Saturday, September 24, 2011

September Update 2011

Greetings dear friends!!
It's a beautiful time of year here in Italy! The temperatures have dropped to the high 70's, mid 80's without humidity, leaves are turning beautiful colors and the vineyards are full and fragrant.
I think it has become our favorite season here.
It's a season of harvest-all the hard work throughout the year is ready for the pickin'. It is interesting how after you live in agricultural areas for 10 yrs you automatically are keen to weather and temperatures and the effects on the crops. We had such a dry season here in Padova. Most of the summer without any drops of rain which is unusual for us. We watched corn fields dry up and other crops completely die because there was nothing more the farmer could do. And yet, you get in your car and drive about an hour and you see lush fields, fragrant bushes and row after row of beautiful vegetation. You ask yourself what the difference is-months ago, you watched as both farmers plowed, prepared soil, and planted away. Both worked so hard, early mornings and late into the evening they sweat as they poured themselves into their work. And yet, not all had fruit to show in the end for their labor. Did one do something wrong? Did God favor one farmer over the other?
This is perhaps an illustration of how our own year has gone. Praying, praying and praying. Reaching out, praying some more. Seeking the Lord for CC Padova and seemingly coming up with one disappointment after the other. We sought the Lord for pure hearts, for His heart for the city He called us to minister to and yet everything seemed to be stagnate. We would drive an hour in one direction or another and see fruit-others vineyards were now bearing fruit and we would rejoice for them but sorrow in our own heart wondering why we weren't seeing the same in Padova.
And yet, God was working. He is working. It is in the little answers to prayer-the fleeces we found ourselves laying out before Him to know if He was indeed in this place. Many times I would find myself seeing a small glimpse of His glory and yet say "Yes, but...." Yes, Lord, you did that, but what about this?" Spending time looking at what isn't happening rather than rejoicing for what is! What a good lesson!!

We heard back from the Commune yesterday. For now, they will let us use the building and will charge us 5 euro an hour to use it. They think it is a good idea for us to arrange some concerts at Christmas and Easter, perhaps in the summer also. Please continue to pray that perhaps more opportunities to serve the community will come about.

This past summer was an answer to many prayers. As many of you know about and came along side of us in prayer for the concerts Jim and his band played in. The place in Padova has really been a blessing for us. Jim has been meeting with the manager of the park there each week since July. Lino is a little older than Jim and loves music, plays guitar and also does sound for different gospel choirs in the area. He is not a believer (yet) but has a great liking for Jim. He is starting to open up to him about difficulties in his own life. This past week he asked Jim to stay and have dinner with him. There is also a security guy there who Jim has talked with previously. He is the one who said he actually hated the church and religion. Well, this past week as Jim was leaving, he called out to him to talk. He said 'well Jim, it's just different here in Italy-it's like a state church-not like what you are talking about." We believe he is open to chat some more. He told Jim he talked to his Mom about the things he and Jim talked about!!

Jim is teaching Hebrews at the Bible College this semester. He has a great group of students and loves pouring into their lives. Please keep him and the students in your prayers.
I will be helping out with a couple of the Girls Discipleship classes. One of the topics I will be sharing on is Femininity. It's a subject dear to my heart and I pray God gives us a great message! I so long for God's heart on this topic.

We are in the planning stages of the Italian Ladies Christmas Tea in Dec. Last year was such a blessing and we look forward to it once again. Sue Long will be coming over from Siegen Germany to share the message of Jesus with us. Last years Tea hosted close to 80 women and this year we are expecting more as we are encouraging the women to invite their family and friends. Please be praying for Sue and all the details of the Tea.

There is an Int'l Ladies group here in Padova that hosts different outings and get-togethers. Every year it seems there is something that gets in the way of me getting together with these ladies. It is something I would like to do this year-hopefully that will work out. I would like to host some coffees/luncheons at my house as well as organize some craft workshops at our house. Please pray this will work out. I also met a lady through a scrapbook group and we are going to start getting together once a month. She is Italian which will be great for me to keep practicing the language!!

