07.21.15

The Space Between

Posted in Ancona, church, family, kids, Newsletters at 4:41 pm

When we left Italy on June 30, something happened to me that hasn’t happened in ten years: I didn’t have a single key in my pocket. I had already turned in the keys to our church building. The car had been transferred to our teammates. And our house keys were sitting in a container by the front door, ready for the landlord to come and pick up.

It seems silly, but for some reason it really struck me. How often does that happen? For a short period of time, I had no workplace, no vehicle, and no home. My daily ritual of patting my pockets to check for my keys, wallet, and phone didn’t work anymore. Of course, we have moved as a family before. Ministries and houses and vehicles have changed plenty of times in the past. But this change seemed much more final, permanent, and heavy. We truly were living between two places.

Immediately upon our arrival, the Senior Minister of the church where I will be serving welcomed us to our new home and handed us a key. Our old Italian life had ended and our new Illinoisian life had begun. We had finished the painful process of ending one thing are had begun the process of starting something new.

There are occasional pulls back into our old life: Simone calls me every now and then. We often get pictures from our church members who gather on Sundays at the beach for worship and communion. Even sitting down to a plate of pasta brings back memories of meals around our table in Ancona.

But we have turned a corner and look to the future. This month, we are taking some time off. I mentioned in a previous newsletter that our family is in a delicate place right now. Our last month in Italy was filled with a lot of time spent with friends and church members. Nice, but many of those times ended in tears. Our last week in Italy alternated between busily running around to get everything done and painful times with the church as the finality of leaving settled on us all. So we arrived in the US exhausted – physically and emotionally. Soon after our arrival, we left for Kansas City to spend time with my mom and sister and nephews.

In just a few days we head to Colorado Springs to attend a debriefing for missionaries at the Missionary Training Institute. This week-long debriefing comes highly recommended, and will be important for all of us to process our time in Italy and also to learn how to readapt to our new “home” culture. We need your prayers. I think all of us could benefit from talking to wise people who specialize in helping missionaries return to the US. We have also heard great things about their special programming for the kids, who certainly more than Heidi and I are feeling anxious and out-of-sorts about our future.

We hope that we can continue to count on your prayers and encouragement, and we thank you all for seeing us through these ten years of church planting in Ancona.

05.29.15

Every Last Drop

Posted in Ancona, church, family, friends, kids, Newsletters at 8:03 am

One thing that I love to do for my family in the winter is make fresh squeezed orange juice. In January, when oranges are in abundance and you can buy them at a great price, I love to get bags and bags in order to make everyone a “spremuta.” They love it, too.

As I stack up the drained halves, I notice when there are oranges that could use another “squeeze.” I don’t want to waste even one potential drop of that delectable juice.

Strangely, that’s how I feel right now. I don’t want to make excuses. I don’t want to say no. Honestly, I just want to drink up every last drop of our time here in Italy. We have 4½ weeks left, and that is so hard to believe. It doesn’t seem real. So, I squeeze.

I want to squeeze every minute of every day. I want to hug more people, make sure they know I care, tell them one last time about this Jesus that is my best friend. I want to watch Francesca laugh with her best friend Maria. I want to listen intently when Chloe comes home with the latest story of what happened in school that day. I want to listen, really listen, to Lance as he explains how hard it is going to be to leave his best friends.

Yesterday was Trey’s birthday, and I sat in awe of this now teenaged boy/man as he ate cake and ice cream with his friends, laughing and talking about the day’s events. He had a party, a great one, in fact. Even I, for his sake, didn’t want the day to end.

But it did. And it does.

Everything in this life has a start. And a finish. And now is the time. Now is the time to pack. And clean house. And sell. And leave. And arrive.

