Spending all my money in Zurich

OK, so I didn’t spend it all. In fact, thanks to the generosity of some good friends, I didn’t spend that much at all. But Zurich is expensive.

My good friend Gaby’s mom, Eva, retired recently and decided to take an extended trip to Europe, so I had the pleasure of hosting her for a week in Verona. Once that week was up, she invited me to Zurich for the weekend to meet up with Gaby and her husband Paul.

First observation: Switzerland is BEAUTIFUL. And the weather was phenomenal. It was not cold, but not too warm, sunny… the kind of weather we HAVEN’T been having in Verona lately, where spring has decided to take its sweet time.

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We arrived in Zurich on Friday by train and found Gaby and Paul easily despite having forgotten to plan ahead for where to meet. First goal was to find food because Gaby hadn’t eaten in a while, so we stopped at a little pizzeria in the station, where we bought that 24 franc pizza I mentioned in the video.

Being a little turned around, instead of taking the tram to the hotel we ended up walking, which ended up being a good idea because despite what it looked like on the map the hotel was quite close. We then decided to wander around the old town, but found that most sights were already closed, even though it was only 7 pm.

We walked up to a park that sits on top of a hill and saw a panorama of the city at sunset, which was quite lovely, and then we turned in early since Paul and Gaby still had some jetlag.

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Grossmunster, main cathedral

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The next day I expressed that I really desired to find the Adventist church, and was so happy to discover that the closest church was a mere 3-minute walk away from the hotel! In order to maximize our sightseeing time, I only went for Sabbath School, and was excited to find that there was an English Sabbath School. I met some lovely people and exchanged contact info with a couple of girls from the church.

I met up with everyone at the botanical gardens, which were rather disappointing but we realized that spring is not fully sprung. We then made our way back to the old town to see all the things that were closed the evening before.

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Grossmünster. This is the church where the Swiss reformer Zwingli was pastor.

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Panorama from the top of Grossmünster

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Zwingli’s house

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Augustinerkirche

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Fraumünster

On the train the day before, Eva and I had met an Italian woman who lives in Zurich, and she told us about a very popular restaurant in the center with typical food, and so we went there for lunch. The food was very good, I ordered a pasta dish (one of the few vegetarian-friendly dishes on the menu, the German Swiss love their meat!) with onions and potatoes, and it was good!

And yes, the check was big.

In the afternoon we took a ferry ride on the lake, which was more complicated than it sounds. There were many stops along the river and the lake, but most people get on at the stop by the train station, and then don’t get off, so if you wait at any other stop there won’t be space for you. So after waiting at one stop for two ferries (which only come every 20 minutes) we ended up just walking to the train station and getting on there.

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Everyone was pretty tired after that so we headed back to the hotel and grabbed some random picnic items we had bought previously, found a park near the hotel and had a picnic dinner. Once the sun went down on the Sabbath, we walked a bit around the area, found a small convenience store, and bought some chocolate. Very expensive chocolate. I ended up buying about 14 francs (€13?) in not much chocolate, but it was Swiss chocolate, so I justified it.

The next day, Gaby, Paul and Eva had to catch a train in the afternoon but Gaby wanted to go to church. Paul and Gaby are Orthodox Christians and they found a Greek Orthodox church across town, so I accompanied them, said goodbye, and then had until around 3 pm to wander on my own. I immediately found a path that ran along the river and took me right back to the center of town.

I managed to take a wrong turn at one point and ended up by the university campus.

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It ended up resulting in a lovely overlook, and the university is beautiful. When I finally found my way again, I ended up finding Zwingli’s house and Grossmünster again.

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I love being able to wander around cities and just see what there is to see. That’s probably my favorite part of seeing new places, so here we have some varied shots of what I saw…

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By about noon I really had to find a bathroom, and I was facing a 5-hour train ride. I knew I would have to bite the bullet and buy food, so I stopped at a pizzeria, which seemed to be fairly popular and had relatively “low” prices (20 francs for a mushroom pizza). The food was actually good, and it meant I was able to use a clean bathroom.

I then made my way to the train station, where I had seen that a chocolatier had a shop in the shopping center under the station, and bought some AMAZING chocolates. I wish I could have bought more, but like I mentioned in the video, it was REALLY EXPENSIVE. I also went to the market inside the shopping center and bought some snacks for the train, and finally decided that the wisest thing was to wait on the platform for my train to keep from making any more expensive purchases.

