Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Long Time Comin'

Yeah, I know it has been a while since I have blogged and I apologize for that.  A lot has happened since October and I will not cover them all in the post.  I will honestly try to put up more posts over the next couple of days about everything that has happened.  I know it is an enormous endeavor but I think that several smaller posts will be better than one or two HUGE posts.  So here is a preview of what has been going on: Thanksgiving at the Bible School, 3 new students, my trip to Naples, feeding the homeless, my trip tot he States, new Avanti workers, the Ping Pong Tournaments, Karaoke Night, and visitors. Hope that you will keep reading and also keep praying for us and the work we are doing for God's kingdom.  And please continue to pray for our students and the churches here in Italy.  Thanks to you all and God bless.  Ciao.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How Do You Measure A Year?

Ok, so I know I haven't blogged in a while, please forgive me.  So here is what has happened since the Vendammia in September.  Friday night activities started again, another scooter ride through the Chianti region, the convegno in Bondeno, I have picked up two new students, and a couple of parties we had...

As of the first Friday in October we started our Friday night activities.  The first Friday of every month is movie night.  Ryan and I wanted it to be a Halloween theme so we tried to find an appropriate "scary" movie.  We couldn't really think of one so we decided to show Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl because it is kinda creepy and has the zombie-type pirates.  Since this was our Halloween movie night we wanted to dress up as pirates!  We also told out students that they could dress up if they wanted to and a few of them came through in style!  Cooking School was the next week and Debbie did a wonderful job as always.  The menu was: a veggie tray with dip, scalloped potatoes, stuffed hamburgers, and frozen bananas split.  The stuffed hamburgers were interesting, and delicious, plus I have had never heard of them before.  You brown hamburger in a pan on the stove and put the other ingredients in and let it cook together for a while.  Then you hollow out dinner rolls and stuff the meat into it and cook it in the oven for 20 minutes.  2 of my students showed up plus a few of my friends.  It is always good to see them more than just once a week.  The other activity that we are doing this semester is Choir.  David wanted to get a choir together for some time now and sing Christmas songs.  So the last Friday of every month is Choir practice and they sound really good.

As of this week I have two new students.  They are Matteo and Marco, brothers and cousins of my student Lorenzo.  On Tuesday we met and talked, asking questions so we can get to know each other.  As it turns out I have a lot on common with them.  We like the same type of movies, books, and games!  They speak pretty good English but they said that they said that they would like to know the rules for grammar.  We are going to start reading The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  Andrea, their last teacher, started reading it with them but didn't finish, so I will continue reading with them.  I am really looking forward to their class every week.

A few weeks ago, we went to Bondeno, the church where Andrea is working, because they were doing a small covegno and the topic was Christian families and marriages.  We got to see some old friends from Bologna, Vicenza, and Roma as well as our friends at the church in Bondeno.  We actually have another convegno that we are going to this weekend.  The convegno in Aprilia.  I am very excited to go and see all the people there!

We have also gotten to do some fun things as well this past month.  Probably the biggest, as least for me, was my birthday!  We had movie night on my birthday so we didn't celebrate until the next day.  I got to sleep in for a little while then I met Ryan in town and we decided to do a couple of things that I have never done before such as climb to the top of the dome in the Duomo and climb the bell tower at the Duomo as well.  As a present he and Laura paid for my lunch and my ticket into the Dome.  By the time we finished climbing up and down both the Dome and the Bell Tower my legs were shaking!  But the views were worth it!  We stayed in town until dinner where I had made reservations at the Greek restaurant and everyone at the school plus my student Lorenzo came to celebrate!  I am so blessed to have such great friends and brothers and sisters in Christ!
Below are The Birthday Adventure in Firenze:

from the top of the Duomo

from the Bell Tower

Harding invited us up to the Villa for their Halloween party.  So we went but the rule is you have to have a costume.  Well our friends at church, Luli and Daniele, called me and asked if I would be part of their ensemble since they needed a fourth person.  I agreed and we went as the characters from the Wizard of Oz.  Luli was the Tin Man, Daniele was Dorthy, I was the Cowardly Lion, and Arban was the Scarecrow.
Tin Man, Dorthy, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion

One weekend in October we took another Scooter ride, this time through the Chianti region of Tuscany; where they are famous for their wine and also where we went for the grape harvest.  We actually tagged along with some Americans that Kyle met here in Firenze.  They work at a travel agency that sets up trips for college students who are studying in Italy.  Its always nice to meet new people and make new friends, and I got to share my faith with one of the girls.  She is searching for something and I got to tell her why I believe in God and the hope I have through Jesus Christ.  I hope that what I said planted a seed and that one day that seed will grow.

