Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Just a quick little update to let you know how thankful I am that God is answering my prayers for more and more chances to engage with Italians.  I have been praying for months that God would open up avenues of conversations between me and the Italian people and I can honestly say that in the past 2 months relationships are beginning to take shape.

The day I moved into my apartment an elderly man greeted me, (a good sign as it is not customary for neighbors to be so friendly right away here)  and every day since that we have seen each other he has said buon giorno (or some form of salutary) and every time it would bring a smile to both of our faces.  But then last week as I was sitting at the coffee bar downstairs practicing Italian with my language tutor my neighbor sat down at the table next to us and proceeded to converse with us for at least 30 min!  What a huge answer to prayer!  And now when we greet one another it is more than just ciao, but ciao with a few polite inquiries as to my day or his day tagged on.  Progress!
That same day I when I went inside the bar to pay for the coffee, another group of older men were chatting animatedly about soccer, they assuming I was Italian included me in their conversation.  Then were pleased to discover that I was in fact American and continued chatting with me a bit!  Yea God!  Now each day when I go to the coffee bar for my morning Bible Study I greet these men with a smile and get one in return! 
Also last week one of the older ladies who has been attending my English class every week jumped at the chance to spend time exchanging language with me, when I asked if anyone would like to exchange an hour of English for an hour of Italian.  She invited me over to her home last Friday where I spent a great 4 hours talking almost the whole time in Italian!  And tonight when I saw her in class she invited me over for a repeat this Friday!  When I went to her home last week I arrived a bit early so I sat in the park across in the Piazza close to her home where there is a senior center of sorts and there were lots of seniors out enjoying the first day of sun we had seen in quite some time.  I had 3 stop and talk with me, so I am thinking of getting their early again this Friday as well.
In case you were unaware there are a lot of senior citizens in Italy (check out this link to see where things have been and where things are heading for the Italian population breakdown.) and this number is sure to increase in the coming years as Italy has one of the lowest birth rates of any country.  A lot, and a lot of them are really lonely.  It seems God is opening up doors into this community and I am excited to see where He leads.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


This morning I am pleased to let you know that my account is starting to see an up swing!  That means that there are lots of people out there who have recommitted themselves to giving, or who have begun giving and even a few who have given above and beyond the last few months to help boost my account.  So faithful supporters I just wanted to make sure you are encouraged like I am that God is faithful to provide. 

I am still coming home to raise support on May 10th for a few months, please continue to pray with me that God will open doors at churches and events for me to share my heart/His heart with while I am home.  I am working with Mike Davis and Rich Burrill from ReachGlobal to find new supporting churches and individuals, pray that God will lead us to the right individuals and organizations.

If you have a place Room or Spare Apartment or House that you could let me use while I am home please let me know.

Thanks for all the prayers and support!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

no simple answers

Pic is not mine

As I laid in my warm  bed last night listening to the powerful thunder set off all the car alarms on my street and watched the lightening burst through the night sky unable to drift off to sleep all I could do was pray.  Not for me.  No, I was fine...I had a house and a bed, and heat.  I was crying out to God for all those who live in this city without those things.  There was a flood of emotions flowing through me as I prayed; sadness, frustration, helplessness, thankfulness, disgust and of course each emotion brought with it questions of why and what and how.  Why are there so many people living with so much while so many have so little?  Why do people leave their countries thinking life will somehow be better here?  Why are we (am I) so selfish with what I have?  Why are their so many empty buildings and churches in Rome and yet people live on a piece of cardboard?  What can I do?  How did we as a culture (world culture) let things get this way?  How do we mend all the brokenness?  How do we help?  How do I sleep knowing so many are spending the night soaking wet, cold and alone?  Why, God?  And what would you have me do?

A friend of mine was listening to this song the other day.  He really liked it, but since he does not speak English he asked me to translate it for him.  As I did all I wanted to do was cry.  


