Let’s Start Talking

Posted in Ancona, language, ministry, Newsletters, Team at 2:52 am

This summer, while we were busy traveling all over the US, our teammates did an amazing job of continuing the ministry here in Ancona. Actually, that’s not quite true. In many ways they advanced the ministry. This summer we hosted three college students from Texas as a part of Let’s Start Talking.

Their ministry is simple: send a group of people overseas for a number of weeks. The local workers advertise an “English Camp” or “Free English lessons with native speakers.” Then, using a simplified version of the Gospel of Luke, the Let’s Start Talking crew does one-on-one lessons with whoever shows up. Our group this summer got to around forty students, which was a huge blessing (and also taught us how effective advertising on Facebook can be).

Some of those groups asked to continue studying even after the Let’s Start Talking group went back to the US. So Kyle and I have three (soon to be four) groups meeting together to study the Bible in English.

It has been a real encouragement to see Italians react to reading the Bible, even if it isn’t in their native language. We find time and time again that people think they know what the Bible says or think they know who Jesus was and what he came to do. But to actually sit down and read what is says and the things that Jesus did is another thing entirely.

Sure we have to slow down and talk about irregular past participles and the difference between “angry” and “hungry,” (two words that Italians often confuse) but we believe that reading God’s Word is powerful.

We need you all to pray! Some of these groups have about finished the set of seven stories that we started with. We are hoping the groups will want to continue on, preferably switching to Italian, but still English as long as Kyle and I have the time. Pray that this handful of students sees the value in looking at God’s Word.

Please also pray for the studying that has already been done. They are all at various points in their Spiritual walk. Some are quite clearly only coming to the study to practice English, others seem to be knocking on the gates of the Kingdom. Pray for the Holy Spirit to really work in their hearts.

Finally, pray for our church members to follow our example and replicate these simple studies with the people God has put in their lives. The language the study is in may vary, but the value of studying God’s Word does not!


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…



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!!


The Joys of Preaching in Your Second Language

Posted in language at 6:39 am

What I wanted to say:

Posso incoraggiare, e posso scoraggiare. I can encourage and I can discourage.

What I said:

Posso incoraggiare, e posso scoreggiare. I can encourage and I can fart.

What a difference one little letter makes.


Talking in Code

Posted in kids, language at 2:19 am

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

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

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

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

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


What was their name again?

Posted in culture, language at 12:14 pm

The Huxtables

There’s lots of American TV on here in Italy. We can watch Lost, sometimes just a few episodes behind (and dubbed into Italian). Heroes has also been dubbed. Lots of the Law and Order shows are on. And we also get the classics. Like The Cosby Show. Except it’s not The Cosby Show here. It’s I Robinson – The Robinsons.

Side note: Why was it called The Cosby Show if their name on the show was Huxtable?

So why did they change the name of the show (and the family) in Italian? I’ve heard several theories, but the most plausible is quite simple: Huxtable would be difficult to pronounce in Italian. The “H” is always silent in Italian, and is only used to change the sound of other letters. The “X” has a “Z” sound. And almost every word in Italian ends in a vowel sound (in English it ends in a vowel, but not a vowel sound).

But if you zoom out a little bit, you see how difficult it can be to take this American show, with all of its little cultural inside jokes, and transplant it into another place. And so if the show’s theme would be difficult to translate, just take the idea and put it into an Italian context. If the name’s too difficult, just change it.

Context is everything!


Speaking English in Italy

Posted in culture, language at 4:52 am

I have been puzzled by something lately. I went to the doctor the other day, and he prescribed an inhaler for me. The directions for taking the medicine are as follows:

Pr. VENTOYLN spray

S. Un puff al bisogno (massimo quattro volte al giorno)

Obviously there are two English words in those two short phrases: spray and puff. In Italian, the word for spray is spruzzo. The Italian word for puff is sbuffo or soffio.

So why is the English word used? I can understand using an English word for something that originated in English, or for which there isn’t a word in Italian. But I see more and more frequently English creeping into the conversation. Italians have a beautiful language that I hope to someday master, but it seems like if I just wait around long enough the job will get easier and easier.


Vegetables as Expletives

Posted in kids, language at 4:56 pm

I have to say it … one of the most fascinating parts of learning Italian has been learning the more colorful phrases. Obviously, our kids have picked up some pretty good ones. There’s an expression in Italian: Che cavolo! Literally, what cabbage! It’s not a bad thing to say, and in fact is even a sort of childish expression. It’s probably closest in English to “What on earth?” or maybe “Oh my!” But it’s a hard thing to translate.

Except for Trey, who I heard say in English the other day (without batting an eye), “What cabbage!”


Bad Translations

Posted in language at 1:50 pm

Movies in Italy are almost always dubbed, which means we usually have to wait a bit after a movie comes out in the US before it comes out here. Apparently there was a movie out called Superbad a while back. I’ve never seen it (and I don’t think I will) but I had to chuckle when I saw the poster advertising this movie here. It was called Suxbad. The letter “x” is often used as an abbreviation for per, a conjunction. So an Italian would pronounce the title correctly: Su-per-bad.

But this foreigner wondered why anyone would call a movie sucks-bad. It was a couple of weeks before I got it.


The Language Switch

Posted in kids, language at 3:04 pm

Even before we left the US, I was a little concerned about whether or not the Italian was going to come back after six months of little use. Some friends of ours who moved from Italy invited us over for dinner just before we came back to Italy. They speak a crazy mix of Italian, Spanish, and English at home, so we settled on Italian as the common language. And it was tough. It sort of reminded me that I really did lose some of that ability.

But somehow a switch has been flipped. It started at customs at the airport, when I had to explain to the agent why I was bringing 12 pieces of luggage, plus carry-ons, into Ancona. But I pulled it off!

Then today I noticed that the kids started calling me papà instead of dad. Later, Trey told me a story, and after realizing there were Italians around, he switched to Italian. All of these are little things that make me think that we will be able to switch back into our second language.

But keep reading the blog to read about all of our language goofs!