I apologize that this post is so incredibly long overdue. To make up for it, I will try to make this post incredibly long. But, like that wonderful holiday that just passed (Canadian Thanksgiving), it will hopefully be a proverbial feast for your minds. I have, quite literally, been jotting down notes on what I want to write this week as I post my blog and as a result, I have way too much to say. I will pick out the "tasty" morsels and hopefully make it worth your time reading.
Our first team picture in Rome (L to R: Kanda, Matt, Amos, Joel, Sara, Lauren, Yours Truly)
First of all, life in Italy! This past week was a wonderful week of actually being legitimately busy. I have struggled at times, feeling as if I am not earning my paycheck while I am here but this last week was great. We did so much planning and we welcomed our final team member, Kanda Strohl to Rome. It is so good to finally have our whole team here and it has been great for me, because Kanda and I are working together on planning English Club. English Club is a tool to reach Italian students; we plan discussions on various topics and invite students to come and practice their English. The first four weeks topics are Free Time Fun, Conflict, Trust and Relationships. The questions that English Club asks all lead towards spiritual conversation, which opens the door to tell students about the Way, the Truth and the Life. I truly do believe Jesus is a message worth sharing and I am excited to see how God uses English Club to communicate Truth. The other committee I am a part of is Evangelism Strategy; this is a fancy way of saying we think of ways to best reach the campus with the message of Jesus. Joel and I have been hard at work designing surveys and coming up with a game plan.
Life as a person in Italy is great too (not just as someone working for Campus Crusade). My cooking skills aren't quite Mama Rule-esque yet, but I do believe the outcome of the various dishes I have made proves that I have her blood running through my veins. We don't eat out that much but when we do, it is sampling what the Italians call Pizza: in English we call it pizza :) But pizza here is quite different than in the States; same basic principle but thinner and with more unusual ingredients. We have a great pizza place about 100 meters from our front door. We also have a wonderful cafe/pasticceria (bakery) half a block away. Me, Joel, Matt and Amos (usually me and Joel) often spend from 8-9 at Bar Agostini, sipping cappuccino, eating chambella (basically a rockin' donut) and feasting on what God's Word has to say to us while listening to our iPod. Talk about a great way to start off the day.
We have been working hard at language learning the Italian language as well. Our old tutor, Alessandro, had to leave the country for a prior commitment and was replaced with a new tutor named Alessandro as well. We have three lessons a week, for two hours a lesson. The lesson, which is done mostly in Italian, leaves me feeling like someone took a boxing glove and punched my head for an hour. It doesn't so much hurt as it has a dull ache. Which is why I need to practice even more. But I claim the little victories, like having a conversation with a little old lady named Natalina at church in all Italian... I understood everything said and she understood me for the first minute... and then was lost again.
Other things that have been going through my head over the past week include trying to listen to God, new Italian friends, "in the news", my aversion to spending money, wonderful free music websites, prank calls and missing home... I will proceed to write about them in that order, so skip around to what you want to read.
One of the big things I have been trying to do lately is figure out what it means to listen to God. I know God wants to speak to me because I am his child but I still havent quite figured out what it means to listen. I get so caught up in life that I dont see God working through life. And let's be honest, it is pretty easy to look around at the proverbial wind and waves of life and cry out like the disciples, "Lord, dont you care if our lives go down the drain?" (Chris Rule Paraphrase Version). So this week I was at Bar Agostini, with my cappuccino and chambella and was praying for a number of things and then stopped and prayed, "Lord, teach me to listen." Then I stopped. And waited. And tried to listen to what God was saying to my heart.
Usually when I do this, my mind goes 1,000,000 km/hour (trying to get around to this European metric system) and I think about everything from the weird dream I had to the sprinkles on my donut. This time was different. I was looking around as I sat at the table outside and noticed a little girl walking across the street, holding her Daddy's hand. She was probably no older than 2 and seemed to be still trying to figure out the walking thing. She was taking those so-big-I-will-probably-fall steps but because she was holding on to Dad and he was holding her hand, she stayed upright. Then I noticed a little guy, a little older than my nephew, so probably around 4, walking with his Dad. He was walking fine but wasn't holding onto his Dad's hand so he was looking around and wandering towards whatever he looked at. His Dad kept stopping and having to call him back. I felt like God was saying I am that kid. I can spiritually "walk" fine on my own, but if I am not holding my Heavenly Fathers hand, I wander all over the place. This doesn't always even mean blatant sin but it is where I shouldnt be; I am not following my Father. He continually stops, calls me back to following Him. I want to be like the other little kid. I want to take steps in my walk with God that are too big for me. I want to believe God for things that are much larger than what I can do by myself. If I am holding onto my Heavenly Father's hand, then somehow that step that should leave me falling on my face instead ends with my Daddy catching me and helping me take another step.