Huge thanks to Eva, Gaby, and Paul for inviting me and for your generous hospitality, I had a really fun time hanging with you guys and seeing a new part of the world.

As a closer, keep me in your prayers this week, hopefully soon I’ll be able to give an update on what’s happening.

Until next time!

Romania: blink and you’ve missed it

Better late than never, here’s my video on Romania!

Despite the whirlwind nature of this trip, it was really nice. Any change of scenery does me good, due to the ambulant nature of my soul.

Like you saw on the video, the first day started out with me thinking that we had to get up WAAAAY earlier than we had to. Since we had to drive to Milan to catch the flight, I went to Beatrice’s house to spend the night, and we were going to leave in the wee hours of the morning. I went to bed earlier than everyone else, and in the meantime Beatrice double-checked the departure time and found that it was an hour later than she had initially thought, but since I was already asleep I didn’t know, woke up at 3 a.m., and panicked that no one else was up and ready to go. I ended up waking her, and she explained that we didn’t actually have to leave for another hour. So I lay in bed until everyone else woke up, and Radu drove the 3 of us to Milan.

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The flight was uneventful and we arrived in Iasi and Beatrice’s uncle came to pick us up. As I explained in the video, Romania is very strict about children leaving the country, so even though Beatrice and Desiree both had their ITALIAN IDs, Beatrice was concerned they weren’t going to let Desiree out of the country. As we were driving along with her uncle, Beatrice spoke very loudly. I thought to myself, “Wow, she must be really upset about the entire situation.” At which point Desiree turned to me and said, “They’re talking about plants.” Turns out Beatrice’s uncle is a bit hard of hearing, and here I thought they were arguing!

We arrived at their house, turned on the water, then went to the center of town for lunch. There’s a large shopping center outside the Palace of Culture (above), and then we walked around town to see a bit. Beatrice did a year of conservatory in Iasi so she knew her way around all the nooks and crannies. After walking a while she took us to a hotel that has a rooftop restaurant that gives a panorama of the town, and as you can see in the video I counted all the churches.

My favorite church was the Church of the Three Hierarchs, which had this amazing detail all over the exterior.

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Tell me this isn’t reminiscent of Main St. at Disneyland. But with more trees. And fewer giant mice.

We went to a grocery store to buy stuff for dinner, went back to the house, and were almost too tired to eat.

The next day was mostly spent in the front seat of a car. We had to drive to another town so Desiree could get her documents, then to find a notary, then back to the notary to try to beg her to sign the letter from Desiree’s dad, then all through the mountains searching for a cell signal to buy her dad a plane ticket, and we ultimately ended up at Beatrice’s family’s house. We had a lovely lunch, then made it over to her in-law’s house to say hi, then back to her family’s house, and then we brought her aunt along with us back to their house in Iasi. We got our stuff, ate a quick dinner, and then made it back to the airport to catch the plane to Bucharest (with her aunt).

Once we arrived in Bucharest Beatrice’s cousin came and picked us up and we went to his house to spend the night. Beatrice’s husband had made it safely and was also waiting for us. We slept like rocks, woke up early the next day, and took the family to the Adventist school for Desiree’s interview. Beatrice’s cousin, who speaks passable English and quite a bit of Spanish, ended up taking me on a quick driving tour of the area, then we went to the mall with the idea of getting breakfast, but nothing in the mall was open yet, so we had a seat and sat around talking until we had to pick up the family from the school.

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We didn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing, but we did drive by the government building, which was built in the Communist era and is now used in part by the parliament. At that point, our time was up so we went back to the cousin’s house, had lunch, and made it to the airport, where Desiree was indeed told that if her dad hadn’t have made the trip she wouldn’t have been able to leave the country.

So yeah, VERY short, VERY fast, VERY exhausting… but it was VERY fun! It’s a different lifestyle, a different language (though after 2 days straight of it I was starting to understand quite a bit!), different food. Different is always exciting to me, so when I came back I had refreshed and could face the rest of the week with a new attitude.

As always, more adventures ahead!

I’m baaaaack…

Oh man, what happened? Has it really been 5 months since I came back? It’s all a blur. Since January I’ve been trying to update you all on what’s going on, and have failed miserably. I blame it on the cold.

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That is ICE, not foam, that has built up on the fountain in Piazza Brà.

Lots of things got in the way, I got blind-sided once or twice and had to take some time to pull myself together, but I’m back on my feet now. So here’s a brief summary of what’s been happening:

Poppi and Florence

In October I was asked to take the position of outreach coordinator at church. Shortly thereafter, I was asked to attend a forum in Poppi, which is in Tuscany.

