Peace in the Whirlwind

Deep breaths. *inhale* And let it out. *exhale* Ok, let’s begin.

Can I tell you how crazy the past few weeks have felt? If you know me very well at all, you will know that my Myers-Briggs type might as well be written with only one capital letter: inFp. I identify pretty clearly with most of the descriptors of this type, but more than any other aspect, I am absolutely a Feeler. I think with my heart, I am concerned about the way that my decisions will affect other people, I deeply desire harmony, and I process a LOT of emotions.

A few weeks ago, my team leaders told me that they wanted me to shoot to arrive in Rome at the beginning of September. Whoa! I am so excited to be getting back to life and ministry and all my dear people in Italy, but this was a sooner departure date than I had anticipated, and not going to lie, I freaked out a little bit.

I started mentally processing what transition back to Rome will look like, leaving my family and the dear community that I have formed here in my passport country. The States are home, but Rome is home too. Movement is such a strange feeling now, because I’m always going to people I love and leaving people I love at the same time.

We started getting things in order for this planned departure date of September 8th, and I started to calm down. By the first week of August, I had all my support necessary to fund my budget for two more years of serving on the Rome City Team! Cue all of the emotions about being fully funded! Then last Wednesday, I bought my plane ticket! Celebrations!

Then just this weekend, I was finally getting everything in hand to apply for my visa. But Sunday night when I went to set an appointment at the consulate, the whole month of August was red – NO APPOINTMENTS AVAILABLE for the the rest of the month. I immediately prayed, “Lord, please present a solution. I don’t even know what to ask You to do, but please work something out!”

So here’s where we stand right now: Either the consulate will work with me somehow, I will be able to apply for my visa SOON, and I will continue with my plans to fly out on September 8th, OR I will go for a visa appointment on September 6th, I will pay the fee to change my flight, and I will depart toward the end of September. There is not a lot that I can do about it either way, and worrying is not going to help in the slightest.

So I am going to trust in the Lord’s timing. His peace that passes understanding has been SO comforting the last couple of days. Even when it feels like my emotions are riding a roller coaster, He will continue to be faithful.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
– Psalm 91:1-4 (ESV)

Summer in Review

It seems almost impossible that we’ve already wrapped up summer activities. With all the goings on, the time flew by. Here are some highlights:

Outreach English Course

Outreach English Course 2014

Our OEC was such a joy. We had a wonderful team from Ohio come to help us teach our classes. They served willingly and were a great help to our team. Although our class sizes ended up being smaller than we had hoped, our students participated with enthusiasm and showed progress through the classes. There was a good mix of ages and cultural backgrounds which seemed to encourage discussion and learning. Hearts were opened and we could see the Lord was working as attitudes toward reading the Bible as a method of studying English softened over the course of the week. Several people even took home Bibles that we offered at the end of the week, and several indicated interest in continuing to study English this fall when classes start up at a church in the city center. All in all, it was a success!

 

YWAM

YWAM Team at Work

YWAM Art

We were blessed and encouraged to work with an amazing group of young people from the Youth With A Mission team in Leeds, England. This team faithfully prayed for our ministry here in Rome, interceded for the Treasures while on a prayer walk in the area of the city that we go to with our Angel Squad for our ministry Schiavitù Mai Più [Slavery No More], and prayed over different areas of the city before deciding where to set up some art installations. They worked hard, shared their creativity, and created opportunities to interact with locals in the piazza where they engineered their artwork. Their time with us gave us ideas for future projects and opened discussion for our team about making use of more evangelistic tools.

 

Personally, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Austria and stay with my friend Wally [an Austrian girl who was my roommate until she moved back to Vienna in mid-July]. And a few weeks ago, my parents came to visit for 10 days. I was so glad that it worked out for them to make the trip this year and that I got to show them some of this country that I love so much.

Summer in the City

Well, it is summer in Roma yet again, and as it goes, the warm weather brings visiting teams, special event opportunities, and a few extra trips to the gelateria. So grab some sunscreen and let’s take a look at what the heat has in store for the Rome City Team for the next couple months:

-OEC-
This week we have our Summer Outreach English Course. It’s a week long intensive course that we are putting on Monday through Friday [July 7-11]. We have a team from the States that arrived yesterday [July 5th] that has come to help us teach these classes. We are praying that the Lord will bring open hearts and open minds. The classes will be taking place in the Salvation Army facility that is in my neighborhood and would be an excellent opportunity to begin to develop relationships with people in the community. We still don’t know how many will be in attendance, but we will be thrilled even with a handful of new acquaintances.

-YWAM Team & Vision Trip-
We will be working with a visiting Youth With A Mission team from Leeds, England the last two weeks of July. We are prayfully considering what kind of activities to include in the schedule for their time with us. During the time they are here with us, we will also have a family visiting us for a vision trip. This means that they have been seriously considering joining the Rome City Team and now want to visit our team to get a feel for how ministry and life function in Rome. We hope that this time will be fruitful and insightful and that the Lord will give clarity to help their decision.