Friends, as I wrote this I was reminded that earlier this week I asked God to break my heart, to give me compassion once again.  I had felt myself becoming hardened to the plights of the people in my city, numb to the world around me.  As I write I realize that God is indeed faithful to answer our (my) prayers, and because of that I sit here, heart breaking for those around me.  (be careful what you ask for, from a God who promises to answer)

Friday, March 11, 2011

This is a call out to all my Santa Cruz Area Friends...

I am heading home on May 10th for hopefully 3 months or less to raise support.  Since my parents house is quite full as it is, I am looking for a place to stay for the 3 months I will be home.  If anyone knows of a place that is free or inexpensive that I could use May 10th - Aug 10th please let me know. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

La Festa Della Donna

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10286198@N04/3332335833/ Mimosa Flower
My allergies told me before I read it online that the Mimosa flowers that are all over Rome right now are closely related to the Acacia flowers we have in California.  All day I had been seeing these blooms;  people selling bunches of them on the street, vases of them in shops and they are pinned to the lapels of women walking down the street.  When I got home I flipped open my laptop to figure out what story is with these yellow sprays.

I went to my favorite source of insight into the Italian Culture, Becoming Italian Word by Word and was not disappointed.  There in Dianne Hales latest blog post was the answer to my question.  Today is International Woman's Day.  A day that as it turns out got it's start in America, though we as a culture don't really celebrate it now.  Originally way back in 1908 American woman organized themselves to seek better pay and working conditions, then it seems that in 1909 there was what is referred to as the Shirtwaist Strike organized by women who worked in the garment industry in.  However it was not until after the death of 129 woman textile workers in the notorious Triangle Fire of 1911 in New York that the world began to take notice.

After some debate over the date, it was determined that March 8th would be International Woman's Day.  Italy can boast of having created Women's Day's most charming tradition, the yellow mimosa. Abundant at this time of year, the flower was chosen by the Union of Italian Women in 1946 for its vibrant, joyous color and its fragile appearance (which disguises a sturdy plant) as well as its traditional symbolism of life from death.(http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=778) And this is why women all over Italy (I assume, but certainly in Rome) are decorated with and given these sprigs of Mimosa flowers.


For more on the State of Women's Rights in Italy

Prostitutes on the streets of Rome
Those being brought here against their will as modern day slaves
Those who end up here as refugees
The Roma Women who have no legal rights here
The Women who work Italian Television as one of Silvio's Girls

And so many others.  Pray with me...for honor, dignity, hope, freedom, justice and peace for these woman and so many others here in Rome and around the world.

Friday, March 4, 2011

jiggity jig

How quick I am to forget that God’s timing is perfect, that He has my days all planned out, and that He works all things together for His good…You would think I would know these truths by now after years of experiencing them time and time again, but it seems I always am surprised by them.  The last few months I have been living with the stress of not having enough support to stay in Rome.  I was allowing this one thing to pull me and my attention in every direction except for where God was going with this situation.  But finally this past weekend while I was at a conference for Italian young people interested in missions I was able to get refocused on what God was doing and where He is leading.  I think I had been so fearful that He would say you have to go back to the States, that I had been avoiding listening. 
All weekend God spoke through the speakers and His Word and by the time I got home to Rome and sat down with Brian and Sarah and God to seek His direction together I was no longer fearful of what God’s plan was.  As we talked it seemed clear that God was indeed sending my back to California, but not permanently only just long enough to raise support, and share what He has been doing here in Rome.  So friends and supporters I am returning to the Santa Cruz Mountains on May 10th, this is earlier than I had planned, but because of the significant lack of financial support coming in it is necessary.  That said, we do see God’s hand in the timing and that has been an encouragement to me and my team and hopefully to you as well…
Originally when I applied for my visa last June I needed a return flight scheduled that I could change later when I had a better idea of when I would want to come back to CA.  My travel agent selected a “random” date for that return ticket, and it “happens” to be May 10th, which is just after I promised to help the group from George Fox University get acquainted with Rome.  It is also the week before Zach and Naomi and their son Anthony (our newest teammates) are scheduled to arrive in Rome.  Which as it turns out will work out fantastically as one of my biggest concerns in leaving was having to get out of my rental agreement early and lose the home I love, but with the arrival of the Baliva family coinciding with my return to the States it looks like they will be able to stay in my apartment while I am away.  This gives them a great place to stay while they search for their own home here in Rome and it means I will not have to lose my home.
Another great part of the timing is that Mike Davis just finished going through CA and connecting with Free Churches letting them in on the great need in Europe for missionaries which means that hopefully I will have some open doors and hearts to share with upon my arrival.  On top of that in June there is the Evangelical Free Churches National Leadership Convention in San Diego that I will be able to attend and hopefully build some new connections and find new supporters.
As I mentioned I am only coming back to California long enough to raise the support I need to return to the work God has called me to here in Rome.  It is our (my team and I) desire that I will be back in Europe no later than August 10th in time to attend the ReachGlobal European Conference in Germany.  While I am home it is imperative that those of you who support me regularly continue to do so as I will still be working for ReachGlobal during my time in CA.  I also value your prayers and your help in making as many connections as possible with new supporters of the work God is doing in Rome.  Please be thinking of people and churches you know that would be open to hearing about the ministry in Rome as I will be asking for your help as part of my team to build these new connections.  Thank God with me for being in all the details. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The View

