Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spring Delayed....How Long Oh Lord

Remembering the words of the prophet Habakkuk-'how long, Lord, must I call out for help, but You do not listen'.  David, in Psalm 13 asks the Lord the same...How long oh Lord.  Will You hide your face from me, will You forget me?
Have you been there?  Have you cried out to the Lord over and over again and yet saw no change in the circumstance and began to feel that God is not listening?  If we are honest, I think most of us have been or even are in that place right now.
It seems my last 4 or so posts have been about winter passing and the expectation of Spring.  The long dreary Winter will give way to the beauty and the sweet aroma of Spring.  Yet, there are times that Spring is delayed and we cannot understand why.  Here is a picture a friend posted yesterday.  It is just an hour from us.  Keep in mind it was May 24th when this photo was taken.
Crazy isn't it!  Last year we were in the states for the month of May.  We were so happy to be there but we were happy to be here in Italy this May because it has been our favorite month since moving here.  The vineyards are starting to fill in with beautiful grape leaves, the flowers and their scent fill the air with loveliness and the sun shines gloriously morning and evening.
It would not be so this May.  For whatever reason, Spring has been delayed.  Oh, there were glimpses of it, days the windows and doors were wide open, laundry was seen hung out in every yard and terrace.  Boots, heavy coats and sweaters were carefully packed away not anticipating to be needed for another 6 months or so.  But, yesterday, the heavy coat was worn and the winter boots yanked out of their resting place to be put to use yet again.

There came a time yesterday in the midst of  begrudging  these cold temperatures, walking carefully as to avoid puddle after puddle, watching the downcast faces of a people who had not expected to be braving this kind of weather at the end of May, for an instant I thought  "Lord, are You speaking to me through this storm?  Are the winds and the rain for me?  Did You in Your tenderness allow Spring to be delayed so that You could speak to my heart?"  It was as if for a moment, the clouds were lifted up and the light of His glory shone upon my heart.  'But Lord,' my desperate heart cried,  'it's supposed to be Spring.  The calendar even says it is supposed to be Spring.  We endured the Winter and anticipated Spring.  You gave us glimpses of Spring but as quickly as it came You took it away.  It's not just raining, it is pouring, it is cold and dreary.  Why, oh why aren't You letting Spring come?  Why are You seeming to be messing with nature and the way that things are supposed to be?  Why God, why????"  And I believe that our intimate God, our gracious and patient King, sat and listened and He had a bottle for every tear that was falling and He, in a way that only He can, wrapped me in His arms and let me know it was going to be ok.
He reminded me that it indeed rains on the just and the unjust.  That He does not look at things the way man looks at them.  His ways are different than ours, His thoughts higher.

This morning when I awoke, the skies were blue.  By the time I sat to write this, grey covered the skies, the cats came running in to seek shelter as the sound of thunder echoed in the background, and once again, the heavy rains came down.  Perhaps with sadness, some will look after the rains and see their crop destroyed, their planters overturned and flower petals tossed violently across the lawn. All of their hard work seemingly to no avail.  'Why bother?', some may ask. Perhaps they will give up and stop planting.  Perhaps they will become so discouraged and think gardening or farming isn't for them.  But, we know that we will sweep up the mess, salvage what is left to be salvaged and start again to dig, to plow, to plant to water.  Why?  Because that is what the Lord tells us to do.  The labor and obedience is up to us.  The harvest is up to Him.  And, one day, we will reap.  It may not be here in the physical life.  We may never be able to enjoy a harvest this side of Heaven.  But, we are promised in His Word that we will indeed reap if we faint not.
Spring may be delayed, but our God is never delayed. He makes ALL things beautiful in His time!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spring Update

The Mister wrote an update so for all of you who would like to sit back and have a read along with some pictures here you go.   Thank you for your love, prayers and support.  Without you, we couldn't do what we do!!!

Wow, can you believe it has been a year since we were in Cali for a visit? We truly do miss you all and want to thank you for your love, prayers, and support. The fall season came and went without a trace after the annual CC European Missionary Conference in Austria and then we hunkered down for a long, cold, and sometimes lonely winter. We thought it would never end and other than the Holidays, it really was quite uneventful. However, Margie was busy with the annual Women’s Christmas Tea, which was a great success with 120 ladies attending. We were blessed to have our daughter Marla reunited with us in December and she is such a help with our ministry and household. Reminds me of those priceless years she assisted us on the mission field at CC Baja, Hungary. In January I attended the annual Pastors conference at CC Siegen, Germany, a much needed time of refreshing. I also had a couple more opportunities to play electric guitar gigs for a friend’s band doing DMB covers. It’s a lot of fun and thru music I have been able to make a lot of contacts and new friends and have had countless opportunities to witness and share the gospel. I am putting a group together for the summer and I pray for a fruitful season of extra money, sharing my music and faith, and church growth thru new relationships. Most people consider themselves to be Christians by birthright here, so I build upon the doctrines and common beliefs that we can share, i.e. the Finished Work, God’s Grace, and The Bible. It is a challenge for people from this region to let go of their tradition and try something new, especially a Protestant approach, since it really is completely foreign to them. We’ve also noticed that most Evangelicals here in northern Italy are transplants from the South or foreign immigrants from Africa, South America, or the Philippines. Our region of Veneto seems to harbor resistance to Evangelical Christianity. Please pray for developing friendships and for perseverance in ministering to people with love and patience. Statistically, 98% of Italians claim to be Catholic Christians, but only 20% actually attend church regularly. In contrast, professing Americans attend church regularly at a 40% rate. Is it any wonder that we are burdened to reach people for Christ here in Christian Italy?

