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.

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.

06.18.15

One Last…

Posted in family, food, kids, ministry, Newsletters at 6:04 am

One last…

prayer with a church member.

Bible study with our English groups.

trip to the sea.

dinner with our neighbors.

prayer walk with Kyle.

trip to the post office.

rubbermaid ready to be shipped to the US.

chat with an acquaintance who just heard about our departure.

phone call with the shipping company.

struggle to conjugate Italian verbs correctly.

pizza, always salame piccante.

dinner in Numana.

glance at Giulia, Emanuel, and Alex, wishing we could watch them grow up.

prayer of thanks to God that He allowed us to watch the church members grow up.

day trip to Perugia.

walk down the Viale on the way to La Via.

early-morning wind storm that rattles all the shutters.

ache in my heart when I see the nervousness on the kids’ faces as we talk about the future, about leaving friends, about fitting in in the US.

spaghetti con le vongole, cozze all’adriatico, fritto misto di pesce.

walk with Filippo so he can practice his English.

espresso at the bar, with a sugar-coated ciambella to get the day started.

pot luck after our church gathering, with all of the craziness there normally is.

time to hear Simone and Daniel teach, who will capably lead the church this summer.

wave of humility that God used us to plant a church in Ancona.

wave of thankfulness for the supporters who brought us and kept us here.

discipleship time with Lance and Alex.

dinner on the Koval’s terrace, watching the sun go down over the sea.

experience with the Italian health-care system (bureaucracy at it’s finest).

afternoon with the refugees.

glance at Ancona from above, seen from the highway coming back from Senigallia.

trip to see Valentina.

hug, kiss-kiss hello and good-bye (always left, then right), ciao ciao!

nervous wait at the ticket counter while our luggage is weighed, pat down at security, two take-offs and two landings.

bittersweet arrival in Chicago, happy to see family and friends, always with the memories of who we have left behind lingering near.

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!

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.

09.30.14

For such a time as this

Posted in family, home service, kids, Newsletters at 6:20 am

What a whirlwind. As Brian last reported, we packed our bags just three weeks ago and headed home to Italy. We arrived safely and without any problems. In fact, it was a pretty easy trip. I’m sure you recall the various stories of when the children were little. Travel is much easier on us now-a-days.

We settled in easy enough, and two weeks ago school started. It was a big year for us this year, as Francesca started first grade. She happened to get into a class with her very best friend, and it was pretty neat for us moms to leave our girls the first day with the assurance that they would take care of each other. The other kids settled back nicely into the swing of things, although Jr. High and High School are quite a different ball game than the first grade.

Brian and I have had various meetings with our teammates to discuss what we learned during our training at Team Expansion. It was called Jonathan Training, and was about Sustainable Church Planting Movements. Maybe you have heard of it. There is much to pray through and think about when working alongside the Lord with the desire not only to see a church in Ancona, but a church that plants churches. A movement of churches. Please pray with us as we continue to implement what we have learned. Pray that we will see God moving in this city and that we will be blessed to work alongside of Him.

In fact, that makes me think of something that I have been studying lately. I have been studying through the book of Esther, and last week arrived at chapter 4, which contains the infamous verse that says, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” That’s not exactly what struck me, though. Not exactly. You know what Uncle Mordecai says to her before that? He says, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.” Relief and deliverance will arise from another place. Hmm. See, one day every knee shall bow. One day, our deliverance will come. But, it may not be here on this earth. “If you remain silent … you and your father’s family will perish.” But for now, the Lord has placed you and I here, in our circles, in our spheres of influence, in this place, for such a time as this. We actually get to work right alongside of Him! Wow. What a blessing.

You do so much for us. Thank you for a wonderful summer and for praying us back safely. We appreciate all that you do to keep this work alive.

