My surprise tiramisu cake
3 October 2016
The Asheville team and I went to MiHOP, the Milan House of Prayer. My friend, Gloria, met us there and explained that lots of churches here in Italy call themselves Casa di Preghiera (House of Prayer), but they adopted English abbreviation HOP to indicate the connection of Milan’s House of Prayer to the original in Kansas City, IHOP, founded by Mike Bickle. MiHOP is fairly young, and so has not become a round-the-clock house of prayer, but that is the goal. Gloria explained that the founders of MiHOP also longed to make this a place where people from all churches and denominations can come and worship any hour of the day or night.
As she was finishing her explanation, my friend, Guy, walked in, carrying his guitar. After introductions, Guy led us in a time of worship. As we worshiped the Lord nudged me, saying that this is the time for Billy to receive healing from scoliosis. So I suggested that we all pray for him. Gloria gave her testimony of being healed from scoliosis. I had no idea, which is a sign that I had heard correctly from God.
After supper we went to the homeless shelter run by Remar, a local church, and an organization called Amici di Angel Services. My friend, Angelina, works there as a volunteer. They feed, clothe, and shelter 50 refugee men. The men are mostly from North Africa, but we did meet a couple of men from Syria and Iran. Billy and Deborah dished out food while the rest of us helped greet the incoming refugees. The facility doors are only open from six to nine in the evening, and also for a brief time in the morning. The men are not allowed to remain inside the building during the day, and if they arrive after the doors are locked, then they must spend the night outside. This also means that they might lose their place because there are always others that they turn away daily.
No alcohol or drugs of any kind are allowed in the building, and their use is vigorously discouraged. Only the most hopeless addict would ever risk losing a warm bed and a hot meal for a beer.
We also spent time between arrivals praying for the shelter, its volunteers, and the refugees. The shelter’s most urgent prayer need is because the building (a former school) is up for sale. Of course the city has other locations that they would allow the church to use, but this one is in a perfect location, being walking distance from the main train station. When the men leave the shelter in the morning, they typically go to the train station, where they spend the day staying relatively warm and begging for money. No other location could offer them such a great opportunity for getting money. And they must beg because most don’t speak enough Italian to ever get a job, and besides they can’t legally work, being mostly illegal aliens.
Deborah and I took the group to the church that we know as the Athlete Church. That’s because it was founded in connection with the missionary group, Atleti per Cristo, Athletes for Christ. There are some professional soccer players, referees, and others with connections to the sports world there. The team got a glimpse of what a typical Italian evangelical church is like: no pretty building (it meets in a school auditorium), but a big love for God.
In the evening Gloria, Angelica, and Shelly came to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year with us. After dinner Michele showed up to say his goodbyes to the team. It was a wonderful, joyous time together for the team’s last night in Italy.
This morning I saw the team off at the train station. Then Nina came to clean. As she was finishing, there was a knock at the door. It was Nina’s son, Michael, Mandy (his girlfriend), and Ketty with a birthday cake for me. It was a spontaneous surprise birthday party. And yes, I was very surprised.
This evening I went to a prayer meeting at Michele and Shelly’s house. After prayer, they had another surprise birthday party for me. I am feeling very loved and encouraged right now. My heart is overflowing! God is good!
 Unity! It has always been a problem in the Italian churches because many pastors regard each other with suspicion, believing that the others are out to steal their flock. So rather getting together to reach the world, rather than going out to make disciples, often churches become such a tight club that it is intimidating to visit.
I have been a visitor to many little Italian churches where the pastor will recognize that I’m a visitor, and rather just saying “Welcome” he will walk over and stick a microphone under my nose and make me explain what I’m doing there. Folks, that’s really intimidating to many of us! If you ever want us to come back, stop doing this!