And so we see, God is indeed at work here in the place He has called us. It has been in the waiting hours, weeks, months and even years that we see He has been preparing us, teaching us, drawing us to Himself. We are reminded from His Word that the rich and the poor, God has made them both. That it rains on the just and the unjust. Sometimes there aren't cut and dry answers to why things happen as they do. Why does one farmer labor just as much as the other and yet his crop is destroyed. We don't always know the answer. What we do know is that after the harvest, both farmers go out again and plow and prepare for the next year. Perhaps they learn something from the year before, perhaps there was nothing they could do differently. But, they press on, they forget what was behind them and look ahead to the new season. And so it is with us. We press on, we look ahead as we are led by the One who has called us, the One who is faithful and the One who promised that He also will do it!

Thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Being American

I had hoped to write this post last week but became too busy with other things. We went to Austria this past weekend with CC Treviso. Jim was teaching 3 sessions and I was doing the program for the children-Armor of God-lots of fun and spent the week mostly cutting out different pieces of the armor from cardboard. Praise God for pizza boxes :)
It was a joy for me this weekend. Lots of good fellowship and relaxing time spent having a coffee and sitting down and talking with girls!! Oh how I miss that so much! It is the little things in life that become huge when you can't do it often. I treasure the moments spent like that!
Last week I also spent time watching You Tube and finally watched the entire broadcast news about the events of September 11, 2001. In all these years, I have never watched it in its entirety-only bits and pieces. It was quite amazing to watch and truly an event that forever changed our country.
I thought about it as I watched the reports and remembered back to when we found out about it.
It was a Tuesday in Hungary, we still had no phone lines (since July) no television, no internet and I didn't have a cell phone. Jim had one, but he was in Budapest that day for a weekly get together with some other pastors. He would leave our house around 6am to take the train and return around 8:30pm. Marla and I were at home doing whatever it was that we do....maybe schoolwork. I will never forget when Jim arrived home. He came into the house and said "Get your stuff, we are leaving....they are bombing America." What? I barely had time to process what he was saying to me. He said "They even bombed the Pentagon". Still, I had no idea what he was talking about. All I could think was, no way, noone bombs America! Then I started to panic a bit. Being an American in a foreign country I had no idea what all of this meant. I couldn't figure out if he meant we were going back to America right now or what. A few minutes later, I realized he meant that we were going to someone's flat to watch the news on their TV.
I watched in horror and disbelief. How in the world could that have happened.
The next day I went to the church office and tried to go online and watch whatever news I could. Internet news wasn't so available 10 yrs ago as it is today. It was crazy! Trying to read the articles and make sense out of something that was so insensible. I read that a girl from my hometown of Attleboro had died on one of the planes. Another death was Barbara Olsen who I had listened to so many times on the news when we lived in the states. It was still surreal. There was anger, fear and stress inside of me all at the same time. There was this sense that I should be home in the states-I wanted to be with the people in my country so desperately and mourn with them. I didn't feel as though I could mourn where I was.
As an American in a foreign land I felt so strange at that moment. People were looking at us, asking us things we had no answers to. Some were frightened that we were going to go to war. " Of course we are going to war" I said, ''we will hunt them and kill them for what they did". It was as though people didn't want us to retaliate-somehow maybe we could just talk it out. No, sorry, there would be no talking-there will be war!
I remember being at church and everyone was talking about it and one guy told me that we deserved it because of the way we Americans portray ourselves. Really????? Oh my goodness, I hadn't punched anyone since about 4th grade (yes, I got suspended for that) and I was about to punch this guy!!! It had to have been the Holy Spirit's power inside to hold me back and hold my tongue from saying anything back to him. Oh man, I remember it like it was yesterday.
We couldn't talk to anyone at home because communication wasn't like it was today-no chat, no skype. I think AOL chat was the only thing available and we didn't even have internet at the time. It was hard to digest all of this being so far away from home.
What news we could watch was showing the US coming together, people coming to the aid of one another and an overwhelming out pour of love and service. Again, it felt so strange not to be a part of that.