Recently, we’ve been quite busy finishing up our citizenship and residency process. I am happy to report that I am an Italian citizen and so are all of our children and grandchildren. Margie has a 5 year residency card and can become an Italian in a couple years. Somehow I like the idea of holding dual citizenship, especially in this day and age that we find ourselves. Italian passports are the most welcomed in the world. As much as we miss our children, grandchildren, extended family, and friends, so much that it hurts, we want you to know that we are here for the duration, that is, until the Lord tells us otherwise. So we pray that God will continue to bring to your remembrance our mission here in Italy. At my age finding a job is difficult, but with my music connections, I hope to find side work performing from time to time and in the process meet and make new friends and share the Lord with many people. Also, Margie and Alice from the church are volunteering in an organization that helps young women, mostly from the South, Eastern Europe, and Northern Africa, get off the streets.

As Spring broke we were blessed by our dear friends Doug and Rose Martin from CC DC Metro, who treated us on our annual “Stewart-Martin Road Trip”. This year it was in conjunction with the annual Pastor’s Wives Conference that Margie and Becky Dente from CC Paris put together. Rose was one of the guest speakers and Doug and I tagged along to help shuttle guests to and from the airport and haul luggage and supplies. Then after the conference the four of us took in Paris for a couple days and then my long awaited dream came true of visiting Normandy. At the American Cemetery and Memorial at Omaha Beach, I was uncontrollably overwhelmed with tears as we walked through those endless lines of stark white tombstones and read the names of so many brave young Americans that sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom. An experience I will never forget. We were able to hike down the hill and traverse the remnants of the German trench lines, gun placements, bunkers, and ruins that remain. I was solemnly transfixed when we reached the hallowed sands of Omaha Beach and walked along the expanse with the tide far out just as it was on the morning of June 6, 1944. We also explored the bunkers, cliffs, and hundreds of bombardment holes left at Pointe du Hoc. We ended the day at the Naval Memorial at Utah Beach, after closing time, with only the sound of the flags snapping to the crisp sea breezes. After 12 years on the mission field, just the sight of Old Glory makes me cry.  The presence of God was unmistakable throughout the day at every memorial, especially in the small Chapel and throughout the gardens of the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. A trip I would highly recommend, to anyone that can venture it.

Immediately upon our return in early April we hosted an outreach team from CCV that included their renowned High School Choir. The kids sang at numerous venues, including 3 High Schools, a Middle school, the Youth Dept. at the Pollini Conservatory of Music, CC Montebelluna, CC Padova, a Nigerian Evangelical Church, 3 Pizzerias, a Gelateria, and various Piazzas throughout the center city of Padova. We were so impressed by their talent, commitment, courtesy, and energy to walk endlessly… without complaint! They were a true testimony to the kind of genuine Christian character and maturity that CCV is known for and seems to instill in its young people. We are already benefiting from the fruit of their ministry with some solid new friendships and acceptance by otherwise skeptics. Pray that God will continue to move in the hearts of those who now have a much clearer view of the Lord and their faith and that they will discover that faith and fun do go together, despite Italian misconceptions of religious piety. Saturday night the Choir sang to a full house at CC Montebelluna with people from CC Feltre and CC Treviso attending as well. Several visitors committed and recommitted their lives to the Lord at the concert after Pastor Rob spoke and gave the invitation. The following morning at our church CC Padova, we were blown away when around 50 new people attended the morning concert and service and heard the clear message of the Gospel by Pastor Rob.

(the theatre we are praying for)

 Finally, we are now at a crossroads and really need to move. Although we are a small fellowship, I believe we are on the verge of substantial growth that will be facilitated and accelerated by our move to a more central and more visible and accessible location. We are searching for a full time location in the city center for the church since the community building we use is not downtown and used only on Sunday mornings. Join us in prayer and if God leads consider helping to underwrite the new building for a season. We see a great need for midweek opportunities to connect and evangelize our community. Padova is such a beautiful city and we have fallen in love with it and desire that CC Padova will be a real beacon of light here for the glory of God. We have our eyes on an abandoned Theater on a busy walking street downtown and we pray that God would open the door and windows of heaven for that or something similar. May the Lord richly bless you and with all of our hearts and deep gratitude we thank you for your prayers and faithful support.