Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall Update

Greetings to all of you!
It seems like it's been a whirlwind over here since August.  Many visitors have come and gone since then, we attended the annual CC Missions Conference in Austria which is always an incredible time of encouragement through God's Word, catching up with old friends and enjoying the opportunity to meet new ones.

Everyone at church is doing well.  Bethany and Lorenzo had their baby boy and we anxiously await Greg and Alice's  (Alichay-soft ch) new baby girl.  We have the phone right next to us all set to take her to the hospital.  It's always a joyous time to see God bring new life into the world. 
We had to say good-bye to a few young college students this past summer as they finished their year abroad which was quite sad.  But, true to His ways, the Lord has brought us two new students.  One is a gal from England, the other from Hungary.  We are blessed to have them in the church now and pray that God will use them in a great way while they are here studying in Italy this year.  Please keep them in your prayers-Chloe and Kinga, as it is a difficult age and also a difficult climate to be in at times.

We have a couple that were gone for about 2 years return to church in September.  They were going through some personal difficulties and yet they allowed God to work in and through them and now they are back in fellowship.  We are thrilled to experience the joy that goes with seeing people return to the Lord!  It's been great!

Now that Greg and Alice have moved to Padova, a couple of the girls and I are going to start meeting each week for prayer.  This is one of the most exciting things for me, Margie, as I have not had any gals to pray with on a regular basis for 4 yrs now.  Alice is a prayer warrior so we look forward to seeing the power of God work through our prayers.  Don't take it for granted if you have a ladies prayer group at your church :) 

Jim has finished teaching through the book of Acts on Sunday mornings.  He is going through a short series now and is praying to see what the Lord will have him teach next.  There seems to be a leaning towards Revelation which will be quite exciting - especially with all the things going on in the world these days. 

In September we had a gal that previously was in Italy for bible college come to stay with us for 3 weeks.  She's 22 and has such a precious heart to serve the Lord.  After much prayer and seeking the Lord, we officially asked her to begin praying to move to Padova to come alongside the work here.  It's interesting that in 11 yrs of being on the mission field, we have never asked someone specifically to pray to move.  There is just something about Rachel and we see God's hand upon her life.  She is spirit-filled, joyful and servant-minded.  She sings like an angel and has such a heart for the University students here.  Her church in PA has started a prayer group for her.  Please keep her in your prayers that the Lord would speak His perfect will to her. 

We are seriously looking for a building for our church to move to.  Though we are blessed to have the building we have, it is not in a very good location.  We are also not considered a church so as Kinga experienced last week, it is almost impossible to find the place unless you have been there.  We would like to find a building that is more centralized and easily accessible from the train station and city center.  This would mean finding additional help to pay for the rent of the church.  We are looking for a few new churches and or people to come alongside the work here financially and prayerfully.  Realistically, we would seek a two year commitment and after that we would like to know that our own church could take over the payments.  Sunday mornings are so busy with Jim picking people up and bringing them back home. It's not that he minds this, but it does take up a lot of time.  Please be in prayer about this for our church here.

Jim is officially Italian!  He received all the right documentation and is now a card carrying Sicilian :)  He will apply for his passport in the next couple of months.  It is not necessary to have it but as he travels in Europe it will be easier to go through the EU lines.  Please continue to pray for me as I am still waiting for my paperwork to be completed stateside so that I can have the documents needed.  We made friends with the Immigration Officer at the Questura (police) so we no longer have to wait in a long line for hours on end-he lets us go straight to him. 

Please keep our city in your prayers.  There is so much evil and wickedness here.  Some of you have heard us say this in the past-but truly Italy is overlooked as a mission field.  It is easy to think of it as a Christian nation, but sadly, it has become a nation void of God.  The youth are screaming out to be heard, the young adults are throwing aside all tradition of family and spiritual upbringing and replacing it with the things of this world that lead to emptiness in the end.  I would love it if some stateside would get together even monthly, just to pray for Padova.  Pray for the thousands of students that wonder through these streets without a thought or care as to who the living God is.  Pray for the young couples who see no need to marry or no need to have a relationship with Jesus.  Pray for the elderly who seem to just throw up their hands in hopelessness with this lost generation.  Pray that God would so empower us with His Spirit that we can make an impact here-that we will turn this city upside down!  We cannot do this without your prayers!!  Again, it is so reminiscent of the early days of Calvary Chapel when the youth were rebelling against everything.  They no longer trusted the government, the establishment, the churches-they were searching then for something that was lacking in their lives and they search today-we are here with the truth, we desire with all of our heart that they would listen! 

Thank you to all who pray without ceasing for us, to those who support us financially even when it is difficult.  We appreciate everything so much.  Thank you for doing what you do so that we can be here as an extension of all of you!

