Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tivoli

Me, Joel (wonderful photographer), Amos
Here are some pictures from last weekend's excursion to the Villa D'Este in Tivoli. I think this is where the cardinals used to live. Basically what it is is a ridiculously large house followed by an even more ridiculous garden with a bajillion fountains (a bajillion is scientific terms for more than ever needed but still really cool). I, being the ever adventurous (read into this: stupid) one, ran through one of them with Amos into a little cave behind it for a BC point. 'Twas lots of fun... check out Joel's website for even more pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/hardmaj1/

Running into the fountain

The ridiculously cool house, with paintings all over the walls
A picture I am proud of taking (the rose in focus, the couple holding hands out of focus... so sweet)
Me in front of the biggest fountain in the garden

Sweet view from a window in the house

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

So Many Thoughts.....

First off, I promise that I will have pictures of this last weekend up on my next post. In lieu of that, I give you a video that was done by my team here in Rome for various universities Campus Crusade Fall Retreat.

video

This post comes from a time and space where I have a million thoughts running through my head and am afraid that once I start typing, this is going to be insanely long. So, in order to save you (my faithful few blog readers whom I love), this is kind of the general order things will be written in: meeting Italian and European leadership of Campus Crusade, seeking God, Galatians and following Jesus, Andrea, planning, running through the city, and Kanda and the girls apartment.

Yesterday we (our team) went to a dinner snack/beverages type of thing. I knew that the Italian leadership team was going to be there as well as the European leadership (of Agape Europe, Campus Crusade for Christ's European outreach) but I dont think it really sank in. I thought it was going to be casual, meet a couple people. And so, I am sure much to my Mom's chagrin as she reads this, I wore a t-shirt, jeans and my moccasins. Lest you think that this was not classy, let it be known that non of said articles of clothing has holes in them and all were (relatively) clean.

There were a lot of really interesting things that went on during the 3 or 4 hours we all got to mingle, including such fun things as Matt belting out his best opera (to the neighbors delight, as they leaned out their windows and enjoyed), watching two of the staff kids fight (this was not serious fighting, they had smiles on their faces, but they were drilling each other... did me and my brothers ever fight like that?), and meeting 1500 new people. Ok maybe 1500 is an exaggeration but there were a lot of people there who were on staff all over Italy and the European team was from Holland, Spain and England. I got to talking with Hans, who is one of three men who comprise the European leadership team. Hans had been the national director of Holland for 20+ years and was just terrific to talk with. We got to talking about the time that he had began as national director.

If you email me, I will tell you the whole story, but the thing that stuck out to me was that he had been quite young when he was approached to take over. He didnt want to. He told them that. They said, "We believe God is calling you and we are confident that if he is, he will let you know too." Needless to say, much to Hans' s surprise, God clearly let Hans know that this was the direction for his life. In Hans' words, "It wasnt easy and it wasnt fun during those first few years, but we were where God wanted us." That got me to thinking two things. One, how do we hear what God is telling us? For Hans, it was reading the scripture and God showed up. God has a habit of showing up when we seek him with all our hearts. In fact, he promises it in Jeremiah 29:13 and Matthew 7:7. I just dont think I do a good job of seeking with all my heart. And listening. I want to get better at that but man, I have a long way to go. Second though was, where God wants us is not always the easiest. In fact, it is rarely the easiest place to be. Jesus calls us to love the unlovable, serve those who could care less about us, to "lose our life only to find it in him." But it is a good place to be.

This brings me to my second thought. We are reading in Galatians as a team and I dont know what it was, but tonight I was wrestling with what it means to truly follow Jesus. I think it started with something Lauren said in that "You cannot impart what you do not have." We can't tell other people to follow Jesus if we aren't trying to follow him ourselves. Which brings me to the question of what does it mean to truly follow Jesus. It isnt simply becoming a part of Christian culture. One of my other teammates, Amos, made the observation that Christian culture can become a modern day version of the law. I am reading Matthew right now and the sermon on the mount and Jesus sets some standards that are REALLY hard to follow. I think I rationalize away some of them, saying "Oh he didnt mean that (to turn the other cheek and if a guy steals your shirt give him your coat)" or "Oh Jesus knew we would fail at that so its ok." I want to become more like Christ and making excuses for not following him is not the way to become more like him. I want to KNOW Christ. I want people to look at me and see Jesus and be attracted to that Jesus. I want people to feel the love of Christ coming from me. And the funny thing is, I dont think this is something that only a "Jesus freak", someone really radical, is called to be. I think everyone who calls themselves a Christian should be this crazy, should be trying to figure out what it means to follow Christ (the meaning of Christian is follower of Christ) and how do we live that our day by day.

Third thought; I got to hang out with an Italian guy that last year's STINTers were friends with named Andrea (pronounced Andre - uh, not an-dree-uh). Me, Joel and Amos went to church with him on Sunday, a different church than the week before. This one was great for me because we sang all the songs in Italian and English, the sermon was in English translated into Italian...I can both hear good teaching and learn some Italian. Anyway, back to Andrea. He is an all-star, became a Christian last year (I think) and is already thinking about how to reach Italian students. I am eager to get to hang out with him more and I wanted to let you guys know.

