Thursday, March 5, 2009
THE LORD KNEW…yea, that’s how I want to start this journal…Somehow, I had gotten so used to Sicily that I wasn’t really looking forward to going to Rome for two days. I was so tired that I laid my head on a table in the Sicily airport and fell asleep – When I awoke Italians said, “Good morning!” It was hilarious! Seriously, as soon as I was on the plane I was much better. God knew…..Immediately my attitude changed as I headed off…Oh, our dear sisters and brothers in Rome are challenging even to just be around! They love Jesus and seek after Him with their whole hearts. Fabrizio met me at the airport (with no cell – it was a miracle that He greeted me at the door I chose to walk out of) and I learned quickly that His English was much better as I wisked me off to a house outside of Rome by small streets alongside crazy drivers. This weekend would serve to be near immersion into the Italian language for me – Loved it! We arrived to a house where everyone welcomed me and even recognized me from the last time. Kiss on the cheeks (Note to self: go to the right first!), and then I met Marco – a one year old who wasn’t even born the last time I was there. We stayed beyond the evangelistic baby shower (why not use any gathering to share the gospel? They try to.) Soon after as people were leaving we met in the damp Italian house for a Bible study with the children. They had a schedule where they would study 3 verses everytime they met together – the depth was something like we would learn in college. The children sat the entire time – one played with a napkin, another younger played with his hat…no stimulation needed. I held Marco as he climbed around on my lap and his mother Connie translated for me. We then, on our way home to their castle wall apt. in Palambra (the mission field of Connie and Fabrizio where they long to plant a church), we stopped at a pizza place. When I walked in it was obvious I was not in Kansas anymore…everyone turned. Fabrizio, who lived there, said that because he was from another town, they did the same to him when he first moved there – this of course is what I think he was saying. J I arrived at their damp small apt. and immediately smelled mold..black mold was taking over – you could literally see it on some of the walls – they translated it “humidity”. They are praying for another place to live, but are content to serve the LORD wherever He has them! They asked what I wanted…anything they had was mine…even if I tried to refuse it knowing their financial status. They put the heater in my room, made sure that they were out of the bathroom whenever I had mentioned I would be getting up, had tea waiting on me, took ME to the store and bought me food to take home. They don’t even know what they are living off of this next month…their support from America is only 750$ (less than Euro) – their rent is about 300Euro a month…AND, they have a family of three. Still, they give..and won’t stop. When I was leaving I asked if we could go by the Banco (bank) – they instead handed me an envelope of money that they had scrounged up (not a small amount either)with a note in it for me. The only reason I had wanted the bank was to give them money. They refused to take it back, and we all laughed…The body of Christ can’t seem to give each other enough! (They will be repaid.) I sang for the service the next morning and almost cried when I saw how that God had grown the church in the last year since I had been there. “My” timing was great – every 4th Sunday they had a big meal – Italian style. They all served each other…(Throughout the trip Connie and Fabrizio would ask me in sheer shock after I told them how big my church was in Nashville – “How do they have fellowship and become family to each other?” I explained home groups, but wondered inside whether we were fulfilling God’s plan fully through home groups? That first night with urgency in his voice Fabrizio said this in broken English/Italian, “Amy, I want to ask you seriously, will you commit to something for us? Will you put us on your list that you pray for regularly (do I have one?) and can you bring this to your church to pray for in your prayer meeting? (Do we have one?) He was asking for a response…I was ashamed to tell this Roman that we didn’t have a weekly prayer meeting…I prayed and told him that I would personally commit to praying for them. He then asked if we could sit down and share prayer requests that night. It was so important to them. They had three large ones: New believers – strong, Elders, provision, etc. for a new church plant in Palambra, Italy. A new place to live with more room for Bible studies and to host other believers – without mold. And another…I just never heard them ask for things, for food, for money….for the lost to know Him. Their resolve…even year after year is staggering. His excitement in preaching can only come from intense study of the Word. So, I he asked me not if, but where I was studying in the Bible…I was thankful that I was not found “empty handed,” but that I had something to tell him – Numbers! (It got a little hot in the room at that moment.) He later showed me how that he studied the Bible in answer to my request and His desire for me to know. Seriously, even this morning as I read, I cannot look at study the same. He shared that in preparation, he would study12-15 hrs. for one paragraph…reading it so many times that he would sometimes memorize it! I can share more later. Ironically, right before they were to take me to the airport was when he was able to teach me the details of his study…I literally could barely keep my eyes open…nor could his wife our back-up translator. I hadn’t been that tired the entire time I was there. We are in a spiritual battle. There’s so much more…but this is entirely too long already…One other comment he made: “Marriage: you will learn to die more and more but your joy is greater!” I marveled and tried to take mental pictures as I watched them serve each other. The believers stayed together, loved each other, and yet had a lot of the same problems we do….Yet they fought it as the body of Christ. I asked them what the Italians overall thought of America’s new President. Connie said, “I think that he may bring change and that may be good….What do Christians in America think?” That’s how they rate their feelings…what the Christians tell each other through the filter of the WORD…not the media. Much of what I told you was on the third day. They had wanted to take me to Tuvoli castle and gardens, but I kind of hoped that it would rain so that I could have time with them in the house….God allowed it to rain. They made me a meal of anything that they had somehow forced me to mention that I enjoyed in Italy. I barely could get my luggage on the airplane with the gifts that I had been given in both places. I am responsible for the testimony I’ve seen….I think of what Paul says in Philippians 3:16-17 “Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. “ More to come… In God’s grace, I yearn to tell the lessons I learned by my example in the coming days, years of my life...
Posted by Amy J. Stephens at 7:17 PM