Faenza, Italy: Soccer – Update #2

Greetings again from the land where hello means both hi and goodbye.

Our week of soccer camps is nearly in the books. All of us (campers, parents, one or two grandparents, and I) are still eagerly anticipating gathering at the home of two of our campers for pizza tonight! Such an invitation is a rare privilege in Italy and signals a success of our ministry as new relationships have been formed between local missionaries and unchurched families and old relationships have been strengthened and deepened in openness and trust. The mother of one of our first-time campers, attesting to her son’s positive experience at camp, displayed enough interest to join us yesterday in order to get a first hand glimpse of what we are doing and to employ her professional photographing expertise to capture scenes from the match portion of our clinic. (She later surprised us by printing two different striking clinic collages for each helper and attendee).

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For the past two and a half days God has blessed me and all of us at camp by bringing my fellow Push The Rock soccer missionary Mike Cone to team up with me in running camps. While Mike and I ran soccer clinics in Mexico with a PTR team in May we off-handedly tossed around the idea of him incorporating a week of teaming up with me in Faenza for soccer clinics into his father-son graduation tour of Europe. By God’s good grace that dream was brought to fruition for the second half of this week and Mike’s Christian fellowship, sports mission experience and gifts of interacting with kids enhanced everyone’s camp experience this week.

Mike Cone and I

 

 

Left: Nathan. Right: Mike.

 

 

 

 

In addition to our morning sportsmanship/character challenge of the day, Mike or I closed each clinic day with either a testimony or a message from scripture, particularly regarding the eternal and abundant life which can only be had by knowing and living in close relationship with God/Jesus Christ. I was blessed to hear the honest response of one camper today after I finished speaking; he said that though he was considering trying out other religions he had found that Christianity was the most beautiful, had the best stories, and he informed me that he believes in Jesus.

Here in Italy people typically pronounce my name NAH-tun, a sound which evokes in my mind something akin to “Nothing.” Humbling though it may be, I have found it fitting. Apart from Christ I can do nothing (John 15:5); I can receive only what has been given me from heaven (John 3:27); He must become greater, I must become less (John 3:30); neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow (1 Cor 3:7); if I glorify myself, my glory means nothing (John 8:54). God has stirred a desire in me to have campers see Him alone and nothing of me. I hope, pray and trust that God has indeed shown Himself to campers, parents, passersby and children in the park this week and I look forward to the fruit that will come from the seeds of the Word that have been planted this week and the connections formed between local fellow missionaries, and those between missionaries and unchurched and single-parent households open to the gospel.  Thank you for your support in this our common purpose of bringing Christ to the world and the world to Christ!

-Nathan R.

 

 

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