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!