As of October 5th I have been living in Italy for 1 year!  It seemed kinda weird to think that I have been here for 12 months already and that I only have another 12 months with Avanti.  I really do love what I am doing here and it is a lot of fun.  There are difficult times and times when I want to be able to spend more time with my family and close friends because I am missing out on some important events in their lives; and there are days when I am so frustrated because for some reason I am struggling to speak Italian and also days when nothing seems to go right.  But I have been so blessed by my time here.  I have been blessed by the people that I have worked with, blessed by the people I have met in the different churches in Italy, and even blessed by my Italian students and friends.  And of course I have been blessed by the support that I have through you, my Christan family in the States.  So please continue to pray for the work we are doing here in Italy.  Please continue to pray for the churches here in Italy and our students that we may show them love and Christ through our lives.  Pray for us in Firenze (Laura, Ryan, Angela, Erme, Kelly, David, Debbie, and me), in Taranto (Eric and Jessica), and in Bondeno (Andrea).  I thank you again for the support, encouragement, and love from you.  God bless.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Heard It Through The Grape Vine

This week we started our new semester of classes.  We have had about 70 people wanting to take English classes with us.  We had a small party for our students last Wednesday so they could sign up for times and so that we could spend some time with them.  Not all of our students could make it, but we had about 25 come.  I have, right now at least, 9 individual students, the advanced grammar class, and the English conversation class that we have at the church on Thursday nights. I might have more students but the ones have have right now are Paolo, Edoardo, Lorenzo, Fabio, Felice, Alessandro, Lorenzo, Leonardo, and Flavio; and in my grammar class I have 5 students: Enzo, Leonardo, Morena, Vicenza, and Alessandro.  Next week I will post pictures of my students so you can have a face with a name.

On Tuesday we, the Avanti workers and the HUF students, got to help with the Vendemmia, or the grape harvest.  The vineyard was in next to a town called Montefioralle in the Chianti region of Tuscany.  The town is more like a village and you can walk through it in about 5 mins., but it is still a nice quiet place.

 We worked all morning and even into the afternoon picking grapes off the vines.  They said that this year's harvest was better than last years because there was not as much rain as last year.  God gave us a perfect day for being outside: it wasn't too hot nor too cold and the wind gave us a cool relief from the work.  One of our friends/students, Clizia, came with us as well. 
Our friend Clizia harvesting grapes with us

 Kyle with a beautiful bunch of grapes.

Me workin' hard 

We had to stop working twice because all of the containers they provided for us were full of grapes!  During one of the breaks the owners of the vineyards made a delicious lunch for us of ribs, bacon, sausage, and bread.  It was awesome to have a chance to partake in this Italian tradition.  Next week we are starting our Monday night Bible study for men and women as well as our second week of classes.  We are still planning to do out Friday night activities again such as Movie Night and American Cooking School; we hope that Game Night will be more popular this semester.  David had an idea for a new activity: a chorus.  He wants to get our students together so we can sing Christmas songs in December.  I hope it takes off as well.
Above and Below:
The Vineyard we were working in

 Some of the containers of grapes we harvested

As I close out this blog I ask that you will continue to pray for us.  Pray that we will be open with our faith and the hope we have through Jesus Christ.  Pray also for our students and our classes.  Pray that we will also encourage each other and love each other as brothers and sisters.  Thank you for the support and encouragement I have received through the emails, Facebook messages, and Skype calls.  I will update again soon and let you know how things are going over here.  Ciao e vi voglio bene!

Monday, September 12, 2011

K.F.C.: Kitchen, Friends, and Convegno

Ciao tutti!  Well here is the news since we've been back from Albania.  First, we have pretty much finished our work remolding the kitchen.  It took us roughly a month to finish, but it looks great.  We replaced the tiles on the walls and laid tiles on the floor as well, both the color gray.  After the tile were finished we painted the walls above the tiles and the ceiling white.  David, Ryan, and I also did some electrical work moving a light fixture and making new places for outlets.  Before we only had one place to plug appliances such as a hand mixer or something like that and really only counter to prepare food.  Now we have about 21 outlets and 4 stainless steel counter spaces to prepare food.  Peperdine University donated the stainless steel counter tops to us in the spring, so thank you Peperdine.  Here are some before, during, and after pictures of our work:



This summer we also had some new friends, angels in disguise in my opinion, pass through the Bible school and help us with our work in the kitchen and other small things around the school that needed to be done but didn't have time to do them.  I have talked about those people in the last post, but I wanted to thank them again for the blessing that they were to us.  Also Kyle, the HUF graduate assistant who also lives with the school with us, celebrated his 29th birthday in August and wanted his friends to come with him on a Vespa tour through the Tuscan countryside.  It was so much fun seeing the scenery while the wind whipped through our clothes cooling from the heat of the day.  We started in San Gimignano then went to Volterra and passed through other small towns.  All 16 of us returned safe and sound from the trip, and it was such a good day. 

