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!


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?


They’re ba-ack…

Posted in Ancona, Newsletters, Team at 9:16 am

They’re ba-ack. Our teammates, that is. Many of you have been praying for us over the last six months as we have been “alone” on the field. While I admit, it is really hard without teammates to share the load (not just work, but the daily joys and struggles) God has continued to bless and encourage us despite their absence. Of course, we are now more than thrilled to have them back with us. Now that Kyle’s wife, Rebecca, has arrived, I am no longer the only woman on the team. :)

Things have been moving along here in Ancona. Our latest believer continues to grow in her faith, and her questions continue to stretch us to think and grow, as well. Novella is still grieving, but her faith is growing and she continues to make the Lord and fellowship with believers a priority. The Romanian families are strengthening and growing in their walk with the Lord, as well. One lady in the church has been very busy with work and things, so we have not seen much of her lately. Pray for her as she struggles to hold tight to the good things and weed out the bad things in her life.

These last few months we have had a new lady attending our church. She came and worshipped with us a few years ago, but we haven’t seen her since. In these last few years, her life has changed dramatically. Sabrina has a brain tumor. She has had 10 rounds of chemotherapy, and one more to go. Needless to say, she can’t always be with us for health reasons. But, she comes whenever it is possible. Not only does she come, but it is a 45 minute bus ride for her to get to church! Won’t you pray for Sabrina?

Next month we will be having a planning retreat. We will look at the past year, and look ahead to how we can be effective in 2013. This year we will be doing something different. We will also be meeting with the Team Expansion teams in Verona and Santa Maria delle Mole. We will have times of corporate worship, as well as brainstorming. Then, of course, we will divide and have team time where we can put together our plan for the year. Will you start praying for this now? The dates are February 12-15. If you could set aside some time to pray about this, we would greatly appreciate it. God is moving in Ancona. Pray that we see where and how and that we can meet up with Him and serve Him effectively.

Thanks for all that you do for us!


The Opposite of Vacation

Posted in church, home service, Newsletters, Team at 12:03 am

Two weeks from today we will be back in the US. One of our church members was asking the other day what we do for home service. I jokingly explained to her that people in the US think that we’re on vacation when we’re in Italy, and people in Italy think that we’re on vacation when we’re in the US. Unfortunately, neither is true.

Three reasons for us coming home are: 1) To update our supporters on the progress of the work. 2) To see family and friends for the first time in almost two years. 3) To recharge our batteries a bit. This home service will be a bit different, since we are cutting one month compared to last time. The kids’ school schedule is much more demanding now, and having them miss significant amounts of school would be very difficult for them. So we’re trying to cram as much as possible in three months.

Here’s a rough schedule:
June: Louisville, KY and San Antonio, TX
July: Kansas City, MO, Wichita, KS, and Sioux City, IA
August: Yamhill Co., OR

Our “base” where we will return in between visits will be Rockford, IL.

Since our teammate, Kyle Koval, is facing a significant financial deficit, he will also be in the US fund raising this summer. Which leaves the church in Marcus Van Dorn’s capable hands. I actually am excited about the significant reduction in “American Pastors” this summer. I think it comes at a time when the church is beginning to see the need to take responsibility of the church, as well as begin to use their own gifts. Perhaps our absence will be a bit of a wake-up call that our team will not be around Ancona forever, and that it has been part of the plan from the beginning to train leaders to take our places.

Can I ask you to pray? First, pray for Marcus this summer. Ask God to prompt the church to take things over, and also seek to care of Marcus as well. Second, pray for our home service. I feel like we have left out much of the “recharging” part, which concerns me a little, but we really didn’t have much choice. Third, pray for the church. Help them to discover their gifts and use them, and pray for leaders to rise up.


Culinary Delights

Posted in Ancona, food, Team at 1:29 am

People always comment on what the food must be like in Italy. The stereotype is mostly true. We eat pasta about once a day, and pizza is always available for a quick snack downtown. But sometimes you just get tired of pasta, and pizza won’t hit the spot either. So what’s a missionary to do?