-Freedom Days Planning-
With temperatures climbing higher and higher, October seems like an eternity away, however we are already beginning to plan a schedule and events in advance. October 18th is the European Anti-Trafficking Day, and leading up to the 18th, our team will be participating in an “18 Days of Freedom” awareness-raising campaign. We are hoping that this campaign will shed light on the issue of human trafficking and will stir people’s hearts to join the fight to end modern day slavery.

-Personally-
In June, I was thrilled to have one my dearest friends come to visit for a couple of weeks. Now, my parents are planning a trip for September. Living overseas has its upsides and I’m thrilled to be working here as the Lord has called me to for this time, but being away from family and friends can be difficult at times. It makes it all the sweeter when loved ones are able to make the trip and come for a visit. I am tremendously grateful for these blessings.

Come and make my heart Your home
Come and be everything I am and all I know
Search me through and through
‘Til my heart becomes a home for You

-My Heart, Your Home//Watermark

Waiting and Stillness

Ciao, everyone!

I hope you had a peaceful holiday season. I hope you had time to meditate on the strange beauty of our Savior, come to dwell among us, as you celebrated His birth at Christmastime, and that you had time to reflect on the way the Lord has worked in your life over the past year as this new one has begun.

For me, like many of you I’m sure, this past year contained many ups and downs. But I treasure the reminder that each New Year brings of the REnewing, REfreshing, and REfilling that Christ gives us.

They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

-Isaiah 40:31

Being back home during this time has been such a blessing. I’ve really enjoyed spending time with family, catching up with friends, and remembering how to truly rest in the Lord. But it has also been a period of transitions with its share of discomforts, and this past month especially, He has been reminding me to wait on Him, which has always been a difficult concept for me to follow. And though I may not understand His timing, He does have a plan and I know that there is a purpose. There will always be opportunities to wait on the Lord, and during this season He has been bringing me to meditate on Philippians 4 in the stillness.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

-Philippians 4:8

In the quiet of waiting, the Lord has encouraged me with many of these “things above.” One such instance was my Skype check-in this past week with my team leader Sarah. She updated me on the continuing work of the Rome City Team, particularly of the Slavery No More ministry’s on-going outreach to the “treasures” on the street and the growing interest of the community in this effort. There will even be an informational meeting and basic training session on Saturday the 18th for those who want to get involved in the anti-trafficking ministry. Sarah also let me know that they are eager for me to return to Rome and to take on more responsibilities in the team, such as managing and updating our team’s “web presence” and heading up our English teaching ministry. There are already plans in the works for two week-long outreach English courses this summer. In preparation for further teaching opportunities, I plan to enroll this week in an online Teaching English as a Foreign Language [TEFL] certification course.

At this point, my goal is to return to Italy in April for one more year with the Rome City Team. The Lord has been faithfully providing during my time in the States and I am beginning to look into options for applying for another visa and to search for low-cost airfare. As always though, I must be fully funded before I can depart for the field. I am so looking forward to rejoining my team-family and diving into another journey of following Jesus with open hands and an open heart.

Beautiful Things

Summer! It is hot in Rome, and life is moving quickly. Here’s what’s going on:

-The Bennetches-
My team leaders, Sarah and Brian, left the first week of August for a two-month Home Assignment. They will be visiting supporting churches, seeing family and friends, and hopefully getting some rest. Please, pray for them as they travel, and for their time Stateside to be fruitful.

-New Team Mates-
The Rome City Team has two new long-term team members on the field! Scott and Elaine Wyler arrived mid-July, after 3 years of developing ministry partnerships and support raising. We are so glad that they are here! Please, pray for their adjustment to life in Rome, for reliance on the Lord for strength, and for new beginnings as they search for an apartment and start language school.

-TREK7-
In July, we had a short-term team come through Rome. These 5 twenty-somethings were part of ReachGlobal’s TREK7 program which sends teams on 7 week missions trips across the world. The team that came to Rome was unique in that they were the only team whose time was split between multiple locations [Madrid, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Rome, Italy]. They came to do ministry projects, to meet the missionaries on the field, and to learn about the cultures and how ministry works in each context. I was so blessed to be able to spend time working with them, getting to know them, and showing them around this beautiful, complicated city. We had an outreach English course for 5 days while they were here, and they were also able to participate in refugee ministries, food service, sports outreach to kids in one of Rome’s poorest neighborhoods, and prayer walking the streets where we have our Slavery No More ministry.

-RGEC-
Scott and Elaine made it here just in time to join us at the biannual ReachGlobal Europe Conference. The day after our TREK7 team headed back to the states, the 5 of us on the Rome City Team took a train trip to Trieste, Italy where a shuttle picked us up and took us to the hotel in Portorož, Slovenia where we spent a week hearing great messages, meeting other staff and learning about their ministries in other parts of Europe, praying, worshipping, and relaxing by the Adriatic Sea. It was a wonderful time of resting and hearing from the Lord, just what I needed! And after the conference was over, we took a little team retreat to Lake Bled, Slovenia, just the 5 of us. It was lovely to have that time to spend together before Sarah and Brian would leave, and Lake Bled was unbelievably beautiful! A place right out of a fairytale.