Much love,
Jim and Margie
Got to spend some time with Mike and Sandy 

Mom enjoying her ice-cream treat in Verona

Welcome back to Sunday School 

Saying good-bye to Terri and Carol

Train up a child 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Love Permits Pain

This morning I awoke with so much pain in my back.  Each day there is pain but some days just become unbearable-or at least it seems unbearable at the time.
We have some sweet gals visiting for a few days and before they left to visit Venice they prayed for me and my back pain.  I was thankful and hopeful that the Lord heard the prayers and would be faithful to ease the pain.
About an hour or so goes by and I find myself in so much pain that all I could do was cry.  I was frustrated and just tired of being tired of this back pain.  As I got up from my chair with my heating pad I grabbed my Streams In the Desert Devotional to read for the morning.  I opened to the page for today and before I could even read the entire devotional, my eyes went straight to the sentence with the words "Love permits pain".
I read the devotional through tears.  Tears that acknowledged that God indeed hears our faithful prayers and doesn't ignore them, but for whatever reason, He allows us to endure pain.  It's not always physical pain.  It can be emotional, or some other type, but He will allow it.
The devo was talking about Mary and Martha when Lazarus was ill and they sent the news to Jesus.  It says they didn't doubt that as soon as He heard the news He would come quickly-but He didn't.  He waited.  As you can imagine, even more tears started to flow.  He heard, but He waited.  How those words ring true for so many.  We pray, we get others to pray and yet the pain, whatever kind it is, endures.  It doesn't go away. And often we wonder why.  Why, God, why aren't you healing me?  Why are you allowing this to be?
For me, sometimes I get so frustrated with this back pain.  Why in the world would God call me to be in a foreign country-to serve Him and yet be limited in what I can do?  Why did I bother to exercise and want to be fit for so many years just to end up like this?  Why when so many prayers go up to Him does He choose not to answer them.  Sometimes I think...God, are you there, are you listening to these prayers?
Today's devotional was such a sweet and tender reminder that He does hear, He does care, He does remember.  But, love permits pain.  Why does love permit pain?  I honestly can't answer that.  We have all listened to tons of bible studies on why God allows pain, why He allows things to happen the way they do.  But, for each person, the answer is different.  People even say it's because God wants to teach us a lesson.  I don't always like that answer-sometimes it sounds so mean the way they say it.  As if God is punishing us or making us be in pain because we have to learn a lesson.  You know, in some ways that is true.  But our God is a loving God and He's not up in Heaven figuring out ways to inflict pain upon our lives just to show us who's boss.  He doesn't make the pain happen, but He knows it is there and He will allow it to be there and He will use it for His glory if we let Him.  He will get us through it.
For each day, for each task that God has called me to, I know that I have to rely on Him for every ounce of strength to be able to do it.
I am so thankful for that little phrase I read today.  I think it will be a stone of remembrance for me.  No matter how I feel physically I know that my God knows what I am enduring and He will help me through it and for that I am grateful.
If you are going through some kind of pain today, rest assured that He knows, He has heard your pleas, your prayers, the prayers of those who have prayed for you.  He will be strong for you and help you through it.

Don't ever think that His delay means He doesn't care or He doesn't hear.  Always remember there is something greater.  It was in His delaying to go to Lazarus that Jesus spoke these amazing words:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

For Such A Time As This

Thank you for praying for Jim's journey...he made it home safely :)
 Now, if you want to hear a God story......he couldn't drive all through the night so he slept a few hours at a gas station/rest stop.  He was about 1/2 hour from home and stopped in a gas station-saw a gal with an Italian city written on her arm-realized she was a foreigner.  She was alone,  had her wallet stolen, and had to hitch-hike her way around  while busking ( you play an instrument and people put money in your case) to have money to eat.
She spent the last two nights sleeping outside in Venice and today 'just happened' to decide to leave Venice and head south.

Of course, being a father of three girls, and this gal happens to be the same age as our youngest...Jim couldn't leave her there.  He phones me and tells me the situation.  I asked if he was sure she wasn't a scammer and he felt such a peace about her and that she wasn't making the story up.  Well, a couple things-number one, we have a rule that no gals ever drive alone with Jim.   We learned this in the ministry a long time ago that it isn't something you should do.    Two, no matter how much peace you might have, there is still that one part that is a little nervous-especially for me.
I told him ok-bring her home.  Thankfully I had cleaned house yesterday.  Actually, I was mopping at 1:00am because I couldn't sleep lol!!  I had my shower and was dressed, knowing Jim would be coming home shortly so at least me and the house were prepared.

Twenty minutes go by and a little bit of panic starts to set in....that .05% of fear....wondering if he was being set up, someone might follow them to our home, etc.   My imagination was going a bit bizurk.  If you are a regular reader here, you know how easy it is for me to get my mind going :)
Anyway, they arrived here and I just looked at her and felt so sad for her.  Of course I can't help thinking like a Mom and just wanted to hug her-but I had to hold back so as not to scare her.
Now she's here-a hoarse voice, hungry and thankful for a place to stay and able to have a shower.

What's neat is that today is the day that the Calvary Chapels around here have a picnic and baptism.  It's always a great time together and I was sad that we weren't going to be able to go.  But God....He had another plan and there are so many little things that happened to orchestrate the circumstances of this gal being here.  Jim never stops where he stopped, she wasn't even planning on being at that gas station, we don't do the guy/gal driving thing and we even had a phone charger that worked for her dead phone.
I am in awe of how God works.  He takes ordinary days and makes them extraordinary.
Of course me being me, I did write a note to my friend to tell her what was happening and to pray and if she didn't hear from us she would know something was up-but I laughed at myself after reading it and decided not to send it....Miss Paranoia.  :)

I don't condone breaking rules, but in this case we knew it was okay.
Please pray for this gal and that we will shine the love of Jesus into her life-that she would see how much He cares for her and was watching over her.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fear Of the Unknown

I had intended to write more on things I learned about the Unknown Soldier and other lessons from our trip to Arlington Center.  It will have to wait til later on as my heart has been so heavy these past few days with something else.
We have all experienced fear and know the grip that it can have on our lives.  Fear is a topic of many books, sermons and conversations with friends.  It is real and yet it is something that as Christians, we have been told we can overcome.  Fear expresses itself in many ways-sadness, tears, anger at times because we don't know how to express what we are feeling, and withdrawal.

