Thursday, December 25, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Hey, by the way, Heather's sister, Jennifer (Jenny), has recently published a children's book called 'A Match Made in Heaven'. It is a great gift, especially for Christmas. You can order it online or download the digital version immediately. Check out www.tatepublishing.com and search for the book title or click the book link above.
If we don't see you before, have a Merry Christmas!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Really smooth transition this time around. I miss my team, church and home - but it has been smooth. I feel some timid tendrils of cultural stress already, but different than ever before. Whereas in past trips 'home', I've raced out to buy the food and sweets I've missed or run to the stores to shop and see what latest game or gadget is out, this time I find myself, well, not.
It all seems too glittery. So big, so very, very big. And loud. So much junk, crap. I'm sure it is worse because it is the Christmas, shopping season, but I still feel it. My ears and eyes are especially sensitive to the commercial nature we're surrounded in. I'm not used to having cable. Not used to paying so little for gas, so much freedom, so many options.
I want to retreat to the silence of this little guest house and yet find myself wishing I were sitting at Yuri's caffe at Piazza Roma where I know how to speak and what to order.
I'm sipping a Dr. Pepper, happy to be with family and spending dollars. I'll lay down on this grass for it is green but I find myself increasingly homeless, increasingly rootless...
Go hug a missionary today. We're weird for good reason...
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Delicious. Spaghetti with tomatoes and clams followed by a shared fried fish plate accompanied by a delicious local white wine. Maurizio is an enigma to me. I can't figure him out. I baptized him last year and since then his life has been awful. Well, according to him. It hasn't been NEARLY the life-saving event he thought it would be. You know the country song - no girl, no house, no dog...
There are two buildings just down the road from our house next to each other and both of them are being redone - repainted. This is a major process that costs the owners of the apartments thousands of euros and hours of heartache. It happens every 20 years or so and the city is full of buildings that are surrounded in scaffolding as mostly foreign workers are busy stripping, rebuilding and painting. The scaffolding goes up, the transformation takes 2-3 months (or MUCH longer) and then the scaffolding comes down and the building is restored to its pristine, original condition. One of the two afore-mentioned buildings is covered in scaffolding. The one next to it instead has hired a new service for the job. It is two guys with a huge platform truck with a crane that allows them to reach great distances. No scaffolding. They peel the paint, fire the walls and go to town while everyone watches and while piles of crusty, cracking paint form around the base of the building. Bare, naked, patchy walls are visible to everyone.
Two buildings side by side. One covered in green canvas which hides the work, the other exposed, cold, shivering. In the end, the result is the same...I think. Maurizio is the scaffolding-less building. As I listened to him talk and waver between lamenting and laughing I just smiled and enjoyed the moment. He's a good friend. Maybe my best Italian friend and he's just like George Costanza. I'll keep praying for him, keep exploring new restaurants with him, keep sitting with him as the old stuff gets scraped away and the new stuff gets put on.
I'm pretty sure I still have some scaffolding of my own up in some places...
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Slipping on Figs
Cat urine, if it is the right kind, reminds me of my neighborhood in Santiago, Chile where I grew up. Our house was in a cul-de-sac, a dead-end street and there must have been eight houses on the street, each with an iron fence and gate, each with a Chilean family but for ours. We were American.
There was a little store on our block, just a three or four minute walk from our house. We would go there to buy basic staples - milk, sugar, or candy. Once I saved up enough pesos to buy a HUGE chocolate bar with a picture of a train on it. It was disappointing. The shaded sidewalk that led there was lined by a kind of cactus. I remember Felipe, the neighbor boy, telling me that if you broke off the tip and rubbed the green juice on a cut, it would heal faster.
Felipe was a skinny child, skinny and short. The day we moved into our little, wooden house, Felipe came out of the yard next door with a hammer and hit my brother, Chris, in the stomach. No. This was not typical Chilean hospitality. It was plain odd. Felipe grew to be one of our best friends and he was there when we put on the play in our backyard.
The walls of our backyard met in the back corner at a sharp angle. Concrete walls, they were composed of cement posts placed upright into the ground with big slabs laid between them three high to form a two meter barrier between us and the neighbors. This far corner was paved and was joined with the front walk by a series of concrete stepping tiles. Built into the left wall was a concrete grilling area that I don't remember ever actually using. On the right was the fig tree.
