Saturday, September 29, 2007

...con la puzza sotto il nasone...

Piazza Pertini's famous 'rinoceronti' from an interesting angle.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mechanically-Inclined Individuals Everywhere, Lend Me Your Ears...

Make: Renault
Model: Scenic
Year: 1997
Other: Standard transmission, front-wheel drive.
Symptom: When I get into 3rd gear or higher and my RPMs get up above 2000 there is a loud whirring sound which doesn't seem to get louder whether the windows are up or down. Even when I slow down, it remains loud until I get under 2000 rpms or so. The only other thing I can think of is that it seems to get slightly louder if I'm turning to the right and only slightly so if I'm turning left.

We dropped Marcus and his parents off at the airport this morning at 5:00. While speaking to his father, Richard, he suggested maybe a bearing? Anyone else out there care to venture a guess before I take it to the mechanic?

Marcus, you will be missed! Get some rest, raise some funds and get back over here!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Shifting Cells

**Warning: this post may be longer than most!!**

In January of 2002, just after arriving back in Ancona following our first furlough (and Haven's birth), our team began meeting as a small group, a cell group which we called Life Group. We had been studying the cell model of churches and seen that God seemed to be blessing some of the churches in Italy that had followed it, including the largest Evangelical church in the country, the Parola della Grazia church in Sicily. For nearly six years we have been committed to the cell model of ministry and church-planting, not believing that it is the perfect model (as if a perfect model exists), but that in it exist qualities or characteristics of community that would be especially beneficial to those having grown up in a nominally Catholic religious background. These would be, to name a few: proactive accountability, small group intimacy and emphasis on lay leadership. We have sent teammates to Singapore to study how best to do children's ministry within the cell model. We have purchased sets of discipleship materials to be used with the cell model. We have visited two different Italian cell churches to find out how they do things and to learn from them. In other words, we've made a pretty significant commitment to figuring out how it can or should work in our current context.

A few years ago, we tried adding a Sunday morning 'Cell-abration' service and moved our Life Group to a mid-week time. This more than doubled our work-load on a team that was already close to burn-out and moved our focus prematurely off of building relationships. After six months we changed the Sunday morning service to monthly and a few months after that cancelled it all together. We went back to our roots and focused on our Life Group and on building relationships with the 'unchurched'.

Last fall, still meeting as one Life Group on Sundays, we had grown back to the point that we needed to multiply into two (a GOOD thing). For nearly a year now, we have been meeting as two Life Groups and slowly growing. At our retreat last month, our team talked about how we were shifting in our view of the 'need' here, about where people are and about the need stated by several of our church core for a regular gathering of everyone together. After talking and praying we decided to refit our Life Groups to focus more on community and prayer and to reintroduce a Sunday morning gathering. We met with the five core Italians and presented our ideas and concerns to them, asking for their help and their commitment. They were happy and helpful! Afterwards, our teammate Marcus commented that this meeting was the best thing we had ever done as a team since he had been on the field.

So, a week from today, September 30th, will be our return to having a Sunday morning celebration service. In the past, our Life Groups have been structured around 4 'W's: Welcome, Worship, Word and Witness. The new Life Groups, will be very flexible and transportable, but focused, instead, around the following five characteristics:
1. Leader - each group will have a servant leader, a facilitator whose main job is prayer, pastoring and communication
2. Weekly - this is one of two wings of our community here and thus will be meeting weekly
3. Meal - sharing a meal together is foundational - it fits with the culture and encourages a laid back comfortability (ask Josh for more on this!)
4. Deeper - the focus of these groups is NOT Bible study, but instead, simply to do life together. Thanks to our friends at Real Life Church for maybe even inadvertently helping me to see this. During the meal and anytime before and after (or anytime!), the group is encouraged to process the message from Sunday and to ask each other how they're doing, what they're struggling with, how they can be ministered to, etc.
5. Prayer - most importantly, the groups will pray together. I LOVE that Rosa, in our meeting with our core, insisted that this not just be 'lip-service' to prayer, but actually be a time where we all pray together.

This makes it easier to invite people into our homes, takes some of the structure out of Life Groups into a time/format that most Italians are comfortable with and continues our focus on the principles behind the cell model. It also makes it easier to train cell leaders and hopefully will help everyone see that they can start a Life Group.

Please pray for our team and church as we transition here: that we would continually evaluate and change, attune to the Spirit's leading. Pray for Brian and I during the coming months as we share the bulk of the preaching/teaching. Pray for real, Italian ownership. Pray for those who will be invited to step further into our community's circle.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My Old Man's Blog

Check out to follow along with my parents' travels in the Northwestern School of Missions. This blog is bound to be dripping with equal parts of wisdom and wit and the occasional picture. They just left yesterday and will be on the road for five weeks teaching, preaching and presenting their work with Literature & Teaching Ministries.

