Summer is Here!
FLIGHT HOME TO ITALY
I left Reno on Friday, May 22nd and arrived back home in Italy on Sunday, May 24th (after a total of two and a half months in the states--a little longer than the 13 days I had originally scheduled--But God had another plan in mind and I'm so grateful for that season home with my friends and family). I was required to wear a mask for the entire duration of each flight. On all but one of the flights I had the entire row to myself, so planes weren't very full. Travel was smooth for the most part. The only hiccup occurred when I arrived in Rome. I hadn't yet printed my boarding pass for my flight to Venice, so I went up to the counter to obtain it and was asked for my proof of residency. I gave her my Permesso di Soggiorno card (somewhat equivalent to my visa). She then told me that it was inadequate because it didn't prove that I had residency in the Veneto region. She proceeded to tell me that they weren't allowing Americans back into Italy and that I would possibly be denied entry and sent back to the USA that same day. After a phone call to the police in Rome and a screenshot of my residency form, she printed off my boarding pass. She still wasn't convinced that they would let me into Venice, but through much prayer (largely due to all of you prayer warriors), I made it back into Venice with no further interrogation. I then spent the next two weeks in quarantine in my house, taking my temperature every day and reporting it to the health department in Feltre. I never got sick and am still healthy, so praise the Lord for that! Thank you for all of your prayers.
My two weeks spent in quarantine were quite restful. I was able to read quite a bit, work out, journal, clean and organize my house, study Italian, and spend some leisure time watching movies. Since I had an abundance of time, I did quite a bit of journaling, which is something I've done for the past 15 years during my devotional time. My entries are a response to the things I'm reading in the Word and to the things that the Lord is showing me. Since they give some insight as to what the Lord is doing in my life spiritually, I figured that I would occasionally share some of them on my website with all of you. You can find them under the "UPDATES" tab on my website. They are located in the "JOURNAL ENTRIES" category.
CHURCH, MINISTRY, AND DAILY LIFE
So, what does life look like here in the wake of the coronavirus? I returned about a week after the quarantine had been lifted, so life hasn't seemed all that different from before. We are now, however, required to maintain social distancing of one meter, wear masks when inside stores and churches, and avoid shaking hands, hugging, or greeting with a kiss on each cheek. Church services look a little different: chairs are set one meter apart and we are required to leave immediately after service so that we are not congregating indoors for too long. Prior to two weeks ago, we weren't able to provide children's ministry because the government regulations were unclear. But Sunday school is now up and running and families are able to come to church altogether once again. It has truly been such a wonderful blessing being back with this body of believers. I wish I could convey just how grateful I am for these brothers and sisters. They exude the love and joy of Christ, they are quick to serve, faithful to pray, and full of encouragement. I love serving with them and running after Jesus together. They truly bear one another's burdens, weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. They love one another.
NEW CHURCH BUILDING
Construction has officially begun on the new church building. Our lease for our current location will be up in January, so we are hoping to be in the new building before then. The new building is located right in the center of downtown Feltre, about a 4 min walk from the train station. It sits next to an elementary school, which is also right across from a public park. We are looking forward to the potential opportunities for outreach and evangelism with our new neighbors. The video below shows the bottom floor of the church building. The staircase is new and the excavation below the staircase is for the new bathrooms. The roof is supposed to be redone in the next few weeks pending good weather. Progress is being made!
I absolutely love being with people, but teenagers and young adults hold a special place in my heart. So the fact that I get to do youth ministry brings such joy to my heart, and our group of teens is pretty fantastic. They are a blast to be around, to laugh and play with, and to talk about Jesus with. They all have such unique personalities, interests, and gifts and I love seeing the ways that the Lord uses them.
I am one of three leaders for the youth: Luis, Domenico, and I. These guys are amazing and I am so blessed to serve alongside of them. They truly love the Lord and in turn love the kids. I'm genuinely excited to see what the Lord is going to do this upcoming year.