Me on my Vespa!
I'm sure we looked awesome as we all rode down the road


Debbie and Erme decided to rent a convertible instead of the Vespas

One of my favorite pictures that I took that day.

On a slightly sadder note, Emily's time ended here last week.  At church a few weeks ago we had a slide show of pictures from her time here, Debbie made a cake for her and everyone at the church, and several of her students and friends came to see her one last time.  The last few days she was here several people showed up at the door to say good-bye to her.  I think that even that is a testimony of all the great things she did here for the Kingdom of God in two years.  And Emily if you are reading this I just wanted to say, "Thank you for all the work you have done here.  I can see how God has worked through you at the school, in Florence, and even in other parts of Italy.  You are already missed here, but I know that God will bless you and that you will be a blessing to those around you in the States.  Ti voglio bene!" 

Emily on her Vespa

Emily and two of her students, Lorenzo and Gulia
Lorenzo and Gulia pretending to be glad Emily is leaving!  haha, but don't worry they really miss her


And speaking of friends, we got to see many of our friends and make new ones at the Convegno here in Firenze a couple of weeks ago.  It was a lot of prep work for at the church and the school, but it was a lot of fun.  It started on Wednesday and ended after an Agape meal on Sunday afternoon..  Everything was in Italian and was hard for me to follow along, but I followed well enough to get the gist.  The theme was "Bereishit" which means "in the beginning" in Hebrew.  The speakers talked about creation, beginning of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.  It was good to worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ and get to know them better.  And I'm not going to lie, at the end of the day I was exhausted from trying to listen, speak, and think in Italian!  haha.

Next week we start back again teaching classes.  We will all have more students, since we are kinda short on teachers, but we are all looking forward to seeing our students again on a regular basis.  As always I ask that you will please keep us in your prayers.  Pray that we will be Christ to our students, friends, and even strangers that we meet so that God can work through us for his glory.  Pray also for the brothers and sisters in the churches here in Italy, and pray that God will continue to bless them and work through them.  I also wanted to thank all my friends and family for their continued support and encouragement.  All the emails, Facebook messages, and Skype conversations mean a lot to me.  God bless you and I will write more next week and let you know how classes are going.  Ciao.

Monday, August 15, 2011

There and Back Again: Road trip to Albania

As I told you in the last post a couple of weeks ago we went to Albania for Ermenita's wedding reception.  David, Debbie, our friend Tracie, and I departed from the Bible School  on the 30th to begin our trip to Albania.  The first stop that we made was in Fararra to pick up Andrea and then on to Croatia.  We spent the first night in a town called Sibenik, a 12 hour drive from Firenze.  the next day we went to a national park near Skradin on the Krka river.  It had beautiful waterfalls and places to swim there and of course it was swimming with tourists.

After we saw the waterfalls and had a picnic lunch there we went on to Dubrovnik and spent two nights and one day there.  It has awesome old town walls and streets to explore.  We walked the streets, climbed them in some places, saw some old churches and monasteries, and even a Jewish Synagogue that had documents from WWII.  Some of us went swimming in the sea as well and it was so refreshing.  I couldn't help but praise God as I lay in the water relaxing in the cool water from the hot day.  The day we left for our first stop in Albania, a town called Shkoder where we would meet up with Ermenita, we had a little bit of trouble. 

We had a beautiful drive through Montenegro, but after we crossed the boarder into Albania, we discovered that they were doing construction on the road all the way to the town, about 50 miles.  When we were almost to the town we hit a huge pot hole and after a few minutes we discovered that the car was leaking oil.  However, we happen to break down right in front of a place where a group of men were standing around and a few of them spoke English.  In fact, a couple of them have been living in the UK for the past 14 years and was back visiting.  He kindly helped us push the car off the road, call us a tow truck, call Eremnita and her friends to let them know where we were going, and give us a lift into town to the service station where the car was going and all without asking for payment or any kind of compensation.  The people at the service station fixed our car by 10:30 that night and it only cost us 150 euro for the tow, labor, and parts!  God was really looking out for us that day and we were so thankful for his presence with us.