Monday, September 17, 2007

First Day in a New Class in a New School

School is back in session in Ancona. Yes, that's right. School started today, September 17th. Haven began her elementary education by being the first to school. She got to pick which desk would be hers. Jacob started his 4th grade year at the same, new school and entered a class with 14 boys and 6 girls. We decided to switch schools this year so that the kids would be done each day (including Saturday!) at 13:00 (that's 1 pm). This way, Heather can supplement their Italian education with some American/English homeschool in the afternoons. They both gave the first day a positive review, although Jacob's was much less enthusiastic than his sister's bubbly, effervescent version. On top of the regular subjects (math, language, grammar, science, religion and computers) they will be participating in Music and Chess classes. We also hope to be able to afford to let them attend dance classes (Jacob chooses Hip-Hop and Haven ballet). To those of you who know me, Jason, you might be asking yourself, 'dancing?'. And I would agree. I have no skill whatsoever. None. They get it, thankfully, from their mother.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

If you want washboard abs...

My super secret fitness guru challenged me to the following 6-minute Ab workout...for anyone out there needing some pointers...

Start with 30 seconds of center crunch (just a regular crunch).

Then follow that with 30 seconds right crunch (if your hands are on your head…you can try to let your right elbow touch your left knee).

Then 30 seconds of left crunch (you should get the picture)…

The second half is like this…30 seconds of “bicycles” which is pretending to peddle a bicycle with your feet while alternating moving your elbows (hands still on head) to each knee…you look like a drunk 2 year old on this one until you get it down, but when you do…look out cuz it hurts.

The final two are “ups and “up and outs”…the ups are simply raising your legs as high as you can (try to get those truthful hips off the ground each time…again for 30 seconds) and then up and outs are when you go up…hips off the ground…and then stick your legs straight out in front of you without letting them touch the floor.

We started this with only going 1 time through, but once the soreness starts to die down, you can do it for the whole 6 minutes (that’s 2x’s through for the mathematically challenged).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My First Italian Root Canal

After several days of persistent toothaches, Tuesday night it got so bad that I went to three pharmacies (all closed) and considered going to the emergency room. I was light-headed and nauseous from the pain. I finally went back home after picking up Marcus and his parents at the train station and dug around for my leftover pain-killers from my wisdom tooth adventure last December. No luck. I took some migraine medicine and was able to fall asleep. The next morning, I called my dentist and asked if they could squeeze me in and they did. As it turns out, (I'll leave out all the details) I had the beginnings of an abscess. My dentist explained that while my fillings were belli, they require the use of a paste which can kill the nerve if it gets too close. I guess that's what happened. The nerve was dead and infection was beginning to build up. So, he cleaned out the canals by hand (the first time I got a root canal it was all using machines) and medicated them, hoping that it would kill the bacteria. I have antibiotics just in case. When I went up to pay, their computer system was down so I have to go back next week. This is just the second time we will have used our newly purchased Italian health insurance. Gulp. We'll see how much it will cost. So, my first dental visit in Italy gets a thumbs up, even though I nearly punched the dentist and came close to crying. If you're ever in the neighborhood and looking for a good, reliable dentist, be sure and check out the "Dental House". Yes...that's Italian but run by the Dutch.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Top 10 Differences Between Camping in Italy & the U.S.

10. No building campfires.
9. There is a quiet hour from 2-4 pm where you can't even drive your car in the campground.
8. Even the pool closes down during the quiet time.
7. In the evening there is corporate dancing to loud techno/pop music.
6. There is a bar on-site where you can get a shot of whiskey or a stout espresso.
5. You can order fresh pasta at the bar to be ready the next day.
4. Even while camping, the main dish eaten is...pasta. (No Dutch girls, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.) (The picture at right is of an Italian vending machine - olives available!)
3. 95% of campers are in campers (as opposed to tents).
2. Most campers are 'seasonal' campers which means they are there for the WHOLE summer season - they even bring major appliances and do landscaping around their campers!