We don't do youth ministry on Sundays and Thursdays because the youth join in the services with the rest of the body. Instead, we do youth group every other Saturday. One family in the church will host us all. We meet around 5:00-6:00pm and go until around 11:00pm. The evening consists of fellowship, worship, bible study, games, dinner, and usually gelato (it's a necessity during the summer). The theme for this summer is La Sfida dell'amore, which in English is The Love Challenge. So far we've met twice and talked about love and patience, love and kindness, and the fact that love is not selfish. We are looking at the characteristics of love and then exploring what that looks like practically and are being challenged to love in word and deed. Each week Luis gives the kids a challenge for the week: something to do that practically applies what they learned from the bible study, a verse to memorize, and an additional passage to read. The memory verses from the past 3 weeks are as follows: Ephesians 4:2, Ephesians 4:32, and Romans 12:10. We as leaders also do the challenges and then call the kids each week to see how they are doing with the challenge. I'm responsible for communicating with our two girls who are 13 and 14 years old.
Since I'm continually learning Italian, communicating in depth is still a challenge, but I get the privilege of making PowerPoints for each bible study. It's a fun way to be a more interactive part of the study and it helps tremendously with my comprehension. The teacher in me loves doing it! Below is a screenshot of the PowerPoint from last Saturday. I actually got to host youth group that night in my apartment. It was definitely hot, but so much fun. I made them some "American" appetizers: deviled eggs (not very godly of me) and chips and salsa (pico de gallo to be exact).
Since the kids are out of school for the summer, we are able to do a lot more with them. So in addition to youth group, we started doing a sports day every Tuesday afternoon. So far we've met twice and played basketball and ultimate frisbee. It's been a lot of fun and a wonderful opportunity to laugh and bond with the kids.
This Sunday, July 5th, we will be heading off to summer camp for the week. We will be joining 5 other Calvary Chapel churches from around Italy (two from Rome, Ferrara, Treviso, and Montebelluna). There will be 29 kids total. The theme is Seguimi, or in English, Follow Me
THE QUALITY OF OUR SERVICE
A lesson from Abraham
In addition to my normal journal that I use during my devotions, I started a separate journal in which I document each instance where someone had to wait, no matter how great or small that period was. I started in Genesis and am only currently halfway through the book. My goal is to read through the entire Bible and reflect upon every moment of waiting. The following text is an excerpt from this journal.
"So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, 'Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.' Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it. When the food was ready, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees"(Genesis 18:6-8).
Here we see Abraham's hospitality towards three men traveling by. Throughout this entire passage we observe words of urgency: "he ran to meet them" (Gen 18:2), "he ran back to the tent," "Hurry," "ran out to the herd," "quickly prepared it." But let's be real, there is nothing quick about making bread from scratch, or slaughtering and roasting a calf, or preparing yogurt and milk (seen later in the text). This was truly a labor of love, one that took time, care, and thoughtfulness. With the process of time, or things taking time, often comes waiting. They had to wait for the bread to bake. They had to wait for the meat to roast. It was wasn't a quick process by any means; no microwave meal or fast food. But even in that we see Abraham's eagerness to serve these men. He ran multiple times, pretty much to every location he went.
To what lengths do we go to serve people? Are we as eager as Abraham? Do we give them our best like Abraham did? Is it truly a labor of love? Are we willing to give of our time, no matter how long it takes, in order to give them our best? Where have we settled for the microwave meal where we could have slaughtered a tender and good calf and made fresh, hot, homemade bread for our neighbor? And these weren't even people Abraham knew; they were strangers. Many of us might go to great lengths to love and serve those who love us in return, but these were complete strangers who weren't going to give him anything in return.
"Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:2-5).
"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality" (Romans 12:9-13).
May we serve others with the same eagerness and passion as Abraham, no matter the cost on our end. I know that I want to serve this way. (On a side note, I see the believers here in Feltre serve like this. They are willing to sacrifice their time and energy to bear one another's burdens and it is a beautiful thing to see them love one another the way that Jesus loves them.)