The past month or so there has been so much sickness and death among people I know.  Some I know better than others.  Some were acquaintances, some friends, some parents of friends I am close with.  Sicknesses with children, newborns, friends diagnosed with cancer and so on.
The other day I awoke to yet one more note of someone who is my own age who suddenly died.  Someone who served the Lord faithfully on the mission field.  The beginning of the month we found out another pastor friend, only 36 yrs. old with a lovely wife and 4 beautiful children just died suddenly.  No warnings for these people or their families.  In one moment they left this earth to begin spending eternity with Jesus.  In one moment, their family and loved ones lives were changed forever.  The summer plans, the kisses, the hugs, the snuggles, the joys they cherished and the tears they would shed together were to be no more.  We know it, we hear about it, we at times think about it-death comes without warning so many times.

My mind had already been wandering the other week about our life.   Two people in their 50's serving the Lord on the mission field.  Every now and then, I think because we are getting older, I  think about the future and what might happen.  We all know that can be the worst thing in the world to do!  Oh how imaginative our minds can be.  Often, I would find myself in tears just because I would be sitting down and letting my thoughts go and next thing you know I am picking out songs for my funeral, wondering who would be in attendance and would they say nice things about me......please tell me I am not the only nutty one that does this!!!!
When Jim and I were called to serve on the mission field I was 40 yrs old and he was 44.  We had a business and he worked very, very hard.  He is not a lazy person and though obviously not perfect, he is an extremely hard worker and ran a successful construction business for quite a few years.  Towards the end, things got difficult, but he continued to press on and looking back, we see how the Lord was allowing all of this to be taken away so that it was easier to say yes to His call to go.  Our business was a union company-I say that only to emphasis what we once had.  Insurance-medical, dental, vision....any doctor of our choosing.  We had a pension -didn't necessarily  mean anything to me back then because the future is always so far away.  But, now.....oh how that word means so much more.

We were called to the mission field 6 months prior to Jim being 'vested' in the union.  That means that if he worked for 6 more months our pension would be full and upon retirement we would receive the full amount. Six months!!!  Half a year....I didn't know all this at the time.  You see how God keeps me in the dark so I don't flip out :)  Honestly it would have been so much more difficult to leave when we did had I known this.  I probably would have nagged Jim so badly to just stay with it six more months and then we could go.  It wouldn't have been a good situation.

You grow up being told to work hard, don't cheat, don't lie, don't steal.  Do well and prepare for your future.  If you work hard all your life you will be able to enjoy retirement-that's the thinking you grow up with.  We all know it doesn't always work that way does it?  So many unexpected things happen-especially nowadays in the economy we have.  The future has become all the more unpredictable.  Sometimes it's easy to feel like you are a failure-that you have nothing to show for your life.  You don't have the bank accounts, you don't have the means to provide for your children or grandchildren the way you wished you could and you have nothing to leave them for the future.  Okay-I am just being brutally honest right now so don't worry-you don't have to feel sorry for us- :)  I don't think these feelings are just for people on the mission field either-many go through this.

While in Hungary, we had a couple visit us for an evening.  A Pastor and his wife from New Jersey were visiting different Calvary Chapels and they came to meet us too.   He began to share how he was a police officer for many years and a year before he would be fully vested or whatever it is called in that field, God called him to be a full time Pastor-to leave his job and follow Him.  I cannot tell you how much that has comforted me through these times of the unknown.  I see their lives and see how they hold onto Jesus and trust and follow Him and it sets my heart and mind at ease.  I see what the Lord can do.
I have found myself thinking a lot lately about all of the 'what ifs'.  What will happen to us as we get older?    Everything is so focused on the young and being hip these days you wonder if you will fit in much longer if you don't have those qualities about you.

When we got married, Jim asked me not to work outside of the home.  It was really hard for me because I had worked for many years and was a very independent person.  We didn't marry until I was 27 yrs. old so I had plenty of years of work and made pretty good money for a single gal.  But, I agreed and am very thankful that I could stay home and raise our daughter for all those years.  There were times I wanted to at least go and work part-time, but it seemed I was pretty busy with plenty of other things.
Needless to say, my resume isn't one that would be pleasing to the eye for any company if I had to go and apply for a job nowadays.

I get worried at times-wondering what if something happened to Jim and he was gone-what would I do?  How would I survive?  I have no skills to work anywhere.  I honestly can get into a tizzy thinking about stuff like this.  It becomes so necessary to trust completely in the Lord.  To know His faithfulness, His love and His promise that He will never leave nor forsake us.
There are times Jim and I chat about the future and I tell him that if I were to die first he could continue on-he could still be a Pastor and do what he does.  But if it was the other way around, what in the world would I do....where would I would I survive?  Of course my husband just looks at me, smiles and says...'oh don't worry honey, you can find another husband'...really????  Not the answer I was looking for dear!

