12.21.07

Vivid Ad Campaigns

Posted in culture at 11:06 am

Another post about poop?

Ancona is in the middle of an ad campaign called “Ancona è casa tua” – Ancona is your house. Using a series of four posters, the city is encouraging its citizens to have pride in their city and to keep it clean. In this vivid poster, the text at the top says “Would you do this?” In other words, if you don’t let your dog poop on your welcome mat, then don’t let him poop on the sidewalk, since Ancona is your home too. Kind of clever (but gross).

Unfortunately, for all the beauty of Italy, it seems to have more than its share of people who assume they are the only ones that live here. The sidewalk from my house to the kids’ school is a mine field of little brown piles. I’m sure it’s tough to live in a city and have dog and not have a yard to let the dog do his business in. But you know, it’s not like they didn’t know that before they bought the dog.

Jason, who is usually more optimistic than I am, said this poster won’t change anyone’s behavior, and will only make those of us who are tired of poopy sidewalks feel like the city is doing something.

He’s probably right…

12.16.07

You do believe me … right?

Posted in church, culture, ministry at 4:51 pm

A friend of ours recently called and asked if she could talk with Jason and I about some things that had been going on in her life. We arranged for a casual dinner the following night. As soon as she arrived and began explaining her situation, I quickly realized that I was in unfamiliar territory. I took very few counseling classes during my time at Bible college, but I doubt that they would have offered the class that I needed. The subject was the occult.

We’re dealing with this issue more and more. Seemingly harmless things like horoscopes and palm readings have woven their way into the culture here, and we’re left with a nasty mix of post-Catholic, superstitious, and mystical spirituality.

Our friend wasn’t involved with any of these things. But she was placed in a situation where she had to deal with some very real and very scary things: evil presences, fear, even some other strange physical signs that not all was right. I was struck at a certain point during our time together when she looked right at us and said, “You do believe me … right?” I think she really was afraid we would think she was a nut case. And the look of relief that I saw in her face when I told her that I absolutely believed her really taught me something.

I didn’t have a lot of wise counsel for her. I was very thankful for Jason and the different perspective that he brought to the table. But it was interesting to me because I think about 50% of what she needed was practical things she could do to get out of this situation. And the other 50% of what she needed was just to be heard and know that she wasn’t alone.

As I get deeper into this culture, and find more and more how deeply these occultish things have woven their way into even a strong Christian’s life, I think I’m going to have a lot more conversations like this one.

12.13.07

BMs

Posted in culture, health care at 3:34 pm

I had to take Lance & Chloe to the doctor today. They both needed a certificato medico in order to be able to play the sports that they started three months ago (we’re a little behind). This was the first time for them to see this doctor, so I kind of wanted to see what she was like.

I’ve been amazed at how much an Italian doctor gets done with so little. There’s no receptionist. There’s no insurance/billing department. There are no nurses. It’s the doctor, by himself in his office, and a waiting room. People wait, and one by one (in the order of arrival) they go see the doctor.

The exam was quick and painless. Height, weight, say ahhh. But the doctor turned to me at one point and said very seriously, “Does he go poop every day?”

I promise I only giggled a little. But Italians take matters of health seriously, and so I responded in the affirmative. I don’t think an American doctor ever asked me about poop. I might bring it up if I had a problem, but only if I really had a problem. In general, I think Italians are way more open about health stuff. I’ve seen old ladies rebuke strangers for not putting on a hat when it’s cold. Jason has been scolded for not dressing warm enough because of his kidneys (how do you know if your kidneys are cold?). And opening a window on the bus is enough to get a person booted off. It’s actually written in the rules that you have to get permission from everyone around if you want to open a window – drafts make people sick.

And so I just have gotten used to people asking me about my personal health issues. And I tell doctors about the frequency of poops. And I sure don’t leave the house without a scarf – who knows what you might catch with your neck exposed.

Truck Strike

Posted in culture, travel at 2:57 am

I’ll have to admit … they certainly are creative with who gets to go on strike in Italy. This time, the truckers have quit working. And things are looking a little crazy.

I think the most immediate impact was gas supplies. I’m not sure if there was a run on gas before hand, but all the gas stations are empty and closed. And traffic is noticeably quieter today as people save what they have left in their cars.

The strike started in the middle of the trucker’s routes, so the highways are jammed with semis that have pulled over on the side of the road. We passed by some who have decided to burn pallets to keep warm. Some have set up tents with hot drinks and things. I’ve heard that tensions got a little high around Rome.

If things go on, food supplies are going to start getting low, as grocery stores aren’t able to restock their shelves.

And I’ve decided that I’m really kind of angry about this strike. This time it isn’t for higher salaries, it’s for lower diesel prices. Granted, they’re sky high here in Italy (and the majority of the cost is taxes). But instead of heading to Rome and complaining, they’re inconveniencing an entire country.

Last night during our English lessons I brought this subject up. Everyone there was in support of the strike. A couple of people said that this was the only way for the truckers demands to be met. They had exhausted other options, and if anything was going to change they had to strike.

And I can’t help but think that something is wrong when the only way to cause change is a method with so much collateral damage.

Update: Merry Christmas, strike is over! Last night around 7 PM they were able to reach some kind of agreement, and the trucks are moving. It will be 48 hours until gas is fully distributed and 7 days until other supplies return to normal. Damage to the Italian economy? €2,000,000,000 ($2,900,000,000)

12.07.07

48 Hours Straight

Posted in 24-7 Prayer at 5:04 am

Our team recently embarked on a slightly new adventure here in Ancona. Many months ago I read Red Moon Rising, which is the story of the 24-7 prayer movement that began here in Europe. Our team passed the book around, and at our planning meeting in July we decided that we wanted to try to create a prayer room here.

So we pulled all of the stuff out of our little office, and Heather and Heidi worked on remodeling in it into a place for people to come and pray. We got volunteers, some from our church, some from neighboring churches, and some from no church at all, to come and spend an hour at a time in the prayer room. When I first printed out the sign up sheet with 48 blank spots to fill, I was more than a little overwhelmed. How would we ever fill them all?

But slowly, they got filled. People came to pray. If someone missed an appointment, there was always someone to fill in. For 48 hours, prayers were lifted up, shouted, sung, painted, written, and whispered. And it was incredible. People came out of the little room in tears, thanking us for setting it up and asking us to let them know when we do it again. Everyone said that an hour flew by.

Prayer has obviously always been a focus of the ministry here. But for 48 hours it was the focus. It was all we did. I have no idea what God is going to do with that. We’re in a culture where, at least some people, are accustomed to popping into a church for a prayer now and then.  The idea itself wasn’t all that strange, but I think the intensity was.

And I can’t wait to do it again…

Speaking English in Italy

Posted in culture, language at 4:52 am

I have been puzzled by something lately. I went to the doctor the other day, and he prescribed an inhaler for me. The directions for taking the medicine are as follows:

Pr. VENTOYLN spray

S. Un puff al bisogno (massimo quattro volte al giorno)

Obviously there are two English words in those two short phrases: spray and puff. In Italian, the word for spray is spruzzo. The Italian word for puff is sbuffo or soffio.

So why is the English word used? I can understand using an English word for something that originated in English, or for which there isn’t a word in Italian. But I see more and more frequently English creeping into the conversation. Italians have a beautiful language that I hope to someday master, but it seems like if I just wait around long enough the job will get easier and easier.