When Coronavirus Hits Close to Home

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I had been hoping to give an update for a while.  I hope to share with you sometime soon how things have changed for us since I shared my Top ten things I’ve loved about the Coronavirus lockdown.

But not today.

The Coronavirus just got up close and personal.

Just over a week ago, one of our dearest friends, Pastor Bill Standridge passed away from the Coronavirus.

Jon and Bill Standridge

As a pastor, missionary and author, he was known throughout Italy for his dedication to teaching Biblical doctrine.  
The church in Rome that God used him to plant has been one of our greatest allies in the truth for many years.  
He took my parents under his wing when they arrived in Italy in 1973, and our families have been close ever since.  
When we were young, our family would even drive two hours down to Rome to celebrate Thanksgiving with them.  His son Steve has been one of my most important mentors.
When his wife Maria Teresa passed away a few years ago, people traveled from all over Italy to pay their respects and to celebrate her life for God.
Bill’s life and legacy should have been celebrated for God’s glory…  But Coronavirus took this away from us.  Even his family had to say their goodbyes by phone.
Yet, he is now joyfully in heaven, in the presence of the God he served so faithfully for so many years.

Unfortunately, that was only the beginning.  Death got closer and more tragic.
Two nights ago we heard commotion in the house next door.  We suspected that something was terribly wrong.  
Our neighbor had been suffering for years with kidney failure, including at least one  failed kidney transplant.
Before the virus kept us all apart, I had been to visit him and his wife.  I shared a few thoughts from the Gospel as he lay in his bed.
Few times had I seen someone more appreciative.
Now he is gone.  I received a text message from another neighbor telling me that he had passed away.
I can’t even go over to comfort the family.  Coronavirus has taken that way from us.

Yesterday morning I got a call.  My friend was weeping.
You may remember my friend, the butcher.  We became friend chatting about barbecure ribs. God brought their whole family to start attending our church.
My friend’s stepfather, who lived with them, contracted the virus on a skiing trip up north about a month ago.
We had shared the Gospel with him and his wife over dinner a couple times.
The whole family has been on quarantine since they found out.  He had been doing better.  They had taken him off the respirator.  Then he took a turn for the worse. God has been working on my friend through this and he has asked for help with his spiritual growth.
My friend called me weeping to tell me that his step-dad had passed away.  Last year he lost his father too.
We can’t even attend the funeral, or go comfort our friend, or pray with them in person.  Coronavirus took this away from us.

Last night I also found out that a member in our church is waiting on test reults.  If there was one person in our church that needs to NOT contract the virus, it is him.
Now all we can do is pray for a miracle.

One man dearly loved by Evangelicals in Italy, who is in heaven; 
Two men who had heard the Gospel but had not made a profession of faith;
One family waiting and praying for a miracle.


Where is God in all this?
God is still at work.
We don’t know how exactly this all fits into His picture.  But we trust him.
His name will be exalted, and His people are still in His care.
For us who believe in Christ this is just a hiccup in our life.  
For those without Christ times are dark, and hope is grim.
Pray that through this time many will give glory to God and repent, embracing Christ as Lord.

Psalm 46:1–3
    [1] God is our refuge and strength,
        a very present help in trouble.
    [2] Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
        though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
    [3] though its waters roar and foam,
        though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah (ESV)


Please pray!

  1. Please pray for the Standridges and for Italian Evangelicals, as they cope with this great loss.
  2. Please pray for our neighbors.
  3. Please pray for my friend and his family.
  4. Please pray for the family in our church that is waiting on test results.
  5. Please pray for us as we live and minister in such a unique world.
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Interview with Randall Gilmore on Covid-19

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Gilmore InterviewI hope you had a chance to listen to my interview with Randall Gilmore.

We had a terrific time!
You can listen to it here.

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Interview with Randal Gilmore

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Join us at 6 PM EST tomorrow (Sunday) on on Facebook Live for an interview with Randal Gilmore, Director of the Gospel Story-arc™ Project and great friend and mentor!
https://buff.ly/3ddNjMZ

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Ten things I’ve loved about the Coronavirus lockdown

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Coronavirus is scary.   Certainly a few important questions come to mind:

When will it end?   Will we survive? How will we pay the bills? How will I survive the boredom of being stuck inside with nothing to do?