I remember this place from when I was studying in Florence. The Adventist church owns property there with cabins and a conference room, and they often hold retreats there. It’s in a beautiful wooded area in the mountains, and autumn was in full swing.

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This forum was to discuss projects and challenges to outreach within our congregations, so we got to hear a lot of feedback and ideas from pastors, elders and other outreach coordinators. I participated in a small group that discussed the role that “catechism” (in the broad sense of teaching doctrine to the members of the church) plays in outreach.

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But the BESTEST part was meeting up with old friends!! So many people I knew from Florence are now pastors and leaders in the church. Getting re-acquainted with them and seeing their surprise when they recognized me was beyond adequate words. It was a great break for a short time, and I hope to catch up more with these people in the future.

On the way back, I had about 3 hours in Florence to revisit my old stomping grounds while waiting for my train. Florence has a magic about it that Verona just doesn’t have, and I miss being closer to it. Maybe soon I’ll have the chance??

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Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori

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Ponte Vecchio

Christmas and New Year’s

The time between that trip and Christmas break is a little hazy. I haven’t been getting much work at the school, so I’ve been filling hours with online classes, which means lots of running back and forth from home to school and back again. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

Christmas break, therefore, was a welcome reprieve. On Christmas eve, I went to Beatrice and Radu’s house, where we had a nice dinner, then we ladies sat downstairs watching Pride and Prejudice while the men watched TV upstairs.

The next day, a friend from church came and picked me up, and we went to her house where we had dinner with a big group of Brazilians. Sharing a meal with Brazilians is definitely something you should add to your bucket list if you haven’t done it already. Most fun I had had in months!

For New Year’s, Valerio invited me to a dinner with some of his friends. We ate, goofed off, took some silly pictures, ate some more… and in general it was a great time to relax.

Matteo, who I’ve met before, lives in Mestre, which is just outside of Venice. Matteo is also an artist and his apartment is BEATIFUL, with his handmade manger scene being the decoration that dazzled me the most.

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He lives on one of the top floors of a large apartment building overlooking the city, and when the proverbial ball dropped, we could see probably five different fireworks shows all across the skyline.

The next day we went together to Venice. Matteo attended high school in Venice, so knows his way around quite well. and we were further blessed with some sunshine. I saw parts of Venice that I didn’t know before and with some excellent company!

Ten Days of Prayer

Every year in January, the Adventist church holds 10 days of prayer, and we held this at church every evening for 10 days. This was really a blessing. There were those who came every night, and those who only came occasionally, but it was a good reminder of how prayer is really essential for the soul. Our topic this year was “Abiding in Christ”.

When Israel was wandering through the desert, God ordered, “Let them build me a sanctuary that I might dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8) Through this period of prayer, it struck me as never before the significance of God coming and dwelling among us. God wants to be close to the ones He loves. He’s not a god that hides away and makes us jump through hoops to get close to Him. This has been forefront in my thoughts since the end of this period of fasting and prayer.

What’s up next?

Something happened over the last couple of weeks that really woke me up to the fact that I’m not taking full advantage of my time. Basically I was facing some serious burnout. My schedule is constant moving and classes and lesson planning and dealing with certain people who are real emotional vampires, and by the time I get home I sit on the computer for hours on end just staring at youtube or FB, because doing anything productive or constructive felt like it would take too much energy and emotion.

But I want to do great things. Over Christmas I was talking with Beatrice, and long story short, it somehow got into my head… wouldn’t it be great to have an Adventist academy here in Italy? Go figure, we have the 2nd largest private school system in the world (behind the Catholic church) and there are NO schools here outside of the seminary. This to me is a travesty. So I’m slowly making plans, all on paper at the moment and with a lot of prayer, that this might become a reality. If anyone has any contacts who could pitch in with this, let me know!

I also want to be a little more creative with my blogs, so taking the cues from a photographer friend of mine, I’m hoping to start uploading videos. Stay tuned…

Lastly, I’ve started making little plans for trips I’d like to make, because for my own psychological wellbeing I need a change of scenery every now and again. Easter weekend I’ll be going with Beatrice and her daughter on a whirlwind trip to Romania (only 3 days, 2 nights). I’ve also come across an interesting little spot in Torino that I’m dying to go see, but you’ll have to stay patient for that one!

