June and I started our Italian language class on Monday morning at a language school called, A Door to Italy. By attending language class for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 3 weeks, we are hoping to learn some Italian as well as to simulate what a real missionary would experience when moving to a new country. The problem is that we joined the class a week late, so our classmates Sarah , Andrea, and Laura (names changed for privacy), are way ahead of us in Italian. It's very frustrating as you can imagine. I literally have the communication skills of an Italian two year old, so its a very humbling experience.
The girls in my class are very friendly and I was excited to be welcomed into their group. Laura is from England, Andrea is from Brazil, and Sarah is from Turkey, but they all speak English so we can communicate well enough. I knew that God had me in that class for a reason when Sarah asked me about my bracelet that says Luke 1:38. She recognized it being from the Bible and asked what it meant. I told her it means, "I am the Lord's servant" and she wrote it down in her notebook with an exclamation mark! I was intrigued considering she's from the Middle East. Then after class she invited me to go to the beach with her and Andrea today. I was so excited I immediately began praying for an opportunity to talk about Jesus with her.
Unfortunately, (but fortunately) Andrea didn't feel well so she decided not to come. I was actually pleased to hear this because I felt it would be easier to talk with Sarah one on one. Well, on the way to the beach Sarah initiated the conversation by sharing that she's Muslim but she still drinks alcohol even though it is against their rules. So I told her that I'm a Christian and she began asking me all kinds of questions about my life. She also commented that when she first met me she noticed how much "good energy and happiness" I have (also known as JOY). Comments like that always surprise me considering I used to struggle with depression, so I thanked her and told her I would tell her my whole story once we got to the beach. So we finally found public access to the beach (which is really a rocky shore... no sand in sight) and I begin to tell her about my family and my testimony of how Jesus brought me from depression into joy and how He changed my heart.
She listened and asked questions and was intrigued by the story and was shocked that there are "good Americans" with morals! haha She also said she was very impressed with me and wanted to know how I'm "so good now". So I explained the gospel, God's grace, and how God changes your heart's desires. Then she asked me what my favorite book of the Bible was and I told her Ephesians, Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus... I'm a stupid American so I didn't even know that Ephesus is in Turkey, her country! Sarah then asked me if I go to church and I explained to her that I'm here with people who are starting a church, and that I had to be home at 5:30 tonight for an Italian Bible study at my host family's house. Miraculously, she wanted to come with me! Sarah is a tour guide so she's learning Italian so she can give tours to Italians who come visit Turkey. As part of her tours she has to talk about Christianity so she knows a lot and is very open minded and interested. She said wanted to come to the Bible study because to learn more Italian and more about Christianity.
So Sarah and I arrived back home and I opened Ephesians to show her one of my favorite verses, Ephesians 2:8-9,"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works so that no one can boast." Then the Bible study begins and guess what... DIVINE SERENDIPITY... the group is studying EPHESIANS 2:1-1o- which I had no idea about! Sarah said "What did you know this?! Such a coincidence!" and I told her I think it's God! and she agreed. Another missionary, Emily, translated the Italians' discussion of the verses into English for Sarah and I, and Sarah asked Emily very good questions about the gospel. She is truly seeking to understand what it all means and is so open-minded. She comes from a strict Muslim family, but she has stopped practicing Islam and is rebelling. She's desperate for freedom and searching for answers. My heart broke for her today and simultaneously rejoiced in the opportunity to give her new hope! She is so enthusiastic about our new friendship and it's such a blessing! I'm in awe of how the Lord so divinely orchestrated our circumstances. It is no coincidence. She needs the gospel and Jesus is pursuing her heart. Lodate il Signore! Praise the Lord! Please join me in praying for her and the other girls in my class!
Grazie! I'll post again soon with more details on day to day life in Genova! Ciao!