Fourth, I have been planning a lot for something we do called English Club. It is... well, it is an English Club. We get together with the students and help them with their conversational english. It is a chance for them to interact with native English speakers and practice normal conversation. We have different questions each week that lead to spiritual discussion. Our goal is to share the gospel as much as possible and English Club is a great avenue to do that in a non-threatening environment. I am excited to fill y'all in on stories that come out of that.

Fifth, I have been running through the city and I actually like it. Not that I like running, but I like running through Rome. I ran to the University (about a 25 minute round trip), downtown (well, to part of downtown, one of the old Roman gates into the city)... it was fun, I almost got hit by a car and a scooter (these were two separate trips) and my shoes fit great (they were new before coming here). And I apologize for using all those parentheses, that is terrible writing and my journalism teachers would kill me for it... but they aren't here so I am not changing it.

Sixth and last thought... KANDA gets here tomorrow!!!! For those of you who dont know, Kanda is the seventh and final member of our team. She had to stay at home a little longer to finish raising support. We will FINALLY be a complete team! And the girls got an apartment!!! They signed today on an apartment that is relatively close by and will be moving into it in a few weeks. PRAISE GOD.

Thanks for reading, I feel loved by those who leave comments (or send me emails), so thanks. That isnt to say I dont appreciate those who dont leave comments, so dont feel guilt tripped into that (I hate it when people do that to me, the subtle guilt trip). And thanks for those who have let me know prayer requests... I enjoy hearing about your lives and praying for you, so keep them coming to christopher.rule@gmail.com. Much love

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Musical Interlude

I love music. Music is how I relax, chill, calm, often connect with God, and fall in love (well, with songs anyway). So here, as a musical interlude to normal blog posting, are a few artists that you should check out. Click on the artist name and it will, take you to a page where you can listen to their music.

Bosc - lead singer is an all-star, a genuinely great guy that is friends with my bro
Matthew Perryman Jones - love his stuff, just bought his cd
Gregory Alan Isakov - read an article about him that had the quote "For him, life is about falling in love with the world as many times as possible." I dont know if I agree, but I think thats an interesting thought.
Emily DeLoach - very cool voice, should be more popular than she is
Dave Barnes - not only does he make great music, he is hilarious live. Check out his videos on youtube by searching THEdavebarnes
The Almost - a little more rocking than normal, check out Say This Sooner and Amazing Because It Is
Over the Rhine - Karen Berquist has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard. Check out their website at overtherhine.com and read Linford's writings... I want to be able to write like him

Well, this musical interlude will probably happen every so often, hope you find some music you like. I will get back to Rome on the next post. Thanks for checking out my blog. Much Love to you all.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Vision for Rome

There are so many cool things that I want to write, but I don't want to bore you all. By you all, I mean all ten of you that have actually read this blog. No, thats a joke but I did feel loved by all the people who left me feedback or emailed me. I HAVE MY ADDRESS now, but am not going to post it, so if you want it, email me at christopher.rule@gmail.com and I will send it to you.

Today was our vision and strategic plan day. What this means is that I spent about 5 hours in meetings with my team and it was great. Seriously. Our vision is the big picture for what we would like to trust God to do and the strategic plan is what steps can we take to reach that vision. It was so exciting to finally be taking steps, specific steps, towards what we will be doing this year, though it seems a little overwhelming. It is strange coming from a ministry at Miami University where there are hundreds of students involved and Campus Crusade is not entirely unfamiliar. Here in Rome, it just isnt like that. We would love to see it moving towards that but the reality is that we have a long way to go.

Just to share some of the vision, we want to see God raising up students who take ownership of Agape Italia. Right now there are students involved, who are coming out to meetings or to Bible Studies but we arent seeing students own it as their own. We want to trust God to see our Bible study's double or triple, see students hungering for scripture. We would love to see La Sapienza linked with Agape Italia, even using their English department to advertise for our English Club's. What we really want to trust God with is to start to see Italian students sharing the gospel with Italian Students. There are a number of other big-picture goals that we have made but you can start to see why this is a little overwhelming. The amazing thing is, we serve a BIG God. He is entirely capable of pulling all this together. We want to do our part on planning, but the reality is that God is the one who works in hearts. Only God can change hearts and we want to trust him to do that as we step out in faith.

So that is what I am jumping into. That is why I am in Rome. Since arriving, there have been times that I have wondered what I am doing here. These first few days (today was the end of the first week), have been a lot of details, a lot of time alone with God, and a lot of settling in. I think I have had little doubts on what I am doing here but today was good for that. Today God seemed to step in and say, "Hey Chris, this is Rome, these are people that I love and want to know me. Think you are up for the task?" Scary thing is, I know the answer is that I am not up for the task. My teams isnt up for the task. We cant do this on our own. So when it happens (and don't get me wrong, I am trusting God that the vision He gives us will happen), no one will be able to say "Look what you did!" It will be "Look what God did!" Can I get an Amen?

