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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

UPDATE FOR JUNE 2009

Victory funeral for Rosetta Cassano Italiano. Can any funeral be a blessing and turn out to the victory of the Gospel? It sure can! Rosetta, wife of Giuseppe Italiano, preacher at Terracina, lost her battle with brain cancer of the very virulent type, but she had already won the hearts of those who knew her. Three different posters announced her funeral, using the various names by which people in town knew her for over 40 years of Christian witness in the seaside town of Terracina. The church there is small and their worship building also. However, such had been the testimony of Giuseppe and Rosetta, that the bishop of Latina (!) offered them the use of a spacious building for her funeral. This structure seats 250-300 people, and it was full on the day of the funeral. A number of brethren from the churches of Christ in south Italy made the 1000-km roundtrip journey for the occasion. Some of them led the program, read Scripture, prayed. Enid played the electric organ, Harold preached the Gospel of God's grace to a full house. Rosetta's son, Roberto, himself a well-known local TV sportscaster, recounted later that at least 50 people from the Catholic congregation had approached him, happily surprised and impressed by the quality of the Christian testimony that the church of Christ people had left in the minds of the Catholics present.
Only the Lord knows for sure what good may come from this event. Pray with us that the incredible events that came together here may give God glory and lead to the building of the Lord's church in Terracina, Italy.
Church Growth conventions. In May, the Viale Ionio church in Rome an "a cappella" church sponsored its 29th lectureship at Velletri. In mid-June the "instrument" churches led by the Lecce church pulled together brothers and sisters from both groups for a fine meeting. The dates were close together, but we experienced no conflict, but rather a warm sense of brotherhood. This is coming together out of many friendly contacts over the years. The theme chosen for both was "Church Growth," so, not surprisingly, both groups tended to work on expressing some give very practical expressions of real unity.
At this latter convention, Harold spoke on "The Church that Teaches", emphasizing various areas in which the local congregations can organize courses on the four Gospels to develop their members to be greater disciples of Jesus. He urged courses on the Old Testament that "is able to make the church wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." He urged the audience to proclaim and practice the grace of God in three sectors: the so-called "pattern for the church," in the area of church unity, and in the area of what to do with groups of believers that are not associated with our movement. He mentioned prayer to depend on God as an area of needed by self-made, self-dependent pragmatists. We need courses in defense of the faith and explaining Scripture correctly and Christian ethics. All this, because some congregations have slipped into a stultifying style of Christian life and worship that is unattractive, unconvincing and unproductive. The other speakers emphasized other questions that brought balance to the overall picture, and blessed their hearers.
Enid distributed more of our books at this convention than at earlier ones, because, like any bookstore, we are reaching out to new people every year.
One of our neighbors who owns some land in the country, has been giving Enid farm-fresh eggs from her hens. Recently the woman invited Enid to pick cherries from her tree. (An afternoon's work yielded 13,2 lb of fruit.) This contact with her has already raised some spiritual issues. So, Enid is going right ahead in this friendly context.
Thank you for the consistency of your praying for us! This is encouraging.
We send our love and prayers,
Harold and Enid

Friday, July 03, 2009

UPDATE FOR MAY 2009

A church that grows. This theme for the 29th yearly convention for the churches of Christ in Italy brought people together at Velletri, south of Rome. Among the high quality messages, Paolo Mirabelli, leader in the Rome congregation, preached a fine sermon on Christian brotherhood around the theme: "Growing in Brotherhood". We have experienced this sense of belonging in the heart-warming camaraderie among the fine folk gathered there.
Paolo illustrated his message citing the treatment Joseph, son of Jacob, received from his brothers. Having no cellular phone, Jacob had sent Joseph to look for these men, and bring back word of their well-being. Instead, these brothers were willing to sell him into slavery in Egypt. A man noticed Joseph as he wandered around searching for the men, and asked, "What are you searching for?" Joseph answered: "I am seeking my brothers."
We too are seeking brothers and sisters, the love, warmth, fellowship, mutual encouragement and coworkers from men and women who belong to Christ. By our participation in similar meetings, we experience this loving fellowship year after year with these brothers and sisters. So we can say joyfully, "I have found my brothers." In various parts of Italy, we have family, and we are family to them. The Lord is keeping His word. (Luke 18:29-30)
Guests from America. Mark Moore and Mark Scott, both from Ozark Christian College, guided a Bible study tour following Paul's missionary journeys, visiting sites in Turkey, Greece and Italy, enriched by the daily Bible studies. In the group were some very dear people, Enid's sister and brother-in-law, Carole and Frank Martin, and Don and Nadine Hart. Their fellowship enriched us because some of the people knew of us and of our work, even if we had not met them, and could rejoice in our common bond in Christ.
Preparations for our next rally. In between trips to Rome for these events, we worked to print books to distribute at the coming conventions and messages for preaching and teaching meetings in June. More about these in the next update.
Please pray with us that these Bible study helps will have a long-lasting effect in the coming generation of Christian leaders in Italy.
Thanks for your love and prayers.
Harold and Enid Fowler

UPDATE FOR APRIL 2009

Earthquake! Thanks for your expressions of concern for our safety when it hit the city of L'Aquila. We were awakened about 3:13 in the morning as we felt the shock. Thank the Lord, the epicenter was located about two hours southeast of us, so we suffered no damage whatever. The reports coming in are bad, because of the thousands left homeless. The earthquake damaged the regional hospital too, leaving it in danger of collapse, so it could not handle the number of wounded brought it from the outlying towns also hit.

A big concern about the 50% damage report on schools, civic buildings and dwellings is the Mafia criminal element that over the years has secretly controlled construction companies from behind the scenes, and cheated big-time on public safety by using shoddy construction methods. They hid their crimes for years, but this earthquake exposed for the entire world to see the true character of their fraudulent authorizations and fictitious documentations of usability. What a striking illustration of the truth: "Be sure your sin will find you out!"

Italy?s civil defense is really good! The good news is that the civil defense, the military forces and many volunteer workers and civic groups have acted with incredible speed to take care of the thousands of people, providing shelter, food, services, getting kids into makeshift schools and helping homeless to get to hotels in nearby areas.

Interns from Ancona helped us. We enjoyed these mission apprentices working with us for those few days they were with us. They did a competent job. They all brought their laptops and each one listened to a Jim Woodroof sermon in English from his MP-3 live presentations, then transcribed it onto a Word document so that Harold can translate and publish them later, Lord willing. These heartwarming messages glorify God's matchless grace and are really needed teaching for perfectionists here.

New book in the works. Harold finished translating a fine book that presents Jesus as a viable alternative to any other belief system. While targeting the unbeliever, its basic approach can become a good model for believers to use in presenting Christ Jesus in a sensible way. Please pray that we may be able to publish this fine book this fall.

We are thankful for the Lord's care and protection and to you for your love! We send our greetings to the folks there.

Harold and Enid Fowler