Down in the center, near Teatro delle Muse, you’ll find Tunital, home of the best Kebab in Ancona. You can find kebabs all over Europe. Some people call them Doner. Some people pronounce it ke-BAB. But on our team for some reason forgotten to history, it’s KE-bab. And it’s delicious. We go there often enough that they know just how we all like it (half meat, half fallafel, a little spicy). And of course …

the mayonnaise blast. A dollop of warm mayo ready to help the first bite slide right down.

It sounds goofy. And maybe we’re a little bit obsessed about it. But sometimes you just gotta’ have a kebab.

(And sometimes we get really sad when we go all the way down there and they’re closed.)


Time Flies…

Posted in Ancona, church, culture, family, kids, ministry, Newsletters, Team at 4:00 am

I just realized that I typed “Volume 8 — Issue 1” on the byline of our most recent newsletter. How is that possible? Is this really the eighth year of sending out newsletters?

A lot has happened over the years. We spent over two years in the US raising support for our work in Ancona. What an experience that was – easily the most faith-stretching experience of our lives.

Then we moved to Perugia to study Italian. We enrolled in a small language school and tried to train our mouths to make all the weird sounds we heard all around us. We also adapted to the Italian rhythm of life, and enrolled our two oldest kids in school. What an experience that was – easily the most faith-stretching experience of our lives.

Next we moved to Ancona and started to dip our toes into life on a team. We learned all the reasons why working on a team is such a great thing, and we also learned why it can be a really challenging thing. The Italian culture started to feel a bit more familiar to us, but things were still new and scary sometimes. Moving to Ancona and working on a team was a great experience – easily the most faith-stretching experience of our lives.

After our first furlough, we came back to Ancona with a new confidence. The language wasn’t quite so difficult. Our kids were doing pretty well in school. We even had a baby in Ancona. Our team leader asked us to be the interim team leader for six months while he was in the US. What an experience that was – easily the most faith-stretching experience of our lives.

Just before our second furlough our landlord gave us six months to move out of her apartment, and we were faced with finding a new place and completely furnishing it with absolutely no way to pay for it. What an experience that was – easily the most faith-stretching experience of our lives.

Which brings us more or less to the present day. We still get our faith stretched on a regular basis. God still pulls us through despite our doubts, and shows us how faithful He is to us.

And through it all, He’s forming a church in Ancona. Sometimes He uses us, and sometimes He does an end-run and brings people to us that we never would have even met. He molds us and shapes us and chips away at our rough edges until we become more and more like Him.

And to think. It’s only taken seven years so far…

Thanks for sticking with us.


Getting Settled In

Posted in Ancona, church, culture, Team at 12:16 am

The transitions are always weird. We kind of have our feet in both America and Italy. We love both places, and if you asked us where “home” is our answer would really would depend on the day and how we’re feeling about things.

We made it back to Italy safe and sound. Our apartment was cleaned and ready for us (thanks team!). Our car insurance was turned on – though somehow gremlins got in and ruined the transmission while we were gone. The church welcomed us back with the usual hugs and kisses alla Italiana. But somehow things seemed different.

It was a little like we were on the outside looking in on everything. Ministry and church life obviously goes on without us. It’s not like people are sitting around and waiting for us to get back. But it takes a while to get back into the rhythm of life. And the transition was in some ways a little uncomfortable.

But slowly, things are seeming more normal. The routine of school / sports / Bible studies / prayer times / classes / etc. is starting to take over. We’re renewing our friendships and our apartment seems like home again. It all reminds us that neither here, nor there, is our true home.


Prayer in the Piazza

Posted in Ancona, church, ministry, Team at 4:27 pm

Once a week our team gets together for Prayer in the Piazza. It started as something a little uncomfortable for me. I much prefer praying in private. It’s sometimes difficult for me to come right out and let other people listen in on my conversation with God.

