We’re Famous!

Posted in culture, friends at 4:31 am

A friend of ours recently created a short film, which happens to star a certain team leader of mine. I’m not really sure that I understand it all, but tonight he will be premiering the film at our coffee house, so I’m hoping to get an explanation. Make sure and watch the credits – Team Expansion Italia is in there!


The Dirty

Posted in church, culture at 12:50 pm

I was introduced to a part of Italian culture last night that I didn’t even know existed. Tucked away underneath a bridge is a little pastry shop called “Lo Zozzo.” The Italian/English dictionary tells me that zozzo, a derivative of sozzo, means “dirty or filthy.” Clearly the perfect name for a place to purchase delicious pastries.

The unique thing about this place is that it opens at midnight. It’s the only pastry shop that I know of that is open at night here, and quite frankly, it is a gift from God. Sometimes you just need a pastry at 2 AM.

My Joplin readers will remember Dude’s Donuts. This little donut shop is known for its chocolate long johns, donut holes, and bible verses handwritten on poster boards on the wall. It’s a very quirky place, but has quite the following in the area. And when I stepped into Lo Zozzo for the first time last night, I felt like I was stepping into Dude’s Donuts. There were tons of people there, all crowded around the counter to order a still-warm pastry. The place wasn’t spic and span, but it wasn’t as dirty as its name would make you think it would be. And when we were in line, the original zozzo, the owner who’s picture was on the wall, came in and greeted the customers, who in turn greeted him like he was the pope of fresh pastries. It was really an amazing experience to watch.

Our church is working very hard to create a community, a place where people feel welcome and loved. Maybe all we need to do is open up an all-night pastry shop?



Posted in church, ministry, Team, travel at 3:43 pm

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Our team recently hosted one of the first events focused on the guys in our church. We decided to go white water “refting” (that’s how it’s pronounced here) at the Cascata delle Marmore, about two hours away from Ancona. Being the manly men that we are, we opted for the normal rafting, and not the rafting “soft.” The falls in the video above started just up the river from where we began our adventure down the river. And, incredibly, these falls can be turned off. Several times a day the water is diverted from the falls to a nearby hydroelectric plant.

I really enjoyed getting to have a time for only the guys to get together and do something quasi-dangerous. I got to see a side of our normally-mild-mannered church members that I might not have gotten to see otherwise. And you can’t help but see the lessons involved as we tried our best to be unified and work together to get home safely.

The only thing I didn’t really enjoy … the wet suits.

Manly Men


Totally Tubular

Posted in Team at 2:43 am

Tight Rolled Jeans. Radical!

I am very glad to be on a team that knows how to have fun. Every now and then we have a Team Fun Night. It’s a time where we get together and not talk about ministry stuff and let our hair down. Or, as the girl’s did last night, put our bangs UP. That’s right folks, it was 80s night!

It was hilarious! As everyone walked in we all giggled at the high tops, polo shirts, and neon colors. It was like we were all taking a glimpse into our pasts to see what we were like in Junior High. Matt prepared an incredible “mix tape” of songs from the 80s. We would all stop what we were doing and start belting out some cheesy song at the top of our lungs.

I know it’s not essential that a team be able to have fun together, but it sure does help!


10 Whole Years!

Posted in family at 5:06 am

The Happy Couple

It’s hard to believe it, but ten years ago yesterday, Heidi and I were married at Central Christian Church in Rockford, Illinois. Last night, after dropping the kids off at our teammates’ house overnight, we went to a little beach town nearby called Senigallia. We enjoyed a quiet dinner outside a little pizzeria. I asked Heidi if, 10 years ago, she thought that we would be celebrating our tenth anniversary in Italy. We both couldn’t believe where God has taken us.

We don’t have everything figured out about marriage, but ten years of experience have taught us a lot. We’ve had downs and we’ve had ups. But we would definitely do it again.

As Chloe said yesterday, “You guys should stay married until you’re both old and dead.”

I agree.



Posted in ministry, Team at 7:36 am

Twice a year our team tries to get away for a few days for a planning retreat. This summer’s retreat just finished up, unfortunately without our teammate, Josh, who is in the US right now.

We discussed virtually every aspect of our ministry here in Ancona. Everything was on the table for discussion. We wanted to evaluate everything we do here, to see if it lines up with our purpose and vision for the church here in Ancona. Meetings like this can be difficult. Feelings can get hurt, and battle lines drawn.

But incredibly, none of that happened. Jason, our team leader, led an incredible three days of dreaming about the church here. Several things emerged from the meetings, some of which I will be sharing with you soon. But the thing that bubbled to the surface time and time again was a desire to have an increased emphasis on prayer. More prayer on our team, more prayer as a church, and more prayer in our community. The message that God was sending us was unmistakable.

