Living, Learning and Serving in a Pandemic

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At the beginning of this year who would have even imagined how our lives would soon be changed?
I remember when the Italian government shut down schools, and then all public events, then all non-essentials, (which apparently includes clothing).
Even Amazon shut down most of its product lines!
Only ten days later Italy’s mortality rate surpassed that of China, where they say it all started.It seemed like forever that Italy was all over the news.  
Then almost overnight the United States became the center of the pandemic with both the highest number of cases and deaths.  
Three months later, even though Italy has officially entered Phase Two, not much has changed. When we first began lockdown, it felt almost like a well needed vacation.
Once reality set in though, we, like you, had to step up our game and find ways to minister in a whole new paradigm. As we look to start reopening the church building soon, we realize that though it has not been a vacation, God has used it in many ways to sharpen us and reach people in new and different ways. 

Here are five challenges and subsequent blessings that we have seen during this time:

My first Coronavirus letter was all about finding the positives in the situation.
My second one was about mourning the losses.
Today I would like to reflect on both the challenges and God’s blessings and lessons during this time.

Coronavirus School

1. Ministering to our children while ministering to the world.
We have been well reminded during this time that ministry starts at home.  We have been trying daily to follow the children’s homework and video classes, as well as taking time to minister to their souls.  We have enjoyed more devotion time with them, as well as seeing them get excited about reading and even some church history!
Bonus thought: Using the couch as a desk has also been a challenge and a blessing!  I predict some visits to the chiropractor in my near future! 

2. Grocery shopping
Grocery shopping has been an interesting challenge. Sometimes I have had to wait even as long as an hour to enter the store.  Needless to say if you forget the milk, you don’t just run back to get it.  It’s been sad but also significant to be out with the people, to see how those who don’t have Christ are coping with the situation. 

3. Church services
Church ministry under lockdown has brought some unexpected blessings.  Thanks to Daniel’s technological expertise as well as our pastoral intern Danilo’s hard work, we started recording our services piece by piece, both for Sunday and for Wednesday services.   All has been done ahead of time: preaching (the hardest to upload), worship and even announcements.  Because we were not able to go to church during this time, all was done from our homes.
Our Facebook and YouTube services have been well received both from our church people and from other in Italy who were not able to have their own services.  I have had the privilege now for several weeks to preach through a map of the End Times. The Friday deadline has been nerve-racking but also a good challenge. 
Bonus: Feel free to check out our Facebook and YouTube pages!

4. Discipleship and Theological training 
Another unexpected blessing has been to be able to continue meeting with our men every other week for discipleship over Zoom meetings.  We have already read three books together, and we have shared our experiences, getting a a feel for the pulse of how our families are coping with the situation.  We have also been able to continue our preaching course offered by the Italian Theological Academy

5. Outreach
Outreach has certainly been interesting, to say the least.  Until last week we were not even able to go to funerals.  Nevertheless, we have been able to have contact with people through the many communication channels available.  One of the greatest blessings has been to collaborate as a church with the Italian publication of John Piper’s book Coronavirus and Christ.  We have been able to distribute it as a pdf via a free download and even give copies to people we were able to come in contact with. Ours kids enjoyed distributing the copies we had to our neighbors (with masks of course). I even gave copies to the ladies at our fruit and vegetable store! Pray that this message will get out to as many people as possible.Finally, I’ve been interviewed a couple times by a local TV station to share insights from God’s Word on anything from Coronavirus to Celibacy in the Catholic Church.  Lucio, the director of the TV station has been following our services online!

In summary, we have been reminded during this time that all things work together for the good of those who love God.
We thank you for all your prayers, encouragement and sacrificial giving during this time.
God is at work, and there is no pandemic that will stop Him!

Frequently Asked Question:
Many people have asked us:
“Are you back to normal?” and “Are you able to restart church services?”

We are making progress, but we are not back to normal yet.
We are not supposed to go anywhere without a mask and must continue to maintain a three-foot distance from other people.

Because of the size of our work, we are working closely with our security team and deacons to figure out how to maintain proper sanitary requirements and safety distances.  Even families have to keep their distances in public.  Children’s ministries are out of the question for the time being.

Please pray as we consider re-entry even as soon as the first Sunday in June.

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