From that day, I started to really be afraid of living abroad. Some months past and in Feb, my daughter and I went to a homeschooling conference in Budapest. It was a week long conference and a lot of fun for Marla to be around kids her own age who were also on the mission field.
We were at the train station in Budapest to head back to Baja Friday afternoon. There was a crowd of people lined up all around the station and noone was able to go inside. The policeman made an announcement shortly afterwards but I had no clue what he said because it was in Hungarian. I kept asking around until someone could tell me in English what he said. There was a bomb threat at the train station and trains would be delayed until further notice. Well, I freaked out! I looked at Marla, told her not to speak at all because I thought someone would target us as Americans. The blond in me sort of got the best of me because I had a carry on suitcase with the brand name "American Tourister" on it so I ripped that off my luggage. I was so afraid of being recognized as an American.
Finally after hours and hours of waiting, they told us we can get on the train. Then, they told us there was a bomb threat possibly on the tracks. Well, I had a cell phone and this time called Jim and told him no way was I getting on the train with Marla. We called our friend Jackie, and between Jim and her talking to me a bit, Marla and I finally got on the train. Funny side note-none of us on the train could get a ticket since noone was allowed inside the station-the wonderful train guys charged all of us the penalty price for not having our tickets before getting on the train!!! I think they should have let us all ride for free that day!
We finally take off and are headed back home. I am still anxious inside-poor Marla is the brave one reassuring me that everything is going to be ok. Well, we were about an hour away from home and the train made its stop. Marla and I had the seats right near the exit door. The train stopped briefly, started to go again and all of a sudden this loud bang occured. I grabbed Marla's head and pulled both of us to the ground! There was a smell so awful and for sure I thought it was a bomb! Come to find out, there were still a bunch of people who needed to get off the train at the previous stop and someone broke the glass for the emergency brake. Oh my goodness...poor Marla-she probably still has whiplash from that day! It's good that we laugh about it now-I think it is one of those events that we will forever remember and laugh about!
As an American living abroad, we also get emails from the US Embassy periodically. Whenever there are threats, we receive the emails telling us to change up our daily routine, where we walk, where we go, in case we are being watched. Nothing has ever happened to anyone I know, and I am sure these emails are more for security and not really expecting anything to happen. But, it does make me aware that just being American is a threat on foreign soil.
Where we live now there are tons of people that when I walk by them, you will not hear a word of English come out of my mouth. Some think I am crazy, including Jim at times. But, I do not trust some people and would rather be safe. When I walk around with just girls, I will never let them speak English if we are approaching certain people. There is still a fear in me that there are people who hate us just because we are American and would not blink to see something bad happen to us.
I don't live paranoid, but because of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, it has changed the way I think as I live overseas. I am not as trusting as I might have been before that day. I am more aware of my surroundings. Some days I even think I should lose my blond hair because it seems like a dead giveaway that I am American. Doubt that will happen though :) I trust the Lord with my life in all things, but I do believe in caution. Jim has a good laugh at my cautiousness sometimes :)
People think we as Americans are prideful, bullies, dishonest, and more. Well, maybe some are-but so are the people in other countries. While we are still on this earth, there will be dishonesty, pride, rebellion, and all kinds of other things. There is no perfect country. I always find it sad when people put down my country. We are not allowed to say anything negative about their countries, but they sure can ramble on and on about what is wrong with America. Sorry, doesn't fly with me. Can we as a nation grow and improve and learn from past mistakes? Of course we can, just like everyone else.
So, all this to say that this is just another aspect of living life on foreign soil. Something we don't often think about until something comes about to change the course of life.
Praising God that one day, there will be a time when we will have no more fear, no more pain, no more suffering. All the evil in this world will be rid of and the Lion will lay down with the Lamb. Can you imgaine? Oh the pure joy of knowing that there is a place that Jesus has prepared for us that is safe-free from hate, free from anger and pride. My heart rejoices knowing that we have that hope!
I added some more pictures from our years in Baja, Hungary. Hope you enjoy them. I also added a great song by Jeremy Camp that always brings me back to reality and what is to come!