Friday, June 29, 2012

A Tearful Goodbye

Last night we had dinner with a Cru staff couple, and three STINTers (STINT is a one year international internship with Cru). Matt and Ashley, a young married couple on STINT left yesterday to return to the United States after a year of serving in Bologna. Last summer an Italian student became a believer through a year long friendship built with a student who came on summer project, and has developed a deep friendship with Matt over this year. Matt has been meeting with him, teaching him about Jesus and how to grow in his faith. As Matt and Ashley were leaving dinner, our friend started to cry. This seems normal in America when we say goodbye to friends that we know we wont see for a long period of time, but this specific encounter was much different. I looked over to another one of our teammates who looked at us and said "we have no idea what that feels like." Our friend is staying in Bologna and saying goodbye to his closest friends, to his Christian community. We are that community. The reality is staggering and hit me all over again.

As I've been processing the past 6 weeks, God has knit my heart closer to the heart of our Italian friends. There are few followers of Christ here, so when our team leaves, these friends who are new believers are left with just each other. Imagine your church right now. Any church in Dallas for that matter. Now imagine two Italian college students. I have roughly 1,000 people in my church back home, they have 10.

Today we said our goodbyes to many sweet friends. It still blows my mind that they have come to trust us and love us so deeply within a few short weeks. I can't help but believe it's the light of Christ overflowing from our lives that they feel such a strong connection to. It was a tearful night, friend after friend asking "when will you be back in Bologna?" I don't know.

If you are reading this, would you consider praying consistently for the city of Bologna and the people here? Pray for the two new believers at the University of Bologna involved with Agape. That they would grow in friendship with each other and plug in to the evangelical church in town, where they can meet other Italian believers their age and build community.

Would you even pray about coming for 1-6 weeks or longer to dig up the soil and plant gospel seeds here in Italy? It is a hard place, in desperate need of laborers willing to love the Italian people.  Thanks for praying as the seeds that were planted here this summer take root and grow over the years.

Friday, June 1, 2012

In Their Eyes

Before I got here I knew that many Italian people did not know Jesus, but actually being here has made it real. That sounds so childish and obvious, but for some reason it has hit me hard. Last night a university student asked why we were here, after I explained he said Bologna was not a good place to try to talk to people about God and Jesus, because they are so far from God. He put himself in this category as well.

I look around and I see people who are really hurting. They don't trust people, they hate the government, the lack of jobs, the insincerity in people. They are starving for authentic love and friendship. They try to find it in standing up in protest. They have given up on the church because of all the hurt and pain they've experienced because of it. They have lost family members and friends and have no way to reconcile the pain. I look into their eyes, and there is no joy. They really do look like they have no hope -- they aren't pretending. It's burdensome, but in it I remember the faithfulness of God. One girl accepted Christ as her Savior since we've been here -- God is moving and working through the gospel going out......over time it is changing people.

Pray for University students to stay in Bologna despite talk of more earthquakes. Students are fearful so are staying home (not taking trains into the city) to stay safe. This is causing the campus to be deserted, and we desperately want to befriend the people here. Pray pray pray.....

Ruins of the city walls in Bologna
"They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven......“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.'"
Nehemiah 1:3-4,8-9