I don't know why I really wrote all this-hopefully it doesn't sound so morbid.  I suppose that it's just another aspect of life and part of what we really go through at times.  I don't want to live in fear of the unknown, of the future.  I want to keep my eyes on my Savior.  Knowing that He has called us, He will be faithful.  He will take care of us no matter what.  In Him is perfect peace.  In Him is all the fullness of joy for each and ever circumstance.  In Him, there is no fear because perfect love has cast out all fear and He is perfect love!
Thanks for bearing with me today :)  I guess it doesn't help that Jim is away for a couple of days so it gives me extra time to think about such things.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lessons Learned -Unknown Soldier

I have meant to write about this for awhile now but something always comes up-heat, pain, or won't say which one has the louder voice :)
Back in May, we were so blessed to go to VA to visit with Doug and Rose and with that, we were able to tour much of Washington, DC.  It was an amazing trip.  Living abroad for so many years and seeing all the different sites in different countries can cause you to forget a bit how much richness in culture and beauty there is in our very own country.  It was good to go back and have the opportunity to see our country's capitol and all the history that goes with it.  I fell in love with it there.  It's probably safe to say that I drove my daughter and husband crazy with how many times I told them how much I enjoyed being on the East Coast!
One of the days we were there we set out to the National Cemetery and to see the Tomb Of the Unknown Soldier.  I remember when I was just a young child and we lived in Philadelphia our parents took us to DC and I remember standing there watching the changing of the guard.  Truthfully, at the time, it was probably not so exciting standing there watching these guys in uniform move about so slowly just to change positions-but we all know that once we grow up, we learn to appreciate things so much more.
That was the case with this visit.
I was first struck by the inscription on the tomb itself:
(Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier known but to God)
My heart was overwhelmed as I read this and my eyes welled up in tears.  How true those words ring out.  My mind immediately thought about the truth of that statement.  Unknown to others-but known to God.  How many soldiers fought and still fight in wars today who are unknown to most of us.  We can read about those that died in battle and have no idea who they are or what their lives were like.  But, again, God knows.
They were fighting the fight regardless of who knew or didn't know them.  They had a purpose, a calling, a duty and they were faithful to that.  
I started thinking about us as Christians.  The Bible speaks about us in some verses as soldiers, as being members of the Lord's Army.   Each of us followers of Christ are engaged in a battle.  Each of us has a duty, a position, a calling upon our lives.  
There are many, many people who serve the Lord so faithfully who are not known to men.  They aren't on the list of  "who's who" in Christian circles.  They don't get asked to speak or preach, write books about serving the Lord, or any other such public thing-they just serve the Lord faithfully as they are called to do.

I thought about the soldier who was/is alone on the battlefield.  Perhaps he was the one watching his buddies opening letters from home, receiving care packages from loved ones and he just sat there, trying to smile, holding back the tears wishing so badly that there would be such a letter or package arriving with his name on it.  But none ever came.  Again, my thoughts went to the Missionary or Missionary family who is serving and no one knows about them, no one sends them encouraging notes or makes sure their children have some new clothes to wear.  
I wondered if the soldier grew weary.  Did he tire of serving and find himself asking if it was worth it-or did he have that purpose in mind, that goal, that passion inside his heart to know that no matter what, he knew what he was fighting for and the loneliness was worth it.  Did he ever lie awake at night wondering why he got overlooked for the promotion or the 'easier work' or was he just thankful to have been able to give his all to serve his country.  Was it difficult to hold back the tears when he sat around with his buddies and heard them talk about his family and how much they miss him or did he rejoice when they rejoiced? 

Like the soldier, we can face similar circumstances.  We can find ourselves always hearing about how great everyone else's ministries are doing while yours is struggling.  We can battle loneliness and long to be with those we love and miss so much.  We can be around other Christians, other missionaries and hear about how God is blessing them, how He is providing this and that for them and hold back the tears wishing it was us.  But like the soldier, we have a choice-we have a choice to keep our focus on the goal, to count it a privilege to be serving the Lord, to rejoice with our friends as they share what the Lord is doing in their ministries or how He has provided materially for them. 
Let's not worry about who knows of us or who doesn't.  Let's not get caught up in wanting to make a name for ourselves within certain circles of people.  Like the solider, we need to keep our focus on the duty that is set before us regardless of who knows our name.  

So, dear friend, do you feel alone today, do you feel like you are serving in the Lord's army and no one knows who you are, no one knows of the work you are doing?  Don't let discouragement overtake you.  Unbeknownst to man, but you are known by God!

In the end, it doesn't really matter if we were known to man in this life.  In the end, all that will matter is that we were known but to God.  
And in the end, it won't matter how many books were written, how many sermons were preached, what the financial status was, how many people greeted you by name as you walked into a conference.  What will matter was our call and if we were faithful to it.  What will matter is seeing Jesus face to face and having His arms reaching out to us and looking us in the eyes and saying  "Well done, my good and faithful servant"

I have a bit more to share from this experience but will save that for later in the week :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