Oh, friends, we had a great prayer time Wednesday night with the church. It was supposed to be “accountability” night where we ask questions in small groups. But instead, we spent time in prayer. It was a sweet, sweet time of reflection. Tears were shed as our sister Novella prayed prayers of thanksgiving for the ten years that we have spent together. For the things she has learned. For the Jesus that she has now come to know and love and serve with her whole heart. It was surreal. And real. And beautiful. Like those dreams where you get to peek in at your own funeral. Only no one died. But it feels like something has. Died. Our life won’t be the same. But neither will the lives of the believers in Ancona. Before we came, there wasn’t this little group of believers. Now, there is a church. A full fledged body of Christ. Meeting right in the center of town. Sharing the Gospel with their friends, family, and coworkers. What a joy it is to leave knowing that there are believers following in our footsteps. Our dirty, messy, but oh so honest and real footsteps. May the church here continue to grow. And serve. And love. Because if there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that God doesn’t need me. He simply lets me join Him. And for that, I give thanks.

04.30.15

Lame Duck

Posted in Ancona, church, family, leadership, ministry, Newsletters at 2:10 am

It’s a weird thing, being the lame duck.

Maybe that’s putting things a little strong, but I first noticed it a couple of weeks ago. We were enjoying dinner together with the church, like we do every Sunday. There was a question about some plans we were making and everyone started giving their opinions. At a certain point, someone remembered that they forgot to ask us what we thought, and sort of sheepishly, half-apologetically asked if we had anything to say. There was no malice. No one was trying to exclude anyone. It just sort of … happened.

In the moment, there was a bit of a lump in my throat as I realized that things are moving on without us. After the initial moment passed, I was so relieved that things are moving on without us! Isn’t that the way that it should be? Isn’t that exactly what we have been working towards since our arrival in Ancona? Don’t we desire to see the believers that God has gathered to depend on the Spirit instead of the Americans when it’s time to move forward as a body?

So with about two months to go until our departure, we are starting to watch things happen from the sidelines. It’s humbling, but in such a good way.
Which is great because we have so much we have to do before we are ready to move! Most everything in our house is being put into one of three piles: pitch, sell, or ship. We are putting as little as possible in the “ship” pile because it costs a lot to get stuff from one continent to another! Heidi is on a first name basis with the woman who runs the consignment store that is selling a lot of our stuff. And I make regular runs to the city’s recycling plant to throw stuff away or donate things that others can use.

Emotions are running high in our house as we get ready. The kids are grieving the loss of friends and familiarity. It’s hard for Heidi and I to know that our decision does have an impact on those we love here in Ancona. An international move with a family of six is enough to drive everyone over the edge! But despite all of this, underneath it all, there is a peace about our decision. There’s a quiet calm and the promise that no matter where we go, God goes with us (a promise that Chloe reminded us of the other evening in church).

Can I ask you all to keep praying through all of this? Pray for the Ancona side of things (the team, the church, our friends here) and for the US side (new ministry opportunities, a new church, and new friends over there). Thank you for going on this journey with us!

01.27.15

What the Bible really says about Jesus

Posted in church, ministry, Newsletters at 11:50 am

The Christmas season in Italy stretches on a bit longer that it does in the US. Everything officially ends on Epiphany (January 6), and school starts soon after. So it seems like January gets off to a slow start and then very quickly picks up speed.

Last month I mentioned the Bible study groups that we are currently doing. I continue to be amazed at the groups’ responses when they take the time to simply read what the Bible says about Jesus.

It’s not uncommon to hear things during the study like, “Why hasn’t anyone ever told us these things?” They are often amazed at the bold claims that Jesus made. It is a joy to see them wrestle with who Jesus is and if the things He said and taught are true and can be trusted. Did Jesus mean it when He said He came not to condemn the world, but to save the world? Is Jesus really the only way to get to God? What does it mean to be a branch that gets cut off of the vine? It is really possible that no one can snatch us out of God’s hands?

Then there are almost always the hard questions that they throw at us. If God is so loving, why doesn’t He stop evil in the world? Why aren’t bad people, even bad religious leaders, punished for what they do? I know questions like these are often connected to something bad in their past, so we try our best to patiently answer as best we can and continue to point them to Jesus.

