Sunday, July 15, 2012

Goodbyes & A Prayer Request

Tonight I'm writing this post from the wonderful United States of America! I got into Avant Ministries on Thursday night and will be here for debriefing until Monday morning. I'm still seriously jet lagged, but it's great to be back in my own culture and country. My last week in Italy was bittersweet with goodbyes. I tried to cram in as much gelato, shopping, and beach days as possible while recovering from the stomach flu that I had the previous weekend. My body was still pretty weak from the flu, but I made it to Bocadassee (one of my favorite beach spots) with my friends Sarah and Andrea, one last time. 


(Sarah and I at Bocadassee) 
Saying goodbye to Sarah was definitely difficult. Over six short weeks she became a very close friend that I will stay in touch with for the rest of my life. I'm so grateful that God placed her in my life and allowed me to share the good news of Jesus with her. On Sunday Sarah called me and told me that she'd spent the weekend reading the Turkish/ English New Testament that I gave her. She asked me to get out my Bible and she took me to several different verses that she had questions about. Her main question concerning the trinity was, "How can God be one God, and three?" The problem is that she got so hung up on the trinity that she was unwilling to listen to anything else that I had to say. It was hard to see her so frustrated with not understanding, but it was encouraging that she genuinely wanted to know. 


Even though I had almost no answers for her difficult questions, I left the conversation knowing that the Lord is pursuing her heart and that He is in control of the situation. However, I do want to ask for your continued prayers. Sarah told me that after reading the Bible she fell asleep and had nightmares. In her nightmares she heard a voice telling her "Go back to Islam, stop reading the Bible". I told her that I believed the voice was Satan and encouraged her to keep seeking truth. Please, please join me in praying for her protection from our Enemy. Like scripture says, Satan is truly is prowling around like a lion, seeking someone to devour. Please pray for Sarah's spiritual protection. Please pray that the Lord will give her wisdom to grasp the concept of the trinity. Ultimately please pray that she would recognize that Jesus is God and that she would put her trust in Him for her salvation. There are so many stumbling blocks for Muslims, but Jesus is after Sarah's heart and I have no doubt that over time He will win it. 


One thing that I learned in Italy is that in ministry we are truly engaged in a spiritual battle. If you're not on God's team, then your on Satan's team. There's no middle ground. It's a constant battle between good and evil, but people don't want to acknowledge any battle they can't visually see. Satan's greatest tactic is to get people thinking that he doesn't exist. As a Christian you've got to be on your guard and praying for protection for those you are witnessing to. Unfortunately in Italy there are many people who do believe in Satan and choose to worship him instead of God, but thats a whole other story for another time. 


Anyways, back to the goodbyes. After 6 weeks of living in the Paces' apartment and sharing one bathroom with all 6 of them, lets just say that we got pretty close. That family is wonderful. I'm going to miss chatting with Donna and Abby and Elizabeth. I'll miss precious Phoebe's constant questions and smiles. I could go on and on, but I'll stop before I get teary eyed again. They really are great and it was a blessing to live with a family that loves Jesus and each other so deeply. 
"Team Italy One" 
The entire team was absolutely phenomenal. If you're a Christian and you're not supporting an international missionary, please find a missionary that you can financially and prayerfully support. These men and women have sacrificed so much for the advancement of the Gospel. They've picked up their lives and moved across the world to an unknown place where they don't speak the language. The parents wonder if they are ruining their children's lives by not giving them the opportunities they'd have in America. They pour out their hearts, time, and energy to love people who rarely love them back. They're completely un-appreciated by the nationals. Most of the time they are completely ignored. Their compassion is rarely reciprocated, although it is definitely noticed. There are seasons of fruitfulness and seasons where there are no visible results but they stick it out anyways. It was an honor to get to know such wonderful men and women. I'm so grateful for their service to Christ. I just want to say thank you to every missionary for being faithful to the calling that God has put on your lives to reach the lost.  


So, I've spent the last couple days at Avant processing my six week internship experience. I definitely have a lot more to say, but I'll save that for another post. Please pray for Sarah and please get in touch with me if you want to hear more about Italy! I can't wait to be home and see all of my friends and family! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Italy VS. America- In honor of the 4th!

I've been keeping a mental list of all the things I like/ don't like about living in Italy so in honor of the 4th of July I figured I'd share just how much I love America! Don't get me wrong, Italy is great too...but there are definitely cultural differences between the two. One thing I've learned is just, because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong, it's just different...


Things I like about Italy... 

1. The food. Oh my goodness. America, can we please tear down all of our fast food restaurants and replace them with delicious bakeries, cafes, and gelaterias?! Pleaseeee! 