Finally, I’m hoping to attend a leadership certification event in Florence in May, which will be useful for some of the ministry ideas I’ve been brewing as well as for opening the school. This will be interesting since I tend to be the youngest person at any of these events. It’s always a very strange sensation.

So now you’re all updated! More to come!

A side trip to Le Marche

Something very unusual happened this past week. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to that work here in Verona has been slow. Classes haven’t really picked up yet so I’ve mostly been sitting around twiddling my thumbs, but I happened to be contacted by a translation agency in a little town called Porto Sant’Elpidio in Le Marche and they wanted me to come down for a week to work in revision and translation. Sounded like a great opportunity, so in the matter of a couple of days we thew together a quick trip.

I did not know where Le Marche was before this last week. I can name a good number the regions in Italy, but I can only label maybe 5 of them. In my defense, Anna is worse, and she grew up here. But when I told some friends where I would be they all said that it’s a beautiful region, so I started looking it up.

Sure enough, it’s really beautiful. Porto Sant’Elpidio is in central Italy on the Adriatic coast, and the agency is located right near the beach. This is a really nice time of year to see places like this because, for the most part, the tourists have gone home. The beach here is rather rocky but lovely. What I DIDN’T anticipate was the rain and cold, so that put a little damper (no pun intended) on the trip.

Scary clouds!

Scary clouds!

But when the rain stopped, I was able to go out running on the “lungomare”, which is a paved path that runs along the beach, and stand out by the water and listen to the waves, which I admit made it tempting to want to stay there. I guess I’m still a beach girl at heart  <3

The beachside walking path

The beachside walking path

One of the mornings I got a rude awakening by someone coming into the bed and breakfast at some ungodly hour, so I lied in bed for a while trying to go back to sleep. And suddenly the emergency lights came on and my room was FLOODED with light. Somehow all the other power had gone out, and I had no idea where the circuit breakers were. I decided, forget it, and put on my running shoes.

In a way it turned out to be a blessing, because I caught the sunrise and had some time to exercise before the rest of the world. And I needed PLENTY of exercise…

Sunrise over the Adriatic

Sunrise over the Adriatic

The translation agency has only about a dozen employees, but the work is plentiful. In the entire week, I saw so many different types of texts: mostly it was legal and economic, which were the ones I had to revised. But I also got to translate a short pharmaceutical text, as well as a couple of footnotes for a larger economic text, revised a translation on public works and infrastructure, and even *ahem* a lingerie catalogue. Didn’t see that one coming. And it proves that just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you know squat about underwear. But it was interesting and mentally stimulating!

But the work was grueling.bI arrived at 8:30 each morning and had a lunch break from 1 – 2:30. Then back to work until about 7 p.m. and all of those work hours were sitting in front of a computer. Not too terribly different from when I teach my online classes, but way less interaction. That part was a little discouraging. I found myself finishing in the evenings leaving the office in search of something to eat, rarely finding anything, so sitting in my room at the B&B until it was late enough to go to sleep. I kept imagining, if I lived here, I would have no social life whatsoever. There’s no church here, so my spiritual life would suffer, no time and no place to make friends… I wouldn’t make it out in one piece.

Then there was the issue of the Sabbath. Unfortunately in that kind of industry, it’s hard to plan ahead to make sure that you’re out of there in time for sunset, and sure enough that Friday, even though I had warned that I would be out of there before Sabbath began, I got a new project that, while it was easy, took me a lot longer than I anticipated and 45 minutes after sunset I was just finishing up. So on top of it, having that kind of job is not fully compatible with being faithful to God’s holy day.

Which was a real shame, because by the end of the week the president of the agency wanted me to stay. So did a couple of “colleagues” there, and one of them said I seemed really good at the work. In a sense, though, that was a reward in and of itself. I unfortunately have a hard time feeling like I’m “good” at anything, like I’m just chugging along doing my “best”, which is never really good enough, be it from lack of effort or just because I really have no clue what to do. So getting that positive feedback was something of an affirmation.

So while I’m sad that I had to miss out on the opportunity for a steady job and steady income, in my heart I guess I feel like I made the right choice. The last thing the president said to me before leaving was, “If you plan on staying in Italy, unless you’re working part time or make an exception for Sabbaths, you’re always going to have this problem.” To which I simply had to reply, “This is my faith, and I know that the Lord will help me.” In returned he wished me the best of luck.