-Anti-Trafficking-
Our Slavery No More team has been doing street outreach ministry every other Friday for the past few months. In the area of the city we are focused on right now, most of the Treasures we encounter are Romanian. I have been going out with the team, but while the Angel Squad goes to chat with the girls and bring them our gifts [snacks, iced tea, personal care items, cards with Bible verses and information, etc.], I have been staying in the van with Brian to watch and pray. When they return from each conversation, I always send out a text message to our groups in the city who are praying for us as we go out to let them know who we’ve talked to, where they’re from or other personal information they share with us, as well as the atmosphere on the street and other ways they can be praying. We took off the month of August as the Bennetches are gone and other team members have been out of town here and there [Rome pretty much shuts down in the summer as people go on holiday]. I’m hoping we will be able to start going out again in September as things return to their normal routine.

Rome City Team [Me, Brian, Sarah, Elaine, and Scott]

img_4215

TREK7 visiting the Trevi [Emily, Tim, Leah, Christine, and John]

Lake Bled

Lake Bled

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
-Gungor

Adjusting and Learning

Ciao from Roma!

In case you didn’t see on Twitter, or Facebook, or get the note from the messenger pigeon, I made it safely to Italia on October 23! All my flights went pretty smoothly. Only my last flight, London to Rome, was delayed, and that was only about an hour. All in all, everything was relatively uneventful, which is nice when flying over an ocean.

Airplane Taxiing

About to leave San Antonio!

Transatlantic Flight

Just before sunrise over the cloud-covered Atlantic.

I got over my jet lag in just a few days, and the last couple weeks I’ve just been adjusting and settling in. I’m staying with my team leaders, Brian and Sarah Bennetch, right now, and they have been so helpful with getting my documents put together, getting my bearings in the city, figuring out my next steps, etc. I’m so blessed to have them and my teammates Zach and Naomi Baliva who already know the ropes and can help walk me through this process.

Appia Antica

A rain storm coming on a street corner on Via Appia Antica.

At this point, I’ve been mostly playing the information collector, gathering culture, standards, language. I know this role is essential right now, but I’m also looking forward to getting involved in the different areas of ministry in this city. I’m praying right now that the Lord will show me a few specific areas that I should be involved in. I think one of them might be teaching English. Last week, I went with Sarah to the English class she teaches and it was so fun to interact with her students, especially when they had those “ah-ha!” moments of comprehension. Even though I wasn’t in charge, I still got to be included in that “teacher” role which I’ve come to love so much. It made me miss the girls Bible study that I taught back home, but also excited as I anticipate finding that area of ministry that I just fit right into. The Lord has been so faithful to get me all the way to this place, I know He has a special purpose and plan for what He wants to accomplish through me while I’m here.

Right now I’m off to work on filling out another legal document and checking out cellphone plans. More stories [and pictures] to come soon.

Buon fine settimana! Have a good weekend! ;]

-H

10 Days!

Hello, everyone! It is just so incredible to me to think that 10 days from now, I will be in an airplane on my way to Italy! God has been so good to me this past year, orchestrating everything perfectly and leading me to this place. I’m so blessed.

As I had you pray for last month, my visa came through and my funding is at 100%! [If anyone would still like to give, you are more than welcome. It’s always good to have a little extra in the account in case of emergency situations.] It was a crazy trip getting to this point, but I’ve seen the Lord working the whole way.

For example, it was not easy getting my visa. The first trip that I made with my mom to the Italian Consulate in Houston, they would not allow me to apply. The man refused to let me apply for the religious visa, saying that only ordained ministers, priest, or nuns could apply. I tried explaining how my other teammates had already been issued religious visas as missionaries from other Consulates and were currently in Italy. He was unmoving though, and I left in tears. We spent the next couple of days getting a letter from ReachGlobal put together explaining how my Commissioning Certificate is equivalent to an ordination and that, according to Italian law, that should be sufficient for a religious visa. When we went back to Houston, we still had to argue with the man at the Consulate [yes, the same employee] to get him to let me apply, but finally he said he would allow it even though he made it clear that did not think it would be approved. He still made us jump through several hoops that no one expected we would encounter, and I was becoming doubtful that I would receive my visa. However, a week later, I got the envelope back in the mail. It arrived so quickly that I was sure it had to have been declined, but when I opened it, there was my shiny new visa in my passport! I was squealing and jumping up and down. God provided faithfully, even as I doubted.

I know He will continue throughout this coming year to provide my every need and to give my opportunities to trust that He will. I know that it will be a time of stretching and growth, and it won’t be easy, but it will be so worth it. I’m excited and I’m ready.

-H

PS – A big THANK YOU to all of my prayer warriors and supporters! Please continue to pray as I prepare to leave and prepare to serve. You are much appreciated!