Traveling and Travelers

Posted in Newsletters at 7:47 am

Travel is a part of missionary life, and this month was full of travel.

We started the month of travel when Heidi left to attend a ladies’ retreat. When we first arrived in Italy, I remember that it was very discouraging to think that we were the only Christians in such a big place. While the number of believers in this country is still less than 5%, we now know that we’re not alone. There are other believers, and it is a joy to be able to get together occasionally at conventions.

Just after her return, I headed to Verona, Italy, the city where Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet took place, and also the location of a new church plant. John & Ann Blackburn had just arrived (with their three kids and two dogs) and Kyle and I headed up to help them with the many things they needed to do to begin their life here in Italy.

We started the Blackburns on the long process of obtaining their permessi di soggiorno – an important part to their ministry in Verona. We helped them make an offer on an apartment and get cell phones and learn their way around the city.

It brought back many memories of our first few weeks in Italy, now almost five years ago. We were so nervous, and clung to our teammates as a sort of anchor of familiarity in a world that was suddenly different in every possible way.  And what amazed me is that now I was the expert. I was the one that knew the answers to their questions. I was the translator. It amazed me at how far God has taken us.

Shortly after returning from Verona, we were happy to host travelers, rather than doing the traveling. My sister arrived with her son and a friend – and unfortunately arrived during a four-hour transportation strike, and were forced to take a detour through Romania. Being far from family is one of the hardest parts about working here, and visits from family are few and far between. We were able to take some time off and go to Rome and play tourist with our guests. It also brought back memories of our first trip to Rome, and being so nervous to be in such a big city and not being able to communicate. Now, if we get lost or can’t find something, we can just ask for help. It sounds like such a small thing, but it’s another sign of how God is “growing” us.

April 15th will be our 5th anniversary of our arrival in Italy, and I’ve been very retrospective lately. On one hand, I see that we have such a long way to go before Italy becomes completely comfortable. On the other, I marvel at how our ministry here seems to “fit.” Thanks for your part in our life here.

Until next month…


Talking in Code

Posted in kids, language at 2:19 am

It was just under five years ago that we moved to Italy. Five years in, we feel pretty good about our grasp of the Italian language. We rarely find ourselves in situations where we can’t at least follow the conversation. Our funny accent still makes the Italians look at us funny when we talk, but we get the point across. I preach about half the sermons on Sundays (and the church is very gracious about it!). Overall, we do OK.

And then something happens that makes me realize we have a long way to go: dialect.

I took the boys to get their hair cut yesterday (both got a faux-hawk). The guy that cuts their hair is from Naples. I can tell he’s not from Ancona from his accent, but I’m still not to the point where I can pinpoint where a person is from just from hearing them. At a certain point, the kids started asking him to say things in his dialect. We laughed as he repeated everyday words into something that wasn’t even close to the standard Italian that we learned. It sounded more Arab than Italian.

And then his friend came in – another person from Naples. He turned to us and said, “You want to hear some dialect? Watch this.” And then they spoke a language that was completely foreign to us. Sometimes a syllable or two would sound familiar. Every now and then a word would stick out. But if you asked any of us to translate, we would have come up blank.

It’s funny, because it seems like Italians have a love/hate relationship with dialect. On one hand, it’s seen as something that the elderly or uneducated speak. Many say that it sounds bad. But the second they meet someone from their hometown, dialect becomes their secret code language. Even the little noises we make to fill space in conversation (ummm, uhhh, etc.) are different. And in a very real way, in the back of their minds as they speak dialect with a paesano, it’s like they are thinking, “Finally, someone who understand me!”