Sunday, August 19, 2007

Il Rifugio goes to Parco Gran Paradiso

Ciao everyone! We just got back from a trip to the mountains with some of our friends from Il Rifugio. Almost everyone is gone on vacation, so we decided to take church to the mountains for the rest of us to get a little get away of our own. It was a wonderful time of fellowship, hiking, playing, praying and praising. We did the whole trip for 13 Euro plus transportation. Not too bad! Our friend Julia (pronounced Youlia) invited us all to stay in her mountain home, which is about as basic as they come. Everyone slept on the floor except for us since we got the nice room for the kids.

Siena and Sammy LOVE the mountains and their baby backpacks. I think it's because they don't have to walk. Wouldn't it be nice to go along on someone's back!

Sammy just started to pull himself up. I'm scared! My guess is that this kid is going to be walking by 10 months.

Siena is a handfull these days when we are at home, but an angel whenever we are out.

We are VERY blessed with two wonderful, beautiful and healthy children.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

In the Mountains

Siena loves the mountains. She can't wait to "go hiking" and "climbing". So when we decided to join Davide and Anna & their 9 month old daughter at their summer home on the French border, Siena squealed with delight. She loved every minute of the time.

Claviere boasts some great playgrounds. Siena is particularly fascinated with the climbing features of the parks. Even Sammy is starting to swing around. He is so active!

We took one hike. Sammy loved it and Siena wanted to see every flower possible. She had several bouquets of flowers by the end of our date together.

After the flood, we didn't have much in terms of funding for a vacation, but God provided thru Davide and Anna. They are amazing hosts. We had a chance to encourage one another in parenting and pressing into Jesus.

Please continue to pray for us. We want to constantly grow as parents and in how to push Davide, Anna & Caterina to love Jesus more!

PS Did we mention that Sammy is eating solids, at least 33% goes in the mouth.

PPS Did we mention that Anthony went prematurely bald?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Euro Wilderness Leadership Training (EWLT) 2007

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is
life and joy. -Proverbs 18:12,New Living Translation
There are few things that satisfy our hearts like seeing the dreams that God puts inside us realized. One of the first dreams I had here in Torino was a ministry that build disciples through exposure to God's creation. And God began to color in this dream with the recent EWLT trip here in Torino.

We left early Tuesday morning eight people in all.

Ben Bringartner, an American, who was always eager to serve.

Candice Santeferraro, an American, who lived with us this summer, who constantly reminded us the unique beauty of God in the mountains.

Teo Socianu, a Romanian, who was a pyrotechnician.

Niku Mergotti, an Albanian, who always had a song to sing to Jesus.

Julia Mastrogiacollo, an Italian, who encouraged each one to keep pressing on and into Jesus.

Andrea Testa, an Italian, who served as a second in command, he has a desire to lead trips like this in the future.

Keesong Choi, a Korean, who smiled 100% of the time.

And I, another American, who felt very much like one of the shepherds in the valley caring for His sheep.

Our trip began with several trials. Our car broke down before leaving for vacation and wouldn't be ready for the trip to the mountains--our destination required the car or another's car. We were not able to take the train back from our vacation till one day before the trip because the trains in the region we were vacationing in were on strike--no one knew what was happening as a national strike changed to a regional strike at the last minute. God provided us with the car of a student in the church, but the ignition jammed for about 2hours in a gas station on the way to the trail head. We didn't know if we would even be able to continue with the trip. And during the entry hike we took a different trail and then the connecting trail, clearly marked on the trail, didn't exist. It disappeared! We arrived into camp at 9pm. God's grace was clear, the weather was amazing and He led us to the perfect campsite for the next four days.

The site was amazing! We had views up and down the valley, no disturbance from the herds the roam these valleys and only two hikers passed us the whole time! Our site was so secluded that they couldn't see us from the trail.

Our goal was so simple:meet with Jesus and create a space for Him to speak to our hearts. Our first days hike took about 6 hours. The next day was solitude, silence and fasting. The following day, more solitude and fasting. The fourth day of the trip we broke the fast together, but continued in solitude and then during the evening we came out of the solitude to share what God had done through our time apart. Teo build an enormous campfire and I was amazed how God used this time in our lives.

No one knew quite what to expect during the time, but one common theme was how the lack of "scaffolding", i.e. things to do and people to talk to, forced them to face their hearts, their flesh and meet God in an intimate way.

One young man asked his friends & family what he could pray for them and in the midst of praying for them, God revealed to him His purpose for his life.

A young lady who had always dreamed of a time like this, but never had time to organize it, said she wants to do it again. This was her first time fasting.

Finally, one of the greatest skeptics of the time said that he loved it. He heard God speak to him of his uniqueness in Jesus and reveal to him where God is leading him with numerous future decisions.
As for me, the trip was very arduous. Leading it with its various trials revealed many absences in my heart. God showed me my need to die to my flesh and confess with greater regularity my faults and hidden sins. I was also challenged to become a man of greater action. James 4.17 says, "Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." My continual prayer is that I would be conscious of the good that I need to do and then would follow through in action.
Andrea and I are already praying about the next EWLT. I would love to expand it and to also invite others from other GCM European churches. This trip involved people from five different nations and three different continents. Who knows what God would do with this.

A huge thanks to all you who prayed for us. Your prayers brought much fruit and encouraged my heart as I saw the "Fulfiller of our dreams" at work (Ephesians 3.20)!