Friday, November 27, 2009

Praying for Italy

Dear friends,
We continue to have a wonderful visit here in Italy. Yesterday, for Thanksgiving, we ate Kebabs. Not exactly a traditional, American Thanksgiving meal, but we were standing on the streets of Rome while we ate.

Rome was beautiful and amazing. Our tour was more of a overview of the sites in the city, but it was meaningful none the less.  Visiting the Basilica of St. Peter was meaningful as we saw statue after statue of one Saint or the other, only to find the statue of Jesus tucked in the corner. It reminded me of how easy it can be to tuck Jesus into the corner of my ministry lifting up my own work or the work of people I admire. I can easily get distracted with all the other things that I want to honor. But Jesus is the one most deserving on honor.

Please continue to pray for us. The next three nights I will be speaking to different groups. Tonight and Sunday to church leaders from many local church. Saturday night, I'll speak to the youth of many of those churches. Pray for great boldness. The culture needs the message that I bring about all people doing their part for the Kingdom. They have a Pope/Godfather way of looking at ministry here, but they are one the verge of overcoming it. Pray also for clarity in my words and for Tim as he translates.

Please take a moment to catch up with us at my blog and Stef blog.  We've both updated since Tuesday.

God bless you all. We miss you.
Steve (for the whole family)

Developing a light in the darkness

Once upon the time, Rome was the headquarters of the church in the Western world. While it still is the center of Catholicism, the message of Christ is, at best, marginalized in this culture. This is a postmodern nation. The Catholic Church is a part of the culture, but that does not equate to faith in Christ. Italy is by most measure a dark world.

The good news is that Christ has not abandoned Italy. He loves these people and is working to bring salvation to them. I am excited about the work that God is doing through a humble church called Il Faro. Il Faro is the project for two American missionaries, Tim Monahan and Tim Faulkner. The leadership doesn't stop with the missionaries. There are also 3 volunteer Italian pastors leading this team with a plan to turn the senior leadership over to a well qualified man named Luigi.

What amazes me about Il Faro is that they represent 3 clear cultural groups (Italian, American, African), yet they are in all ways (excluding language) unified in purpose and in worship. When I walked into the church service, I witnessed a beautiful mix of Americans (predominately service men, women and families) and Neapolitan Italians with a few African immigrants, all in one room worshiping together. Music and style tastes are put aside. All songs are sung in a blend of English and Italian, one line in one language repeated in the other.

It's beautiful to hear someone pray to our Lord in an unknown language. It always reminds me that our God is greater than any culture. The leadership team at Il Faro knows this fact and have used the greatness of God and his singular mission of reaching the world as a centerpiece to draw the church together. The members all know this common mission. The leaders constantly challenge them to live the mission. As a result, they are, in all reality, one church.

Speaking with Tim Faulkner this morning, he reminds me that this is a result, a direct result, of the work of Grace Point. Through our support, our prayer and much wise counsel, Grace Point has helped to unify this church. The two Tim's and the other pastors are all very different in their mix of personalities and gifts, and that mix is a benefit for this church.

I have visited other churches this week. They are all different and all being used one way or another for delivering God's Word to the Italian people, but none as effectively as Il Faro in Naples. I hope that the people of Grace Point know the value of their work. It isn't in creating a big project or by counting the number of professions of faith that come from a outreach event. The value of this church and our participation in it is our long-term commitment to strong leadership, wise counsel and prayer.

Il Faro is a light to Naples. Grace Point is a part of providing that light to the darkness of this community. God is working through all of us.

Praise God. And Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Update for our friends

Dear praying friends,

Thanks for your support. Some of you were not getting our updates. Here's a quick note to remind you to check out our American Thanksgiving in Italy Facebook page and my blog

We'll do more later, but our internet service is spotty, so we do what we can.

Please pray for Jacki who is still struggling with pain.

God bless you all,

A quick story about how God works

At the Naples (Italy) soccer game on Sunday, we sat down next to an Italian man who hear us speaking in English. He was excited to practice his English on us and did a great job. He shared a bit about the game and the Naples team in particular. It's not unusual for Italians to want to practice English with an American.

The unusual thing about this story is that while Stefanie and I talked to this man, an young man the row behind him overheard us. He said to Stefanie, "Excuse me. Are you American? I overheard you talking."

It turns out this young man, Ryan, is a 17-year-old exchange student from North or Scranton, a town only minutes away from Tim's parents. What are the chances of us running into each other in a city of millions and a stadium of 70,000?

We hope to have Ryan to our Thanksgiving dinner later this week. Pray that this will be another door of ministry for the Faulkners and the Johnson.

Monday, November 23, 2009

One weekend down

Dear friends,
Today is Monday and we made it through a crazy weekend. Crazy but wonderful. We are reunited in Naples. Today is a bit of a down day for us as Tim and I have time to work at the church while the ladies are at the Faulkner home doing schoolwork and cleaning up a bit. Yesterday was a good day of worship at Il Faro. God is doing great things here.

Please continue to pray for us. I'm finding myself a little tired but still very excited about our work here. The people are a delight.

Pray also for:
  • Giacoma, a bible school student, who is in the hospital after some sort of negative food reaction. Tim and I will be meeting her at the hospital and connecting her with a ride back to the school in Rome. Rome is about 2 hours from Naples.
  • Pray for Jacki. She has been in a good amount of pain since we've been here. She will have some test today. Pray for healing.
  • Strength and rest for our family. It was a busy weekend and we are tired. At least we slept well last night.

Praise God for:
  • Strength so far.
  • A wonderful worship time in the Faulkners bi-cultural church (Il Faro). It is amazing to hear people pray in multiple languages reminding us that God is omni-cultural.
  • Insight into a well-led, on-fire church, Il Faro. They are few and far between in Italy.
Thank you for your prayer.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

My attempt at a rainy-day tragic poem

The Tragedy of the Weather Cycle

I opened up my window to see
Many, many faces smiling back at me

So many face out there
I'd yet to brush my hair

Embarrassment quickly faded
To and feeling much more jaded

As i realized happy faces
Where just rain drops

In the game against rain and sun
Brightness has yet to make a run

No warmth from the heavenly glow
Only wetness from head to toe

Those smiles seemed more like sneers
As the drop looked much like tears

But I have this consolation
Is soon it will be sunny and 32-degrees