1. And the number one reason camping in Italy is different than in the U.S. ... they all wear bathrobes to the bathroom!

MY favorite part of our last camping adventure was getting to stop by the nearby UPIM store.
(This is for Heidi :) )

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Amare Terra Mia

Tonight, Brian, Marcus and I met up with some friends at Piazza del Papa to hang out and spent a wonderful couple of hours freezing our tails off, sitting on the stone steps in the shadow of the Pope's statue, listening to some great world-genre music by the group Piccola Banda Ikona. (That sentence was simply WAY too long.) One of the songs, Amare Terra Mia, written by Domenico Modugno, from what I gathered, had to do with the pain of leaving one's homeland, one's terra, to move to another place in search of work or a new life. An ode, if you will, to the immigrants of the world. The lead singer, Stefano Saletti, was quick to point out that while Italy is now the scene of much immigration, it was not too far in the past when many from here were packing up suitcases and heading off to foreign shores to start a new life. Somehow, I really connected with this song...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ladybug Liquor

Last night we had two Italian friends over for dinner. Here, it is customary for the guest to bring a gift or something to contribute to the meal like a bottle of wine or a dessert. Last night, they brought dessert. Made in a small, inland, Marchegian town, they brought delicious pastries. Inside, they are filled with cocoa, nuts and raisins and on the outside, on top, they are covered with a red frosting made from a liquor made from the "wings of ladybugs." Huh? Alchermes is the name of it and we're still trying to figure out if our friend is telling the truth or pulling our proverbial leg. In the meantime, we keep eating them and don't suffer any adverse side effects...except for this white, spotted, rash...

A Rough Afternoon

First off, I smelled something burning. I was in the living room and I could tell it wasn't food but didn't think much of it until I saw Harrison's little wooden Thomas train. Yes, it seems our little 2-year-old wanted to see what would happen if he drove it into the little blue flames on top of our stove. Fortunately, he was not hurt. That can not be said about what happened next.

Haven had just gotten up this morning and found a euro under her pillow. The tooth fairy had come and made the switch. One front tooth down, one to go. Silly parents, we thought the next one would come out a few weeks or months from now, but no. Her big brother Jacob had something else in mind. During an altercation in her bedroom, Jacob got mad and punched her in the face. Heather called me from the back side of the house saying, 'It's an emergency!' I ran and overheard Jacob saying, 'I punched her and knocked two teeth out...' After a moment of looking at him funny I took Haven into the bathroom and had her wash her mouth. I glanced at her mouth and saw that only two were missing. 1+2=3. Something wasn't adding up. I asked her if she was OK and through sobs and tears she whimpered, "How much will the Tooth Fairy give me for this one?" Dang capitalists! I asked frightened Jacob where the teeth were and he led me to Haven's room. He handed me one tooth and one small piece of white plastic. OK, so he only knocked out one tooth. "You knocked out your sister's tooth!" Whew...after a LONG speech about 'With great power comes great responsibility' the punishment was handed down. No video games for 5 days. For Jacob, that will be enough. For Haven, well, she now has permission to sing a Christmas song early which is ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN in this Casey home. How was your day?

We say Wee for the Wii!

At least since January, Jacob and I have been salivating over Nintendo's latest console release, the Wii. You've probably seen the crazy commercials that show old guys boxing the air and the like. Well, back in May we made a 'Wii Jar' and the kids started saving. They did SO well. Allowance money, extra chore money, spare change, started adding up. They didn't ask for any extra goodies from the store. Jacob even sold his old nintendo and a couple games. Well, they were still a bit shy of the price tag, but when I picked up Jacob's report card the other day (we had to wait and pick it up at the administrator's office because we missed the day they handed them out in June), he did SO well, that I told him we would make up the difference. It is lots of wireless, family fun and will surely get us into shape as well. If you're in the neighborhood, come on by and give it a try.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Pistachio Flavored Coffee House

Tonight we hosted our monthly coffee house and it went well. Twenty Italians participated with us Americans. (Not sure about the grammatical structure of that sentence.) We have been having live music lately which gives it a different feel, but this time we just had music playing and we sat around and talked, played games and drank milk-shakes. Our friend Francesco brought a DVD with his new short film (see post below) and we showed it three times throughout the evening. He had invited friends and brought several people he had just met off the street to come watch. We had purchased pistachios and pistachio-flavored gelato to give the evening a green theme as well (see previous post about his film). There was lots of good conversation. I really enjoy sharing with people our idea of church or community and challenging them to look at it from a different angle. I was also really sharpened by some of Francesco's thoughts tonight on what we call in our churchy circles 'integrity'. He, in his own, poetic way, talked about the need to say what you mean and do what you say and about his passion to learn from people. I also met a new guy, Nicolas, who works in a pizzeria downtown and he told us to come by and try their specialty from Taranto, the puccia, which incidentally, in my native Chile, means 'darn it'. Also, not to be forgotten, one of Francesco's friends, Lorenzo, showed up for just a little bit. When I introduced myself I knew I had met him before but he was sure we hadn't. I kept talking to him and figured it out, even if he didn't remember it. In the summer of 2002, he and his friend Alessandro (both scratchers), invited me and two short-termers from a CIY group to try a kebab. Long story short, our team owes this young man a HUGE debt of gratitude. Lorenzo, this kebab's for you!