While we live in a time of darkness and confusion, the promised coming of the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star, reminds us that darkness doesn’t have the last word. Light prevails over darkness. We can live as children of the light, affirming hope - even in the midst of the most gloomy of circumstances.
Anna, now in 4th grade, is living the life of an only child after living surrounded by the love of her two siblings for her whole life. She cannot hide the fact that she truly enjoys the extra attention she did not have before. But when she skypes with Betta or talks on the phone with Giovanni her eyes light up and a big smile creases her face. She misses them terribly! School is more challenging this year and it has been positive for Anna to step up to the plate. Anna is a passionate church mouse. With growing self-confidence, she participates fully in worship on Thursday evenings at the Gathering Place (campus ministry), Saturday afternoons at the Family Church (Paola’s congregation), and on Sunday mornings at First Church (where John is pastor). Anna continues to love reading and to enjoy dance and piano.
Betta is having the time of her life in Peru as a Rotary exchange student. She has been blessed to have an excellent host family in Lima and has made new friends from around the world. Her Spanish is now excellent even if her Italian has been paying the price. A bright spot has been her participation in the life of the Hogar San Francisco de Asis, a medical mission for destitute and sick children. Follow her at bettainperu.tumblr.com. Betta looks forward to joining the Family Church on a mission trip to Naples Italy this summer. She will go on to be a freshman at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Giovanni is months away from graduating with honors from Emory University in Atlanta with a degree in philosophy and minor in comparative literature. The web design start-up company he and friends have continues to advance (write-up here in the NYT). The courses Giovanni is taking at Emory - comparative literature, philosophy, history, the classics - will ensure that he goes through life with strong points of intellectual reference. He enjoys playing soccer and plays for an amateur team in downtown Atlanta.
Even if Paola is proud of her older children’s accomplishments and independence she misses them greatly and tries her best to continue to smother them using all the technology and communications tools available to her. Her ministry at the Family Church is thriving. She is also the circuit leader of the Appleton churches. With services on both Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings, she is busier than ever. She is leading a mission trip to Naples Italy this summer. What an experience that should be for all concerned. She often cooks up a storm for guests. One might very well say that food is a sacrament in the Benecchi-Hobbins household. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
John’s ministry at First Church – Oshkosh is in its third year. Perhaps most valued for the way he celebrates the life of a loved one at a funeral, he himself enjoys mentoring young people in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college most of all. John serves on the boards of Oshkosh non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity, Bella Medical Clinic, and Southwest Rotary. He is on the editorial board of the Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament and publishes in biblical studies. A short commentary on Habakkuk is available online. He is delighted that First Church will add two new part-time staff in 2013 and that he will have the opportunity of serving, not only as the lead pastor of First Church, but part-time as the second pastor of a sister church in Oshkosh, Calvary Lutheran (ELCA).
In January we are looking forward to having a 17 year-old Rotary exchange student from Argentina in our home. Her name is Ailén. She is fluent in English and German besides Spanish, and we are confident that she will quickly become a part of the family and adapt to life on the frozen tundra.
John Wesley famously said, “The world is my parish.” How true that has become for our family with the passing of time. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!!
John Paola Giovanni Elisabetta Anna