My favorite Englishman, Andy Dixon came to visit us in Rome. This is Matt, Lauren, Andy, Kanda, Sara and Amos at the VaticanLife certainly has taken a turn into the fast lane. Up until this past week, I felt like I was cruising along here in The Eternal City but this past week, the speedometer went from a Vespa to a Ferrari (like the cherry red Ferrari I passed jogging yesterday... it was beautiful... but I digress). You see, for Italian students at La Sapienza, the school year did not start until last week; for us, last week was go time. We hit up campus for the first time and what a wild ride it has been.
The madness began with preparation; 3,000 fliers and 100 posters for English Club and 10,000 fliers and 40 posters for La Bella Vita, our weekly meeting. Amos and Joel did an amazing job planning LBV, with this past week's topic being Cambiare Il Mondo (change the world). So Monday, after Italian lessons in the morning, we went onto campus. With La Sapienza, there are two campus's; Villa Mira Fiori is more or less the language campus and Citta Universitaria is everything else... more or less. Monday I stayed at the Villa because that is wehre we will be having English Club on mondays. For the first hour I put up flier for the first hour because I was too scared to go out and start talking to people. Sometimes the truth looks pretty weak when you write it out. Well, now you know it, sometimes my fear gets the best of me.
At 1:00, Sara and I set up the English Club sign and stood by it, doing our best to look friendly and inviting and probably succeeding (at least for me) at looking nervous and timid. Still, I got into two conversations that went absolutely no where (seriously, I am highly uneducated at Italian politics and Che Guevara). Then I met Filipo and Daniele (the first of many Daniele's I have met and am sure will meet). Both approached the English Club sign together as if it were a suspicious package at the airport; take a look, talk to each other, take a few steps closer and look, whisper more to each other until I finally said, "Ciao, parle inglese?" We got to talking about what English Club would be, Daniele bought me a cafe (translated shot of espresso), and we talked for an hour or so. Didnt really share the gospel per se, but we had great conversation and I hope to meet more with them this week.
The last story of that day was Alessandro. By the end of the day, everyone else had gone to Citta so I was all by my lonesome at Villa Mira Fiori and I was, well, slightly feeling alone. I knew I needed to find an Italian to chat with, but I didnt want to initiate... so I did everything I could to procrastinate while praying for God to lead me to someone. He pointed out Alessandro, sitting about 20 yards away from me. I can always tell it's a God tug because my heart beats faster, I get butterflies in my stomach and know what God wants me to do. So after much internal arguing, I went over to talk with him. I introduced myself told him what I was there for and asked if we could talk. He said he was an atheist. "Thats cool, can we still talk?" I asked. The conversation didnt start out so good; I tried to use a survey and to the first question his answer was, "Thats tough... next question?" But his answer to the second question, What is the worst thing a Christian has done to you?, surprised me. And I quote: "Well, there are two kinds of Christians. There are the ones who actually follow the teaching of Jesus and those who just say they are Christian, like a cover. I dont think that the real Christians really do the really bad stuff. If you are following Jesus, you wont." Wow. I was floored. We continued to talk and 20 minutes later he gave me what I take as one of the best compliments I have ever received in my life: "You, I am pretty sure you are a real Christian."
Crazy stuff like this leaves me feeling so undeserving. I went into the day scared. I went into that conversation reluctant, dragging my feet, wanting some way out. I came out of it marveling at how big God is, how he can use someone like me to get into a meaningful conversation with someone who views, atheism, are diametrically opposed to mine. I love how God can do that. The rest of the week was a lot like that first day. Me, being scared and reluctant and constantly praying for God to help me, and God answering with good conversations. They weren't always great; I met two guys we will call my "F-word friends" because that was every other word, I met guys who weren't interested in talking, who only wanted to talk politics, who couldn't speak any English (though my Italian is rapidly improving... I love it). We experienced a disappointing first meeting where only 6 or 7 Italians came. But I can honestly say every day I would have at least one conversation that reaffirmed, "I am made for this. We are made for this." If you call yourself a Christian, a real Christian, the Bible says we are "Christ's ambassadors." This is what you are made for, to bring the King glory. I will get off my pulpit, but before I do, take time to really wonder what it means to be a Christian. I dont have it all down. I am FAR from it... I think being here makes me realize how much I doubt, how scared I get, how little my view of God is... but it has also helped me begin to see who God is, just how big he is. I am excited to learn more.
Life here in Italy is great, exciting, becoming normal. The weather is changing quite rapidly to Autumn and I desperately want to play a good game of tackle football. I still fall in love all over again with this weather, with the idea of seasons changing and Thanksgiving around the corner, hoping for fires at night yet coming home to a cold apartment of great guys, and walking around at night in sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I look forward to filling in you all in more. As always, comments are appreciated, emails appreciated, and Mom, congrats on figuring out on how to access a blog. Love you. Much love to you all.
Last Friday we had a dinner at one of the staff couples here, Alan and Tina Lyle's place. This is their darling daughter Becca, who was one of the cutest girls I have ever met (behind my nieces of course) with Amos and Lauren. We had a terrific supper of salad, BBQ chicken, Parmesan potatoes... oh it was glorious.