Sulking over this the next morning on the train back to Verona, I found myself reading Habakkuk, and I was struck by the final verses of the book, which seemed to speak directly to my feelings:

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

This was meant for ME that morning sitting on the train, wondering if I had made the right choice. Yes, maybe I had missed what, by earthly standards, had been a great opportunity. Another one like that might not be on the horizon. I may have to suffer from lack of money or stability for a long while. But the Lord is my strength and He will make me walk on my high hills. No amount of tribulation can separate me from the love of Jesus. Something else will come, maybe not as attractive as this offer, but it will be from the hand of the Lord.

The trip back home…

Flying into Frankfurt

Flying into Frankfurt

It feels good saying that🙂

Well, I made it back, nearly in once piece (technically in three pieces, getting to that). Being in the States was good, but on the longer hand I was ready to come back, and it’s been full of little surprises that have reminded me that God has put me here.

It was a rough beginning of the trip. First, my dad and I had to leave at ONE IN THE MORNING to get me to the airport. We got there with plenty of time, with my suitcase, carry-on, AND my bike! I brought my nice bike with me this time because I want to be able to see more of the countryside and get some exercise while doing it, and the bike was just collecting dust in Dad’s shed since, for some reason, no one was buying it. Their loss! My bike had to be disassembled and packed in this huge box, and since it’s permitted to weigh up to 70 pounds I was able to stick some extra stuff in there. So I got to the airport, they checked everything, and I was on my way. At the gate, they announced that the flight was full, so if anyone had any carryon luggage they wanted to check in, they would do it for free, so I took a few things out and checked in my carry-on, glad to be rid of one extra thing to drag around.

I had 2 layovers, one in Montreal and the other in Frankfurt, and on the plane from Frankfurt I met a very nice couple who are taking a bike tour of the Dolomites. We started chatting about their trip, about my work, about biking, and they asked if it was easy to get to the train station, so I offered to let them tag along since I was doing the same thing.

But we arrived in Verona to find that their bikes had made it, but mine did not. Not only that, but the carry-on that I had checked in also did not arrive. I filed a report, then met up with the couple outside, and we caught the bus to the center. I was too tired to be worried that they might not find my luggage, so I just assumed they would take care of it.

A friend from church came and picked me up from the train station, and took me to my new apartment, in an area of town known as Madonna di Campagna. As we’re driving, she asks, “Do you live near Lorenzo and Elena?” referring to a family from church.

I answered that I didn’t know where Lorenzo and Elena live, but when I told her where to turn, she laughed and said, “You’re literally across the street from them!” And it’s true. If it weren’t for the fact that their apartment is on the other side of the building, I could look into their kitchen, and they into my bedroom (remind me to shut the curtains!). So now it’s nice to know that I have people nearby.

I re-met Anna, one of my new roommates (we had already met once before). Anna was born in India but was adopted by an Italian family when she was 2 months old, so for all intents and purposes she’s Italian. She works a lot so is out of the house often. I didn’t meet my other roommate, Christelle, until Sunday.

My checked carry-on arrived the next day, and when the man arrived, I immediately asked, “And my bike?” He didn’t know, but said it would probably come the next day, which was Sabbath. I figured they would call me when they had it, so I succeeded in remaining level-headed. I’m actually quite proud of how calm I managed to stay through this ordeal! Must have been the jetlag.

It didn’t come the next day, but I did get a phone call saying that it had arrived and that they would deliver it to me the next day. Sunday came, and Christelle arrived from her work as a caretaker. Anna introduced us and mentioned to Christelle that I go to church, and she asked me what church I go to. I told her, “I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian.” (it’s often necessary to qualify like that because most people here have never heard of it.)

She blinked at me. “But I’m Adventist too!” I sat there blinking for a moment, and then we laughed and embraced. I then asked her why I’ve never seen her in church, and she said that she didn’t know that there was a church here, and then she grew sad because she works on Sabbath in this caretaking position, which she uses to pay her studies at the university. So here’s your first task: please pray for Christelle! She wants to have one of her subs be able to take over for her on Sabbath.

Christelle has also apparently been a great witness to Anna, whose family goes to an Evangelical church. Anna wants to be able to come to church with us, but she also works on Saturdays. I told her that if ever she gets a Saturday off, we’d love to have her.

The next day I got in touch with a friend I met from the Romanian church, and it turns out she also just moved to this same area, so we’re very close!

Michele’s family of course is here, so I’ve been over to his family’s house for quite a few meals already. It feels nice to sit down with people and actually have a conversation and not sit by myself and eat in silence, which I know I’ll still have to do occasionally since Anna and Christelle are so busy.

