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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

UPDATE AUGUST 2005

Ministry of encouragement. We are convinced of the high value of encouraging scattered, lonely Christians to continue their task faithfully of being the Church where they are. A 5-day trip took us to Calabria in southwest Italy to give moral support to brethren there. After three days of teaching and conversations with one family, we accompanied them to visit another church located 2 hours back into the Sila mountains of Calabria. While there, we walked the mountaintop where Paolo Mirabelli, Harold’s former student, grew to manhood, and met his family. The once-growing mountain church at Petilia Policastro has suffered from two problems typical of southern Italian congregations: emigration and death. Because of the poverty typical of south Italy, young families and individuals migrate to north and central Italy to find work. The local Mafia had forced one of the Christian families out of business, so they moved 400 miles away to re-establish themselves.  Death took Paolo’s father suddenly in May this year, leaving everyone shocked about it. Last year, his brother died from a sudden heart attack. Even for Christians, it is hard to see death break up the family that one has always known. The Petilia church had lost two of its leaders, our brothers.
Two interesting events marked this visit: as we walked into the church building, Paolo asked Harold: “You are going to bring the morning sermon, aren’t you?” This friendly invitation was typical of him, and joyfully accepted. What joy we experienced in simply being with these dear people for the first time! Yet, it was emotionally difficult to stand before those hurting people, remembering how many good things had come from this one church, to realize how far they had come in their Christian growth. It was emotionally impossible not to feel how much family and Christian fellowship they had lost, sense their pain, and not cry inwardly all the way through the sermon!
The second event was the presence of a preaching brother from the Cosenza church, who, years ago began to use Harold’s Bible study materials. So grateful for that help, he enthusiastically requested our catalog of everything new that we have printed recently, to enrich his ministry there.
Encouragement is hidden ministry. This kind of sustaining service may not report any baptisms on our part, but we labor so that our Italian brothers and sisters will be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, and the baptisms will come! They need to be the Church and do the Lord’s work faithfully until He comes or they go to meet Him first. We returned home even more encouraged ourselves, to write, to publish and consequently to teach distantly located brothers and sisters in this extended way.
Enid has repainted her cooking kitchen ceiling, after one of the Christians scraped off the rough places and prepared it for painting. A few places need some touching up, and that job will be complete! We have lived in our apartment for 12 years and it needs some TLC.
One of our “younger families” in the Matelica church celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. We were here when their baby boy was born, then their baby girl. She has just graduated from high school. We have actually watched a new generation grow up! Does that date us?
We must be enjoying our work, because time is flying by so rapidly, that 41 years seem like nothing. Thank the Lord and thank you, for this joy.
Love from both of us,
Harold and Enid Fowler