Can you join us as we go before the Father and ask Him to help us with the task He has given us? Ask Him to work boldly among the people in Ancona – especially those that are already believers here – and to raise up a vibrant community here. Please join us as we make beautiful, harmonious music before the Lord.


Your hairdresser called … your wine is ready to be picked up

Posted in church, friends, ministry, Team at 5:22 am

Marcus and I met at an outdoor coffee shop the other day. As we talked, we saw a friend of ours pull up on her scooter. She’s the lady that cuts all of us Americans’ hair. I knew that she was closing up her shop for a week to go visit family down south.

As she started to drive off, I jokingly asked her to make sure and bring me some wine from her parents’ region. She looked at me and said, “Are you serious?” I thought I may have offended her somehow and said, “Well … I’ve been down south and tried it before.” She paused and said, “Tomorrow, you come to my shop and I will bring you a bottle of wine I get from a farmer around here. It’s wonderful.” I thanked her and she drove off.

The next day, I got a call. It was our hairdresser. My wine was ready.

So I stopped by her shop, she gave me a bottle of homemade wine. No label. Just a glass bottle and a kind of makeshift cork that reminded me of a Mason jar (they’re fairly common here for bottling your own stuff). I thanked her for her kind gift, and went on my way.

As I walked to catch the bus back home, I sort of smiled as I thought about what a different life I have here in Ancona compared to America. It was raining. I was walking slowly down the slick sidewalk with an umbrella in one hand and a bottle of homemade wine (that the lady who cuts my hair gave me) in the other. The piazza where I was going to catch the bus is actually where a lot of the winos hang out, so I was sure I was going to fit right in. But at the same time, I was honored that she wanted to share something with me that is so important in Italian culture.

Despite the differences, I absolutely love it here.


Toy Trucks, just €12.50/hour!

Posted in culture, Team at 9:32 am

Ikea has opened a store here in Ancona. I’m not a huge fan of the place myself, but I can’t deny that some good deals can be had there. Just before we left for the US, a set of bookshelves that I paid way too much for came crashing down to the floor. There was a huge hole in the wall where the anchor pulled loose, and the shelves themselves actually broke. Clearly, a high-quality piece of furniture.

So now that we’re back in Italy, we made the trek to Ikea for some new shelves. My teammate, Marcus, had to buy some big pieces for his kitchen, so we thought we should rent a truck. We didn’t have that much stuff to transport, so Marcus opted for the smallest truck available.

World’s Smallest “Truck”

I personally wasn’t really prepared for how small the “truck” was going to be. It was a tight squeeze for two of us to fit in the cab! Here’s a great picture of Marcus unzipping the back.

Trucks have zippers?

But you know what? It worked, and it was cheap! And we had a couple of laughs as I drove it on the highway and tried to get it to go 70 km/h so cars wouldn’t run over us.


Wild Goose Chases

Posted in culture at 8:41 am

One thing that I have written about before in this blog was this crazy cultural thing in Italy – running errands. For some reason, virtually everything takes longer here than in the US. I was reminded of this change yesterday. The errand: replacing a light switch.

When we got back to Ancona, we noticed our bedroom light had a bit of a short in it. Our light has two switches. One on the wall by the door, and another on a long cord so that no matter where your bed is, you can always turn the light out without getting up (a fairly common feature in Italian apartments). However, one evening the short got worse and the switch on the long cord sparked and caught fire. The errand got much more important after that.

So I borrowed my teammate’s scooter and headed out to the Obi. I scan their electrical section for something that looks like what I need – an interruttore. I find a package of 2 for €1.38. I buy it, take it home, and start to try and put it on. I notice that my long cord has three wires, and my interruttore only has two places to put wires. I try installing it anyway, but nothing happens.

At this point I am at the end of my electrical knowledge. So I call my father-in-law who tells me I need a special kind of switch that is designed for times when two switches control one light.

Back to the Obi. I search and search, and finally ask an employee. I explain to her what I need, and she says that I need a deviatore. But they don’t have those. I asked her where I could get one, and she was absolutely baffled at where a deviatore could be found. Remember, these switches are very common in apartments in Italy.

I had some other shopping to do in the area, and on a whim my teammate says we should go to Brico. I head to the electrical department, where Jason shows me what I need – a deviatore. I actually cheered in the store. I went home, installed it, and everything is working great.

Part of the difficulty we have in running errands is that transprotation takes us a bit longer. We have to ride a bus, or borrow a car or scooter. And often we don’t know the exact way an Italian would describe what we need.

And I personally think that, at some point in their education, all children are taught that when the switch at the end of a long cord breaks, you need a deviatore (which, by the way, the dictionary defines as “switch”), not an interruttore (also defined as “switch”).