It’s things like this that I feel God uses to remind me that He’s put me here. Last year I got very discouraged by everyone criticizing me for coming, because according to them Italy is a terrible place, there’s no work, the people are rude, everything is expensive, the politicians are corrupt… But I finally realized that they might as well be talking about the United States, or any other place in the world. It’s just the nature of things. They think the U.S. is a paradise because of what they see in the movies, and by comparison, yeah, I can imagine Italy seems pretty terrible. But I don’t see that here. I see people who need the love of Jesus in their lives. So much of my last year was spent feeling sorry for myself and feeling depressed that I feel that whatever witness I could have had was swallowed up in despair. I want this year to be different. I’m in a new apartment, with people that speak Italian, friends nearby, and a more positive frame of mind. Continue to keep me in your prayers, specifically for permanent work if it’s the Lord’s will, and that I will find ministry opportunities here.

And yes, my bike finally made it!

My annual birthday deep thoughts

Warning: this post is going to start out somewhat depressing, but never fear… there’s a point to it all!

I’ll be totally honest with you guys… I’m not a huge fan of birthdays. Birthdays for summer babies aren’t the greatest. When your birthday is in the summer, most of your friends tend to be on vacation, so there aren’t many parties or gifts, or sometimes even cake (but lots of family dinners, which can be cool too!). Occasionally at potluck on Sabbath afternoon your church family will bring a cake and sing to you.

So I learned pretty early not to anticipate much from my birthdays. The words of affirmation were great, and my dad would always slip me some money, which I think was his way (and still is) of saying, “I want you to get something special, but I’m not the greatest at gifts, so go get yourself something you really want or need!” The thought, for me, counts, so I’m always grateful for that gift. But it’s not the same kind of birthdays other people get.

My point is this: the lack of actual people around wears on you. I’ve never been an overly social person, but no man is an island, either. My mother was the kind of person who always had people seeking her out. That’s fine; that was her. I’m not one of those people. Sometimes it makes me wonder what’s wrong with me, but more likely it’s just that we as people are busy, and we all just have our own lives. I do it too. ALL THE TIME. As a matter of fact…

This last week, I got a message from a girl I became friends with in Ecuador. R is a very outgoing and bubbly person who appeared when I was having a hard time finding housing. We even stared calling each other “primita” (dear cousin), and she started playing the part of my cousin when I needed a native to help me NOT get fleeced by someone (taxis, store clerks, potential landlords, police… yeah, Ecuador is a different world!). For the last year or so, she has been trying to get in touch wit me on FB. I was always busy. I didn’t take the time to contact her, even though I thought about her often. The last message I got from her was about a week ago, and she informed me that she is getting married, and that she wanted me to be there. I was floored, and didn’t quite know what to say. Of course, I would love to go see her get married, but I’m going to be back in Italy soon, and while I mulled over this, I didn’t respond right away. So finally a couple days later I told myself that I needed to bite the bullet and write to her.

Her profile was no longer on FB. There was no way to respond to her message. I don’t have any other way to contact her; no phone, no e-mail, not even a mailing address. I feel like a terrible friend.

At the same time, I’m going through a moment where a friend has all of a sudden disappeared. We’ve been friends seemingly forever, I’ve tried to contact them, but I can’t find them any longer on FB, and they aren’t responding to messages. It tears me apart, because I think of R and I think that this is what I put her through. Did she cry when I didn’t write back? Does she think that I don’t care anymore?

On the other hand, today I got a voicemail from a friend who I met in Chile. We’ve hung out in person, literally, twice, maybe three times but I kind of doubt it. But he has become one of my dearest friends. We pray for each other. We encourage one another. He doesn’t freak out when I go into “deep thoughts” mode. We make one another’s lives richer by our friendship. To me, he is a blessing.

Later on, a dear friend skyped me and we talked and just bore our hearts to one another. She and I live very far, but she is a sister to me, and I feel like I can tell her anything, and she even offered to help me with a huge problem, which praise God, looks like it might get fixed thanks to her!

I guess I’m slowly learning that there are two types of people in this world…

There are those that come, and you have a good time with them, and they teach you something, and hopefully you teach THEM something, and then they leave. Sometimes YOU leave. Sometimes the “leaving” is abrupt and dramatic. Sometimes it’s just a “see you later” that actually covers up the sadness of the “goodbye”. Sometimes the goodbye just happens quietly and in drawn-out form. Sometimes you have to RUN from them for your own good! The point is that they were never meant to stay. Alternatively, at times WE are the people that aren’t meant to stay. I think that has been my lot in life, with the moving and traveling, I think there are people in whose lives *I* was not meant to stay. Too often, I was the one who left.