Rising up to 30 feet or more, it shot up at a weird angle, as fig trees have the habit of doing. Back in this paved area there was often an ample supply of firewood stored for burning during the cold Chilean winters. This area was often slippery because of the bright red, seedy guts of fallen figs. The sweet smell of the fruit would blend with the smell of wet firewood and cat urine and create a unique concoction.
The day we put on the play must have been in summer and it must have been near the end of our stay there, sometime in the mid 80's. Our ham radio antenna that used to tower over our block was down and served as bleachers for the neighbor kids' parents. I don't think I've ever seen 'How the West Was Won' but I think that's what we called our play. At one point, in one of our only stunts, a fake punch was thrown and Felipe spit out rice which was supposed to look like teeth getting knocked out. And Pepe slipped. He was big for his age, and a bit clumsy. He was supposed to climb on the roof of our playhouse and he slipped.
My dad video-taped the play and he must have forgotten to push the AWB button which gave the taping a pinkish hue. We would watch it and laugh when Pepe slipped. I spent a lot of time in that backyard. It was the perfect training ground for my imagination and it was where I learned if you're not careful, you can slip on figs.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I decided to do it in Italian and it has been really cool. Over the years, I've noticed several little differences between the Italian and English translations: simple nuances that shed a new light on well-known verses and phrases. This morning I came across another.
Text: Matthew 26:49
Scene: Garden of Gethsemane. Judas and his large crowd of guards and thugs arrive and approach Jesus and his 11 disciples.
The Italian version says this: "E in quell'istante, avvicinatosi a Gesù, gli disse: «Ti saluto, Maestro!» e gli diede un lungo bacio."
My literal translation would be this: "And in that instant, coming up to Jesus, he said, "I greet you, Master!" and he gave him a long kiss."
So, you might say, what's the big deal? It's just an adjective. Well, it isn't a big deal. But it does add something to the scene. The Italian translation gives a more human, intimate portrayal of the contact between Christ and Betrayer. We're not talking about a peck or an 'air kiss.' We're talking about a lungo bacio.
The ONLY person I give lunghi baci to is my wife. Here we see Judas giving the sign to the crowd and it makes me for an instant stop and think. Why a long kiss? Did he really care for Jesus? Was he having second thoughts - coming face to face with the man who had called him and taught him so much? Or was Judas really so fake, so blind that this long kiss was meaningless, just a showy demonstration of his position as someone who was close to the Master?
Not sure - but as I read through the all-too-familiar scene this morning, this one word made me stop and picture the scene. I found myself re-reading, thinking through it, asking myself questions I hadn't asked before and getting another glimpse into the life of Jesus.
Friday, September 12, 2008
This picture is taken from our living room balcony. It captures the reality of living in Italy. Turn right and you will end up at the fencing complex. Go straight and you will end up at the very same fencing complex. Complex. Like so many things in Italy - there are many different ways of accomplishing a single task.
Both Barzini and Severgnini refer to the contradictory nature of Italy. Tim Parks, a British author, does a great job of creating tension in his stories that put a skin on this concept. We live in a land of contradictions. (Check out this post about some examples of contradiction in the city of Verona.) Just this morning, Jen was pointing out how contradictory it is that Italy's military is so small when it's renown for its military machine's place in history during the time of the Roman Empire.
No deep application here - just pointing out that it has often been tough to learn to live with the greyness of living the 'missionary life' in a land that is so very grey. Turn right, go straight, enjoy the ride, you will get there eventually. Think there are any applications here for Italians' spiritual lives?
Some of our best Italian friends live in this town. They are, in fact, the first friends we made in Ancona. I was hoping to reconnect with them since we hadn't seen each other in quite a while. Bad news. I called them and found out they separated recently. Kind of put a damper on the evening for me, but we still enjoyed the festa. Wish you had been there!
Check out the pictures and video below!
A little clip of some street musicians...life in Italy is NOT like this every day...
Thursday, September 4, 2008
A couple of years later, due to the success of the little place, the owner opened up a new location nearby and it became a regular part of the culture of our team. It was our default place to go when we needed to talk, get away, celebrate or get a non-Italian snack. 3.50 euro got you a delicious wrap filled with grilled beef/pork (not sure really), falafel, tomatos, lettuce, french fries, onions, a spicy red sauce, a cucumber sauce and a lot of mayo. But it became more than that. It became an experience, a haven, a refuge. It became our place. The Cheers bar. Central Perk. Monk's Diner. I even wrote a poem about it.