What's On My Calendar???
Monday (at least once a month): tea, coffee, or gelato date with some young women from the church
Tuesday morning: Missionary meeting with Landon and Rachel
Tuesday afternoon: Sports day with the youth
Thursday evening: Church service
Saturday evening: Youth Group (1st and 3rd Saturdays at Montebelluna and 2nd and 4th in Feltre)
Sunday morning: Church service
July 5th - 11th: Youth summer camp
Women's bible study will resume in September.
I hope to begin language classes again in September as well.
Tutoring at the Comunità has also been suspended for the time being, due to the coronavirus and the fact that the kids are on summer break.
Below are some pictures from this past month. I truly love doing life with all of these people! So grateful for their friendships and encouragement in Christ. (Click on the arrow on the right side of the picture to advance).
Wisdom for when to book my plane ticket home
Thank you for your prayers in this matter! I truly came home at a perfect time. I was able to rebook my flight with KLM with ease. I had an overnight layover in LA, but I rented a car and my cousin offered up her apartment to me, so it was super easy.
Encouragement for the believers in Italy during this isolation
Even though the quarantine was long and difficult, the church responded in such a beautiful way. Our zoom meetings allowed for genuine fellowship, perseverance in prayer, and an opportunity for true unity in the midst of trial. We were able to get to know each other on a deeper level because we had time to spend "with" one another. So thank you for praying for them. God truly showed Himself faithful on their behalf.
My language acquisition, a mind to learn and memorize, and stamina and diligence to study Italian daily, especially while in the USA (it's a little more difficult to learn Italian when I can resort back to English daily)
Thank you for continuing to pray for this area. I'm so glad to be back in Italy and immersed in Italian once again. I'm continuing my studies on my own, but spending time with people has been the greatest motivator.
A smooth process in getting my identity card & health card when I return
I was able to schedule an appointment for my identity card last week, so it should be arriving any day now. I still need to get my health card, so please continue praying for that process.
Youth Summer Camp! Pray for unity as a leadership team, for the kids to have open and receptive hearts, for lasting friendships to be built in Christ, for decisions to be made to follow Christ with their whole heart
Vision for youth ministry for the rest of the year. Planning events, bible studies, discipleship, serving opportunities for the youth, etc.
Vision and direction for youth ministry and outreach within the community. Since we are playing sports once a week in the neighborhood, we have had the opportunity to meet other kids. Pray for salvation of souls and opportunities to build relationships as a result of these interactions.
More opportunities to interact with people in the city, community, and my neighborhood. Pray for wisdom as to how to go about that, what to involve myself with, and for boldness to meet new people.
A smooth process in getting my health card
Wisdom in purchasing a car. I'm hoping to do so in the next few weeks. I've already begun the process of actively looking, but don't want to rush the decision. Pray for the right vehicle and opportunities to share the gospel with those I come into contact with as a result.
Permesso Renewal. My Permesso (visa) expires in early September. I will be reapplying sometime in July/August.
Revival in Italy. Pray that the situation with COVID-19 in Italy would spark revival and many would come to salvation
My language acquisition, a mind to learn and memorize, and stamina and diligence to study Italian daily
Continued unity and vision as a missionary team (Landon, Rachel, and myself)
Salvation for the people of Feltre and Pedavena and boldness for us believers to share the gospel
Unity within the body of Christ here in Feltre and continued discipleship, raising up, and equipping of the saints for ministry
The new church building project. Pray for wisdom for those selected to do the renovations quickly and effectively and for opportunities to share the love of Christ and the gospel with them.
Financial provision for the new building project. God has already provided for the full cost of the building, all that's left now is renovation costs.
Financial provision. I've seen the Lord provide abundantly and faithfully each month already, but I want to be faithful to continue to ask and believe that He will move and stir in the hearts of people to help make the work that I'm doing in Italy financially possible