The good news is that God ordered Israel to stop often…not just once a week. There were good reasons for that. Here are a few tips I have come up with from my first week of lockdown:

  1. Spend more time with your children and spouse.
    • Make memories!
    • We played Dodgeball as a family in our small yard.
    • Noah and have time to play Chess
    • We have played FIFA on the Playstation (but not too much)
    • We enjoy cooking together
    • We are praying together (more later)
  1. Get ahead with your reading while enjoying a nice fire
    • Readers are leaders!
    • My goal is 40 books this year! I track my reading with Goodreads.
    • Video courses are good too! Melodee and I are signed up to a thinking course and I am signed up to a coaching course and a course on the book of Romans.
  1. Catch up on sleep
    • Ahhh..the elusive eight hours of sleep!  Its amazing how much better I can think when I take care of my sleep!
    • Enjoy the break!  Trust in God!  Rest is an act of faith in God’s ability to meet our needs.
    • Sometimes our sleep deprivation is not due to an actual need, but to bad choices. Netflix even admits that they’re main competition is with sleep!
  2. Catch up on your housework
    • Put stuff away finally! Or get the kids to put their stuff away!
    • Declutter your life. Evaluate what you have, what you actually need, what you could get rid of.
  3. Care more about those who are at risk with the virus
    • We have several in our congregation that are high risk.  We pray for them and keep in touch with them.  Unfortunately many older people have died because of the indifference of people toward keeping the virus from spreading.
  1. Family worship
    • We had an extraordinary time of worship Sunday as a family. Melodee played the piano, I played guitar, Noah ran the PowerPoint off our TV and Eva stood up and sang her heart out!  Of course the kids enjoyed choosing the songs, and Noah even read us a Psalm!
    • Our kids loved it!  They want to do it again!  I only asked why we had not done this sooner…it took a worldwide pandemic to make this possible!
Technical difficulties
  1. The opportunity to team up with others
    • Daniel and Danilo worked feverishly to get something up for our team.
    • Wednesday night’s test run was incredibly well attended and there was very good interaction.  Danilo’s sister even recorded herself singing along with the worship songs!
    • You can see the service here.

You can join our services too! Click here!

  1. Encourage others
    Make time to encourage others or to show the love of Christ, even to unbelievers. People are more then ever hungry to make sense of all this. They are more than happy to receive a verse of encouragement in a time such as this. Make the most of every opportunity! Ephesians 5:16
    1. Use Facebook
    2. Connect with Whatsapp. Here in Italy most people use this way to send text messages, video conference calls and audio message, as well as Bible verses!
    3. Make a phone call (novel idea!)
  2. Realize how much you love your church
    • Our church people are writing up a storm of encouraging messages!
    • Our people would have been willing to be infected by the virus to spend time together!  Fortunately with today’s technology that is not necessary!
  3. Stop to realize how much you love and need God
    • Get your prayer life and devotional life back on track.
    • Read some deeper books about life. Journal.  Pray.  Meditate on God’s word.
    • Read some puritans, or even better read through the Psalms, or Romans! Or Job!

Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get to do all that you hope to do.

You have to roll with the punches a bit, especially with children, but I guarantee that it will be a memorable time that God can use in your life!

What is your list? Feel free to come up with your own list and share it here!

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Ministering in Lockdown

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I remember when we first started hearing about Coronavirus back in January.  I was one of those who made fun of it…after all, we’ve had our fair share of SARS, Mad Cow Disease, Swine Flu, Bird Flu…you name it, we’ve heard it.

Yet when the numbers of people dying started incrementing rapidly we realized this was something more than the usual.
As of this writing more than 124,000 people in the world have contracted the virus, with more than 4,600 deaths and in Italy we’ve had over 12,400 cases and over 800 deaths.

I remember when we first started hearing about Coronavirus back in January.  I was one of those who made fun of it…after all, we’ve had our fair share of SARS, Mad Cow Disease, Swine Flu, Bird Flu…you name it, we’ve heard it.

Yet when the numbers of people dying started incrementing rapidly we realized this was something more than the usual.
As of this writing more than 124,000 people in the world have contracted the virus, with more than 4,600 deaths and in Italy we’ve had over 12,400 cases and over 800 deaths.

When Saturday we announced that there would be no church Sunday we were hoping the worst would have soon been over.  Unfortunately we were wrong.

Monday night the Italian government decided to shut down the country further and again today we heard that more restrictions have come about, so that Italians are not allowed to leave their homes if not for work or basic necessities, such as groceries and pharmacy.  Everything else is closed.
Schools will be closed at least until April 3rd.

We have attempted homeschooling this week (our hats are off to all you homeschooling parents!!!).
Pray for us!

So how do we minister under such circumstances?  After all, greater the need, greater the need for the Gospel!
I thank the Lord for very capable coworkers! Yesterday Daniel, Danilo and I met at church to figure out what to do.  (I mostly sat there pretending to understand the technological gibberish).
We decided after last week’s lack of a service to look into a way to stream services.

Streaming

Praise God we were able to stream via Facebook Live. Italian Christians were hungry for fellowship and worship!  The feedback we got was overwhelming and Daniel’s brief message from Psalm 46 was exactly what the people needed.
(You can follow us here. We will be streaming again Sunday at 10 AM Italian time and again Wendesday 8:30 pm our time.). 

We look forward to ministering to people.  We know that God uses everything for His glory.

We will be praying for you, as many of you soon may be facing what we have been going through.

What joy to know that our hope is not found in this world, and that our hope is eternal in Christ!

God is good!

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