The wedding reception of Ermenita we went to was different than any other wedding I have been to.  It didn't start until 9:30 pm and Ermenita and the wedding party didn't enter until after 10 pm.  There was so much food!  To them, if there is food left on the plate, then it means you had enough to eat.  There was a course of food and the dancing.  Then after a couple of hours the 2nd course of food arrived and more dancing. And finally, around 1:45 in the morning, the 3rd course of food and then more dancing.  The wedding lasted until 4:30 am, but we left at 2:30 am.  It was a good time and fun to do the traditional Albanian dances and eat their traditional foods.  I were so thankful and blessed to be invited by Ermenita.  That Sunday we went to the church there in her hometown, Korca, where Ermenita went before she came to Italy.  It was such a blessing to meet and  worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  There were so welcoming to us and one lady even translated the sermon for us.

The trip back  was a little more adventurous since we didn't have any hotels booked.  Our pattern was to drive until about dinner time and then find a town and try to find a place to stay for the night.  The only problem was that we went along the coast of Croatia during the high tourist season and didn't have a lot of luck finding a place.  But God is good and took care of us and we found some nice places to stay.  One thing from this trip is how hospitable and friendly Albanians are.  You read about the people who helped us with the car, but we found out that many other people stopped and wanted to help as well, and Ermenita's family and friends were very welcoming to us as well.  I knew, from a previous mission trip, that Croats are very generous and hospitable and it still stands true today.

As I close out this blog I ask that you will continue to pray for us over here.  Pray that we will be kind and generous to everyone we meet and that we will treat them the way that Jesus would have treated them.  Pray that every word we say, every action do, decision we make, and thought we have will glorify our heavenly father.  Pray also for the church we visited in Korca and that they will keep doing good things for the kingdom and that God will continue to bless them.  And one last request: my brother and sister-in-law left last week for Argentina to do mission work there for a year, so please keep them in your prayers as well.  I'll update again soon and let you know what else we have been doing.  Ciao for now and God bless.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Work and Blessings

Wow, sorry it has taken me so long to post, but we have been super busy!  As I told you in the last post, I believe, we did not have classes this summer.  I miss meeting regularly with my students, and I have tried to meet with some of my students this summer, going out for coffee, or gelato, or something else.  We had a group of athletes stay with us in June and this month we had a project here in the school that we have been working on all month.  Not only did we have the athletes stay with us, but we also had several people stay at the school, which I am told is normal during the summer.

In June, we had a group of athletes from Harding come and stay with us.  I have written about the HUF program before and the Harding students involved in it, but this program is called BAT (Bison Athletes in Training).  Many of the athletes at Harding do not have the chance to go on one of Harding's overseas programs for a semester because of their training, so this program allowed some athletes to have a cross-cultural experience.  Also during June we had our first VBS here at the church in Firenze.  It was Laura and Ryan's project and they did a great job.  The theme was the Armor of God and we invited the kids from the churches in Firenze, Prato, and Pistoia.  Although it was our first VBS, we had a great turnout.  Ryan and Laura wrote a skit which we performed in Italian, and they also translated a few songs into Italian that we taught to the kids there.  It was only one afternoon, but it was a good day.

And this past month we have been remolding the kitchen!  David and I started the demolition while everyone else was at church camp for two weeks.We took the tiles off the walls, a light green colored tile, and had to smooth them out, which took a while.  After that we started tiling the floor and then we after we grouted the floor we started tiling the walls, both are a gray colored tile.  We also ran a few more electrical lines and repainted the walls above the tiles and the ceiling...writing this makes it seem easy, but we have been working on it for about 5 weeks, and it has been hard work!  David has saved the school thousands of euros over the past few years by doing most of the repairs around here himself.  We still have a few things left to do such as install a new light fixture, finish the electrical work, and then move in all the furniture.

We have had several visitors, as I have already said.  A few couples have stayed with us and a few college students passing through traveling Europe.  Some of our visitors have been angels in disguise.  We had a mother,  ,and daughter, Erin, stay with us for a few days.  They worked at a church camp, doing repairs, in France and helped us work a few days laying tile.  A friend of Emily's, Derek and his roommate Jay, helped us for a couple of weeks.  At first they did some small things around the school that had been kinda neglected because of the kitchen project, mowing the lawn and cleaning outside and in.  They also helped us out in the kitchen with the tiles.  One of Ermenita's friends, Tracie, has been staying with us for a while as well and has been helping us clean the stainless steel counter tops that will go in the kitchen, and also has helped us paint the past couple of days.  David and Debbie's eldest daughter Elizabeth and her roommate also stayed with us for a week helping us out as well.  I thank God for the help that all of these people gave us and I know that he will bless them for their service and sacrifice of their vacation time to help us. 

