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.

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…

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.

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.

06.21.13

Summer

Posted in Ancona, kids, ministry, school at 8:36 am

Summer has arrived! I know this because I am sitting in my semi-dark bedroom with the fan blowing on me trying my best to stay cool in this hot weather. It’s hard to enjoy the sunshine, though, because the facade on our apartment building has been getting an overhaul since April 15th. This means that starting at 7 AM we can hear jackhammers pounding into our building, pulling out pieces of concrete, etc. Then the pieces fall in huge chunks down the scaffolding with a resounding thud. After that the dust settles. And boy does it settle. Whew. It seems like I am always sweeping piles of dust off of something. So, to cool off, we head outdoors.

The arrival of summer also means school is out! Trey completed 5th grade and is now a middle schooler. Lance and Chloe are in the process of completing middle school. After school gets out, there is one week worth of written tests. They completed these exams last week. Then, there is the oral exam. After the oral exam, you are given a final grade and told whether you passed or not. Lance’s is on the 25th, and Chloe’s is on the 28th. Soon they will be in high school, which makes mom a little nervous!

I feel like there is so much to tell you! Let’s go with yesterday. I had a great time yesterday taking the train to nearby Senigallia. We have a believer there, Valentina, who because of her work schedule cannot join us for church. So, we take church to her. Yesterday Mariana, Trey, and I went to visit her. We had a great time reading from the Word and answering and asking questions. We had hugs and laughter, prayer, and even a little gelato. Oh what joy it is to fellowship with other believers. Valentina is a sweet lady in her 50’s who has only walked with the Lord for about a year now, but has amazing stories about how He had been pursuing her since she was a young mom.

I’m sorry, dear friend, that this is so choppy. I love to tell you stories and weave in anecdotes but I feel like so much has happened and is happening that I just seem to shoot off little facts here and there. I want to share so much, but there is little space to do so. If you want, I’d love to hear from you on our blog! Or by email. Just jot down questions or comments, and I’d love to answer them and correspond more with you. You are such a blessing to us! More than you may realize. Thanks from the bottom of our hearts.

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…