As I rode out of Rome last weekend aboard a bus heading to the sea I gazed with anticipation out the window.  In fact I switched seats 3 times before settling on one with what I hoped would be a good view.  We were moments outside of Rome when I realized what I was looking at was not a good view, it was a heartbreaking one.  For a moment I flashed back to scenes I witnessed in Haiti, pieces of tin leaning against sticks surrounded by mounds of garbage.  My eyes filled with tears as I looked just beyond this gypsy camp to see a mall, new apartments and even a few villas just a few hundred feet from the encampment.  I had heard and read of the gypsy camps, but this was the first time I was seeing them and my heart broke and my mind was filled with questions.

We continued on and the gypsy camps faded into the distance, but my view of Italy had once again been altered.  I could no longer simply sit and enjoy the beauty of the snow covered hillside towns because all I could think is why don't you help your neighbors?  I wondered about those who would spend yet another night in the freezing cold and rain.  I thought of all the gypsies I encounter daily and how cold my own heart had become to their plight.  It made me think of the other groups of people who call Rome home; the immigrants, homeless, pilgrims, refugees, and those who were trafficked.  The people no one thinks about when they think of Rome.  It was a beautiful and painful prayer-filled ride to the seaside town of Montesilvano.

I arrived on time but was dropped off on the side of the road.  Having confidence in my Italian and my ability to find the beach if it was anywhere nearby I walked into the coffee shop and asked for directions.  The guy had no idea where my hotel was, but pointed right.  So I went right.  I ended up at the train station there was a map, but it did not have the street I was looking for listed, so I asked a guy working on the side of the road.  He again had no clue, but pointed so I went the direction he indicated.  I walked and walked and walked down a long cold neighborhood street.  I only saw one old woman, I smiled and asked her for directions.  She merely shrugged.  I got to what appeared to be the only street with any life on it, and turned in the direction I knew led to the shore and continued on.  I found another coffee shop at the end of that street, asked for directions again, the guy had no idea, but the gal that walked up thought she knew and said it was 2 Kilometers or more.  I found the beach, I wanted to be excited and enjoy the view of the ocean beating against the rocks but it was so ridiculously cold and windy that I could not stand to look at it.  Finally I arrived suitcase in tow at the Grand Hotel Montesilvano (yes that's right a giant yellow building taller than anything else in town that no locals seem to know exists).

After checking in at the conference and getting my key I made my way to the 4th floor praying that my room would have a great view of the beach.  It did, but it was too cold to leave the windows open, the heating was not fully working due to the fact that normally the hotel is closed for the season and had opened just for us.  I laid down on my two beds pushed together and piled whatever blankets I could find on top of myself to try and get warm.  But refused to feel bad for myself as I thought back to those we had passed along the road who would be spending yet another night of their lives under some tin and cardboard.