We were shocked and saddened to discover last month that the owner, Khaled, sold the business. A fresh coat of paint, most of the familiar signs taken down, carrots added to the menu, falafel taken off. It looks the same. I want to believe it is still our place...but it's not. We went tonight after the Finance Party and I'm sad to announce that I may have eaten my last kebab from our place. I won't go into details, but I regret to announce the death of the kebab.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
(disclaimer: I was NOT a math-major...)
Our average monthly budget, including personal and ministry expenses is $5000 U.S. Of that amount, around $3500 gets converted into the local currency, which is the Euro.
When the euro was introduced in 2002, one Euro was worth 0.89 U.S. cents. E 1.00 = $ 0.89 U.S. This means that on a month-to-month basis, we had a spending power, in the local currency here, of around 3,933 euros. $3500 U.S. = 3,933 euros. That was 2002.
In July of this year, the euro reached an all-time high of just over 1.60. This means that the same $3500 U.S. was worth approximately 2,188 euros. That, my friends, is a difference of 1,745 euros. Yes, you read that correctly. That means that in July of this year, we were living on 1,745 euros less than we had 6 1/2 years before.
Since then, the dollar has slowly regained ground and today is hovering near the 1.44 mark which means we're back at E 1.00 = $1.44 U.S. This means we have approximately 2,431 euros this month to spend which is an increase since July of about 243 euros - which is really nice.
If the euro dropped one more point, we would have an extra 17 euros to spend next month and with a 12-gallon tank of gas costing 75 euros these days, it can go a long way!
So, one might ask the ethical question - "In the dreamy situation where the euro fell back down to the $1 U.S. = 1 Euro level - what would you do with the extra 1,313 euros?" :)
God has taught us so much about learning to live on less, learning to trust Him, learning that needs and wants are two very different things. We would welcome the break, the cushion, the breathing room. We would lower our budget and probably save some in case it ever reversed again, which it probably will. Hopefully though, the lessons we've learned would stick with us and we'd be generous as our Father is generous.
And that, I believe, is a good point.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
We just heard that the daughter of a friend of ours will be one of the survivors on the new season, Survivor: Gabon. Our friend is a Chilean missionary working with a church in Los Angeles, Fernando Soto. This is the first MK that I know of on the show and we'll be watching and cheering her on! Oh yeah, her name is Paloma.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
We ate one evening at the McDonalds there near the hotel on the ground floor of one of the modern, clean buildings. I thought it weird that every 30 minutes or so an armed military police truck drove by and then I noticed the barbed wire that surrounded the Kid's Play Area. What would the McDonalds corporation say if they knew? Is it to keep the children in or the furbi out? And where is OSHA?!
-picture taken by Brian Rotert
Friday, August 29, 2008
I found myself rolling my eyes this morning, reading about the Pope's reaction to this piece of art in a museum in Northern Italy. Then I asked myself, "How many times do I waste time and energy seemingly defending something noble or sacred when it really is uninformed and unnecessary?" Guilty. So go ahead dear Benedict, anathematize. It really is quite ugly anyway.
The author goes on to talk about what he calls the 'Immanuel principle'. God with us. God with people, through Jesus, in us.
"That is Christianity - bringing God to people where they are. That means we don't have to get people someplace; all we need to do is get to them. When we reach out and touch them, God does."
-taken from "Love, Acceptance & Forgiveness" by Jerry Cook
Josh sends me articles that talk about having 'Third Places' - I think this guy, Jerry, was saying a similar thing back in the 70's...
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The Father entrusted the Church with Mission as part of his process of renewing all things. We go to China and Kenya and Italy and Mexico as ambassadors, yes, with the Good News to share. But that's not WHY we go.
I'm going to stick my neck out there and say that whenever anyone says 'I'll go', they are essentially signing the waiver saying that they are allowing God to do surgery on their life. We arrive on the field and are surrounded by new sights and sounds and smells. We learn a new language, a new culture. We begin to see signs that God has been here all along and slowly the strands of the web upon which we rest our faith begin to be tested; shaking, stretching, tearing. And the surgeon begins his work.
At some point in time we arrive at the realization that our Father is aiming for something specific. Maybe it is an area of unconfessed sin. Maybe it is something we need to forgive and let go. Maybe it is simply learning to really, REALLY trust him with who we are, with our dreams, with our mission. Usually it is something deep, dark and hidden; something we desperately want to be rid of but something we tend to learn how to hide in our home culture. And this is where we see the inevitable fork in the road.
