Eight years ago today, Heather, Jacob, Dan, Amy and I got off a plane in Rome and stumbled, dazed, scared, excited into the Eternal City. That first night we left our hotel and walked a couple of blocks until we found a little trattoria and ordered some food. I remember looking at each other across the table, through some hazy, cultural fog and breaking down in tears.
Eight years and the fog still comes and goes. Teammates have come and gone. Interns have come and gone. Visiting groups have come and gone. Italian believers have come and gone. Models and programs have come and gone. And the foghorn still calls out, loud and strong, calling ships into port.
Today I took Harrison to the park. Heather was in the Prayer Room and the big kids were in school. I sat on a concrete bench while Harrison played. I watched the fog roll through. Surreal. Like some ghostly sprite, it washed over the park and across the street. I could see wisps of its cloak trailing, flying past. And I reflected on the spiritual fog I've felt this week.
Our team seems tired, worn out. Kids are struggling with the language in school. Homesick - wish we could see our newborn nephew and the rest of our family. Massi, who became a part of our church community this last summer was checked into the hospital, his bone marrow disorder getting worse and causing other health problems. He finishes a round of chemo tomorrow and will be in the hospital two weeks to see what its effects will be...still waiting the transplant donor to work out. Then Sunday night Heather miscarried. Not sure how far along she was - four, five, six weeks. We'll see a doctor Wednesday but are left with a grieving, wounded spirit, lots of questions, lots of doubts. And the fog keeps rolling.
I got up at 1:30 this morning to come down and take a shift in the prayer room. Josh is in there right now and I'm sitting out in the main room studying, worshiping along with Shane & Shane, watching the thick fog roll past the street lamp. Shouts erupt downstairs and we run to the window to see half a dozen people in an all-out brawl, a real bru-ha-ha. A guy gets kicked in the face. Another lands a punch on a face and you can hear the hard, slapping sound from two floors up even though the fog muffles it.
Eight years and we grow accustomed to the fog and the slow, steady calling of the foghorn. This morning on the way to school with the kids our neighbor commented on how she couldn't sleep all night because of the foghorn. At least she still hears it. Others don't notice anymore. In spite of all this, we continue to hope. Today there have been 29 different people in the prayer room crying out to God, carving out an hour to pray, to reflect, to worship. Tomorrow morning our little community will gather to worship, to sing the words Marcus translated:
We are a moment, You are forever
Lord of the Ages, God before time
We are a vapor, You are eternal
Love everlasting, reigning on high
Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Highest praises, honor and glory
Be unto Your name, be unto Your name
We are the broken, You are the healer
Jesus, Redeemer, mighty to save
You are the love song we'll sing forever
Bowing before You, blessing Your name
We'll worship together. A mom who is grieving. Another expecting. One woman leaving her fiance' in a hospital bed for a couple of hours. Another couple struggling. Two other couples who work too much and are persistently tired. Another man struggling to truly hand himself over to God. Out of the fog, God calls us and in some sort of imperfect way we come together and we worship, we love on each other and encourage one another.
Eight years ago we landed in Rome, with a plan to be here five to seven. Seems like ages ago. I don't know how much longer it will take, but we cling to the Father and are grateful for how far he's brought us and for the church that He is calling up in this place. To all of you who have been a part of this journey with us, thank you. In times like this, it is good to know we're not alone.