And that’s OK. If we were only to stay in one place, we would never grow. If I had stayed, maybe I wouldn’t have grown, or maybe THEY wouldn’t have grown.

But then there are people in this world that come into your life and stay. They set up shop in your living room. They keep you up at night. They make you laugh until you can’t breathe. Sometimes, they get you so angry you can’t see straight. They eat from your fridge (in both a literal and metaphorical sense). They WON’T LEAVE YOU ALONE! Even the thought of them is a blessing. They may not be physically present, but their support and love and affection follows you like sweet perfume. Years go by, and they continue to feed your soul, and ground you, and fill you up and bring you closer to God.

Those are the people who this post is for. This is for all of you who, day by day, lift me up, make me think, challenge me, transform me into the person that God can use to His glory. You probably don’t even realize you do it. You are the ones who make my birthday, and every day, a happy one. You are the greatest gift of all.

Furlough?

I jokingly call my time at home “furlough” because that’s what the serious missionaries call it when they go home for a break from the mission field. In a way, I’m actually still working, since I do my translation wherever and whenever.

Not much to report, but felt like I should post something. I arrived in LA after a pretty uneventful trip. Dad found me at the airport and we drove home, getting in about 1:30 in the morning. A couple days later we went to hang out with my aunts and cousins in Santa Cruz, and while there I was able to see some of my friends from Monterey.

I managed to get away last weekend to Monterey again, and I was able to hang out with friends. Then I had to come back early because I had my dad’s car, and I had classes to teach. It was so much fun to see everyone, and I’m hoping to make one more trip before flying back.

So I’ve mostly just been sitting around, getting translation work done, napping a lot, teaching online classes… and that’s it. I’m trying to get back into the habit of running every morning, but honestly the air quality here is terrible so I never really feel like going out. And it’s super hot during the day. I’m enjoying just kind of being lazy with my dad, but another part of me really desires to get back to Verona. I’m trying to do things to NOT FORGET my Italian, so I’m reading, making flashcards, listening to podcasts… just things to while away the time. But no complaints; vacation is going to be over before I know it, and then I’ll do nothing but complain that I want a vacation!

Where do we go from here?: Some thoughts on the GC Session’s vote on the WO question

I sat at the end of a pew. The church was quite full. It was a sweltering day in August in California’s Central Valley. Anyone who has lived through one of those knows that tempers run as high as the temperatures. I had visited this particular church many times in the past while visiting my dad, and normally walked away feeling slightly empty. The people were kind and welcoming, but the atmosphere could at times feel… stifling.

No more so than that morning. A pastor working in administration in the local conference came to speak while the head pastor and his associate pastors were all on a retreat. My initial impression of the man was positive. Friendly. Doted on his children from the pulpit. Suddenly his tone turned dead serious.

“Today I’m going to speak on women’s ordination.”

It was 2 weeks before leaving for Italy, where I would begin my missionary journey. A single young woman, who God was taking into unknown territory. This was my foray into ministry.

The pastor began talking. I, being unconvinced one way or another about what shall henceforth be known as WO, I sat patiently and listened, trying to honestly consider his arguments.

Before he was even done, I wanted to run out crying. I seriously thought about it, but thought that not much good would be done if I just wanted to make a statement. Whether or not it was the right decision, I stayed put and set my jaw.

The way he spoke gave less an idea that he was against WO, and more an idea that women are second-class citizens. That all we are good for is procreation and raising up our boys to be the next generation of pastors, because as everyone knows, “a woman is saved through childbearing,” according to Paul. Of course, according to the pastor, that meant that people like me, unmarried, working in the ministry, and not especially desiring to have children, were going against the express command of God, and I was shutting myself out of heaven by my decision.

I avoided the greeters on the way out. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Even some of the dear, kind brethren in the church I had befriended were avoided as I returned to my car. Fear had gripped my heart. If what the pastor had said was true, what good was I? I’m just a woman; a single woman with no man to follow, and no children to raise up. Of what use was I? Was I really meant to go be a missionary? Would the Lord bless my efforts? Was I even supposed to be going to Italy?

These words haunted me even after I actually got to Italy. Occasionally I would think of them and feel discouraged. In my dark moments of depression, they would echo in my head.