The thing about this fork, this junction, is that only we really see it. No one else really does. We're strapped to the surgeon's table, IV already in and the anesthesia ready. We get itchy, we want off the table, we start talking about going home, about transitioning to a different post or ministry.
People say things like, "Are you sure this is the right time to go home?"
"But you are just now able to speak the language."
"You're just now seeing the work take off."
Now you see, these are all valid questions and observations. The missionary who stays WILL get better with the language, WILL understand the culture more clearly and WILL see their ministry grow, but that is not WHY they stay and it isn't BECAUSE they stay. It is because they remain on the surgeon's table.
They trust the Surgeon, they allow him to cut, remove, heal and bandage and in the end transform them. This transformation process is absolutely necessary in the life of the missionary for it is only in this moment of weakness, humility and transparency that we can truly be used. Remember Paul's words about weakness and strength?
It is God who works through us, not the other way around. It is God's message through us, not ours through God. It is every bit as much, if not more, about our learning and being changed as it is about us teaching someone and changing something.
The cool thing about our Surgeon is that he is humble and gentle. When He sends us, He's really calling us.
Sure you want to go?
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Jen, one of our 1-year-long interns, showed up at our house, after volunteering to watch our kids, with a bag like Mary Poppins. Out of it she pulls a movie (specially chosen for Haven), popcorn and ingredients for chocolate-chip cookies. Not only that, but she was able to create a party-like environment which got our kids SO excited. She's the beist.
This is simply a little post to say thanks to Jen and all the other hard-working interns out there that make a missionary's life easier. You are a true blessing to our life!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Interestingly enough, the other night on the BBC I watched a story on how the Catholic church is addressing this August migration to the beach by putting up mobile, inflatable church venues...check it out...
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
We jump in at the bottom and swim to the far right bottom corner over
100 metres to the rocks (not in picture). Mussolini had the monument at the top
commissioned in honor of fallen soldiers in WWI.
The stairs are designed to look like an eagle.
6 years have gone by and every time I go down to the Passetto and I spy those rocks I remember that and it brings back memories of jogging the 199 steps and the early days of exploring our city. I always wondered if I'd be able to make it out there to the rocks someday, if I'd be able to slay that dragon, to face the fear and do it.
The Germans have a saying, "Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is." It is true. Maybe this is the sole reason I have been brought here, the lesson I am to learn and yet which I resist the most; resist because of the very response, the exacting effect which courses through my veins, the way in which it seizes my heart. Maybe I have been brought here to face and embrace the wolf. As they say, 'Crepi.'
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
-Frank Herbert, Dune
Today, there were five of us. Brian and I were joined by Josh, Marcus and Kyle (our newest intern). We had been out for about half an hour and I realized that I was about half way out to the rocks. I looked at the guys and said, 'Boys, I think this is the day!' and started out toward the reef. I made it with no problem and climbed up on top to signal the victory. They swam out to meet me and we had a blast diving off the rocks and acting like teenagers. As Marcus, Brian and I took our last jump in together, the rain and sleet (yes, sleet) came down and we swam back in to shore, laughing and enjoying the cool weather. The people on the shore watched us as if we were illegal immigrants arriving clandestine from the East.
It felt good. It wasn't that I was that afraid to try it again, it was mainly that I didn't want to do it alone. The good feeling was the not being alone. It was trusting them to help me if I needed it. It was that they knew my story, my fear, my dream and my vision. It was their cheering me on and celebrating the little victory together. It was the weaving of our stories together that made it so memorable. We walked triumphantly to our rain-drenched towels and shirts and the slain dragon sunk beneath the crashing waves.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Is it worth it? Does our community here in Ancona benefit? Do these students really benefit? Does our supporting church grow through this? Does the mission of the church (on the macro level) get advanced through this kind of 10-day experience? Would there be a better way for these students to use the money they raised and time they set apart? These are all questions I hear others raising and they are all ones that we are trying to answer as well.
Friday, July 4, 2008
Thursday, July 3, 2008
I picked up my scooter today...grr... It is SO efficient having a scooter here - a gallon of gas ($10 US) will get me by for 10 days' worth of driving and you never have to pay for parking. The seat was torn and falling apart so I took it in a couple of weeks ago to see how much it cost - 50 euros...to be recovered by a guy who normally does seat covers for sailboats. That's quite a bit of money, but we had a little money set aside so I said go ahead. So, I picked it up last week - and was informed that it was time for the bi-annual revision which meant it needed new tires and a brake pad. Gulp. So, I pay my due and drive it home only to find two days later, the back tire completely flat. Where was I? Oh yeah, I picked up my scooter today...again.
