08.21.15

Learning Balance

Posted in culture, family, ministry, Newsletters at 9:29 am

August. Sunshine, water, serenity, peace. It seems like throughout the years we have shared with you what a typical Italian August is like. At first the slow pace and the fact that everything was closed was difficult and quite a hard adjustment. We wanted to spend time with people, have outreaches, and surely they wouldn’t skip church…

But, with time, we really learned to appreciate this special summer month. It’s a month where people just “be.” Many, many people take at least a few weeks off work, if not the whole month. They go to the beach, they go to the mountains, they travel. But, mostly, August is for rest. It’s like a Sabbath month. We came to enjoy this sabbatical month to our year. I longed for the days when I would spend the morning in nature with the kids (Brian still had to work). Later we would come home for a simple lunch (no cooking, it was 100 degrees with no air conditioning) and a nap. Then, out for ice cream in the evening (partly because it was just so hot).

A wise friend of ours, when asked what would be the hardest part of the Rotert’s adjustment, said “the fast pace of the American lifestyle.” Boy, does he know us. And our culture. Not because Italians are lazy or that they don’t know how to get work done. It’s more that they know when it’s time to stop working. As a family that has lived in the US and Europe, we do see the difference. Americans do have trouble knowing when to stop working.
Here August is the end of summer. It’s get back‑to‑school month. It’s buy endless piles of school supplies month. It’s start back with school sports month. I’m getting tired just thinking about it.

But, guess what? We don’t have to enter the race. The only race that I have to be a part of is the one marked out for me in Hebrews 12:1. That’s my race. The other stuff can wait. I can snuggle on the couch with my kiddos and order school uniforms at the same time. I can “time” my errands and maximize the amount of time spent together with loved ones.

So, this is where we are. We’re back in the US and we are resisting as much as we can to dive immediately into the fast pace of life. This is what we’re working on. Sabbath. Rest. Being. I have a framed paper in my kitchen that says, “Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be.” This is my challenge in our transition. And, this is my challenge for you. Be.

12.23.14

Watching God Work

Posted in culture, friends, ministry, Newsletters at 6:35 am

Buon Natale! (or Boldog karácsonyt since I’m writing to you from Hungary!) A few days ago we arrived in Budapest to spend Christmas with some friends who have been ministering here for about six years. We have enjoyed getting to know each other over the years and it’s been fun to watch our kids grow up together.

Our December was probably a lot like yours: very busy! Our schedules quickly filled up end-of-semester conferences at the kids’ schools, class dinners, and parties. And in the middle of all, our normal ministry activities continued.

One highlight for us was the progress being made in our three English Bible studies. All of the groups are really grasping with who Jesus was and what he asks of us. Our newest group, composed mainly of university students, has amazed me with their hunger to study the Bible. They surprised us one night by inviting several of their friends to come and stay for a dinner after the study. One of those friends even returned to the study the following week.

During this dinner, at a certain point in the conversation someone asked the $10,000 question: what is the difference between the protestant church and the catholic church. Over the years, our team has struggled with how to answer that question. Rarely are people asking about Martin Luther and his 95 Theses. They are occasionally curious about the fact that we, as pastors, are married and Catholic priests are not. But we always try to turn the conversation towards the importance of following Jesus. And that is exactly what we told everyone. It would take forever to list every difference, and to drawing lines between “us” and “them” isn’t very helpful. But to sit in a room with eight students and encourage them to read the Bible and learn about the things that Jesus said and did … and them to have them agree to do that … is a wonderful thing.

So keep praying for these three groups. Despite busy holiday schedules the groups continue to make our meetings a priority. And we keep pointing them to Jesus. We see signs that God is working in their hearts. We can’t wait for the day when they decide to become his disciples.

Thank you for making our ministry possible with your prayers and with your financial support. We love that God is working through us to see His kingdom grow!

Wherever you are this Christmas, we are praying that the peace of Christ will reign in your hearts. Talk to you next year!

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!

09.30.13

Definitely Worth It

Posted in Ancona, church, culture, ministry, Newsletters at 6:12 am

I was sitting on the beach with the rest of the church members, waiting for everyone to show up. The breeze was a bit chilly, and nearly all the other beach-goers had already packed up and gone home. We were there to celebrate the baptism of one of our church members. Her daughter was baptized just a few weeks earlier, and she finally decided she was ready as well (“…faith like a child…,” indeed).

