Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's been a busy couple of months.

So I realized that it's been so long since I updated my blog that I never mentioned the earthquake. A lot has happened since the last post. 1. Earthquake: I'm sure you all already know, but we had a couple of earthquakes in this area at the end of May. It was really scary for me because that was the first time I had ever felt an earthquake. We had a lot of aftershocks and there was quite a bit of damage in the area. Thankfully, no one from the church had any major damage and neither did the church building. However, there are still many people staying in tents because their hones are unsafe and recently we've been trying to help. We've made several donations to a couple of the camps. The government provides certain items to these people, but the main concerns are the heat and the mosquitoes. We've made friends in one camp in particular and we've been going to visit them, bringing drinks and snacks every Sunday afternoon for about a week. One couple has come to church on Sunday morning twice and they are coming again this Sunday. Please pray that we can be an encouragement to these people, that they will see the love of Christ in us and that they will be open to accepting Christ. More to come...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spring Updates:

It's finally Spring! The weather has been perfect lately and it reminds me what a beautiful country I live in.  Believe it or not, sometimes I forget. Ma l'Italia e' davvero bella!  I got back from visiting the US for Carrie's wedding about two weeks ago and since then I have been trying to enjoy as much cappuccino and gelato as possible. Now that I'm here again it's back to work as usual.

These are some of the things we've been working on:

Earl Lavender's Visit:
Earl Lavender, professor at Lipscomb, has been coming to this part of Italy every year summer for a very long time.  This year he will visit our church in Bondeno! We are planning an afternoon of evangelism in the city and then an evening of study where Earl will give two different messages.  We will have visitors from other churches as well, so it will be an exciting day.  We are also helping the church in Belluno to host a night of teaching with Earl.  The next day we will travel to Belluno to evangelize together in the city of Belluno and study again together that evening.

Children's Play:
Our kids are putting on another play!  The kids did an incredible job with the last play, "The Man in the Well", in October.  We're all working hard (especially Daniela) to make this next play even better.  We don't have a title yet, but the theme is 'helping your neighbor'.  The big day is June 17th and we still have a lot of work to do, but I know it's going to be incredible.

New Songs:
I've been working on putting together a book new songs that also includes the sheet music.  Last year Emily Woodroof did an amazing job translating songs for the youth and putting them into a book.  People really like the new songs and now we need more books.  We also have a number of people in our church who would like to learn alto, tenor and bass.  So I'm working on getting a new book put together.

Please pray for the things listed above. Also, I will be moving toward the beginning of June.  I've been with Mina and Umberto for almost a year.  They have been very welcoming to me, but being older, it's better for them that I find new living arrangements.  I have a couple of options, but I haven't figured out where I will go yet.  Please pray that God will put me where I can be most effective in his work here.
Please pray for the youth at Bondeno.  The Sunday evening Bible studies have been going very well recently.  They have been more curious and asking difficult, but great questions.  Please pray that God will speak to them and grow their faith.
Recently I have gotten to know several people outside of the church.  Please pray that God will open their hearts to hear the gospel and that they feel welcomed to worship with us.
Thank you all for your support and prayers!
Feel free to come visit!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

CST 2012: Christian Ski Trip!

A couple of weeks ago we had our first annual (hopefully) Christian Ski Trip!!  We took the youth from our church in Bondeno to meet with some of the youth from the church in Vicenza and the youth from the church in Belluno to go skiing.  We left early Sunday morning with two cars full of people, gear and food and headed for Belluno. We met everyone at the Belluno Church of Christ for worship on Sunday morning.  Belluno is a fairly small city in the Dolomites and the Belluno Church is small with about 15-20 members.  They were thrilled to have us visit.  With 8 guests from Bondeno and 5 from Vicenza, we had a great group.  Everyone was encouraged by our time together, especially the members in Belluno.  They were amazed to see the room so full. Belluno, being in the mountains and a little further north, can't always be involved with the retreats and meetings hosted by other churches in Italy, so I am so thankful that we were able to visit and I hope to have the opportunity to go there again soon.
After worship we drove further into the mountains to Malga Ciapela.  Half of the group went skiing and the other half played in the snow.  I was in the half that played in the snow... With sleds and a bit of imagination, we had a great time.  For me, the best part was seeing the Dolomites covered in snow; it's one of those memories that you know will stay with you forever.  I don't need to actually ski.  Put my by a window where I can stare at the mountains and give me a hot chocolate and I'm happy.