As for non-vision related stuff, running through the streets of Rome is pretty cool. I went for a run yesterday and had absolutely no idea where I was going. I just ran around my neighborhood, looking at stores, dodging cars, almost being hit by a scooter and smelling fresh bakeries. The weather was gorgeous it truly felt like an adventure. It would be kind of funny; I would think I wa
s a ways from my apartment and would round a corner to see that I was just down the street. It isn't a nice grid here like it is in American suburbs or cities or countrysides... it is all criss-cross, like someone was playing Pick-Up-Sticks (great old-school game) and just tossed em all on the table. So I am actually looking forward to running. Amazing, isnt it? That is a miracle in itself.
Lastly, I can cook. No, I am no Betty Crocker or Rachel Ray (that was one of my housemates from last year), but I made my own version of Zuppa's pasta-with-chicken (Zuppa is a great restaurant run by Kevin Spruill, my bro-in-law in Upper Arlington... if you life there, go to it and enjoy some good eats for a GREAT price). I went to the grocery, made up my own list of ingredients, came home, called Kevin to finalize the recipe and away I went. It actually turned out good... so if you want my cooking advice, just ask. Or talk to my Mom or Kev because they are both better cooks than I am. Or my sisters. Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am not that great a cook... but I made a good meal. Much love to you all.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Apartment Tour

Here is my first video... a tour of the apartment. I was going to post pictures but I got sick of trying to format them on this... so this was done at 12:45 AM... hope you like it.

video

First Week Has Ended (sort of)

The Team (still waiting on Kanda) at our first home-cooked dinner.

It is the end of the (almost) first full week in Rome and life has been... interesting. My team and I have settled in, for the most part, and are starting to figure out what the next week or so will contain. To be honest, I dont really have too good of a grasp of what life will look like beyond that but I am ok living with that uncertainty right now. I guess life is interesting enough with the mundane; I went to the grocery store by myself, am trying to figure out a monthly budget, and still wishing I had actually studied and practiced Italian over the summer.

Some fun stories from this last week... the grocery store. We were walking back from I dont know where and I needed to p
ick up groceries, so I split off and decided to give it a go. The one thing I was warned about was that you can't touch the fruit with your hands, but use gloves, bag it, weigh it, and print out a sticker with the cost. Grocery stores have always been fascinating for me; I guess it comes from growing up in a family of seven kids, where a four item grocery list could turn into a $300 dollar order in a matter of 15 minutes. I wandered, couldn't read the names of anything, and depended on pictures/the actual look of the food to figure out what I was buying. When I got to the checkout lane, the man who was checking out had a HUGE order and his credit card wouldnt work. So the lady standing in front of me in line turns and starts talking to me. In Italian. I didn't understand a word and simply smiled... and finally sheepishly said "Me despiache, io non capisco litaliano (I'm sorry I dont understand Italian)". I don't she understood me because she kept talking. She was great.

Another fun lost in translation moment; this morning I went to Trastevere Baptist, an evangelical church here in Rome. The sermon was a guest speaker speaking in Portuguese, being translated into Italian, of which I understood neither. I checked out mentally and read the Bible passage the sermon was on instead. The night before at the same church, a Canadian group came and sang in English, which the sermon was translated into Italian. Talk about international. The group was really good actually and you can check them out at www.myspace.com/themacgregors . And the older girl was kind of cute, so that helped too :)

Some last random quick hits before I go. I got to hang out with a couple Italian students who are part of the Agape Italia movement here; Ana, Daniele (a guy) and Lisa are all pretty sweet but it just makes me want to learn Italian even more. They spoke English, but its more fun in Italian. It was my teammate Matt Reis's birthday today. I got the first picture with him as a 25 year old. We cooked out first meal here in the apartment... some pasta and veggies and chicken dish. They/we eat a lot of pizza here. Not really like American pizza... thinner, less sauce, funkier vegetables.

And oh yea, if you read thi
s, post a reply. I would love to know at least one person looks at this (thanks to Kevin for responding to the last one).


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ciao Roma! We have arrived!


Ciao Roma! I have finally arrived in Rome, Italy and set up shop in our lovely… err… macho and crowded apartment. At the guys apartment (we are still apartment hunting for the girls and in the meantime, they are staying at another place), we have ALL the furniture. Meaning we have furniture for two apartments in a three bedroom apartment. We have no living room so the middle bedroom will serve that purpose.

It is so exciting to finally be where I feel God called me this year. I am jet-lagging (is that a verb? It is now) like crazy but still excited to call this place home for the next year. No Mom, it is not home home, but it is home for the next year or two. I will post pictures of the apartment soon, when it is all set up, but for now I will use my best journalistic technique to paint a picture of my room in your imagination. White walls, two beds, two tables as desks, and one wardrobe, with big doors that open onto a tiny balcony (not big enough put anything on).

I will be living with Amos Miguel, who is a goofy, hilarious and I am already excited to compare musical tastes with him and expand my musical palate. Matt and Joel have the other room. After a week or two, look for profiles of each of my wonderful teammates posted here. For now, enjoy the picture and get an idea of how much fun this year is going to be. My first prayer letter is now available to download on the link on your right.