Saturday, May 31, 2008

Random Bits - May 31st

Everything is OK in Ancona. My brother, Chris, and sister-in-law, Aubri, are here with us which has been a blast. Our team is doing OK after the funeral, but still showing little signs of mourning. We're checking in on Rosa and Massi's mom. Today is Haven's school program. The kids' last day of school is a week from today. Sunday we begin our new combined Life Group/Celebration format into the Sunday evening Gathering which will include a little bit of everything - worship, teaching, discussion and a potluck meal during which we will celebrate the Lord's Supper. Monday the Serpilli family is going with us to Castelluccio. The Euro continues to pelt us. God is good, even when He seems to be silent. We appreciate you all!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Massi has died...

Today our friend and brother, Massi, died and we mourn with his family that he is no longer with us, but we celebrate his upgraded, healed body and are envious of the company he's keeping now. We are sad and hopeful in some weird, strange and somehow sacred way.

Maurizio said it well. Let's remember him like this!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"In Italia"

The other night we were out celebrating Marcus' birthday and a video came on the screen to the song 'In Italia' by Fabri Fibra, an Italian artist/rapper. It was a remixed video done in collaboration with another Italian artist Gianna Nannini. I was captivated by the words and the images so when I got home I watched it again and was really moved.

Fibra paints a pretty dark picture of his country, something most Italians are not averse to doing. In this song and video he captures things that we've seen and experienced here. It is interesting to me to note that if Fibra were to take my position and go around to churches to raise support for the vision we have, citing the needs he sees in Italy, there would be very little difference. He mentions astrology, mafia, corruption, violence and empty religion.

I suppose the difference is that he leaves his viewers with a sense of hopelessness, emphasized by giving the screen the 'double bird' at the very end. I'm captivated by the imagery, both visual and lexical, of this auto-critical poem about 'la bella italia'. The video starts and ends in a therapist's office - we know so many people here who visit psychiatrists and therapists for personal and relational struggles - the therapist in the end switching with the patient and telling her to come back next week. Also serving as bookends, Fabri is shown walking through a cemetery while choral 'churchy' voices are heard in the background as the lines of his rap break in and fade out. The refrain, sung by Gianna goes something like this:

"There are things no one will tell you...
there are things no one will give you...
you were born and buried here
you were born and buried here
born in the country of half-truths
Where will you flee?"

"Ci sono cose che nessuno ti dirà…
ci sono cose che nessuno ti darà…
sei nato e morto qua
sei nato e morto qua
nato nel paese delle mezze verità
Dove fuggi?"

Ready to watch it? May it open your eyes. May it bring you to your knees and make you cry out with us to the Father for the real church to rise up and bring hope and color and life 'in Italia'.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I dedicate this song to the dance between the euro and the dollar...

Slow down, baby, slow down
slow down, darling, slow down
There ain't no reason you got to be moving around like that
There ain't no reason you got to be moving so, so fast
Slow down, slow down

Sitting here in this living room
Waiting for you to come home soon to me, to me
Thinking about the times that
We used to rap and rhyme about life

Slow down, baby, slow down
slow down, darling, slow down
There ain't no reason you got to be moving around like that
There ain't no reason why you got to be moving so, so fast
Slow down, slow down
Slow down, slow down

Slow down, baby, slow down
slow down, darling, slow down
There ain't no reason you got to be moving
There ain't no reason you got to be moving
Slow down, baby, slow down

Shawn McDonald, from the Album 'Roots'...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Can I vent? I get so tired when I hear criticism of how missions is being done. People talk in lofty terms about their missiology and I even find myself guilty occasionally of throwing words like contextualization and incarnational around tempted to feel like I have to follow the hippest trends. Our missions is too x. The way we view people groups is too y. Short term missions is too z.

Maybe I'm being too defensive, but if you can't work at fixing it, if you're not willing to immerse yourself in the 'problem' you're talking about, if you're comfortable sitting back and dissecting something theologically without getting your hands dirty do us all a favor and keep your mouth shut. Just keep busy loving people more. Don't bring someone down who is pouring their heart out for Jesus, doing the best they can. So what if their methods are old school? I say, if you disagree, just do it differently. Find what works and let your fruit do the talking. Until then, zip it.

Pictures of Youth Retreat

Thought you all might like to see what an Italian youth retreat looks like...

Sitting around in the dining/gathering room.

Painter friend Alba next to Giorgia who was the co-planner.

Shots from the Youth Prayer Room...

The retreat was held at a converted country villa 30 minutes outside of Bari; it is open to any Evangelical church in the area for concerts, camps, and retreats.

The theme was 'I Believe I Can Fly' and I spoke on 'I believe in the Holy Spirit'.

Group shot. There were youth represented from Latina, Ciampino, Francavilla, Latiano, Bari, Ancona and Bitonto.

GQ shot of Gianni Bruno (missionary working in Francavilla); Brian Rotert and Maurizio, a believer from the church in Bari.

We were refreshed by worshipping together, led by Carlo (co-organizer) at the keyboard.

There was lots of down time to get to know each other, relax and play games.

The moms took turns watching the kids. They all had fun exploring the grounds. It was cool for us to see some of the missionary kids getting to know each other.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Job Description of a Missionary

Over the past 9+ years that Heather and I have served as missionaries, we've grown accustomed to the GREYness of our job description. I recently was looking over some older descriptions for our teammates, laughing to myself at how we tried to put on paper exactly what do and how much it changes from year to year. My brother is getting ready to head overseas himself this year and it is interesting (and incredible) to watch how he goes from a 9-5 job where you punch in and out to jumping into these GREY waters where in some ways you are ALWAYS on the clock and you have to discipline yourself and prioritize your time. This last week for us was particularly striking - want a peek? Here was Jason's job description for the week:

Sunday: eat breakfast with some of the Christian Church Italian youth in Bari, attend worship service at the Bari Christian Church, drive home to Ancona (5 hours) stopping by to visit one of our church members at his family country home
Monday: eat lunch with staff from local Apostolic church and help translate for 3 Canadian guests; spend 3+ hours translating for Canadian speaker (Graham Powell) during their evening service
Tuesday: go with Brian to visit Scottish family to go over funeral details; return to translate for Graham Powell for 5 hours
Wednesday: accompany Marcus and Brian to the secular funeral for this Scottish family (Brian did the actual service and did a SMASHING job); host Life Group at our house
Thursday: Holiday (1st of May is Labor Day) - spent most of the day fishing with Jacob - not a bite! We then walked around the Patron Saint market with our team, that night was 'Finance Party' at Brian's where we do our monthly finances together (you know, misery loves company)
Friday: went with Brian to meet the pastor of the church in Bologna where Rosa goes when she's away studying, spent some time encouraging, reading Scripture and praying for her; went to dinner at a friend's house
Saturday: this is our normal day off; spent the morning fishing with Jacob (not a bite!) and met up with Maurizio to spend some time talking with him

Around these appointments, this last week I wrote a sermon, maintained email communication, kept in touch with people here via phone calls, worked on figuring out how to transfer money internationally, worked on our intern's schedule and housing and tried to love on my wife and kids.

There are some weeks I absolutely LOVE the pace and the differences and there are other weeks where I wonder what it would be like to have a more 'normal' job or ministry. To those out there preparing to go to the field - it's a wild ride!