"Sickness,Sadness, and Despair...People Dying Everywhere...Happy Birthday...Happy Birthday"
These are the uplifting lyrics that I remember my dad chanting now and then to celebrate someone's life. They also happen to be the words that sum up the last few weeks here in Rome.
As it turns out I am sick a lot here, whether that is from living in a new place with new germs, or the fact that it is a city with 4.5 Million people most of them using public transportation and not using good practices such as hand washing and covering your mouth or perhaps it is that some kids I am helping with English happen to attend schools and bring home with them every little bug that is floating around including the flu, pink eye and chicken pox all in the last few weeks. Whatever the cause here in Rome I find that I am constantly in need of a tissue and a cough drop. Which yesterday at the park came in handy as a mom there also was in need of a tissue for her little girl and I was able to reach in my Mary Poppins bag of tricks and come to her little girls rescue.
If you read my latest news letter you know I am sad to be leaving here in just 20 days. But you may not realize that I am not the only one who is sad, many of my faithful supporters have written to express their sadness and even frustration on my behalf. And my team is sad along with me that I will miss the arrival of our newest team members and these next 3 months of ministry here.
My sadness is not just sadness, in many respects it is despair for the people here. Many of my close friends are in a world of hurt right now, and it is breaking my heart. Pray with me for them. Without giving away private information you can know that I have friends with marriages that are on the verge of collapse, friends who are in the midst of difficult pregnancies, those who have been without work or working without pay for months, many friends who have parents and loved ones with serious illnesses, friends who need homes, documents, and most of all a lot of friends who need the peace that only God can provide.
And, yes there are people dying everywhere. Of course there always are. But last week I was invited to my first Italian funeral, one of my friends lost his Grandma and invited those of us in our Bible Study to attend. It was an honor to be there for him, and also to be introduced to his family. Later that same day as I was walking not far from my neighborhood I came across my second encounter with death for the day. There in the middle of the sidewalk lay a man dead. There surrounded by Italians but completely alone lie a man I would guess in his late fifties. This image has stuck with me for over a week now, reminding me of the urgency of spreading the Gospel, because no one knows the day or the hour.
This has also been a season of Birthdays. I have had at least one if not 2 or 3 Birthdays to celebrate every week for the past month. It is encouraging to know that I have made so many friendships. And I am thankful for each new friendship that God provides! What a blessing to be included in the celebrations of these lives.