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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

10.29.14

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!

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.