But as time passed and relationships with teammates grew stronger, I began to look forward to this time together. We pick a piazza to meet at, find a stair or curb to sit on, and pray. Eyes open, looking around, watching the sky and the people and the traffic. Sometimes we meet for coffee, and sit outside as people pass by, often bumping into us, completely unaware that they are being prayed for. Often times the line between prayer and conversation with teammates gets blurred as a moment of prayer turns into a discussion time about an issue we’re struggling with.

I used to see these pauses in the prayer time as interruptions, and would try and bring the focus back around to prayer. But if we really believe that God is present with us anyway, and if prayer really is a conversation with God, it seems to make sense for prayer to become like talking to the person across from us. It seems to me to be, as Brother Lawrence’s book is titled, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Our prayers often focus on asking God to show us where He is already working in this city, and how He is already causing the church to rise up. Big prayers and little prayers, while sitting in a piazza and watching the world go by.

I think the church needs more Prayer in the Piazza.


How to be a leader

Posted in administration, leadership, Team at 6:46 am

My team leader is about to begin a six month home service in the US. Team Expansion strongly suggests that someone on the field be appointed “Interim Team Leader.” Though I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge, the job has fallen to me this time.

On one hand, I know that my job will be to keep “the ship” sailing, rather than make huge course corrections. So I don’t feel like I’ll be making big decisions. On the other hand, I don’t want to blow this off and pretend like nothing is going to change. So I’ve been asking friends who are smarter than me for their advice. Here’s what one guy had to say:

  1. Listen- Create opportunities where you can just listen to what’s going on with the team, personally and “professionally.”
  2. Encourage- You’re a nice guy, keep being that way. Let them know you want the best for them by encouraging your team in who God is making them and what He is doing through them, individually and on the team.
  3. Communicate- Don’t assume they know what you think they should know. Don’t hold information back from them. Unless it’s a really dire circumstance, there’s nothing you know that they shouldn’t know. Through communicating with them, you show them that they are valued enough to be trusted with information, even if they don’t have much to do with the use of the information.
  4. Don’t avoid conflict with them- I’m not encouraging meanness but conflict is good and can say, “Hey, we’re not all on the same page but we are all people who have been given minds by God and who can have a little excitement when discussing things, if only we’re willing to disagree in a Christlike way.” Check out this article for a cursory look at what I’m talking about regarding this.
  5. Love- Man, you’re a loving, cuddly guy, this should come easy for you. Really, influence is what John Maxwell says leadership is all about. I think people are more influenced by love than anything else. Not the cuddly kind (accept with wife and kids) but the gracious merciful kind that everyone needs. Keep things gracious and you’ll do great in this interim period.

I’ve got some smart friends, huh? Except I don’t think I’m cuddly.


Umm … when do we start worrying?

Posted in finances, ministry, Team at 1:27 pm

The exchange rate is a cruel, cruel thing. It’s one of those things that I never thought about before I moved overseas. But now I watch it way too often.

Here in Italy, we use Euros, which happens to be a very strong currency right now. Our “paycheck” is in dollars, which happens to be a very weak currency right now. Put those two facts together, and my average, three-bedroom apartment which used to cost around $850 is now over $1,000. And that’s over the course of just a few months!

I think we’re hit doubly hard here in two areas: housing and groceries. Both of these are things that can be trimmed only so much. A family of nearly 6 can only cut out so much food and so many bedrooms!

Jason emailed us a link you may have seen which basically indicated there is no end in sight to the dollar’s drop.

So when do we start worrying? Does a point come where we all pack up and go home because it costs too much to live here? Do our supporters even understand how horrible it feels to raise all of this money and watch it disappear just because of some silly world currency market? The thing that really bothers me is not so much that things cost a lot of money, but that I feel like our supporter’s donations just go right down the drain because of something none of us have any control over.

I think Jason had some great advice for us in his email, “Read it. Be aware. Don’t worry. God is big. Keep praying and cinching your belt. Let’s be more generous.”