When it was time for dinner I made my way downstairs and into the dinning room.  I chose a seat at a table filled with people from Napoli.  Some of them acknowledged my presence, but most did not.  I was soon to realize that this was going to be the case at every meal throughout the weekend.  I was invisible, or at best an annoyance disturbing the groupings no matter where I chose to sit.  I had, had hope the first meal when I realized that the girls from Napoli were from a church planted by Twin Lakes Church in Aptos (min from my home town), I thought, great we will have something to talk about.  However, as soon as we got that bit of information established the conversation  was through.

I don't want you to get the wrong idea about Italians, because up until this weekend I have personally never really had a hard time feeling welcomed, but for whatever the reason and I believe there was a reason I was to be the outsider this past weekend.

Our speaker, Peter Mead was given the task of speaking to the theme, His Passion, My Passion; Sharing the Passion of God with the Nations.  I have to say that Peter did an amazing job.  I have heard hundreds of speakers at similar conferences over the last few years and Mead's approach and style of sharing captured my attention like few others have.  Why?  I think because Peter was determined that we needed to look at the scriptures through different lenses, he wanted to impart a different view of the stories we think we know so well.  As I sat and listened to him present the same old stories from a different view my heart and mind were captured once again by the beauty of God's word.

I spent a good part of the weekend alone with God; in my room, or on a walk along the bitterly cold shore and through the empty streets of Montesilvano.  In these moments God began to show me how I needed a change of perspective.  I had come into the weekend beaten down, overwhelmed by life, by a lack of support, stressed and depressed.  When I arrived to a gray cold ocean side town and was made to feel like an unwelcome outsider all I wanted to do was cry.  But God met me in my sadness, in my loneliness and my heartache and began to reveal how He was viewing my life at the moment.  He reminded me of; all the friends and connections that I have made in such a short time in Rome, of the beautiful apartment that He had provided, of the amount of Italian I had learned in just a few short months, of the new families I was being welcomed into, of the work He was doing through others I have met.  In short God helped me refocus my eyes upon His goodness and faithfulness instead of looking at my weaknesses and struggles.

Just like God had allowed me to be uncomfortable to get my attention in Moldova at the last conference I went to, He was doing it again to help me see and truly connect once again with those He loves here in Rome.  Those who many find it hard to love, the gypsies, homeless, refugees, immigrants, and those whom many assume it is easy to love the Italians.  God reminded me that He desperately loves all of these people who find themselves living in Rome and He has placed me and my fellow missionaries and the Christians of Italy here for the purpose of showing that love in a tangible way.  

Contrary to popular opinion living in Rome is not a walk in the park.  In fact I got a t-shirt at the missions conference to remind me of just that.  The t-shirt says "Missione non una passeggiata" (loosely translated too: missions not a walk in the park).  Don't read this as complaining, as that would be reading what I am saying incorrectly, but I want you to understand that missions here in Italy like most if not all places in the world is not an easy thing.  Rome may very well be one of the most amazing cities on earth, it may be the center of the Catholic church and it may be a top tourist destination but never let those three facts hinder you from seeing the need in Rome.  Rome is a spiritual battle field, not much different than when Paul describes it in the first part of Romans...

Romans 1

 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life[a] was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power[b] by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from[c] faith for his name’s sake. 6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
 7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:
   Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s Longing to Visit Rome
 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.  11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,[d] that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
 14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.
 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[e] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[f]
God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity
 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Friends, pray with me for the people of Italy, especially the people who live here in Rome.  Italians and non Italians, if you don't know how to pray pray through this passage of Roman's everyday.  Pray for those of us serving here in Rome, not just those on the ReachGlobal team but the other missionaries and Christians here that God would continue to strengthen, equip and encourage us to continue on fishing for men and feeding them the bread of life. You are an important part of the ministry that God is doing here and around the world, don't  be fooled into thinking for one moment that your prayers and giving are insignificant, God uses them to bring people into His family.  We all need to make sure that we are keeping our eyes focused on the right things and the right things are the things that make God's heartbeat, the things He is passionate about are fishing for the lost, and feeding them the bread of life so that they too can come to glorify Him with their lives.

Let's keep the things of God in view and ask Him to continue to open our eyes to what He is doing and how He is inviting us to be apart of it.