2. The scenery. The Mediterranean Sea will blow your mind. Not to mention the mountains outside my window.

3. The architecture. Breathtaking. 

4. The culture, more relaxed, less focused on time

5. Everything is closed on Sunday. A real day of rest. 

6. Trains. How convenient! (convenient after you spend two days trying to buy the correct tickets) 

7. L'apertivo- a cocktail and a buffet for about 7 euro! Thats way better than happy hour in the US! 

8. Eating nutella more than once a day is completely acceptable and encouraged. Enough said. 


Things I don't like about Italy... or Why I LOVE and MISS America!

1. The bus. UGGGH. This is coming from a girl who grew up in a town with two stoplights, so I really don't like any bus system, but the Italian buses are especially bad. Everyone is crowded into the bus and it takes forever and its smelly and people are all up in my personal space. 

2. The lack of deoderant. Italians don't always smell very good. 

3. Kissing cheeks as a greeting. This one kind of surprises me because I generally don't mind being touched, but something about rubbing faces with people I just met creeps me out. Hugs and handshakes are much better. 

4. The lack of air conditioning. (I will never complain about summers in Columbia ever again, at least we have AC) 

5. There are no dryers. Stiff clothes are scratchy. 

6. Italians lack of respect for time.

7. Stores close at weird hours.  

8. Acqua Frizzante. Ewww.


9. Sketchy elevators. They generally don't hold more than 4 people. Again, lack of personal space is an issue here. .

As you can see America will always come out on top! So there you have it... the reasons why I'm excited to go back to America and the reasons why I will miss Italy a ton. Well, the main reason I will miss Italy is because of all the wonderful people that I've met here! The Avant Team and my new friends from school have been such a blessing! I can't even begin to tell you how much I am going to miss them. Only 7 days left in Italia! I can't believe it! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Roma!!


So this past weekend Sarah, Emily, and I went to one of the most famous cities in the world- Rome! It definitely exceeded my already high expectations. Rome is absolutely stunning. We got there Friday night and stayed in a cute, little Bed & Breakfast that was only a five minute walk from the train station. Then we spent the night exploring the city and I had the best glass of Chardonnay that I will probably ever have in my life! Walking through the city at night was my favorite part of the whole weekend. The monuments are all lit up and the shadows make everything look super romantic and mysterious. It's absolutely beautiful. 


Another favorite was the Trevi Fountain! Legend has it that if you throw in a coin you are guaranteed to return to Rome. I really hope its true! 





Saturday, Sarah and I toured the Vatican. Emily had already toured the Vatican twice, so she explored the city while we took on the crowds. The Vatican was incredible and super impressive, but unfortunately our tour guide had a very hard to understand British accent, so we didn't get a lot of the history that really makes the artwork cool. Oh well, at least we got to see the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Cathedral. The artwork and architecture is mind blowing. I could have stared at it for hours, it was so overwhelming. 

While the Vatican was interesting, I really didn't enjoy it very much. Now I understand why the Italians hate the Vatican and want nothing to do with religion. They want nothing to do with the Catholic church with it's cathedrals and gold when they can hardly find work to be able to feed their families. Unfortunately, they don't understand the vast difference between the Catholic, works-based religion, and Chrisitanity, a grace-based relationship with God. They don't want to hear anything about God, the Bible, and especially not the Church. Their hearts are so hardened toward God, it is very sad to see their hopelessness. 

That's why it is so important to have evangelical Christian missionaries here in Europe spreading the gospel of TRUTH. As Americans we often think that places who need missionaries the most are 3rd world countries with starving children. Yes, those countries definitely need the gospel and works of compassion, but Italy and other places in Europe are 3rd world countries in the spiritual sense. They have literally no hope. Most don't believe in God, they don't trust their political leaders, they definitely don't trust church leaders, and they don't really trust each other either. People without hope turn to their sin to fill the void and end up trapped in cycles of addiction and despair. Without hope in God people have no one to turn to but themselves, which breeds selfishness and self sufficiency. Depending on ourselves only furthers us from God, because He wants us to depend on Him alone. Obviously, you can see how this is a problem and why we need more missionaries in Europe. 



Anyways, sorry for getting off topic.... back to Rome... Sunday we visited the ruins of the ancient Colosseum and Roman Forum which is definitely the coolest thing I've ever seen. Pictures just don't do it justice. I can't believe that people in ancient Rome constructed this magnificent arena without today's technology or tools. I was so impressed. Also, Saturday night we saw the Pantheon, which was beautiful all lit up. 



Overall the weekend was an incredible one. I will never forget exploring Rome with my new friends Emily and Sarah. Emily and I got to have some good conversations about Jesus with Sarah throughout the weekend. Please continue praying for her salvation. I want her to know the hope and joy of a relationship with Jesus so badly. I've only got one week left here, but I'm so grateful for this new friendship the Lord has given me. Thank you all for your prayers!