I cant really think of any transition except for I thought that was cool and I think Italians are cool too. So I have been meeting some Italians and hanging out. This past week I hung out with Francesco and Matt (my housemate, not italian but can bust out killer opera in Italian). Francesco is brilliant; just graduated, knows more about motorcross and motorcycle racing than anyone I have ever met and knows the history of Rome like the back of his hand. We were hanging out at The Spanish Steps and these random (read not-so-intelligent) American tourists asked if "these are the steps they are supposed to go see?" Francesco gave them a history lesson on it, which reminds me of how precious little I know about American history. Sad. The other guy we hung out with was Mario. He lives in Frascati, where we went to hang out with him for a day. Little town outside of Rome, and he knows it's history fairly well too. Kid has a killer sense of humor, although he didnt like Lord of the Rings, which was hard to get over. Cool guys, I cant wait to meet more of them.
For your IN THE NEWS segment of the blog, I read an article about a marathon running that recently set the world record, running the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 4 minutes and 26 seconds. His mile pace? Oh not too fast only running 4 minute 45 second miles FOR THE ENTIRE MARATHON. Absolutely incredible. I think the fastest mile I ever ran was around 6 minutes. The other in the news event was a group of students who came up with their own pledge of allegiance because they are upset that "Under God" is in the pledge. Doesn't really bother me that they are upset, I guess that is what America is all about, freedom. However, I thought it was interesting that their new pledge starts "I pledge allegiance to the flag and my constitutional rights with which it comes." I mean, that is wonderful and all but (and I know I am not original in bringing this up) we always talk about rights and never about responsibilities. People are so concerned that they should get what they deserve that giving gets lost in the shuffle. Just a thought, something to promote discussion/thought.
One of the great things about this year is that I (hopefully) will learn about myself. One of the things I have already learned is how averse to spending money on myself I am. Food is maybe an exception (and music definitely is), but when it comes to buying for me, I am pretty stingy. I (once again, hopefully) dont think that is true about giving gifts but we were at the one mall in Rome, buying stuff for the apartment and went into a clothes store, H&M. Nice store, reasonable priced, great looking clothes... and I couldnt bring myself to try on anything or buy anything. I just done need any clothes so I cant buy it. Thought it was interesting. So I thought I would share.
For those of you who have made it this far reading this blog, here is a reward. Go to www.archive.org or just click on this, "Live Music Archive" and hopefully it will work. It is an unbelievable collection of live music from a ton of terrific artists. I recommend checking out Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Dave Barnes, Matisyaho, and Bela Fleck to start... or find your own because there is a TON of music there. And it is free. And legal. I think.
Last and maybe least, I must tell you of a wonderful prank call I pulled on my brother Dani (otherwise known as Dani Jon = DJ). DJ is a wonderful brother, I idolized him in High School because he was (and is) terrific at basketball and football, is funny, a great 2nd grade teacher, and has got SOUL. I love him. Which is why I had to prank him. I called and left a message on his answering machine as Hank, a State Farm agent who is letting him know that his insurance wasn't paid on his car... for the last three months. He called back and Amos, my roommate, answered, "State Farm Insurance, this is Amos." DJ asked for Hank, we played a little background music, then I picked up, "This is Hank." What proceeded was pure brilliance on my part. Not to toot my own horn but you cant blame DJ for falling for it. After a couple minutes (yes we kept it going for a while), I laughed and told him it was me. He responded with endearing terms of love, thanking me for loving him enough to prank call him (read: he called me names because he is too far away to hit me). I loved it. We had a great convo. I miss my family and close friends. I realized for the first time this week that I am not coming back for a year. I am ok with it, dont get me wrong, and it is great to talk and get emails, but I miss them... and probably will no matter where life takes me.
So thats all folks. Thanks for reading and praying and posting on here, for emails and prayer requests. I love you all and am praying. Until next time, God Bless.