Tuesday afternoon, Frank, Kathy, some of the elders and deacons from the church, and myself drove about 4 hours to the southern part of Toscano (Tuscany), to the city of Chianciano Terme. As we drove into the hotel parking lot, I already started to see some familiar faces. Lucio, Johnny, Massimo, and Jordan, are dear friends of mine from Southern California. One of the main reasons they are so dear to me is because they were instrumental in God’s burdening my heart for Italy. I was going to try to explain who exactly these people are – but it would take too much time. So, in a nutshell, they are from my Italian Fellowship Group at Grace Community Church and it was a huge blessing to see them! J Here is a picture of us.
The preaching was amazing! The theme was Sola Scriptura, so it was all about God’s Word – it’s importance, it’s truth, it’s power. The speakers were John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, and Lance Quinn. Steve Lawson preached this awesome, rock my world message on Hebrews 4:12-13! Wow – I have never heard this passage preached like this before. Most of the passages and basic principles being preached on were familiar things to me (probably familiar to most people), but they went deeper and looked at the verses in such a way that I felt like I’d never read them before! MacArthur hit the importance of God’s truth and standing up and fighting for the truth of God’s Word. Lance Quinn’s last message was on Paul’s ministry and how ours should follow his example (great message!). This time of preaching and being saturated with the Word was so refreshing to my soul! I came away with a renewed love for God’s Word and His truth!
I got to meet fellow believers from all over Italy which was really cool. There were a lot of missionaries there as well, so it was great to get to know some of them and hear about their ministries and things they are going through. I actually met a girl from CA, near Fresno, who is finishing up a year in Italy. So that was pretty cool. J I had a lot of fun too with the elders and deacons from our chuch. It was great to be able to spend some extra time with them – getting to know them, practicing my Italian, laughing with them. Good times. We went out for gelato one night, and it was a lot of fun.
A very exciting part of the conference was the presentation of the MacArthur Study Bible in Italian! Each person attending the conference received a special conference edition of the Bible, which was awesome. My first Study Bible in Italian! Thankfully I have the English version, so I can translate it. J It was a privilege to witness this Bible being presented, as it is the hopes and prayers of those behind the project that the Study Bible will be a great tool and resource for the Italian people!
A fun part of the conference for me was getting to meet each of the speakers. I talked to Steve Lawson a couple times, and took this picture with him. That was so fun for me, because he is one of my favorite preachers of all times! J We also got one of his books translated into Italian.
I met Lance and Beth Quinn, and quickly fell in love with them! What a wonderful couple! After spending 5 minutes with them, I felt as if I had known them for years. I went out with Lance and his wife, Beth, the last night. Carey and Pam Hardy were at the conference too, and they came with us. It was such a blessing to get to spend some time with these couples. Here’s a picture of me with Lance and Beth.
And then there’s John MacArthur. John and I go way back … to my freshman year at Masters. The only problem is … he doesn’t remember that. J John MacArthur meets so many people, that I’m not offended that he doesn’t know me, even though I have met him numerous times. I actually was looking for the Quinns on the last day to say goodbye, and I couldn’t find them. So, I went in search of them, and they were eating lunch in the hotel with probably 8 other people, among whom were John and Patricia MacArthur. Lance kindly introduced me to them, explaining that I was a recent grad of the college and I was here in Italy as a short-term missionary. John signed my Italian Bible and wrote in it, “Thank you for your faithfulness.” So that was just one more special moment out of the many. I did not get a picture with the MacArthurs (after all, this was taking place in the middle of their lunch, so I couldn’t ask for too many favors), but here’s my Bible (can you find the mistake on the cover?). J
This conference was the hugest blessing, and I thank God for the awesome privilege of getting to attend. I came away so refreshed and encouraged! I didn’t want to come down off the mountaintop experience, but alas, the mountaintop experiences cannot last forever. That’s what heaven is for! J