04.27.09

Who should pay?

Posted in church, culture, ministry at 5:26 am

I overheard a very interesting conversation at church last night. A woman, who is normally fairly reserved, was really upset when she started talking about the victims of the earthquake in L’Aquila.

The government has promised to give the victims of third of their home’s value to rebuild. Many people have lost everything, and more and more reports are coming out that say the builders who originally constructed the buildings took shortcuts and didn’t obey government standards for earthquake proofing. So buildings that should have been able to withstand an earthquake crumbled.

Unfortunately, the city archive was also destroyed. So the chances of finding the builders (who are probably long gone anyway) are very slim. Even if the person remembered the company that built the building, more than likely those people aren’t around anymore.

So the woman in our church was lamenting the fact that the taxpayers have to foot the bill. She was upset that the mafia is probably involved and is skimming off the top. “Italians are good people – maybe too good,” she said as she described people who blindly give money to help with no real assurance that any of it ever gets to where it is intended. My friend said she would much rather invite someone into her home and, as she said, “share my bread with them” than send an text message that donates €1.00 to the Red Cross.

I think she has a point, but what can you do? Aren’t things like this the reason that people have governments? Earthquake insurance is nonexistent here. If the government doesn’t step in and help, who will?

The church?

Is it possible that Christians have relied on government to be the hands and feet of Jesus? Wouldn’t a group of people whose only motive is to relieve suffering and help as they are able be a far more effective “disaster relief team” than a big government bureaucracy?

04.12.09

The Wonderful Insanity of the Prayer Room

Posted in 24-7 Prayer, Ancona, church, culture at 3:03 am

Kyle is in the prayer room right now singing his heart out. I’m sitting just outside, waiting for my hour to start. It’s 7 AM, Easter Sunday morning. I look over the list of people who have signed up to pray and see that Kyle is going on his fourth hour of prayer. The early morning hours are always hard to fill, and who ever is on call has to pray if no one shows.

There’s a part of me that thinks we’re nuts for doing this. There’s nothing special about the room. We decorate it, and sometimes have a theme to help people to focus their thoughts. There are some candles and a big wooden cross. But it’s just a normal room. But at the same time there is something very un-normal about it.

I’m in a country where Easter is barely a religious holiday for most people, and really not much of a secular holiday either. I saw a poster in the center of town for an art exhibit that is opening up tonight. It’s just another day. I’m preparing to preach a simple Easter message and don’t really feel very Easter-y.

So I’m faced with this blah feeling about Easter, and this morning that feeling collided with the wonderful insanity of the prayer room. Ho-hum faced off with holy. Shrugged shoulders met bended knees. A yawn met a whispered prayer.

Guess who won?

04.09.09

Earthquakes

Posted in Ancona, church, ministry at 4:38 pm

Since moving to Italy, from time to time we feel a little rumble in the earth. Never anything large, and often something that you’re not sure you really felt until you read in the paper or see on the news that there was a tremor.

This week the city of L’Aquila in central Italy was hit with a powerful earthquake that, as of this moment, killed over 200 people and has left thousands homeless. We’re fine here in Ancona. As a church we’re trying to figure out the best way to help. We’ve been overwhelmed with people writing and calling to ask if we’re OK.

Jasmina Tešanović has written a very beautiful summary of what life is like in L’Aquila right now:

As I watch the TV, I know this is not a science fiction disaster movie, this is the new realism. Only last night the same television showed me an old movie with Ana Magnani: the post war late 1940s in Italy. It seemed so different: the good guys had defeated the bad guys. There was hope. Watching these high tech rescue squads, ambulances heavy with gear and with high pitched Italian sirens, politicians in Armani suits with Missoni ties, blonde sexy news announcers with cosmetic lip surgery, all scampering among the ruins, I feel uneasy. Where are the real people? Whatever became of normal life? Trained dogs sniff for normal life beneath the rubble.

You can read the entire article here. Please note that the website this article is posted at occasionally posts some off-color items. Browse carefully…

Keep praying.

04.08.09

Prayer in the Piazza

Posted in Ancona, church, ministry, Team at 4:27 pm

Once a week our team gets together for Prayer in the Piazza. It started as something a little uncomfortable for me. I much prefer praying in private. It’s sometimes difficult for me to come right out and let other people listen in on my conversation with God.

But as time passed and relationships with teammates grew stronger, I began to look forward to this time together. We pick a piazza to meet at, find a stair or curb to sit on, and pray. Eyes open, looking around, watching the sky and the people and the traffic. Sometimes we meet for coffee, and sit outside as people pass by, often bumping into us, completely unaware that they are being prayed for. Often times the line between prayer and conversation with teammates gets blurred as a moment of prayer turns into a discussion time about an issue we’re struggling with.

I used to see these pauses in the prayer time as interruptions, and would try and bring the focus back around to prayer. But if we really believe that God is present with us anyway, and if prayer really is a conversation with God, it seems to make sense for prayer to become like talking to the person across from us. It seems to me to be, as Brother Lawrence’s book is titled, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Our prayers often focus on asking God to show us where He is already working in this city, and how He is already causing the church to rise up. Big prayers and little prayers, while sitting in a piazza and watching the world go by.

I think the church needs more Prayer in the Piazza.