I did get to go to an interesting festival in Certaldo with my student Edoardo.  It was 4 days long but we only went for one of the nights.  I went with Edoardo and several of his and his girlfriend's friends so I got to practice my Italian!  The festival is comprised of street performers, jugglers and mimes and other types of performances, but the night we were there, we only saw bands in the street playing, as well as other artists selling their wares.  It was interesting and I think Edoardo was kinda disappointed that I didn't get to see the traditional performances.  Well, that is pretty much what I have been up to lately.  Tomorrow we leave for Ermenita's wedding in Albania and will be gone for 10 days or so.

Please keep all of us in your prayers as we travel this month, pray that God will watch over us and that we will not miss an opportunity to share out faith and the great things that God has done for us.  Please pray that we will continue to allow God to work through us today, tomorrow, and everyday.  I thank God for all of you who have continued to pray for me and the support and encouragement that I receive.  I will tell you about Alabania when I return and I will also post pictures.  Ciao and God bless.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Work and Play

Ciao tutti!  Well, as I mentioned in my last blog, may parents came to visit!  It was the first time we had seen each other in person since I left the States almost 8 months ago and it was their first time to be in Italy!  I got to take some vacation time and show them around Tuscany and Rome.  I learned more about Florence and other places we went because I had to be the tour guide!  We spent three days in Rome and saw Vatican City, The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, The Colosseum, The Forum, Palatine Hill, and The Spanish Steps (on accident haha...sorry mom).  I could have spent all three days in the Forum, Colosseum, and Palatine Hill and still want more time to see everything!  Then I took them to one of my favorite places in the world, San Gimignano.  We walked through the town for a while enjoying the views and then went on to Siena to see the church there and the Piazza del Campo.  Mom and Dad said the bus rides through the Tuscan country side that day were well worth it.  I also took them to Pisa to see the Duomo there, the baptistery, and crypt, and of course the famous Leaning Tower.  And of course I took them around Firenze for two days.  They had a good time and it was good to spend some time with my family.  I learned more about Florence and other places we went because I had to be the tour guide!

Mom and Dad on the train to Rome

Mom and Dad at San Gimignano

A couple weeks ago, we had a bunch of the Italian young adults and teenagers here from Rome, Fararra, Bergamo, Bologna, and of course our friends Eric and Jessica from Taranto.  It also corresponded with Game Night with our students.  We played a live game of Clue!  We used rooms here in the school, we were the characters, and the students and youth were split into teams.  In every room they had to play different games administered by the characters.  Ryan was Professor Plum, Andrea was Mrs. Peacock, Laura was Miss White, Ermenita was Miss Scarlett, David was Colonel Mustard, and I was Mr. Green.  They had to do different games like the human knot, musical chairs, guess riddles, etc.  On Saturday we all went to Valambrosa, about an hour away from Firenze, for the day translating songs, eating lunch, and playing volleyball and frisbee.  Saturday night we grilled out and watched Inception in Italian.  Friday and Saturday we also had devos; one of the Italians, Joele did the devo on Friday and did a great job.  Eric did the devo on Saturday night and I did it Saturday morning.  I was very proud of Eric and Joele for speaking.  On Sunday we had so many people at church.  We had the 16 youth from the retreat, the new 35 HUF students, and everyone else who is in the church in Florence.  It was awesome to see so many people there worshiping.  We also have made some new friends.  An art student that is studying here for a month and two girls from Harding who are traveling through Europe on their own for a few week.  It has been fun to hang out with them and to get to know them a little.  We also got to hang out with our friends from A.I.M.a couple of weeks ago.  We went to see a movie, the 4th Pirates movie, and had dinner.  It was fun and good to spend time with other missionaries.  They were such an encouragement to us and, if any of them read this, thank you and God bless.  Here are some pictures from Game Night and some of my Italian friends:

My alter ego: Mr. Green!

Miss White and Professor Plum

The Nanny

Col. Mustrard

Sara and Me

My friend from Rome Giacomo

Alex from Bergamo

Viktor and Joele from Rome

Me, Andrea, and Daniela

The Smiths who are working in Taranto

Me and Marta

Me and Daniela

On Saturday night we had The Gathering, and it was Austrian Night with Arnold.  We told us a little about Austria and then cooked us an Austrian meal.  The he taught us the Austrian waltz.  I was terrible!  But it was fun.

As of yesterday we have 26 Harding athletes staying here at the school with us for a month.  Its a program called BAT and its for the athletes that wouldn't really be able to do an overseas program.  So we have been working extremely hard to get the school ready.  Our semester with our students is officially over, but i am still planning on meeting with mine as often as I can.  Its all about relationships, what we do here.  Our relationship with God, with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and with our students trying to show them Christ through our actions and our words.  So please keep us in your prayers.