On the way home I stopped by the bank to make a deposit and while sitting there I watched the lady who stocks the shelves (they sell all kinds of gift items) get frustrated by a little Ukranian boy who kept walking around and looking at the toys and books for sale. She made faces and even called the mom down for not having control of her son. As I left, I overheard her telling an older Italian man - "It's always the foreigners! Always the foreigners!" Deep breath - keep your calm, Jason.
Then, when I got home, Heather said she thought we had wasps building a nest in our bedroom. Huh? Well, she was right. Behind our dresser we found the beginnings of a wasp nest - Jacob and I destroyed it - crisis averted.
The rest of the evening Haven will be celebrating her Cabbage Patch Doll's birthday. JayLynn is two years old today. Marcus pronounces it, "Jay-lay-en" - Southwest Missouri-style. Chloe Rotert is bringing her doll over for the overnight party. I may make some cookies. Jacob and Harrison made me drag out the old hamster cages from storage and they are putting them together - they have saved up enough to buy a couple.
It is about 90 degrees in our house right now- trying not to use the A/C - but boy is it a temptation. What's going on in your world today?
Monday, June 30, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
Well, there were two of us: Jacob and I. The conference in Lecce was over and it was Sunday, Father's Day and we didn't have a nickel to spare. "Here's what I want for Father's Day, Jacob," I said as we loaded our things in the little rented Nissan. "We are in Puglia and we have to drive through Molise and Abruzzo to get to the region where Ancona is - Le Marche. How about we stop in each of the four regions today and jump in the sea?"
Jacob was a bit confused, but quickly came to understand and embrace the idea. So we did it. I'm partial to Le Marche - stunning beauty here - but Puglia really is beautiful. We drove away from the 'resort' where the conference was held and quickly stopped at our first Dip.
Dip #1 Puglia
Location: Torre dell'Orso
Summary: We parked our car in front of a closed-up apartment and changed into our trunks. We walked about 50 metres and arrived at the point where there was a set of stairs carved or paved into the short cliff face. I asked someone sitting in the sun, "Com'e' l'acqua?". He replied, "Not bad, once you get in." He was right. Down a few more steps into the incredibly clear water onto soft white sand...it was divine. Jacob and I swam around for just a few minutes, looking at a couple of caves in the cliffs around us. Clean, clear, deep - great experience.
Dip #2 Molise
Summary: We stopped and got some fresh bread and mortadella and Jacob made us some delicious sandwiches as we sped along the Italian autostrada - we kept an average speed of about 145 km/h. We finally crossed the border into Molise and stopped at Termoli, quickly making our way toward the water. We finally found a place, near the port and parked near a bunch of campers. We had to hike about a 500 metres to the water which was brown. The sand was dirty and the port was too close. We had to wade out quite a ways in order to get completely wet (that was the rule - had to get our heads wet). The only saving grace was that a ferry passed by as we got in sending some pretty cool waves our way. We hobbled back to the car, feet dirty, shivering and raced on to the next.
Dip #3 Abruzzo
Summary: We didn't drive too far into Abruzzo before the highway again came close to the sea. We got off and drove into the little town of Pineto and found the beachfront road. We pulled over in front of a restaurant and ran across the manicured beach into the water. The sun was setting as I coaxed a shivering Jacob a little deeper. The water wasn't very clear, but the setting and depth were better. We ran back to the car, drawing some stares from people out for a pre-dinner walk and were off to our last stop.
Dip #4 Marche
Summary: Yes, it was dark. Yes, it was less than 30 minutes from home. And yes, we did it. We stopped at one place first, but as we got out, we noticed the neon markers indicating there were several fishermen busy. Not wanting to get tangled in their lines we arrived at a different spot where one lone fisherman was a ways down from us. We parked 20 meters from the water. By this point, we were still wet and our towels were soaked. We walked across the rocky beach and I jumped in. Jacob got in to his knees (it gets deep quick and it was DARK!) and dipped his head under the water. It was quick but beautiful. Sirolo illuminated Monte Conero to the north showing us the way home. We dried off quickly (barely since the towels were saturated) and drove home to our 3 H's - Heather, Haven and Harrison.
Only regret: didn't have a camera!!!