These studies are so simple. We do them in English, but are encouraging our church members to do the same thing in Italian or English or whatever language works best. Just simply studying God’s Word is powerful, and we are praying that the group members move from simply being curious about Jesus to taking the step to follow Him and becoming His disciples. We are praying for them and we thank you in advance for praying for them as well. God is working and we are happy and humbled to be a part of that.

I also mentioned last month that our church was happy to welcome two new babies into the fold. Sometimes our church services sound like a hospital nursery, but it’s great to see new life!

We thank you all so much for being with us in the nearly ten years we have been in Italy. Can you believe that? We thank God for taking care of us so well (often He used you all to answer our prayers!) and for allowing us to work alongside of Him.

Blessings to all of you!

11.29.14

Thankful

Posted in church, family, finances, food, friends, ministry, Newsletters at 6:25 am

Wow. For nearly all of you, I’d imagine, Thanksgiving dinner has been reduced to picked over leftovers in the fridge and great memories. Our turkey arrives today. That’s right. We’re a little non-traditional over here.

The deal is, since Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated outside of the good old USA, it’s just a regular day here. The kids have school, people go to work, I had choir practice, and we even had a meeting with the parents of Trey’s class in the evening. In order to really have a good time and relax and have time to reflect and be thankful, we decided to invite friends to join us on Sunday. So, soon we will enjoy our feast of Thanksgiving, as well. And, boy do we have a lot to be thankful for.

First off, we are thankful that our teammates had a beautiful baby girl, Gemma, last Saturday. Pray for the Kovals as they learn to go from a family of three to a family of four. Second, we are thankful that next weekend we will attend a conference with members from our church. The speaker is Gary Thomas, and he has written some great books on marriage and parenting. I truly believe his messages will be a great encouragement and exhortation to our body of believers. To tell the truth, we were not going to go because the cost is very high and we couldn’t afford it. When one of the men in our church told us that it was so important to his family that he took an advance on his salary, we started to think differently. Then, when another brother told us that we should shorten it by attending only two nights instead of three (thus saving our family $273), we decided that it must be important. The entire church decided to shorten it by a day just so that we could be able to go! (One for all, and all for one they told us J) Last year there were nineteen of us from our little church, and it was quite a spiritual boost to these new Christians.

There is so much to be thankful for that I really don’t want to say “lastly.” But, let’s just say it for the sake of sending you a quick note…

Lastly, we are thankful for you! As the year is coming to an end, it is easy to reflect on how much you have meant to us throughout the year. Thank you for the financial support, the prayer support, the letters and phone calls, and much, much more. We are thankful for our time spent in the States with you this summer. We are thankful for all of you who opened your homes to us and treated us as family. Really, thank you.

04.30.14

Morality

Posted in Ancona, church, culture, school at 3:00 am

I’m one of the parent representatives for my son’s class. It’s the first time I have ever done anything like this, and I am enjoying peeking behind the curtain at what goes on in our kids’ schools.

Recently we found out that a kid in the class was being bullied online. The things that the other kids were putting online really stunned me, and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to read things like that and know that they are about you.

In response to this, my co-parent representative organized an initiative to talk to the classes about cyber-bullying. He found an organization that comes to talk to kids about the internet and how to use it responsibly. There is a section on how things posted online can end up hurting a job interview someday. The police even come and explain how anonymous online isn’t really all that anonymous, and people can get in trouble for making threats.

As I sat in on the planning meeting, I couldn’t help but notice that we all were dancing around the core issue: that it’s wrong to bully someone online because it harms other people, not just because it can have negative repercussions on our future.

But, in post-Christian Europe, it’s just about impossible to deal with core issues like morality because there is no common core. Obviously it would be tough to deal with that kind of issue in any school, but I was bothered that there wasn’t any way to help the kids to understand the morality.

Which is why we need church planters in Italy! I firmly believe that so many of our problems here are because so few people are following Jesus. Maybe that sounds simplistic, but isn’t it true? How many problems does our society face because it doesn’t do what Jesus asks it to do? Don’t all of our problems really start there?