July Update

Greetings from scorching hot Padova! From what we've been reading, this is the norm in many places all over the world right now. I arrived back to Italy last week and as soon as we stepped outside of Venice airport, we were greeted with a blast of humidity. Quite a difference from the beautiful weather in San Diego!!! Despite the weather, it is good to be back in Italy.
 It was pure joy to see everyone while we were away. Meeting our two grandsons was awesome and seeing our little princess was wonderful. Marla graduated college and is now working 3 jobs part time-she's a trooper-we are very proud of her!! Rosalyn and Christina are doing well and it's fun to watch them be Mommys now. We're thankful for all of them! It was good seeing and hanging out with our family after such a long time-everyone is growing up, graduating, having babies-it's fun to see! It was a special treat to be able to there for Mother's Day and Father's Day too.
 We were truly blessed on our trip-being able to go to VA to spend time with Doug and Rose and tour DC. We had the opportunity to meet the church body there and meet some really neat people. We thank them for a fantastic trip! Also, we spent some time in Modesto which was a very special time for both of us. It is always a joy to see friends and see the faces of those who faithfully pray for us and of course to meet new people too. We were able to spend some time visiting at CC Santa Barbara too. Not enough time, but we cherish the time we did have there. Of course being at CC Vista is always a treat...home sweet home and a place of refuge and refreshment.
It was nice to come back to some good news here-the couple many of you have been praying for, Greg and Alice, have found a flat to move into in Padova. They are to sign the contract next Sunday. This is a HUGE answer to prayer!! We have been praying alongside of them for them to be in Padova. It is going to be wonderful having them here to minister with, pray with and fellowship with. I have really had a difficult three years not having any women around that I can hang out with here on a regular basis. It was really a drought in my life that was getting unbearable. Praising God that He has answered this prayer! They both have the hearts of evangelists and desire to reach out to the university students.
While we were in the states Jim was able to meet with an attorney and get all the paperwork completed for his Italian Citizenship. Everything went well at the Consulate Office and we are waiting for his Italian Birth Certificate which will allow him to get his Italian Passport. I will have to do my paperwork from here but at least it can be done!
We are praying to rent a building closer to town soon. Where we are located is not very convenient to the city center. The bus schedule isn't very good on Sundays and it isn't near the train station. We spend a lot of time Sunday mornings before and after church shuttling people to and from the station to church. It would be much better to have a place close to the city where people can get to the church easier. Right now we use the Community Building and don't have to pay for it. They are probably going to start charging soon so it would be better to move somewhere else since we would have to pay anyway. Please pray that God would provide the funds for this. We aren't looking for something huge, but something with visibility and convenience. Some places we looked at are about 1200.00 per month.
 Jim's been asked to play a couple of concerts this summer. Lino, the guy who manages the park here in Padova, has asked him several times to play-he will even give him a band to play with. Jim's been meeting with him weekly since coming back and it's neat to see a friendship develop between them. He is also going to Hungary and Serbia in August to play a couple of concerts.

As some of you know, I had to extend my stay in the states a couple of weeks. My back pain was getting to the point where I was having a lot of trouble standing up after a period of time. Thanks to a friend, I was able to go see a great Orthopedic Doctor. After viewing my X-rays, he gave me the news about my back. In 2007, I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis, being told my bones were like an 82 yr old-so I knew already that my back was bad. The X-rays showed that my bottom disc is gone so bone is rubbing on bone causing major pain. The nerve roots are also being squished which will eventually cause the pain to shoot down my legs. The upper part of my back is also showing signs of degenerative discs and bone starting to show through. I also have severe arthritis in upper and lower back. you know how to pray for me. I have to take it easy, surgery is pretty likely unless God chooses to heal everything or just make the pain bearable. Obviously I am not going to just sit around-things need to be done, so I am going to look into different exercises that might help and also seeing about the possibility of joining one of the places around town that has a heated pool so I can swim.
Well, that about sums up the last couple of months. Please keep us and Padova in your prayers. We always appreciate it and love hearing from you when you have time to write.
 Much love,
Jim and Margie
 Things to be praying for:
Greg and Alice's move
Alice and Bethany's pregnancies....Bethany is due in August, Alice in September
Greg's work to give him a contract -he needs this for insurance purposes, etc
Funding for a new church building
Air conditioning in our car broke-I know it's materialistic, but we still ask :)
Vision and direction for reaching the people in Padova
My meeting with the ladies in Vicenza-being able to reach out to the US Military wives at the base there
Continued filling of the Holy Spirit God's wisdom, guidance and strength with our church body Saved lives in Padova