My teammates often tease me about how bad I am with details and dates, and their teasing is very accurate. So I asked her, “How long have you been a part of our church?”

We took a trip down memory lane and remembered her first contact with the church: our monthly coffee houses. She was interested in practicing English and was friends with others who were regular attenders. Many conversations later, she began to attend our weekly church services. She was on the fringes for a while, unsure in her own Catholic faith, but not quite sure what to do with us Protestants either.

Slowly her faith grew and realized her need for a real relationship with Jesus. But that new relationship meant leaving a lot of the old behind. It meant a lot of wrestling with the truth we find in the Bible. It meant time spent with the believers to see if their faith was the real thing.

And in the end, about six years later, after many conversations and studies and prayer, she decided to put the exclamation mark on her conversion and be baptized in the Adriatic Sea.

Six years. And her experience of slowly coming to faith is not unusual at all. In Ancona, we’re not starting with new, freshly plowed soil that is just waiting for seeds. We’re dealing with soil that is hard, perhaps even damaged or covered with weeds. And it often takes years of prayer, study, and time with other believers to prepare a person’s heart for real grace and forgiveness.
It’s a long process, but definitely worth it.

05.21.13

Homesickness

Posted in Ancona, church, culture, family, home service, kids at 1:28 am

I remember during our training at Team Expansion before our move to Ancona that we were taught a lot about “culture shock” and how to deal with it. Transplanting an American family into another culture is bound to cause some stress, and so they wisely gave us strategies on how to deal with it.

For the most part, we don’t really deal with culture shock anymore. But there are times when the longing for home takes center stage and we find ourselves missing family, friends, and Beef-a-Roo.

What has been very interesting is watching our kids go through this. In the beginning, they also felt some of those stresses. But now, especially with the older kids who have spent more time here than in the US, their culture shock happens when we leave Italy. Our familiar and comfortable has become their foreign and stressful. Which leaves me amazed at how integrated they are in Italy, and somehow confused at how to help them be comfortable in both places.

I recently began meeting with a woman who was interested in studying the Bible. Like many Italians, she grew up in the Catholic church, but has since left. We were getting to know each other before we started studying and she talked about the Spiritual journey that she has been on that brought her to the point of wanting to study the Bible with a crazy, foreign, protestant pastor. Using her own words, she described the “God-shaped hole” that C. S. Lewis wrote about. All of us our born with the desire to fill that hole. We usually try and fill it with all kinds of things that don’t really satisfy. We are wired to seek God without even knowing it.

I think you could describe it as a built-in homesickness that we have. Reading the paper, watching the news, we feel that there is something that just isn’t right about the world. It’s crooked somehow. And it’s the job of the Church to point the way to the one thing that perfectly fills that hole: God.

Please pray for the church in Ancona, and us as its leaders. Ask God to help us boldly point the way to Him. Ask Him to keep us united as a body of believers. And ask Him to keep us a bit homesick for our eternal home.

Until next month…

03.25.13

Hectic Joy

Posted in Ancona, church, culture, kids, Newsletters at 10:45 am

So here I am. Chloe has basketball practice tonight, so I’m passing my time in an Ikea café thinking about all that’s going on here in Ancona. On the far side of the room there is a birthday party. Pippi Longstocking is painting faces as children with their arms spread wide occasionally whiz by me pretending to be airplanes. The magic of a great party, fun favors, and wonderful presents is in the air. I can’t help but smile. And be tickled. The fun of togetherness, the laughter of children, and the unity of parents. Joy.

We’ve had many moments of “hectic joy” this last month, as well. Let me tell you about one of my favorites. As we reported last month, we were headed to an all-team retreat that Brian was putting together for all three of the Team Expansion Italy teams. We were in a country farmhouse sharing life together as “family” for three days. It was a little crazy and a lot of fun. There were much needed times of prayer, and many encouraging moments. We were six families, including two pregnant ladies, an eight month old, 4 teenagers, and two kiddos. Thankfully, we had some wonderful, wonderful discussions and could absolutely feel the presence of the Lord encouraging us and giving us strength to go home and keep “plugging away” in a place where often the soil is a bit rocky.

