We left Greenville Monday afternoon, May 30, and arrived in Rome about 8:10 the morning of May 31. We arrived in Viterbo around 11. We are glad to return. This trip is our sixth since Mike Cuneo came. As I sat on the terrace of our hotel and watched the Swallows swooping and darted, I thought about the swallows returning every year to Capistrano. Like the swallows, we return each June to Viterbo.
Tuesday afternoon, Mike and I walked through the old city. We visited some men I met last year that operate a woodworking shop. They teach men to work with ancient tools. Then we visited a man, Mr. Matteutti, who produces olive oil. The business has been in the family four generations. He is 80 years old; full of energy with a great passion for making excellent olive oil. We reflected on how we should have a greater passion for Christ. We also reflected on Isaiah 28; God’s revealing to men through natural revelation so many wonderful works. For example, many millennia in the past, by God’s providence, mankind developed the process for making olive oil and wine.
We also visited the lady I met last year that along with others rediscovered a special blue glaze for pottery that was produced in only five Italian cities The pottery has not been produced for a number of centuries My wife and I saw a piece in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge last July.
Wednesday, Mike, Ivana, Sissy, and I drove through the beautiful Italian county side to Verona. Here, we met our friend Joel Rinn, who is seeking to establish a Presbyterian congregation in the area. Joel has lived there for ten years. On Thursday, Joel led us on a wonderful tour of Verona. We learned history and medieval politics, and saw the development of Roman Catholic theology reflected in architecture. We also visited the Arena (one of three largest coliseums in Italy) and the old Roman theater.
Friday’s highlight was a wine tasting at a small winery that is owned by friends of Joel. We learned a number things about wine making.
Thursday night, we enjoyed a delightful dinner with Joel, his wife Jessica, and Bill and Cheryl Nikides. Bill is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, who has recently begun to serve as Pastor for the English language congregation in Vincenza. The fellowship was sweet.
Sunday, June 5, the Presbyterian Church of Viterbo met at 10 for prayer meeting The morning service was at 10:30. Including Sissy and me, there were 19 people in attendance. I preached on The Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20: The Authority of the Mission; The Work of the Mission; The Encouragement for the Mission. It is truly wonderful to be with this dear people again.
We had lunch with our friends, Mario and Clara and their son, Stephano. It was really good to catch up with them. A new visitor to the church, Elisabetta joined us. We helped her work through some problems. During the conversation, she expressed the desire to join the church. Later Mike and I had a pastoral visit with Helena. She gave a remarkable testimony to God’s saving grace in her life. She will join this next day by profession of faith and receive baptism. One other young lady, Michela (age 15) will make profession of faith and be baptized. Her mother, Maria, and a gentleman, Vincenzo, will join by reaffirmation of faith. We will meet with the three of them during the week.
This evening we will visit a lady who is dying from Lou Gehrig’s. Mike will seek to present the gospel to her. Afterward, we will have dinner with Gianni and Adanella. They are the first couple God converted through the church.
Tuesday, June 7
God declares in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD, that is my name; I will not give My Glory to another, nor My Praise to graven images.” and 42:17, “They will be turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in idols, who say to molten images, you are our gods.”
Italy is rife with such idolatry. Indeed may God turn them back and convert them.
Last evening, we had a good visit with the artist, Anna Maria, who has Lou Gehrig’s. She barely is able to speak. She primarily communicates using a chart, by nodding her head and winking. She did affirm that she was resting in Christ alone for her salvation. Please pray for her that her that she truly understands the gospel and her death will be peaceful.
We then had dinner at Gianni’s and Adanella’s. In addition to Mike, Ivana, Sissy, and me, Angelo and Laura were there. They came to Christ about a year ago. It was delightful to have fellowship with four of the first converts in Viterbo. Also present was Adanella’s son, Marco, for whom we have been praying. He is good friend and not at all antagonistic, but unwilling to repent. Pray for him.