So pray for the church that God is growing in Ancona. Pray for us to be strong and to boldly show people what it means to follow Jesus. God is working here! He is growing and maturing His body. The progress is slow, but it is happening.

Last week was Italian Liberation Day. One of our church members organized a cook out at a local park. He was going to just invite his church friends, but also wanted to spend time with friends who don’t yet follow Jesus. So he combined them both. As I sat and watched the two groups mingle, I wondered, “isn’t this really what evangelism is?”

Thanks for your support! Please pray!

03.26.14

Bowling on a School Night

Posted in church, family, home service, kids, Newsletters, school at 7:05 am

Crazy, this life. Right now I am sitting in an empty bowling alley. “The House of the Rising Sun” is blaring in the background. To my right, slightly hidden from view is our daughter along with two Italian friends and three Chinese exchange students. It’s 9:30 PM on a school night, but we’re cramming in as many new experiences as possible in these days. Including bowling. And, get this. Sharing the gospel. Before staying in our home, Amy had never heard about God. She had also never seen a Bible. Ever. It’s been so fun to see her reaction to us praying before meals, to our church meetings, to our attitudes and the way we treat each other. “It’s so happy,” she said to me after church Sunday night.

Isn’t it a joy to experience new things? It’s also so much fun to watch others experience new things, as well. I especially love to see people coming to grips with the idea of just how much Jesus really loves them. It’s incredible, isn’t it?

Speaking of, last month and in our prayer update we spoke about having various studies in our homes with our friends. Things are happening. Not everyone is doing a study in their home, but half of the families do have a Bible Study going with unbelievers each week. The other half are a little discouraged and maybe even a little scared, but we are trying to emphasise that even if they have been told no by someone don’t give up. Sooner or later it will happen.

My study is with a friend of mine. We have met three times so far, and it has been wonderful. We read scripture and then observe and apply it to our lives. We meet in a public place and since this is all so new for her, we finish with her telling me what her prayers are. Even though she expresses her belief, each time there are great questions and the Holy Spirit helps me figure out the answers. Continue to pray for her, as she is really trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus.

Soon it will be Easter. Just today we met and planned out some great things. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. Please pray for us as we flesh out all of the details.
Lastly, we are getting so very close to our home assignment. We will be in the States from May 29th – September 4th. We hope to see as many of you as possible. When we are around, please look us up. I would love to have a cup of coffee with you and hear your story. I can’t wait to see how God is working in your life, to tell you about what He is doing here in Italy, and to have a few good laughs together.

02.28.14

On and on the chain goes

Posted in Ancona, church, ministry, Newsletters at 12:36 pm

I don’t know if the Holy Spirit was thinking of church planting in Ancona, Italy when he guided Paul to write the following words to Timothy, who was in many ways his replacement: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”

Seems like a standard verse talking about passing on the message of the Gospel. But look closely and you’ll see that Paul set up a kind of chain. “…the things that you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses…,” is the first link in the chain (Paul). “…entrust to reliable people…,” shows the second and third links (Timothy entrusting the message to reliable people). The chain doesn’t stop there: “who will also be qualified to teach others.”

And on and on the chain goes, starting with Jesus, going to His disciples, and then to their disciples until it ends up with a missionary team working in Ancona, Italy (kind of humbling when you look at it like that). And we don’t want the chain to end with us, or with this first generation of believers. We want our believers to “be qualified to teach others.”

Starting this week, we are moving into that last link of the chain. Up until now, the majority of the ministry has been done by the missionaries. Which is completely normal in the beginning. But if this church plant is to last beyond this first generation of believers, then our church needs to be released to do ministry without us. We want the church to see that we came to be catalysts. We really believe that we’re all called to be pastors (1 Peter 2:9) and that you don’t need formal education to minister.

In the weeks leading up until Easter, we have asked the church members to lead a very simple Bible study in their homes. We meet together as a church, and then sometime during the week they study the same passage with someone else. It’s a big step. We’ve been praying for God to put people in our lives that need to know what His word says. Coworkers, family, friends, neighbors, classmates … anyone we come in contact with who doesn’t know what God’s word says … they’re all fair game.