The next day half of us went skiing again, and this time I skied.  I think at this point I would classify myself as a beginner 2.  I still haven't been able to advance to intermediate.  Actually, I did better than I ever have before -- I think it's because I borrowed skis from Luca's 7 year-old cousin.  But we had a great time! Daniela tried skiing for the first time and did an amazing job.  She has no fear and fell when she wanted to stop, so that was entertaining.  The best part was spending time with the youth from Belluno: Marco, Laura and Jelena, 3 amazing kids who are so much fun.  We had such a great time hanging out with them and it just makes be want to go back to Belluno even more!  We should be able to make it back up there this spring.

Monday evening Jelena's family invited us to their house for dinner.  Her dad made pizza and it was incredible.  He also made his famous strudel, which is just amazing.  After dinner we sang and prayed together, another incredible time spend praising the Lord!  We drove back to Ferrara that night and we were all completely exhausted, but I hope to do it again next year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


It is cold.  I feel like I never knew cold until this month, and now I know what cold it.  I've also come to know 'la nebbia', the fog.  We have fog in Houston, but not like this...  It's what I imagine the English Moors to be like.
November has been an exciting month:

At the beginning of November we had a huge retreat at our church here in Bondeno.  We invited people from churches all over Italy to come stay with us for the weekend to worship and study together.  It was incredible.  On Sunday morning we had almost 100 people in our tiny building.  It was so encouraging for everyone to see so many believers worshiping and studying together.  People came on Saturday afternoon for worship and Bible study.  Saturday night we all went to a pizzeria nearby (party of 80).  Members of our church kept visitors as guests in their home Saturday night.  Sunday morning we met together again for church.  After worship the children presented a play, The Man in the Well, that explains the gift of grace as a man in a well who cannot get himself out.  Other people walk by and offer advice, but nothing he does frees him from the well.  In the end Christ comes into the well to pull the man out.  The kids did an amazing job; we were all so proud of them.  After the play we had an agape (Italian for pot-luck).  This was the first retreat hosted by our church.  But we learned that with God, you can do more than you think you can.  We worked hard to make the weekend a success, but it was all completely worth it and we will do it again next year.

We also have a new helper staying with us for a while.  A friend of Luca's, Melina, has come to work with us in Ferrara for a couple of months.  She is focusing on the church in Ferrara (instead of our church in Bondeno).  Since she's been here we've been working together to translate a couple of songs and spend more time with some of the members who live in Ferrara, both of our church in Bondeno and the church in Ferrara. Unfortunately she will be leaving next month, but we are enjoying having her here until then.

This weekend I got to celebrate Thanksgiving with Eric, Jessica, Angela and the Church of Taranto.  Last Tuesday Angela and I took a night train down to Taranto (a city in the heel of the boot) to help Jessica and Eric host a Thanksgiving meal for their students and the church.  We cooked for 3 days to make 2 turkeys, sweet potato casserole, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, pecan pie, apple pie, and pumpkin cake.  They had their Thanksgiving meal for lunch on Saturday and there were about 30 people who came. It was so fun to spend time with Angela, Jessica and Eric and to meet everyone at the church there in Taranto.  Jessica also had the brilliant idea to use plastic, which meant no dishes :) unlike last year... I'm so happy I had the chance to experience Thanksgiving with them.

I left Taranto Saturday evening almost immediately after we finished Thanksgiving.  I took the night train directly from Taranto to Bologna (this time I got a bed) with the goal of making it to Ferrara for church on Sunday morning.  Unfortunately I when I arrived in Bologna at 5:30am I saw that my train to Ferrara had been cancelled.  After waiting 2 hours for the next train to Ferrara they announced that there was a strike ("sorry for the inconvenience") and then my second train was cancelled. After another 2 hours I made it on a train for Ferrara, but I didn't make it in time for church.  I did however make it just in time to start preparing for the surprise birthday party that we had for Luca on Sunday night...

