Surprises

I have just gotten back home to Italy almost two weeks ago. After a four month absence, I had several things that had to be taken care of immediately. Once those things were taken care of, I could do my favorite thing: visiting the people who are important to me. These are dear friends who pray for me daily. I do the same when I’m in the US, but sometimes I have to be content with a phone call, mailing a card, or sending e-mail because of the vast distances involved—I have praying friends in the US on both coasts and from north to south, so going to visit is not always an option.
My first visit was to my favorite church in the whole world: the church of Biella. Biella is a small city north of Turin, and this church has the friendliest people of any church anywhere. They actually argue over whose turn it is to host me. The pastor is a good friend of many years, and his preaching is so full of the Holy Spirit anointing that nobody could ever complain that going to church is boring.
Last year the church bought a bar. What they call a bar in Italy is as much a coffee shop and sandwich joint as it is a bar, and more than that, it functions as a meeting place where often you can also enjoy live music. So when friends decide to get together for a coffee, they will go to their local bar. The church’s bar is far more than a typical Italian bar because in addition to indoor and outdoor coffee shop space, it has two big rooms with tables for eating (with a foosball table for the kids in the room farthest back), a good-sized courtyard and beyond that, a large gravel bocce court.
When I told Felicity about going to Biella (she and the core of Biella’s worship group came with me in September to bring Italian worship to the Feast of Tabernacles in Kalisz, Poland), she wanted to come, too. I admit, I told Felicity, hoping that she would come with me. I travel alone most of the time, and I’m fine traveling alone. But having the company of a dear friend is so much better. So Felicity brought her guitar, and it turns out that God had an assignment for us at the church’s bar.
But first there was a divine appointment on the train. The train to Biella can go either to Novara and change or to Santhia and change. Either way takes about the same amount of time. I usually go by way of Santhia because it costs something like twenty cents less, and I used to be a coupon-clipping housewife, so twenty cents saved is something I appreciate. When I bought the train tickets, I had on my walking glasses and not my reading glasses, so I didn’t notice that the tickets said via Novara. The conductor pointed it out as he checked our tickets just past Novara, so we were already committed to going by way of Santhia. If I had noticed, I would have made sure that we changed trains in Novara, but I hadn’t. But that turned out to be not so much because of the wrong glasses as it was a divine appointment on the train from Santhia to Biella. I had seen a woman get on the train and ask in Italian if it was the train to Biella. She sat by herself near where Felicity and I sat. We were speaking English, and as an American, her ears perked up. When she heard Felicity say something about music, she couldn’t keep to herself anymore. It turns out that she is a singer/songwriter and she’s touring, playing in bars all around Italy. We spoke to her about our faith and she was so touched that she gave Felicity a couple of CD’s.
We arrived in Biella around lunch time, but everyone who usually picks me up from the train station was busy, so Pastor Fabio sent Silvestro to pick us up. I had never met Silvestro before, and he had only enough time to take us from the train station to the church’s bar, then he had to go because his son was getting married in a couple of days. It wasn’t until I talked to Giuseppe (the bass player and leader of the worship team) that I put it all together: Giuseppe told me that his daughter is getting married in a couple of days . . . to Marco, who I then realized must be Silvestro’s son.
Anyway, Silvestro dropped us off at the bar and went to finish the wedding preparations. Pastor Fabio had told me that he wouldn’t be able to come pick us up from the bar until around 4 that afternoon. So Felicity and I enjoyed a nice piadina (sandwich wrap) in the sunny courtyard. Just as we were finishing lunch a man came into the bar who was very clearly drunk. He ordered a beer and sat near us, scrutinizing us because he had never seen us before. When he heard us speaking English with each other, he began interrupting. I don’t normally mind someone interrupting a conversation like that—in fact, it’s often a divine appointment, as with the woman on the train. But his interruptions became increasingly disruptive and we even noticed a hostile undertone to them.
Felicity looked at me and said, “I think we need to do some spiritual battle.” So she pulled out her guitar and started to sing praise songs. I immediately felt like I should be dancing, but aware of how weird my holy dancing looks, I hesitated. But then I got up and danced, and I felt the flow of the Holy Spirit as I danced and Felicity played. I sang along with her, sometimes in counterpoint, sometimes in harmony. The drunk tried several times to stop our worship, but seeing that we were not going to stop, he gave up. He went inside and came back out with another beverage: water! He made a few feeble efforts at stopping the worship, but his heart wasn’t in it.
Please understand something: the decision to do spiritual battle was not against the man.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

We recognized the spiritual forces at work in his drunken combativeness. As we worshiped, he settled down—an outward sign of the enemy retreat. At that, Felicity began singing in Italian so that the man could understand that we were singing about Jesus. Because silencing the enemy was not the entire point, sharing the love of Jesus was! But we couldn’t do that until we had the enemy silenced.
Giuseppe told me that he is taking the whole Biella worship team to Poland in October for this year’s Feast of Tabernacles. He didn’t invite me, and I didn’t expect him to. I felt like I was the midwife who helped this baby be born, but now that it was walking, the baby didn’t need me anymore.
Upon our return to Milan, Felicity told me that I should tell Bogdan about my upcoming trip to Albania. Bogdan is Albanian and he is very committed to praying for his country. She also said that he would probably be interested in going to the Feast of Tabernacles as Albanian worship. So she set up a meeting with Bogdan for the next day, and I told him first about going to Tirana to pray for the capital, and then I told him about Tabernacles, and how there was no Albanian worship there. He was very excited about both prospects, checked his calendar, and found that both time periods were open. So it looks like I will be midwife now to Albanian worship at the Feast of Tabernacles. God is good!

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