Pastor's Blog: Transforming Grace

The Johnstons' Prayer Update

Grateful for last year’s grace and full of hope for this year  

We are seasonal creatures. The end of a year begets reflection on what was, while the new beginning brings thoughts about what might be. For the Christian, our retrospection should always be mingled with gratitude and our anticipation with hope. We began the new year grateful for all our Lord had done and filled with hope about ways He might work in this coming year.  

As part of this seasonal reflection, we couldn’t help but think of those who labor back home so that we might labor here. Thank you for the many tangible ways you sacrifice—in intercession before the throne of grace and in generous giving—so that the Gospel might advance in Genoa.

 

Christmas outreach and an unexpected blessing   

At the beginning of December, we held our second “outreach conference.” While October’s conference dealt with the Reformation, December’s conference (rather predictably) took the incarnation as its theme. Although it seemed as if several new people were planning on coming, it ended up being a small group of believers whom we already knew. Those who came were a great encouragement to our hearts and, even though none of them attended, telling our evangelistic contacts about the conference gave us a great opportunity to reconnect with them. The turnout being quite different than we anticipated was an occasion to rest in our Lord’s sovereignty.

The Lord’s Day morning before Christmas we had the unexpected blessing of having Leonardo De Chirico in our pulpit. Leonardo’s writings on the Catholic church have been a blessing to Christ’s church, not only in Italy, but internationally (see his website: http://vaticanfiles.org/). We found out that he was planning to attend our church only two days before and so we were glad to invite him to minister to our hearts. He gave our group a strong encouragement to shine forth the Gospel in Genoa and it was a fitting way to bring the year to an end.

 

Bible Studies

In January we started our first midweek Bible study in our new facility. Massimo will be teaching through the book of Philippians. The first week we heard from nearly all our regular people that they would not be able to attend, so we decided to put it off for another week. Thankfully, Massimo planned to be at the church on the off chance someone else happened to drop by.  He called us just fifteen minutes before the study and told us that Valeria had come. We were so caught by surprise, it took a second for us to remember who Valeria was. She is a dear lady who, in the Lord’s providence, had been in our home on two occasions to conduct a government survey. She considers herself someone who follows a buddhist philosphy of life and we had talked quite a bit about truth, meaning in life and the Gospel. We had totally forgotten that we’d invited her! In the Lord’s good providence, Dave and Simona Magdales were here and could watch our kids!  We hurried to the church and Massimo taught an impromptu Bible study on John 3! She seemed to follow the study and had some good questions at the end. Pray that she would come back and that the seeds of the Gospel she heard that Wednesday night will bear fruit in her heart. 

The last several months of 2017 we also hosted a Bible study in Savona (a city about an hour from Genoa). We have several people that drive that distance to be part of our Sunday morning service, but we wanted to provide them with a study in their area as well.  At the last Bible study, we started the book of Ecclesiastes, and we were floored when 18 people showed up, including 5 practicing Roman Catholics and several people who have not been a part of a church for a long time. Please pray that this group of people that seems genuinely hungry for the Word might see that “vanity of vanities” is the only response to the world under the sun and without Christ.

 

A quick trip to the States

Matt will be back in the States for a quick visit to attend the Courageous Churchmen conference at Grace Immanuel Bible Church. If you are planning on attending, he would love to catch up!

 

Please Pray with us... 

  • Bible readers – By God’s grace there are 5 unbelievers who are reading the Bible on a somewhat regular basis. Please pray for us as we interact with them in our regular meetings. Pray that God would use His Word to pierce their hearts. Please pray specifically for Ivano, an 88 year-old man who has heard the Gospel many times, but until this point has refused to repent.
  • English school – Massimo has the opportunity this Friday to give a presentation on the Bible at a local English school.  Please pray that he would have wisdom and discernment to know how to make the most of this opportunity. Pray that it would be the first of many such opportunities.
  • Family while Matt is away – Pray for Johanna and the kids while Matt is away.  Matt’s mom will be flying into Genoa to help so that she won’t be alone.
  • Evangelism on Wednesday afternoon – Please pray for Matt and Massimo as they head out to do “cold turkey” evangelism in the city. If you think about them on Wednesday morning East coast time, please pray that they might speak with the right people.
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