Friday, June 10
The last three days have been busy and full of adventure Tuesday afternoon, Mike, Alex (a young man from Bologna who is interested in studying at the seminary), and I were examining a church building, when couple in a widow above spoke to us, informing us the church was closed and never opened. We told them about the church conference and after several attempts, threw a brochure through the window. At which point, the young lady said her mother was an Evangelical. The mother, Rosella, came to the window and we began to talk. She invited us to come for coffee. We spent at least an hour with her, hearing her testimony, clarifying the gospel, and answering questions. One daughter (Adura), who has a little girl (Ahora), lives with her mother. We are not clear if Adura’s boyfriend, Rafael, lives there or not. Rosella has another daughter, who under house arrest for drug possession, lives in another apartment Mike spoke with her on the phone. She professes faith in Christ alone for salvation. Rosella said she would attend the conference this weekend please pray for them. Wednesday was spent in site seeing. We drove out to some very old basilicas. They are distinguished by their simplicity. The addition of idolatrous ornamentation was added over the years. At one church we met a lady, Clara, who is 96 years old and was baptized in that church We were able to speak to her about salvation through Christ alone. The last site we visited was Bagnoreggio. It is known as the city in the clouds and the dying city. It may only be reached by a steel and cement walkway, which is about a quarter mile long. For us its chief attraction is that it is the birthplace of Bonaventura, who was a Franciscan theologian and rival of Thomas Aquinas at the Sorbonne in Paris. Again we reflected on God’s Providence: to take a boy from an obscure, isolated village and bring him to place of eminence in the church. By the way, the village is no longer dying. It has been resuscitated by tourism.
Thursday was the men’s study Normally, I conduct a two day gathering for men from around Europe. We only had one man come from out of town, Alex. Vincenzo, who will join the church this Lord’s day wanted to come as well. We invited the other men from the church; Gianni and Angelo joined us. Mike and I met with Vincenzo at 8:30 to interview him for church membership. He seems to be a fairly mature and knowledgeable christian and will be a good addition to the church.
I taught on the sufficiency of Scripture and looked particularly at its application to worship and church government. We also studied at the offices of elder and deacon. The time was profitable and the fellowship refreshing.
At 4:15, Mike and I interviewed Maria and her daughter, Michela, for membership. Maria is a mature Christian, who comes by reaffirmation of faith. Michela was converted last summer and joins by profession of faith and baptism.
Thursday, at 5, P.M. we met for the weekly Bible Study. I taught on baptism from chapter 28 of the Westminster Confession. Twenty people were present and the study went well. Mario’s son, Stephano, translated. Afterwards, Mike, Ivana, Alex, Sissy and I sent to restaurant that specializes in steaks.
Today, we took Ivana, Alex, and Sissy to visit Mr. Matteutti’s olive production plant He demonstrated the process from harvest to the final product. He also has a museum with various machines used over the years to produce olives, from early donkey-pulled and hand operated machines to present computerized machinery.
Afterwards, we went to lunch with Brikana and her two teenage daughters, Laura and Martina. We met Brikana eleven years ago, shortly after her husband died. She left our congregation for a couple years, but returned about three years ago. I think she struggles in rearing her daughters. Please pray for them.
The lunch was great and we all ate too much. We decided to discipline ourselves and just eat a gelato for supper. HaHa. Helena joined us. On the way, we stopped by the leather store owned by my friend, Roberto. He sells handmade leather products from Tuscany at fraction of the price one would pay in Florence and about the same as one would pay in the states for quality products machine produced. Each year I buy something from him: my briefcase, handmade shoes, wallet, etc. Tonight I bought another pair of shoes. He used to sell pipes and has a large collection from which he asked me to select one as a gift. Mike received one as well. I encourage you to look at his web site: www.officinetoscane.com.
Saturday, June 11
A quiet day. I am reviewing for the conference and Sissy is packing. Please pray for the conference. Tonight, I will preach from Psalm 87, the Glory of The Church and Acts 1:6-14, Christ’s Ascension and the Mission of the Church. After the second message, the church is hosting a pizza supper for all who can come. On the Lord’s Day I will preach on 1 Thessalonians 5:12 , 13 on the importance off office bearers and necessity of belonging to a local congregation. We will have a fellowship meal and and a final service at which I will preach from Malachi on Spiritual Conversation. In the morning service, we will baptize two people and commune with Christ and one another at the Lord’s Table.
We have invited many people to the conference; please be praying. Pray also for Raisa. She is from Moldavia. She is about 30. A man brought her to Italy when she was 15. Later he left her. She works at the Hotel. We have befriended her and shared the gospel. We have given her an Italian Bible and invited her to church. She seems very receptive. She occasionally attends the Orthodox church.
Saturday evening thirty people attended the services. At least five of them are unconverted. All were very attentive and a couple of the unconverted people for whom we have been praying are open to talking about the gospel. Afterwards, we enjoyed a pizza supper. Almost all the people came.
Sunday twenty-five were at the services. Most of whom stayed for the fellowship lunch.
Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for God’s blessing on this congregation and the ministry of Pastor Cuneo.