Friday, April 20, 2012

Not Guilty

This post is something that has been in the back of my mind since February. I suppose in my aging it takes me longer to process things and then actually write them. My mind and my fingers don't always work at the same time these days.
If you read the One Year Bible (OYB) then you know back in February we were reading through Leviticus. Now, I will be the first to admit that I am one that finds it easy to skim over things at times. Yet, I have really purposed in my heart this year to read details. I know there has to be a reason why the Lord put each word in the Bible and it's kind of rude of me not to read them! Can I blame it on having to take a Speed Reading class in High School-you know the class where you learn how to skim over the page and just pick out the highlights!!
One of the interesting things is how many versions of the Bible we have nowadays. My normal study bible is NKJV, but I enjoy reading NLT and of course the OYB is NIV.
Back in February, while reading Leviticus 7, I kept noticing it talked about the sin offering and the guilt offering. After looking at other versions of the same verses, I realized that the term 'guilt offering' wasn't used-I only found it in the NIV. Now, there are always people who spend their time arguing over different versions of the Bible and there are some legitimate arguments. However, I do believe that because God is God, He can speak to us through anything.
Here was this phrase 'guilt offering'. It got me to thinking. I thought how many of us (at least I think there are many of us) would still like it if there were a 'guilt offering'.
Years ago, while still living in Vista, I remember Pastor Rob teaching and saying how many people are in institutions because unforgiveness or guilt turned them into a different person-someone not able to cope with reality.
Most of us, especially we women, are doers. We like to do things, we feel productive when we are busy and doing something. We complain about how much we have to do but I think deep inside it gives us a feeling of satisfaction, a sense of usefulness. Many of us enjoy knowing that something has been accomplished and we played a role in the accomplishing.
As Christians, we profess and believe in the finished work of the cross. Jesus, as He hung upon the cross said "It is finished" Nothing more needed to be done for the atonement of sin. The spotless Lamb paid the punishment for all of our sin. What was left was for each person to choose whether or not we would put our faith in that finished work.
Whenever it was for each of us in our lives to make that decision, we realized that we were in fact forgiven. We were cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. We learned through verses like 1 John 1:9 that when we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us. What a sense of joy, a feeling of relief-knowing that we are forgiven.
Yet, I couldn't help but think about guilt. Maybe I am the only one, I don't know, but guilt is difficult to get rid of. I also believe it is something the enemy loves to throw back in our face-to get us to doubt the forgiveness of God. How can it be that one moment we rejoice when reading 'as far as the east is from the west, so far He has removed our transgressions from us'. Psalm 103:12. How is it that verses such as those can bring such comfort one minute and then some time later this overwhelming flow of guilt comes in about something we have already confessed.
Then, when reading Leviticus 7, even though the phrase 'guilt offering' is in NIV version-it popped out to me in a tremendous way. Oh, I thought, how good it would be to have a guilt offering even now. How much easier would it be to physically offer something-to do something to take away the guilt.
You know, some religions have you 'do something' as contrition. A lot of Christians point their noses down at this, and yet, I believe that there are many Christians who try 'to do' something to get rid of their guilt. 'Oh God, I am going to read this many pages in my bible today, I am going to perform this duty today'. We want to do things to try and make up for the bad we did. We want to make ourselves feel like we did something to make it all better. A guilt offering...yes, Lord-if I could just bring something to be sacrificed, watch with my own two eyes that it was indeed used to atone for my guilt, it would make life so much easier. I could sleep better, I wouldn't be haunted by memories of what I did wrong, I wouldn't have to wonder if I was really and truly forgiven because after all, I saw the smoke, I saw the offering for my guilt.
Ah, but we are called to walk by faith and not by sight! We are called to put our faith in the finished work of Christ, His forgiveness. He whom the Son has set free is free indeed!! Why are those verses so difficult to trust in at times?
I think of Thomas and how he wanted to touch and see before he could believe it was Jesus. Again, it's easy as Christians to look down at someone like this-but if we are honest, how much better would it be to tangibly touch something-God gave us senses...touch, smell, taste, sight...we were made to use them. But, there are those times when we have to put those aside and have faith. Have faith in what Jesus did and continues to do.
Conviction? Yes! Condemnation......NO!!! Consequences? Yes!! Guilt.....NO!!!! We need to learn not to entertain thoughts of guilt for something that we have confessed to the Lord.
I listened to a teaching once about Peter and the rooster crowing. The pastor brought up something I hadn't thought about before-but think about it for a minute. For the rest of his life, Peter would hear a rooster crow. Probably every morning, wherever he was, there was a rooster crowing. Peter could have been crippled by guilt. Hearing that rooster undoubtedly was a reminder of his denying Christ. Peter could have spent the rest of his life in a corner crying and feeling sorry for himself for what he did. But he didn't. He allowed himself to be restored by the Lord. He allowed the blood of Christ to cleanse him from all unrighteousness, all guilt and he was used mightily by God.
Faith is not something we can see with our eyes-it's something we have to believe in. We cannot 'see with our eyes' that our guilt has been washed away, we have to believe it. We have to believe the words of Jesus when He said 'It is finished'. And, in believing, we learn to walk in that forgiveness, we learn, like Peter, that though we have sinned, though we have often times grieved the Lord and probably others, we can be forgiven, we can be restored. Is there a rooster crowing each day that reminds you of something you would like to forget? Give it to the Lord! You have been cleansed, you have been forgiven, allow Him to set you free and walk in that forgiveness, walk in that restoration!! There is no longer a need for sin offering or guilt offering. It is finished!!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Update

Our Latest Update from CC Padova, Italy :)

Dear Friends and Family

Beautiful Spring greetings to all of you!! I can’t say we have had much of a bad winter this year but we still welcome Spring with all its beauty and warmth. Seeing new life all around us is always a great reminder of the new life that Christ brings.

It seems the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6-9 has come to light in our ministry again. In Hungary, the Lord used this verse to encourage Jim and I in the ministry there. Once again, we see that He has used it here in Padova. We are in our 3rd year now and where as last year we were finding ourselves exasperated and frustrated not seeing much fruit, we were encouraged through this parable to continue on and wait and see what the Lord will do. I suppose in a world where everything is instant and fast we can tend to bring that into our ministries too. Thinking that a year or two is enough and after that if nothing happens….but that is not how the Lord works. It’s tempting to make everything about the visible. If we can’t see it then we can’t believe it. Praising God that He reminds us His ways aren’t our ways!

We have been blessed as a church seeing God begin to add a few new faces to the congregation. As many of you know and have been praying alongside of us the past couple of years for the university students. God has heard all of our prayers and has one by one been bringing a few of them to Sunday service. Recently, a gal from the Calvary Chapel in Hungary started to attend. She is taking a class in Padova and was happy to know there is a Calvary Chapel here in Padova.

With the blessing of students comes the heart ache of knowing that their time here is temporary. Most will be returning to their home countries in June/July. It’s going to be difficult to say good-bye to them but we are thankful for the time we had together.

About a year ago, we really sensed that our church was going to be international and we have seen that come to pass. As much as we continue to pray to minister to the Italians, we are reminded of the parable of the Great Supper in Luke 14 and though we may have a strong desire to invite particular people, they are often found having an excuse why they don’t want to come and so we are encouraged to know to go to the highways and byways and extend the invitation to all who would come. So as much as our hearts want to see the Italians be saved, we realize that God uses us to minister to any and all who are in this area who want to hear His Word and grow in their relationship with Him.

With that, Jim has been meeting with a guy named Obbina for over a month now. Obbina is from Nigeria and recently moved to Padova. Obbina is gifted in leading gospel choirs and plays a variety of instruments. He and Jim have been meeting and seeking the Lord as to how to use their musical gifts to reach the people of Padova this summer.

