When Maurizio gave his life to Jesus a couple of weeks ago, I found myself with the (exciting) task of shifting from an evangelistic focus to a discpleship focus. We continue meeting once a week for lunch and it is during these encounters that we talk about his walk, we talk about what he's reading, questions that he's come up with (yesterday's was "Why are we considered Christ's friends, but not his brothers?") and obstacles he's going up against.
I have been so impressed; not with him, not with myself, but with God, and the changes I can see Him bringing about in Maurizio, literally, tangibly before my eyes. His mom has seen the change and is so happy - she has asked if she could visit our Life Group or host a Life Group dinner at her house. Maurizio has shared with his banker friend (who used to read his fortune using rune stones) his discovery about Christ. He shared with Jara (who up until recently was doing some form of 'energy' therapy on him) about his decision and invited her to Life Group. She came last Sunday with her fiance and left really encouraged/challenged. Last night, our Life Group gathered for dinner at Maurizio's house. She came with her fiance and she asked if they could come back this Sunday. Maurizio also invited a friend from his old 'New Age community' to come to the dinner last night - he's really something and I had the chance to challenge him to consider Jesus as more than who he currently thinks he is. Maurizio also shared with his cousin what Christ has done in his life and she is curious and wants to visit our Life Group.
I remember reading in a book on cell churches a few years ago about the Oikos factor. (Oikos is a greek word which can be translated as: house, household or family.) Basically, the author says that as you get to know people and build trust with them, you will inevitably be introduced into their oikos or 'circle of friends and family' and when that happens, we need to be sensitive to those who are searching. That is definitely happening with Maurizio.
The longer I'm here, the more I draw the conclusion that in this Italian culture, saturated with skepticism and suspicion toward anything non-Catholic, building trust is uber-important. We've seen it in small ways - in how people don't respond to publicity very much. Instead, when someone begins to trust us, they invite people that trust them and on and on it goes into this big network of trust. Lo and behold, we have a community of people that trust each other - although somewhat tenuous. So what happens when the first few people fall in love with Jesus and begin the process of becoming disciples? Do you see how it could have a ripple effect, sending waves all throughout the community?
As I'm typing this, I just got a text message from Maurizio. He is so excited and happy with how the dinner went last night. He said he was also excited that Jara seems so interested and desires to be integrated into our community. Maurizio gets it and he's living proof of the change that God longs to bring about in every one of us.
Last week after Life Group, Silvia, herself having given her life to Christ a couple of years ago, told Maurizio how proud of him she was for sharing with the people in his life. How neat to see that this 'newbie' in the faith is already finding his place and purpose in the Body!