What was their name again?

Posted in culture, language at 12:14 pm

The Huxtables

There’s lots of American TV on here in Italy. We can watch Lost, sometimes just a few episodes behind (and dubbed into Italian). Heroes has also been dubbed. Lots of the Law and Order shows are on. And we also get the classics. Like The Cosby Show. Except it’s not The Cosby Show here. It’s I Robinson – The Robinsons.

Side note: Why was it called The Cosby Show if their name on the show was Huxtable?

So why did they change the name of the show (and the family) in Italian? I’ve heard several theories, but the most plausible is quite simple: Huxtable would be difficult to pronounce in Italian. The “H” is always silent in Italian, and is only used to change the sound of other letters. The “X” has a “Z” sound. And almost every word in Italian ends in a vowel sound (in English it ends in a vowel, but not a vowel sound).

But if you zoom out a little bit, you see how difficult it can be to take this American show, with all of its little cultural inside jokes, and transplant it into another place. And so if the show’s theme would be difficult to translate, just take the idea and put it into an Italian context. If the name’s too difficult, just change it.

Context is everything!


May 2008 Newsletter

Posted in Newsletters at 2:50 pm

It’s newsletter time. This month I wax poetically about the gray-ness of being a missionary, and the challenge we all face in reconciling the secular and the sacred. Hope you like it!

May 2008 Newsletter


Massimiliano Ripanti

Posted in Ancona, church, friends, ministry at 2:51 pm

My heart is heavy and my eyes full of tears. Yesterday, around 9:50 AM, our dear friend Massi went Home.

He had been battling myelofibrosis for nearly a year, and infection finally overcame his weakened immune system. His absence will be a tangible thing in our church for a long time.

As the pastor, it’s my job and my priviledge to stay strong for the family and to be a source of strength in a difficult time. Yesterday I was reminded how thin the facade is. As I was walking Rosa back to the waiting room after one last goodbye with her already-cold fiancée, the facade cracked. I found myself in the hallway with Jason. The door to the waiting room clicked closed, and the tears came. We tried to save ourselves the embarassment of emotion (masculinity is a funny thing) by hiding in separate corners. And just as quickly as it started, the crying stopped and we went back in the room.

I miss him already. His funny Senigalliesi accent that took me months to get used to. His weekly phone call at the exact time Life Group was supposed to start, telling me he had just left and was on his way. His suspicious looks when we served something American, and then watching him take a second and third helping. Our awkward conversations in the hospital towards the end, when we both talked about everything but the obvious. But more than anything, his faithfulness until the very end. He loved God with all his heart, soul, and mind.

A dopo, amico…


Vegetable Pizza that will change your life

Posted in Ancona, culture, friends at 9:27 am

Last week was Italian Labor Day, and we were so happy that a friend of our oldest invited us to spend the day with his family at their country home. It was actually just outside the city, but had the biggest yard that the kids ran and played in the entire day.

Our friends provided the first course (spaghetti al ragù), and everyone else brought the rest. Fava beans and pecorino cheese are a typical dish for Labor Day. There were lots of little pastries and deserts. And then there was the dish we brought, Vegetable Pizza. The kind with a biscuit crust and cream cheese and raw vegetables on top. Your average vegetable pizza.

Which was the strangest thing that our Italian friends had ever seen. Everyone stopped what they were doing to ask what it was, what was in it, how we made it. I was a little embarrassed, but kind of proud that my wife made the dish everyone was raving about. People clamored for seconds, and the compliments were flowing.

I know sometimes on the blog it may sound like I read things into everyday situations. But as I’ve now been here for three years, I’m beginning to learn that I really can’t take anything for granted. Just when I think I’m starting to figure things out, I find a new sub-culture or new area of life. A simple, common vegetable pizza is a wonderful, new creation taken out of its usual American context. One woman asked if it was safe to eat broccoli raw, and was excited to try it that way. Isn’t that something that you just assumed everyone knew? But every culture – even a seemingly-similar, Western European culture – is different in probably every way. And if I am wrong about Italians knowing that you can eat broccoli raw, can I really assume I know anything at all? Can I really assume how they see bigger subjects like church, grace, and truth?

The only thing I’m sure about … three years is only a good start in learning a culture.



Posted in family, ministry at 3:34 am

Yesterday I had the privilege of performing my first funeral service. A family of english-speakers needed someone to do a funeral in their own language, and a friend of a friend called Marcus and got the ball rolling.

I was (surprisingly) not nervous for the service. I surprised even myself at the confidence God helped me show even though I wasn’t 100% sure of what I was doing. And I was amazed at how many of the same things I was feeling that I felt at my dad’s funeral. It was comforting to me to take care of a hurting family, and to ask (and help them answer) the hard questions. Standing before their large family at the service, I saw their son losing the battle to hold back the tears and was reminded of my own battle at my dad’s service.

But somehow God has wired me to get through it. I found relief in my own sadness (which is often just below the surface even today) by guiding others through grief. The pastor in me soars in situations like this, and it makes me shake my head in wonder at the powerful God we serve who makes the impossible possible.