Another favorite moment? Well, it happens tomorrow. Tomorrow is a convention for Christian ladies in Italy. It is in a town near Florence and four of us ladies from church are headed there in the morning. Getting there will be hectic. I just found out that there is a bus strike, so now I must drive 30 minutes one way to pick up one of the girls. Boy will I be glad to get on that train. This is the first time for two of them, and I am praying that they will see something wonderful in the fellowship between believers.
Speaking of a moment yet to come? Sunday we may have 5 visitors in church. A lady and her mom, a lady Kyle met at the bank, and another couple that randomly called me last night after seeing our website! Amen. Please pray for these possible visitors!

The cake is coming out! I can barely hear myself think. But to look at the faces of these little ones, their parents must think it’s worth it. And I feel just the same about our work here in Ancona.

Until next month…

12.22.12

Perspective

Posted in Ancona, church, culture, family, ministry, Newsletters at 7:19 am

I’m writing this on a Saturday afternoon from our church’s meeting place, La Via. Two floors below me people are rushing around downtown trying to finish up Christmas shopping. Traffic will be a nightmare in a couple of hours. The kids are all on Christmas vacation (and not a day too soon – we were all ready for a break). Some of our church members have already traveled home for Christmas.

I can step over to the window and look out at the craziness. It’s right below me, but I’m somehow insulated from it all here in our meeting room. In busy periods of life I think it’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture. This Sunday we will step back from the manger and look at the genealogy of Jesus. For generations, people were waiting for the solution to the problem of sin.

A few weekends ago our church took a step back and attended a convention. It’s easy for our believers to put on blinders and start to think that God is working only here in Ancona. But in a room full of four-hundred other Christians, all singing praises to God, you can’t help but zoom out and see what God is doing all over this country.

Other times it’s better to zoom in. The topic of evangelism is sometimes discouraging to us because the job seems so big. All of us know so many people who aren’t following Jesus and who honestly don’t give a care. But at the convention, our church members learned a simple way to study the Bible with someone who may be curious about Jesus. We zoomed in and focused on the one or two people we all know who are interested.

Poverty is skyrocketing in Italy as the economy gets worse and worse. We all know so many who need help. When we zoom out we see a huge problem that our small church couldn’t begin to solve. But if we zoom in on a few that God has put in our lives, we find plenty of ways to bless others.

We all need to find the right perspective, don’t we? Sometimes we need to step back and see how God is working with his huge brush strokes. Other times we need to zoom in and hold His fine-tip brush while He moves in the individuals around us.

May God grant all of us the right perspective. Merry Christmas!

09.28.12

Four Awesome Kids

Posted in Ancona, culture, family, kids, school at 6:18 am

I’m going to try not to sound like the doting father this month, but I’m afraid that I’m not going to be very successful.

The kids all started school a couple of weeks ago. The oldest two are in eighth grade, their last year of middle school. Our youngest son is in fifth grade, in his last year of elementary school. Our youngest is in her second year of preschool. We have a tradition of taking first-day-of-school pictures on the balcony before dropping them off. This year it seems like I had to point the camera a lot higher to get my growing kids in the frame.

They aren’t just growing physically, for sure. The oldest are growing to be responsible students, already preparing for their oral and written exams to graduate into high school. Our youngest son still has a wild streak in him, but it’s becoming more tempered, less rebellious as he matures. Our four-year-old went to school this year with scarcely more than a wave and, unlike last year, no tears at all.

It’s a joy to see them grow spiritually as well. Our oldest son has a profound sense of justice and intuitively knows right from wrong. Our oldest daughter amazes me by so often sticking up for the underdog. Trey has a sense of compassion that is willing to endure his classmates’ teasing. Francesca often goes to bed telling me how much she loves Jesus.

Those of you who have been with us from the beginning know how much I worried about how the kids would handle an overseas move. I always thought that if Heidi and I went nuts from the transition then it was our own fault – we made the decision to go. But the kids were just along for the ride, innocent bystanders in following mom and dad’s call to serve in Ancona.

