I first heard about our church planning a mission trip to Rome over a year ago. Since then, my life has changed in more ways than I could have ever anticipated. I quit my job. I got engaged. I’m planning a move across the country. If I had known all these things at the time I probably wouldn’t have signed up to go. It’s funny how God only reveals His plan on a need to know basis, huh? During our time in Rome our group worked alongside some amazing people from Agape Italia. I loved getting to know these missionaries who are devoted to serving in Italy full time. After days of literally walking all over Rome, everything starts to run together.. and since I can’t even begin to recount all the things we did, I would like to share just a few of my favorite moments from the week.
Spending time with refugees. One of my favorite afternoons was spent getting my butt kicked playing cards and talking about the differences between writing in English and Pashto. I ended up doodling my card partner’s name in calligraphy and in return he wrote mine in block letters in Pashto. It was such a simple gesture, like something you would do for a friend in elementary school, but it allowed us to connect. What we encountered in Italy, as I’m sure is the case in many other places, is that the refugees are hungry for connection. They have been through so much. Most of them are risking their lives for a chance at better one. They are leaving their families, friends, and everything that’s familiar behind. Even though it wasn’t always easy to communicate*, it was abundantly clear that we weren’t that different at all. We can often hear things on the news about people from across the world and think they must be completely different than us. But they’re not. We all have the same basic needs, desires, and insecurities. We aren’t that different at all.
*It took me all afternoon to realize the name of the card game we were playing was called “Best Code” and not “Biscuit.”
Teaching English lessons. I had the opportunity to teach two different times. Each experience made me realize just how strange the English language can be. I was humbled because I only know one language. Most Italians know at least two, if not more! (Usually it’s more.) On one occasion I was helping a student who had only been learning English for two weeks and we could carry on a conversation about music, weather, food, and sports. Maybe it’s time for me to get Rosetta Stone..
Seeing everyone’s unique gifts being used and how God orchestrates things even in the smallest of ways. It’s easy to think you don’t have anything to offer, but on this trip I saw people’s gifts being used left and right. From Anthony’s strange knowledge of wrestlers striking a cord with some of the refugees, to the cooking expertise of Nancy, Marcy, and Brenda, to Kathy’s extraordinary ability to speak every child’s language, to John’s way with words, Jonathan’s computer skills, and even my silly love for doodling; God uses it all.
Worshiping at Rome Baptist Church. This church has people in attendance from all different backgrounds and nationalities. It was incredible to sing alongside people from all over the world.
Sharing our “Ah-hah Moments” On the last night we all sat down together and shared something that we learned. It was encouraging to hear what stood out to everyone and the different ways God works and moves in each of our lives. This trip has been eye opening for me because I’ve been reminded of all the blessings I have and the way God provides, from the refugees needing a meal to the missionaries needing support and not knowing where it will come from. God provides for our needs and is so much bigger than we often realize. I’ve been so submersed in wedding planning, moving, and trying to figure out how to make it all work, but God will provide and not everything is about me! It’s easy to get caught up in our own little world and forget that there are more people, cultures, and ways of life out there other than our own. You can’t change the world all at once, but you can change people. And usually the best person to start with is yourself.
Coffee Lessons. When we first arrived to Italy we were exhausted from a full day of sleepless travel and it was only 1:30pm local time. I quickly learned the appeal of the Italian way to drink coffee. One shot of espresso and you’re on your way. No one sits around for hours sipping weak coffee drowned in milk and sugar. Jason showed me the ropes of ordering at the local coffee bar. After that I knew I’d be able to survive the rest of the week. My daily serving of gelato sure didn't hurt either. ; )
Seeing Italy in the rain. The pavement glistened and suddenly the crowds transformed into a sea of colorful umbrellas. Granted, it would have been nice to see Italy in the sun, but I’m not complaining.
The Pantheon. The Pantheon was my favorite tourist moment of the entire trip. I’ve never been so mesmerized by a man made structure, (no, not even the Devon Tower!) but looking up at the perfectly domed ceiling made me feel like I was standing in front of a mountain range. It’s crazy to think of how many people have walked though those doors and stared at that same ceiling before me. It was built in 126 AD! Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still just a structure made by men. But when I saw it I couldn’t help but think of God, just like I do when I see something incredible in nature.
Listening to “Evening in Roma” by Dean Martin while standing at the Trevi Fountain. This song was stuck in my head the entire trip. I finally broke down and used a few of my precious international megabytes of data to listen to it. The music drowned out the tourists beautifully and ended the day on a wonderful note. P.S. Yes, this is a nod to Lizzie McGuire just in case any of my fellow 90’s kids out there are reading.
Randomly seeing the Pope on the same day that Donald Trump was elected President. The world is a strange, strange place.
Being mistaken for an Italian. OK, so this only happened once and it was on the last day of the trip, but it happened none the less. #goals
Just a note. On the first day of the trip I discovered that my wide angle lens went from having soft focus to being completely out of focus. I had to improvise and make due with my trusty 50mm. I love my 50 but the Coliseum and many of the sights in Rome require wider angles.. I was out of luck. For this reason (and because of the pure amount of pouring rain we experienced) there are quite a few iPhone photos mixed in alongside my “real” camera shots. I’ve always been a believer in the saying that it’s not the gear you use, but what you do with it that matters. Ciao!