As some of you know, we had another couple over to our house last weekend. Guiseppe and his wife Stefania and their two daughters. Jim met Guiseppe last year at the park where his band played in Padova. Guiseppe works in a recording studio and is gifted musically. He plays jingles for the radio stations around here. Please continue to pray for their family. They are really nice and we would love to see them open up their hearts to the Lord.

Jim and I will be coming to the states soon. It’s the first time since 2006 we are both traveling together for an extended period of time. Jim usually travels for only 2 weeks. I am going to be gone for 6 weeks, Jim for 5. We are excited to see our family and friends and especially our newest grandson, Dylan, who was born in February. I also am anxious to meet Elijah, our grandson who is 15 months old. I haven’t seen him yet and he is already walking all around!

Marla will be graduating from college May 6th! We are so very proud of her and all she has accomplished. We can’t wait to hear them call her name watch her receive her diploma. Please keep her in prayer as she now has to find a full time job and a place to live.
We want to spend time with as many of you as we can so let’s try and work out plans and schedules. We would love to share with everyone how you can be praying specifically for the work in Padova also.

We will be in Vista, Santa Barbara, Modesto and also flying to the East Coast to spend time with our dear friends Doug and Rose.

Send me a note of Facebook or by email if you want to get together.

Some things to keep in prayer:

We still need help in Children’s Ministry

Jim scheduling pastors to fill in for him while he is in the states

For God to strengthen our church body

Our summer schedule –events and concerts in Padova

For Easter-it’s a little difficult when you are away from your family to be here and everyone leaves to be with their family and friends for the holidays.

Here are a couple pictures and a few short video clips from Sunday School:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You Have An iPhone????

Sort of a funny title huh!! Well, if you are friends with me on Facebook, then you know that I recently met up with some other pastor's wives and went to Paris last weekend. It was something that some of us had been talking about-the need for fellowship and yes, even some laughs and fun time together and Becky so graciously offered to host all of us in her home. Her husband was a most gracious taxi driver-driving for hours on end and at the end of the weekend, he was still smiling. Now that's what I call a wonderful servant of God :)
The trip brought up an interesting dilemma for me. We all know that when something exciting comes about we want to tell others about it and of course being that we are in the 21st century, we just have to write it as our FB status!! I was preparing last minute things Friday morning before heading out to the airport and realized I hadn't written anything on FB yet. I sat down and wrote out my status, erased it, rewrote something, erased it and tried writing it again. I couldn't get anything to 'sound proper'. Every time I wrote, I had this thought in the back of my head that people would read it and think to themselves "wow, doesn't she have the life" or I pictured some saying...'wow, wish I was a missionary and could travel all over the world". So, I opted to write nothing and leave home for a weekend that only God could have arranged as He did and not share it with FB world. I wanted so much to share the joy but was too afraid how it would come off to others. Yes, I am a worry wart about things like that. I tend to take things more personal than I should and worry about what other people think a bit more than necessary.
But, such is the life in the ministry. It is not limited to those on the mission field, it's not even limited to those who serve full time in ministry. Sadly, we are a people who like to judge others and make opinions based on our own understanding and observations.
Let me back track a bit. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine had a daughter who was going through some rough spots in life. We offered to have her come and stay with us for a month so she could be away from the everyday temptations of life and try to regroup. When she went back to the states, I noticed she left something behind. It was her iPod touch. I wrote to tell her and she told me she purposely left it as a gift for me. Well, I was surprised at such a gift. To be honest, I didn't even know how they worked except you could listen to music on them and use the internet. It took me about 4 months just to figure it out!!!
I went to the states about 1 year and some months later and brought along my little gadget. I used it to check emails and other things. I happened to use it to write a fb status and unbeknownst to me it leaves a little message that says "Sent by my iphone" Well, wouldn't you know that I get a wasn't a reply to what I wrote, but '
YOU have an iphone?'. I immediately felt a knot in my stomach! 'No, I wanted to hurry and reply, of course I don't. I am a missionary, I would never own such a thing!' I was too afraid to write something back. Not surprisingly, my daughter responded something like "She so does not have an iphone". Anyway, I never sent another message with my little gadget again. It was one more thing I would put in the back of my 'make sure you never own one of these because you will cause stumbling' mind. (funny side note...they were writing from their iphone!!!)
Oh Margie, you might be wondering to yourselves,,,,what in the world is your point???? Well, my point is that I don't really know exactly how to get it into proper words.
A friend of mine visited last year and was able to meet some of my other missionary friends. After a few days, she said 'do you realize that all of you justify everything you have?'. She said she would compliment us about shoes or something in our homes and each of us would justify where we got it, if it was a gift, if we got it at a second hand place, if we bought it on sale, etc. I never realized it before. It is true though. And again, I don't limit this to missionaries, but that is what I am so I use myself and others on the field as examples.
There are those in the world who take advantage, ministers, missionaries, preachers, etc. They think life owes them something because of who they are or what they are doing. I think those types make it so difficult for those of us who don't take advantage, don't want to offend, nor do we want to cause someone else to stumble.
While we were away this weekend, the scripture that came to me was So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time"...Mark 10:29-30.
I stood at the square where Notre Dame is and just thought "wow, Lord" You are amazing! You took this group of women from different spots in Europe who are away from family, friends, culture, all that was once familiar to them, brought them to a foreign land to serve You, and now You brought us here-Paris! A place where so many dream to go and visit and here we were-all giddy, laughing, and taking in every moment of our surroundings.
We don't know what goes on in other's lives. We don't know who has blessed them financially, whether their husband works very hard and is very diligent with the finances and enables them to have or do the things they do. We don't know if someone has gone without something and saved and saved so they could have a special trip together or if God put it upon someone's heart to bless them so they could do something special or buy something new.
It's easy for people to look at my facebook and make a judgement about where I may have gone or what I may have done. But, in all honesty, they don't know that when I look at theirs and see what they consider unadventurous...the family all enjoying Christmas morning together, when I see my friend holding her newborn grandchild right after he was born, or enjoying a special mother daughter moment together that I would give you my experiences, my ipod touch, my apartment in Italy...all to kiss my grandchildren, to stroke my daughter's hair when she is feeling poorly, to be at the hospital with my Mom while she is having cancerous cells removed from her face.
Of course, I hope noone is offended by what I wrote. It has been on my mind for awhile now and I felt the okay to write about it. If you know me, you know where I am coming from. Again, I am not talking about those who expect stuff and take advantage of others. That's not a good thing at all. My point is that God does give gifts and blessings to His children and often we are overjoyed at what He has done and want to share the joy with others. We don't want to stumble others or be misjudged.
I suppose people can have something to talk about the day I bring my grandchildren to Disneyland Paris, write about it on my ipad :) Just kidding!!
Here's our group of ladies that met up in Paris!! A most delightful time was had by all!!! And yes, God provided so wonderfully for each of us to be there :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter Update

