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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Much love