a good way) that Robin and I could be in Italy and have to opportunity to be a blessing in a multi-nation congregation. The congregation in which we served yesterday (Sunday) itself is an interesting example of how one nation can bless another. One could say that it has its roots going all the way back to 1492, when Christopher Columbus (an Italian!) began his search for a new route to the Far East. One of his stops on his first voyage was the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which today is home to both Haiti, where are daughter Sarah is being a blessing, and the Dominican Republic. The Italian congregation that invited us here is called “Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano” and has its roots in the Dominican Republic! There are several people from that country who are part of this congregation currently, including the pastor’s wife. From time to time leaders and others from the Dominican republic come to visit.

Something I stressed when I spoke there yesterday was how one people group being a blessing to another people group not only goes back to God’s promise to Abraham, but first came to pass when Yeshua the Messiah sent out his early followers to the nations. The Gospel breaks down the barriers  between peoples and draws us together as brothers and sisters all worshipping the God of Israel (note: click on photos for larger versions).

SAMSUNGAbout 200 people attended the morning service. We sang one song in English and Italian, one song in Spanish, and the rest in Italian.

SAMSUNGThe first song was the English song “Our God”, which we knew. They may have done it for our sakes. Here is a panoramic shot of the worship team. Sorry, it’s not the clearest shot, but Robin’s new phone has this feature, and I think it is cool. The worship leader is from Brazil. Most of the songs were quite lively. After the worship time, everyone is encouraged to hug each other (lots of kissing; of the appropriate kind, of course!).

2013-09-29 10.37.17After the service we went to the pastor’s home and had a wonderful multi-course dinner. One has to remember that the pasta dish is not the main course!

2013-09-29 13.59.27Here is the pastor of the church, Aldo Cerasino, his wife Mariela, and their daughter, Rebekah:

SAMSUNGLater in the afternoon, Robin had a special session with just under 30 ladies from the church, which went very well.

Tomorrow Robin and I head off by train on our own for two nights in Venice before we go to Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Thursday.

Thanks to all who have been praying for us. Please don’t stop now! Continue to pray for our family while we are gone and for our time in Venice and Ljubljana.

Parma Bible Seminar completed

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Last night (Friday), this morning, and afternoon I presented my Bible overview seminar in Parma. Translation into Italian was provided by our host Francesco Abortivi. About twenty people attended (see below) and it seemed to go very well. I really enjoyed working with Francesco, and the people were very attentive as I explained how the Gospel is deeply rooted in the Hebrew Bible. I will be speaking again at the normal Sunday service and Robin will be sharing with a group of ladies in the late afternoon.

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Pizza was provided for lunch:

SAMSUNGOn the way home we stopped for our first gelato, freshly made on the premises. That’s a fresco on the wall.

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Parma

Yesterday was our first full day in Italy. The first session of my Bible seminar is this evening (Friday) and continues tomorrow morning and afternoon. I speak as well in the regular Sunday morning service. Robin’s talk is on Sunday afternoon.

We are staying with new friends in Fornovo, which is about a half hour outside of Parma. Yesterday morning we got to see a bit of Parma. This is me and Robin standing in front of  a palatial municipal building.

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The ancient churches with the abundance of frescos (paintings painted on the plaster walls, the other old buildings, and narrow streets told me we are really in Italy, not to mention my first capaccino at a sidewalk cafe (the cafe pictured here with Robin doing one of her favorite things: getting to know a new friend (visiting Parma from South Africa).

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Almost every street had an interesting view:

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Later in the afternoon we went to Torrechiara, one of the many castles in the region. It was first built in 1464.

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I will never think of “a man’s home is his castle” or “I am king of the castle” in the same way again!

While most of the castle’s room were empty, the houses within the protection of its walls are occupied:

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In the evening we went to a last minute church meeting in the place where the seminar will be held. A man from Holland who recently retired after over 40 years with the organization “The Navigators”, about twenty of which were in Northern Italy, was leading a trip with several of his long-time supporters, also from Holland. At one point he was interviewing one of his Dutch companions, asking questions in Dutch and then translating both the questions and answers into Italian. Our host was sitting with us, quietly translating into English. Sitting behind us was someone else translating into Spanish for another visitor.

This particular congregation is predominately Latin American, but Italian speaking. There are people from such places as Spain, Brazil , and the Dominican Republic, some Africans , and even Italians! Both Robin and I, for a long time, have had a heart for the gathering of nations, but didn’t expect to experience it to this extent in Northern Italy.

If you are a praying person, please be praying for us as our formal teaching begins tonight.