And time and time again God has shown me that I have nothing to worry about. My kids aren’t American kids, for sure. And they’re not quite Italian kids either. But that’s OK. My prayer is that having feet in two cultures will make them citizens of God’s kingdom – it certainly will last a lot longer than our earthly kingdoms.

It seems that God knew that helping all four kids to flourish in Ancona would make it possible for us to minister here more effectively. Thanks for praying for us as a family!

08.15.12

Down Time

Posted in Ancona, church, culture, Newsletters at 4:55 am

Oh, the slowness of August. As we’ve told you throughout the years most Italians, on average, get a month of vacation time. Much of this time is used in August. Businesses are known to shut down for weeks at a time. Bakeries, coffee bars, newsstands, no one is off limits. One day you go to get the paper, and the sign is there. “Closed for Vacation! We’ll Reopen in 3 Weeks.” With even church members gone for 3 weeks at a time, this can get very discouraging. Our little community looks smaller instead of bigger. We realize just how much work there is to be done here. With one more month left until school starts, this is the perfect time to be with the family and cherish moments with our children.

Pray that we concentrate on these important things instead of getting discouraged with the lack of participation during this month of “holiday.” Pray also that this discouragement can be used as a catalyst for us to pray harder and work alongside God to bring others to His little body of believers here in Ancona.

If you don’t know already, we are here on the field alone for a few months. Our teammate, Kyle, was married on August 5th, and he and his bride, Rebecca, will be stateside until January. Also, our other teammate, Marcus, is on home assignment until November. Pray that all have a wonderful time of rest and renewal. Of course we look forward to their return, but are thankful that they have this time away, as well.

I feel like I have very little to say this month. I suppose these are the moments when I rely on you the most. Thank you so much for your prayers. Thank you for your financial support. Thanks for being a part of this “team!” We really appreciate you all.

Can I ask you to join me in prayer for something? There is a very specific prayer that has been on my heart in the last week or so. Let’s pray together that God will bring us a new family by the time Marcus gets back. Then, that God would bring us another family by the time Kyle and Rebecca arrive. Lastly, pray that our friend Michaela would become a believer while she is a foreign exchange student this year in Wichita. She is an only child, and it would be amazing to see her come back and bring her parents to the Lord.

Until next month…

10.28.11

Re-Entry

Posted in 24-7 Prayer, culture, language, Newsletters at 8:49 am

Re-entry. I suppose that’s a fancy name for returning to the mission field after an absence like our furlough this summer. We’ve been back about six weeks now. Some days it feels like we just returned, and others it seems like we’ve been back forever. Last night, for example, I went to the theatre with some friends, and though the play was in a bit of Naples’ dialect (the worst!!!), I understood what was going on!! My friend sitting next to me said that at times she couldn’t keep up because of the dialect. These kind of days make me feel right “at home.” Another time, though, I felt myself struggling to get the words out while speaking to some parents at Frannie’s school about how they felt about one of the teachers. Talk about embarrassing. “Hi nice to meet you. Listen to me stumble and speak like a third grader.” Oh, the life of a missionary…

My favorite part of re-entry? I have loved getting reacquainted with each church member and seeing how they have grown over the summer. What a blessing. With Francesca now in pre-school, I have a little more time in the mornings to go calling on the ladies in the church. Our new mom, Simona, really has a need for company right now. I’ve been able to go to her house and spend time talking and praying with her. What a joy to be able to pray together.

Two weeks ago I was blessed to be able to go to a 24/7 Prayer Conference called the Eurogathering in Frankfurt, Germany. I know that we just got back to Ancona, but I couldn’t pass it up. It turned out to be a great decision. We really had a great time praying for the continent of Europe and all of the countries represented there. How wonderful it was to see how big God’s church is, and also what great need there still is to bring the gospel to Europe.

What’s next? Well, next week Brian must return to the states for two weeks. He will be attending the Team Leaders’ Summit at Team Expansion, as well as heading off to the Joplin area to visit with churches there. Since this summer was cut quite short, we didn’t have time to visit that area. If you could pray for him as he travels, that would be appreciated. If you want to add the kids and I in there, we’d love your prayers as well.

Thanks for all that you do for us. We couldn’t make it without you!!