Then I spoke with a friend who normally leans very “conservative”. She pointed out to me that in the Bible there are instances of female elders and bishops. Paul commends and praises these women and their work. What are we to do with those cases? We can’t throw those out and rely only on where Paul seems to talk against them. This for me has been the strongest argument in favor of WO. So I threw my chips in with the pro-WO side of the debate and never looked back.

–     –     –

I studied theology for 2 years in college. I did it because I love the Bible. I love digging into it and discovering the mysteries of the love of God. When I signed up for a theology degree, I did it because I wanted to learn how to dig deeper than before, to see Jesus in every word, and be able to teach it to others. I didn’t do it because I wanted to be a pastor.

After those 2 years, I realized that this was not what I was learning. I was learning how to doubt. How to turn the scripture on its head. How to pick it apart to make it say something it doesn’t. Horrified and desperate to save my faith, I fought with my teachers. My attitude maybe wasn’t from a pure heart, but I didn’t like the picture of God they were painting. At one point one of my professors supported me; by the end of that year, word on the street had it that he had been told to leave or be fired; he did the former of the two. At that point, I went to Florence for my year abroad, and God revealed that my gift was in languages. I came back and switched my major; finishing theology in 2 years wasn’t worth losing my religion.

While I don’t want to be a pastor, I recognize that God has called some women to the Ministry, and He is blessing their efforts. These women are truly dedicated, Godly servants of their Lord and Savior. I have also met some women who have gone into ministry out of less-than-righteous motives. But you know what? I’ve met a lot of male pastors like that too (oh, the stories I could tell you!).

This is the lens through which I watched the GC session’s activities while they voted on the WO issue. For those who don’t know, it was not on whether women could be ordained to gospel ministry; the vote was on whether the divisions would be allowed to make their own decisions on whether or not to ordain women within their division. I sat on my bed watching the speeches given by the delegates at the GC session, wondering what the result of the vote would be. Finally the tally came:

Yes 977
No 1381
Abstain 5

Strangely enough, I was not disappointed. I guess in my heart, I felt that the time is not right. I feel like there is too much pride and vested interest in both sides to make it the right time. And I feel like there are many more important issues, and that this one was one that Satan was using to distract us from the bigger ones. But now comes the rub:

Delegates of the denominations of the World Church of SDA’s, today you have voted against the right to ordain women into pastoral ministry in the SDA church. But what will you do now from here on to support the women in our church?

Because the issue now is not about women’s place in ministry. The issue now, and the message that you have sent to us, is women’s place in the church.

You see, it is too easy to send the message that we are not valuable. That we are only there for procreation and raising up the next generation of pastors… and nothing more. Otherwise useless and unimportant. Sort of a space-holder or a vestigial organ in the body of Christ.

I can handle not being given an official title if I know God has called me to be where I am. I can’t handle being told that I’m worthless.

Simply saying that “our roles are different” is demeaning. What I hear is, “God doesn’t value your work as much as ours. You aren’t as useful to Him.” I have yet to hear anyone able to say those words that don’t make it sound like women’s roles are less significant, and that we are thereby less precious to God. Q.E.D.: If I’m not as precious to God, if He doesn’t love me as much, then He’s not going to work as hard to secure my salvation.

The question has now become: Having made this decision, how will you now make women feel valued in a church where, in theory, “there is… no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ”? How will you assure her that Jesus died for her too?

To the delegates who voted Yes and their constituents: go back with your heads held high. Continue to support the women in your divisions who play a role in the ministry, whatever ministry that might be. We hear you and appreciate you. Even those of us who would never of our own volition want the job of a pastor want to know that the Lord values our work for His honor and glory. We want to know, NEED to know, that we are precious in His sight.

To the delegates who voted No and their constituents: decide how to do the same. You have wonderful, strong, Godly women working among you. Figure out how to make them feel important in the Lord’s work. Many of them feel the Lord’s calling, and by not recognizing their work, they feel useless. They feel marginalized. I know because I’ve been there. This doesn’t have to be. Even if they cannot be ordained, they must be made to feel indispensable. Their work is important, no matter how small it may seem. My charge to you is to make them feel that their work is one of the most important in the world, perhaps even more important than that of a pastor. They are the boots on the ground.

The Lord says, ““And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:28, 29) Whatever the final result of the ordination question is from this day forward, one day the Lord will ordain each of us to carry out the third angel’s message with the power of the latter rain. It won’t be an ordination to be a pastor; it will be an ordination to speak “before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 10:18) Encourage every one of your members, male and female, to be a part of that. Don’t squelch them. We can’t afford to silence a single voice.