So far, about half of the church members have a group getting together. Others have been turned down by people they have asked. Others are still gathering up the courage.

Please pray! We are praying that this step in ministry launches us to the next phase in the church plant.

01.27.14

New Year’s Resolutions

Posted in Ancona, church, ministry, Newsletters, Team at 6:43 am

January. We all know what that means. The new year! So, maybe you remember and maybe you don’t, but I’ve often spoken about my “new year” being September. I just love new books, new clothes, new schedules, new sports, new school supplies, new new new. I don’t know why, but for me it’s always been this way. The new school year brings about such excitement.

On the contrary, January has never really thrilled me. I’ve never really been into New Year’s resolutions or New Year’s goals. We set them for our work, our mission, and the team but personally, I just haven’t gotten into the “hang” of it. I say I want to “be healthy,” but what does that mean? How do I measure “walk more?” Or “be more patient?” Because, honestly, by January 4th I already have the tendency to “lose it.”

So, this year I have to say that the Lord is really working here in Ancona. How do I know? Because I see this year so incredibly full of possibility. I mean full. We sat down as a team to set our 2014 goals, and we were getting so excited. We have planned so much, yet the ways to achieve these goals are so simple. We have new ideas for study, for evangelism, for outreach, and for prayer.  I have even set personal goals. Yes. You read that right. Personal goals. And it’s not even September!

Friends, you are such an integral part of this ministry. You help us in ways that you may not even realize. So, as we embark on the new year, can I ask you to pray? Pick a goal. Any goal. Look through our ministry plans for the year and find something that really appeals to you. Something that you can get behind. Some way that you want to see the Lord work this year. Then pray. Pray for people to be reached with the Gospel. Pray for the church to grow. Pray for seed to be scattered all over Ancona. Pray for our marriage, our family, our children, our church, our team. Pray for ways that you can encourage and support the ministry in Ancona. Then, let me know, will you? I’d love to hear from you!! Pick something, then let us know how you will be covering Ancona and the Roterts in prayer this year. Because 2014 we will see movement.

God is working and I want nothing less that to see where and walk right alongside Him. Don’t you?

12.16.13

What Christmas Means

Posted in church, family, kids, ministry, Newsletters at 7:47 am

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
          – Isaiah 9:6

I am so grateful for this baby Jesus that came to Earth so many years ago. Baby Jesus that was born for you and me. Baby Jesus that grew to be the Savior of the world.

I guess that’s why the Advent/Christmas season brings me such joy. Advent is waiting. Who are we waiting on? What are we waiting for? Jesus. Our Savior. As a mom, I spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for soccer practice to end. Waiting for swimming lessons to be over. Waiting on someone or something. Always. But, I’ll tell you, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than waiting on the birth of baby Jesus.

I guess this peace that Christmas brings to us believers is why our community wanted to have an Open House last night. It wasn’t any old open house, though. The intent was to open our doors for anyone who needs prayer or wants to pray. Then, intermittently, we as a church would give testimonies, share a verse from God’s Word, or explain what Christmas means to us. We had great food, lots of laughs, and plenty of fun. But, most importantly, we were able to really share the Gospel with those who came. Interestingly, most who came weren’t Italians, but Romanians. Some of which don’t even speak Italian quite yet. So, we had testimony time in Romanian, with translation into Italian. It was an interesting situation, but God definitely had His hand in it. All we could do is sit back and watch Him work.

Another great thing about this time was that it was the idea of our church members. Sure, we’ve always had an Open House at Christmas time. But, this year we really challenged them to think about why we would invite people into our building and what the true purpose of a night like this is/could be. When the wheels began turning, out came a great event. Led by them, not us. Little by little this community will be able to stand on its own two feet. Please pray that this continues. Pray for the people that came, as well as those who were invited and chose not to come. Those who need a little light at this time of year.

We, as always, are so thankful for all that you do! We are so blessed to have you partnering with us. Thank you so much for everything! Merry Christmas to you and yours from the Rotert family.