09.02.14

Goodbye Again

Posted in family, friends, home service, kids, language, Newsletters at 8:52 am

In just over 48 hours, I will have the unfortunate experience of watching my family say goodbye to the US part of our lives. If the scene goes like it has in the past, it will go down like this: we will unload an incredible amount of luggage at the airport. People will stare at us as we push two or three carts full of our bags towards the check-in counter. Heidi will hover by the scales, hoping that her carefully-packed bags aren’t overweight. The ticket agent will give me a thick stack of boarding cards. We’ll turn around and Heidi’s mom and sister will be there waiting, having parked the cars for us.

And then the tears start. I’ve already seen them as we pulled out of my mom’s driveway after our wonderful visit with her and my sister and nephews. The airport tears will be tough because there is more of a finality to it. We’re not just saying goodbye to loved ones. This time we’re saying goodbye to the US way of life. Not better or worse, but somehow a part of us despite nine years in Ancona.

At some point during the scene I will remind everyone we have to get through security and we will head towards the line of people snaking towards the metal detectors. A quick wave on the other side of security, and we’re alone, headed back to a country that has become home.

There’s just no other way to say it. The good-byes are really hard. Though I will obviously miss everyone, I’m not as sentimental as Heidi or the kids. The lump in my throat will come from watching everyone grieve yet another goodbye. I will ask God to protect their hearts during this difficult time. I’ll ask Him to help them work through their feelings and somehow remind them that their eternal home awaits for them in Heaven.

The arrival in Ancona sometimes makes my head spin. One or more of our bags is usually missing and so we’ll spend a crazy amount of time trying to report our lost luggage. Our friends will be waiting and suddenly I will be thrown into a world of Italian language. People will want to catch up after a summer away and I will be nervous about conjugating verbs correctly. We’ll finally collapse into our apartment, luggage everywhere, and thank God for our comfy beds, our closets where we can finally unpack, and the little sliver of the Adriatic Sea we can see from our balcony.

So as we head back, know that we are taking a little piece of you with us, and that we are leaving a little piece of ourselves with you. Let’s see what God does with us and in us until we’re reunited the next time…

06.27.14

I’m Really Prideful

Posted in family, home service, Newsletters at 2:49 pm

I honestly feel a bit like I am repeating myself all the time. From the time of our arrival in the Yamhill County, Oregon area, all I have done is tell people is, “Thanks!”

We’ve had people loan us vehicles. Pastors gave up their pulpits for the week so we could talk about what God is doing in Ancona. We got to stay in a beach house for a few days. A couple brought us a cooler full of meat. Another family brought us three loaves of homemade bread. I can’t count the dinners that we’ve been to. Our kids got time in a recording studio to record their first track (look for the latest CD by Chloe and the Dudes on iTunes soon). One wonderful lady handed us the keys to her house and moved into her parents’ RV next door. We had the place to ourselves where we could unwind as a family.

The prideful part of me finds it difficult to be on the receiving end of so many good things (weird for a missionary who is already supported by the donations of dozens of people). But we hear it over and over: “We never get to see you all! Give us a chance to bless you in some way.” So I swallow my pride and allow the Church to fulfill one of its most important roles: be a conduit of God’s blessings. So we say it over and over again: “Thanks!”

We hear great things from the church in Ancona, particularly in regards to the Let’s Start Talking program. Over thirty students are reading the Gospel of Luke with three college students who are with us for six weeks. We are praying that these thirty students will make the transition from studying the Gospel to learn English to studying the Gospel to learn about Jesus! Will you join us in praying for that?

We are now in Rockford, Illinois, spending some time with Heidi’s home church and with her family who live in the area. You wouldn’t believe the squeals of delight when we got to Heidi’s mom’s house around 2 AM. Three years is a long time for Grandma to be away from her grand kids (and probably Heidi, too).

We also just heard word that our teammates will be making a very quick trip to the US to attend a Jonathan Training course at Team Expansion’s home office in Louisville, Kentucky. I have completed most of the reading for the course, and I am excited for all four of us to have the opportunity to sit down and talk about the future of the church plant in Ancona.

Thanks … there’s that word again … for keeping up with us. Hope to see many of you along the way somewhere.

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.