Thursday, February 28, 2008


I learn language like I learned to play the piano - by ear. I play with grammar, but I really learn by listening and mimicking what I hear. I'll be walking down the street and hear someone use a word or phrase and I'll begin repeating it and try working it into my conversations (when appropriate, of course).

The other day I was on my way to meet the boys at the Bar Amendola for our staff meeting and I walked past two men and a woman and overheard a snippet of their conversation. The woman kiddingly accused one of the men of pretending to be humble. In response, the man replied, "nonfolumile." Now say that fast. All together. No spaces.

Classic anconetano dialect. That is a four word, complete sentence, smashed into a word that could almost pass as a mono-syllabic grunt. Want to know what it means?

nonfolumile = "Non faccio l'umile."

non - not
faccio - I do (or in this case, 'I pretend to be')
l' - the
umile - humble one

There you go. Now you know your first phrase in dialect. Just add a dash of hand gestures. Next time you come visit and someone accuses you of pretending to be full when they bring out the coniglio arrosto, you can pull out the 'nonfolumile.'

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Almost Nine

I started jogging last August - I mean really jogging. I've 'jogged' in the past, but really just played at it, giving up after a couple of weeks because, come on, jogging is not fun! But I started jogging more seriously with my teammate Brian and we've stuck with it now for seven months, averaging two times a week. Over that period of time we've increased how long we've jogged and tried adding different things to keep building up our strength, to keep our weight loss going and basically to just be manly.

We jog at the Cittadella (which means literally 'city of the' but really means, the Citadel) which is an old Napoleonic fort-turned-park which has an incredible view and a pretty aggressive jogging track. Half of it is paved and the other half is gravel. The differential between the highest and lowest point on the track is about 50 feet which means we have a couple of inclines and slopes. The sharpest of these is actually a set of wooden, slippery stairs, at the base of which is a worn, triple set of chin-up bars.

Now, let me take you to the past, when I was about 10, living in Santiago. We had just received a swing set for Christmas and my dad, in some inspired moment of fathering genius, challenged me and my younger brother Chris with this proposal. Ten chin-ups would receive a 300 peso reward. (I think that was the deal, but come to think of it, 300 pesos wasn't very much...)

Try as we might, we could never do it. We tried all kinds of different ways, but just could not do it. Chris has always been more athletic and muscular than I am, so he may have done it in the meantime, but I, over 20 years later, have never done it. (Mock if you will, but go out and try it sometime.) So it is with a dual-vision that I began glancing at these chin-up bars each time we jogged around this track. One - for the money. Two - for the manliness-proving show.

So I started. Here were my rules. I had to have a jogging-buddy witness. I could do them under-handed. They had to be full chin-ups, my arms have to lock all the way when I'm down. And absolutely no using my legs to pump. It had to be all muscle. The first time I tried I think I got 3 and my arms were angry. A few days later, 4. Then 5 and 6.

Yesterday I went jogging with Josh and I went all out. I got to 8 and was pulling up for the ninth but got to where my nose was even with the bar and could not pull myself up another millimeter. So, almost nine.

I'm getting close, Dad. Get ready to make the international bank transfer.

In the meantime, where's Jacob? He's almost ten. I have a little proposition for him...

Sunday, February 24, 2008


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.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

24/2 Ancona Prayer Room

It's that time again. Friday morning at 11:00 begins our next period of time set aside to spend in prayer before the Father. Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare ourselves logistically, spiritually and relationally. Pray that God would move in our hearts and that we would see his face. Go to our church site and click on the prayer link to watch as the slots fill up!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

False Alarm

Well, our landlord called and said, 'Fals'allarme'. His son figured out another solution so we can stay. Aw shucks. We were starting to get excited. But thanks for the roller-coaster ride, Enrico!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I have always prided myself on being somewhat of a nomad. Here's a list of the homes I've lived in throughout the 33 years of my life:

-apartment in Santiago (2 years)
-trailer in Lincoln, Illinois (2 years)
-red/white house in Santiago (1 year)
-wooden house in Santiago (1 year)
-Pepe Villa house in Santiago (7 years)
-Grandpa's house in Correctionville, Iowa (6 months)
-missions trailer in Joplin, MO (6 months)
-rented house in Santiago (3 months)
-208 S. 16th Street, Norfolk, Nebraska (1 year)
-508 S. 4th Street, Norfolk, Nebraska (4 years)
-1302 N. Florida, Joplin, Missouri (1 year)
-Boatman 2nd, Ozark Campus, Joplin, Missouri (off and on for 3 years)
-Trailer #6, Ozark Campus, Joplin, Missouri (2 years)
-apartment behind Saez house, Santiago, Chile (2 months)
-1101 Lone Star Drive, New Braunfels, Texas (4 months)
-apartment on Fir Road, Carthage, Missouri (7 months)
-house in Trillium Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky (6 months)
-Via Michelloti, 1, Perugia (15 months)
-Via del Conero 2/C, Ancona (7 years)
-Hop-Along-Hollow, Joplin (6 months)

OK - so that's 20 places. The longest I've ever been 'planted' is in the apartment we now call home. Seven years here. A couple of times over the last couple of years we've talked about moving to a new apartment with a yard but always come back to being grateful for what we have and made the best of it. For the record, it is a BEAUTIFUL place and we love it.

Yesterday afternoon the doorbell rang and my landlord walked in, his face long, sad. First words out of his mouth, "I have to tell you something you won't like."


"I need my apartment back."


"My son and his family need it so I need you to move out as soon as you can."

Gulp. "Do I have an option or is this for sure?"

"It's for sure. Take the time you need to find a place, but you need to move out."

As the door closed behind him I started looking around at this place that currently holds the record for the place I've lived the longest and I was filled with a certain sadness. Two of my kids were basically born in this home. We 'raised' this apartment from a bare-walled canvas with wires hanging from the ceiling to a colorful, warm, beautiful home.

'Tis the life of a missionary I guess - the nomadic one. And with that, 2008 becomes the year we move again.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bad WORD or BAD Word?

OK, help me settle a monetary-less bet. When talking about words one shouldn't say, do you call them bad WORDS or BAD words (capital letters implies emphasis)? A teammate of mine (who shall remain nameless) thinks my kids pronounce it wrong. How do you say it?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Everyone Loves a Sfilata...

This afternoon was the annual 'Carnevale' parade in downtown Ancona. Crowds, confetti, costumes...enjoy.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


I go through fazes like this, don't you? Where you're just out of energy to say anything; where you're just, dry?

Well, in spite of that, things are going well here. Our team just got out of our latest retreat with some great goals for 2008. Family's doing well. Church continues to grow and take shape.

Stephen and Ashley Capps have been with us a couple of weeks. We met Stephen last home service visit at Ozark. They have long-range plans to serve in Ireland, but came to visit Ancona and help with childcare during our retreat. They have been GREAT - super positive, servants and have really enjoyed meeting some of our friends and exploring our city. Heading out the door to a birthday party for Maria Chiara and then date night...yeah buddy!