04.21.08

Alé Ancona!

Posted in Ancona at 5:25 am

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The boys and I headed out to see the Ancona soccer team play yesterday. Ancona is series C, which isn’t so great. But they are in second place and have a good shot at moving up next year. This was my first soccer game, and was looking forward to cheering on the home team.

We sat in curva nord – the cheap seats. It was filled with mostly younger men who used the opportunity to shout and sing for three hours. A few guys down front sort of led the “singing” but it seemed to also be spontaneous. I had a blast trying to decipher what they all meant, and the boys loved to giggle when they heard a cuss word. And there were LOTS.

I was amazed at how quickly the crowd could turn on the players. One minute the fans rush down to pound on the glass after the Anconetani score. The next, they’re screaming insults at the player’s mother. One minute they’re singing “Ancona, we’ll follow you anywhere!” The next, they’re calling for the player to get booted from the team. They’re a fickle bunch!

The game, sadly, ended in a tie. It’s one of the things I really don’t like about soccer. Who wants to leave the stadium without a winner? Nobody’s happy!

04.18.08

April 2008 Newsletter

Posted in Newsletters at 10:15 am

There’s something that I haven’t done yet on the blog, and that’s add our monthly newsletter. Please download the PDF below. I hope it let’s you get to know the church here in Ancona a little better. If you would like to get these newsletters emailed to you every month, just send us an email and we’ll add you to the list.

April 2008 Newsletter (PDF)

Sergio the Barber

Posted in Ancona, culture, finances at 5:17 am

In fashion concious Italy, it’s hard to find a place to get a cheap haircut. I’m a “Great Clips” kind of guy in the US. I just want the hair to be shorter, and look somewhat like I didn’t cut it myself. I decided I was tired of paying €20 ($31) for a haircut, and a while back decided to try this barber whose shop is about a block away on my street.

And I met Sergio, an 82 year old Anconetano with a two-chair barber shop (but the second chair only holds the used drape cloths from the day).

He charges €6, moves as fast as an 82 year old can, and entertains me with stories about the war and “kids these days.” He uses an old fashioned straight razor to trim the hairs on your neck. His clippers look almost as old as he is. He’s left me in the chair, hair half cut, so he can go home and take his blood pressure medicine. There is hair from decades ago in every nook and cranny that his broom doesn’t reach. His nervousness about the immigration boom in Italy shows when he asks me in all seriousness “where they bury Chinese people when they die?”.

You can’t beat the price he charges. But for a foreigner like me, I can’t beat the language and cultural lessons I get when I’m in the chair.

04.16.08

The Vast Minority

Posted in Ancona, culture, family, kids at 11:41 am

Family Sizes in Ancona

I ran across a surprising statistic the other day. We’ve long known that our family size of five made us more than a little unusual here in Ancona. Now we have a handy graphic to prove it, published by the city of Ancona. So in a couple of months when the new baby is born, we’ll join the other 420 families with more than five people present in the home. Only 420 in a city of over 100,000! At our kids’ schools, the majority of people have one, two kids at the most. The national average is 1.2 kids per family.

But it’s not just statistics that show how children are viewed by some here. I had a conversation the other day with a woman a bit older than me. She was married with one kid and marveled at how young I am and how many kids we have (we get that a lot). And then she said to me that if she had it to do all over again, she wouldn’t have had any children. She told me her son tries her patience, and “if she knew then what she knows now…”

I was kind of shocked. Granted, there have been days when the kids are grating on my nerves. But to wish that they had never been born?!

I’m trying to figure out where this comes from. Some of it, at least in people I have talked with that “regret” having kids, is just plain selfishness. Some of it comes from an inability to provide every single thing the child could ever want, especially as the family grows. But other than those two things, I’m stumped. I love my kids! I have learned so much about myself, and they bless my socks off! It breaks my heart to hear people (one time, in front of their child) lament ever having kids.

Don’t you see that children are God‘s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?

– Psalm 127:3 (MSG)

04.12.08

Missionaries tell the best stories

Posted in church, friends, ministry at 3:21 am

We just had the pleasure of hosting two missionary friends of our who have been serving in Germany for over 30 years. As we talked over coffee and meal times, I was struck with the number of amazing stories that they had to tell us. Crazy things like almost getting arrested in Naples. And great things like finally seeing fruit after many years of labor.

It got me to thinking. Why does any missionary go through these crazy things? We’ve only been here just under three years, so our supply of stories isn’t near what these veterans had to tell. But we’ve had our share of times when we look back and wonder what on earth just happened, and how God got us out of it!

A lot of missionaries have an adventurous spirit, and so they stay on the field just for the love of new experiences. I think some like to create things and see them grow. But I don’t know if those things are enough. Every missionary I know (that has made it for the long haul) feels a strong sense of calling. That God has asked them to be where they are. And it’s funny what you’ll endure when you know you’re where you’re supposed to be.

But calling isn’t reserved just for missionaries. I think He calls all of us to be somewhere or do something. There’s lots of contentment that can be found when you’ve wrestled with the call in your life and planted yourself where you’re supposed to be.

So where are you called to be?

04.10.08

Practice Hospitality

Posted in culture, ministry at 5:17 am

Something that I really wasn’t aware of until we moved to Ancona, was how important hospitality is when you’re a missionary. We constantly have people in our homes, whether it’s church members, friends, or someone just passing through.

Our life in the US wasn’t like this at all. We rarely had people in our home. Part of the difference is cultural. In the US, you go out to eat with guests rather than make a big meal as is common here. But I think part of the difference is that hospitality is sort of going out of style. Our homes have become a little bubble that we live in, and we’d really rather not have anyone else in the bubble with us.

Paul says in the book of Romans that we are to “practice hospitality.” Making guests feel comfortable is supposed to be a part of a Christian’s life. The thing is, I don’t think hospitality comes naturally to some. I’m fortunate to have a wife who excels at this. People have said to us before that our home feels like a second home to them (and that’s all Heidi’s fault!).

So what do you do when it doesn’t come naturally? Maybe I’m taking a liberty with what Paul was intending, but I think we need to practice. We can’t learn if we don’t try. Start small. Have someone over for coffee. Invite a neighbor for a casual dinner. Volunteer to have Christmas at your house this year. The more we do it, the more natural it becomes. By inviting people into our “bubbles” they get to see what makes Christians tick. Sharing a meal brings an intimacy that isn’t found in day-to-day life.

Practice makes perfect.

04.07.08

We never start church on time

Posted in church, culture, ministry at 4:21 am

Our Sunday morning service starts at 11 AM. Well, it’s supposed to start at 11 AM. Yesterday I looked at the clock and around 11:30 we were sort of starting to think about getting things started. I used to get kind of annoyed by this. Italians are definitely less punctual than Americans, but not excessively so. Why is it that every week it was such a struggle to start at 11 AM?

And yesterday, I got it. As people arrive and start kissing and hugging and greeting one another, the noise level in the room grows. There’s laughter. There’s catching up. Yesterday there was even some crying as though people couldn’t wait to get in the door to unload. This place, or more accurately, these people, are a refuge from the day to day grind. So in a way “church” does start at 11:00. The part of church where people take care of each other. The singing and the preaching …. well, we get around to it eventually. It doesn’t make us lazy or sloppy or mean we don’t know how to tell time. I think it means we know what is important and what people really need more of.

04.03.08

Laser Beams

Posted in family at 5:47 am

Laser BeamsMy step mom recently sent us a batch of photos that she found. It was fun, and maybe a little bittersweet to see pictures of me and my dad when I was just a baby. But the question is this: does everyone have a laser beam background in some school photo?