Yesterday was Luca's birthday (Happy Birthday Luca!) and Sunday we threw him a surprise party and the church building.  I made genuine American hamburgers with french fries.  We also had Lucia's famous tiramisu and other desserts, and everyone (lead by Daniela) did a great job decorating the room.  But the best part was the games.  We made a scavenger hunt were Luca had to follow clues to find his presents, which was awesome, and he loved it.  We also played a special version of charades where all of the clues were things that Luca likes.  People weren't particularly excited to play at first, but once they got into it everyone had a lot of fun.  It was a great night.

Now I'm ready for December.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Grace that is Greater

A couple of weeks ago, after being in Ferrara for just a week, I went back to Florence.  The Bible School hosted a youth retreat for young people from all over Italy, including our group from Bondeno.
We had seven people from Bondeno go to the retreat.  Luca, Daniela and her sister Alina, Elisa, Sara (Luca's sister), Anna (a friend of Daniela and Alina), and me.  We got there Friday night just in time for dinner, which like a dream come true, was Mexican food.  After dinner, we played a live game of clue - like a real murder mystery.  Angela organized the whole thing, planning clues and challenges that groups had to pass in order to find the murderer.  The Avanti workers (including me) dressed up as characters from the game and led the challenges: Angela as Mrs. White, Erme as Miss Scarlet, Laura as the Cook, Ryan as Prof. Plum, Peter as Mr. Green, David as Col. Mustard and me as Mrs. Peacock. I think everyone had fun.  After the game we had a devo led by Joele, 17 year old guy from Rome and sang some of the new songs that Emily and Lorenzo had translated from English into Italian.  
One of my favorite things from the weekend was singing together.  It was so encouraging to worship with such a large group of young Italians.  At different times throughout the weekend we introduced new songs that had been translated.  We sang Holy Lord, We Fall Down, Father God, Light the Fire, and Here I am to Worship (all recently translated into Italian).  We also sang Magnificat, which I worked on with Lorenzo to translate.  Some of the kids here in Bondeno get especially excited about the songs.  We've already taught several of these songs to the church here in Bondeno and we've started singing them regularly.
Saturday we left town to go to a small town called Vallombrosa in the mountains near Florence. There is a beautiful park there in the middle of a pine forest. We had a picnic lunch and then spent the day playing games. We also translated "There's a Stirring" into Italian.  Later we went back to the Bible School for one of Debbie's famous cookouts (including her loaded mashed potatoes).
But Sunday was by far the best day.  Sunday morning we went to church in Florence.  We were lucky enough to be there to hear Jim Woodroof (David's father) preach.  I had never seen the church so full.  With just the youth there were an additional 20+ people.  But it was also the first Sunday for the new group of Harding students, so including the American students there were about 80 young people in church that morning.  Not only that, but there were so many other visitors too.  Two of David's students from the Bible School came (both of whom I had not seen at church before).  Plus Anna Maria, her husband Alan and Alan's parents (friends of ours who live near Florence) were there.  I was so happy also to see Sandro and Chiara.  Sandro works at the Harding villa and he and Chiara are good friends of David and Debbie and the Shackelfords.  Sandro and Chiara's son Lorenzo translated for Jim, so he was visiting also.  The church was completely full; there wasn't a single empty seat.  It was so encouraging to see all of these people all together on a Sunday morning.  I was already overwhelmed by it all so when I saw Rosa (our cook) come in with her husband Felice I almost started crying.  We love all of these people so much and many people have been praying for them all for such a long time.  The Spirit was definitely moving in Florence that morning.  We were blessed also to hear an incredible message from Jim.  He spoke to us about the greatness of God's grace.  It was really in incredible morning.
After church we all went with the Harding students to have pizza at a restaurant nearby before leaving to come back to Ferrara.  It was a great day and all in all an amazing weekend.  We were all encouraged to have the opportunity to spend time with each other and praise God together. I'm sure everyone looks forward to the next time we are able to spend another weekend at the Bible School. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Want to Ride my Bicycle