I promise to take some pictures in the next week or two and put them on the blog!!

Greetings to all of you from (finally) wintery cold Italy! We have been experiencing an unusually mild winter but winter has made its presence known in the past couple of days with a mild snow due later in the week.

So much has been happening here in Padova lately. Once again, we are reminded that everything happens in God’s time and not ours. As we have felt like those tossed back and forth with the wind at times over the past couple years, wondering if indeed God was at work here, He has been faithful to carry us each and every step. Through every doubt and disappointment we have had His reassurance through His Word, through the encouragement of others and fervent prayers of many.

This past Missions Conference was one that God used in my own life to break things down that I had let build up-giving Him the disappointments and fears. He also used each teaching to encourage not only us but most of the missionaries as you go about day in and day out working, praying, believing and yet not always seeing the fruit before your eyes. Wayne Taylor talked about doing what you love and doing it with Jesus. So simple yet for me it spoke volumes.

Most of you know that Jim loves music. Well, God has been using that very love to bring us into contact with so many different people over the past few months. We had the Christmas concert in December. It was held in the Catholic church. The Commune picks the spot-well it ‘just so happened’ to be right in the area that the park is where Jim’s band played last summer and where we will have VBS this summer. That spot is the one we feel drawn to to look for a spot for the church. The concert was awesome!! Craig, Silvana , Maria and Jim shined for Jesus in that place! A guy that Jim met, Stefano, who is a really good drummer came and played percussion last minute and he really enjoyed being a part of the evening. He couldn’t believe Craig and Jim were pastors. He thought they were so nice and normal.

Recently Jim has been meeting with another guy from Nigeria. He puts together all kinds of Gospel groups in the area and the two of them are meeting and praying each week to see what the Lord will have in store for the summer.

We have also seen God add to the church. A couple weeks ago a gal named Rafaella came. Greg had met her while teaching English and she told him how she had walked away from her faith years ago but was searching again. She even brought her Mom with her last Sunday. Analisa is her name and she was so sweet and kind to all of us. We don’t know if she was there to make sure Rafaella wasn’t getting mixed up in a cult or if she herself will be back. We do know that Analisa was very accepting of all of us and she was a joy to meet.

We have a couple of college students now attending also. Emilia is from the UK and going to University in Ferrara. She comes with Lorenzo and Bethany since they also live in Ferrara. Aoefie is from Ireland and goes to University in Padova. She is from Cork where some of you have visited in the past. Both of these gals are Pastor’s daughters. Imagine that!! Another guy, Colin, just came last week. He is from Scotland, living in Padova teaching English. He was looking for an English speaking church and Aoefie invited him to Calvary. So great to see God at work!!! We even needed an extra row of seats in the church last week J

I am starting to plan for the VBS in July. We are going to use the Gospel Light Prayer Safari theme. The theme for the week is the Our Father. We are excited about this event and have a lot of planning and work ahead of us to make it come together.

Jim continues to teach through the book of Acts at the moment. It’s such an encouraging book. I am still teaching Sunday School, but hoping to get some much needed help. Please pray we can work a schedule out to rotate helpers. It was supposed to happen this past September, but everyone’s schedules seem opposite so there isn’t always someone to rotate in with me. We also need two workers most of the time because we have one class with ages from almost a year to 11. I haven’t been able to sit in church for 3 years and it would be nice to start! Thankfully there is internet so I can at least hear messages online!

So you see, there is much going on and much to continue in prayer over. We look forward to a busy summer but want God’s guidance and wisdom every step of the way. We don’t want to run ahead of Him and His plans or timing in anything.

We will be coming to the states in May (I’ll probably come in April). Marla will be graduating college. Our new grandson is due February 14th, and I look forward to holding my not so little Elijah for the first time (he’ll be 16mos when I meet him) and of course Juliet our little princess will be 4 in May so that will be fun to be there for her birthday.

Thank you for your never ending prayers, your love and your support-financially and spiritually. Once again be reminded that all we write about you will see in Heaven! Your answered prayers, how God used your finances, how He worked in the lives you faithfully prayed for, the city you prayed for. It’s real!! You just have to sometimes wait til Heaven to see it J

To God be the glory for the things He has done!