Saturday I moved to the City of Bicycles, Ferrara. Actually, it's just outside Ferrara in Bondeno. And actually it's just outside Bondeno in Vigarano (just like I never actually lived in Houston or in Sugar Land). I moved to Ferrara to work with the church in Bondeno. I came here to visit a few months ago and met some of the most welcoming and hospitable people I have ever met. Somehow I didn't realize until recently that we're instructed in the Bible to show hospitality; these people are experts. After a few months of planning I am now here. My work here will focus on the church but I will also be teaching some English lessons like I did in Florence. My main work with the church will be for the teens. I will be teaching Sunday morning and Thursday night bible classes for the teens here (middle school to high school). I will also plan and help plan different activities for them during the summer. At this point I'm wishing I had been a summer intern when I was college, bit I know it's going to be great.
With some teens at the church in Bondeno - Enrico, Alina & Daniela
So far things have been incredible. I'm living with a family from the church here: Mina and Umberto, some founding members of the church, and their grandson Luca, a guy my age who studies at the university in Ferrara. They all work very hard for the church here and u am excited to be able to work with them. I can hardly begin to describe how welcoming they and everyone else have been. I have my own room and bathroom rent free and Mina has been cooking real Italian for every meal. Plus they have offered me a bike and a car to drive (including lessons on how to drive a manual transmission). Right now I'm working on getting my things unpacked and soon I want to start learning my way around (which means continuing driving lessons and/or wandering around on a bike). This weekend we have a youth retreat in Florence (back to the Bible School!) and next week I will start teaching classes at church. I haven't fixed any English lessons yet but I've already had a lot of people express interest. It's still early and I'm still getting settled in so it's still hard to tell what my schedule will be like but I'm really happy to be here and to be able to do some things to help the church here.

Me with Luca and Daniela

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What's Been Goin' On?

Here are some of the new things that have been happening...

New Classes:
I have started teaching or helping with some new classes.  We divided our evening group classes into Beginner 1 and Beginner 2 to accommodate for different levels of English.  I teach the Beginner 1 class on Monday nights and Peter and Angela teach the Beginner 2 class on Tuesday nights.  We cancelled the class on Wednesday nights because there had been pretty low turnout on Wednesdays.  The Monday and Tuesday classes have been going very well though.  In the Monday class we usually have about 10 students.  We've also started reading some simple stories from the Bible to apply the English they've been learning.
I also help with lessons that Emily has been teaching at a preschool nearby.  Emily, Jessica, and I go to a 3 yr old class and a 4 yr old class for about 45 min each every Tuesday.  It is incredibly fun (all the kids remind of the little boy in 'Life is Beautiful') and it gets us more involved with the community here in Scandicci.
Also on Tuesday, I teach a class of three 12 yr old boys.  That's been fun but I'm trying to think of ways to make it more interesting for them so they don't get bored.

Friday Night Activities:
Last semester we had several events for our students here at the Bible School.  This semester we've started doing events like this more often.  Every Friday we will host a different activity to teach English and to get to know our students better.  The first Friday of every month we will have an English movie night.  The second Friday will be an American cooking school: teaching them how to make American food.  The third Friday will be game night and the fourth will be a book club.  Emily and I are responsible for book club.  This semester we will be reading The Pearl by John Steinbeck.  We already have about 10 students signed up to participate.

Physical Friday:
Coffee break during a physical Friday at the Bible School
We have had a couple of pretty productive physical Fridays.  A few weeks ago we saved the church a few hundred euro by trimming some trees ourselves.  Behind the church building there is a small patio with 3 very tall palm trees.  The neighbors in the apartment next to the church asked that we trim the tree because the palm fronds were falling into their parking lot.  You may never have considered it, but trimming palm trees is difficult.  David had to set up scaffolding under the tree so that he could reach the leaves.  You may also be unaware that palm leaves become tiny spears as they die.  Almost everyone accidentally stabbed themselves at some point.  Of all the injuries, Ermenita had the worst.  A branch fell from the tree and kit her leg.  The spike on the end went through her pants and got stuck in her leg badly enough that Mario took her to the hospital.  They gave her tetanus shots and she had to have stitches where they cut the spike out.  Apparently these trees are supposed to be trimmed every few months and some of the church members want to get rid of them (I think I would support that decision).
Ryan got the task of cutting the bars out of the window
The week after that we did some work around the Bible School.  College Church is buying us a new washing machine, dryer, and refrigerator (Thank you!) and we had to clear out space for the new appliances.  Part of this work included removing a cabinet and a door frame, and cutting the bars covering the window to the laundry room (the dryer won't fit through the door so it's coming in through the window).  It was quite an eventful day.

I hope to write more again soon!