As Quentin (or Quincy, whatever his name is) from Little Einsteins says, “I…CANNOT…BELIEVE..IT!”
It was January 18th, 1999, that my family drove me to Memphis, TN, to catch an airplane to Florence, Italy, to live there two years doing mission work.
Ten years ago today. Wow!
I was wearing as many clothes as I could, especially jackets, to be able to have more room in my suitcases. I never wore my winter coat in Italy, and brought it home a year later when I came back to visit at the halfway point.
I flew from Memphis to Atlanta, where Ryan and Brook were on the same flight to Vienna, and then on to Vienna, where a few others (including my wife) joined up for the final flight to Florence. The woman who would become my wife was practically a stranger. I had met her about a year prior to this date, and spent two weeks of training together in August. Kinda knew her. We were barely friends and there was not a hint of romantic interest at that point.
I remember arriving in the evening at the Bible School of Scandicci, my home for the next 7 months. It was night time and cold. I got my own room, because they other two guys who arrived knew each other from York College, and they took the bigger room.
Ten years ago: I barely knew Chris, who would become a room-mate and coworker in Rome for 15 months. I had not met Luca and Marzia, Rosa and Felice, Rossella, Rita and son, Marco, Samuele and Veronica, Simone and Michela, Luigi and Julie, and Mario from Florence.
Ten years ago: I didn’t know a thing about the God’s Family who meet regularly in Viale Jonio in Montesacro, the northeast quadrant of Rome. I knew nothing of Paolo and Filomena, the Balboni, Innocenti, Vitalone, Angelo (who was not yet a Christian) and Fede, Pippo. Claudia from Bolivia, Walter from Argentina, Klodi and Viola from Albania, and many others were still strangers. My Roman Nonna, Gisella, was still a lonely, old woman, and not yet a child of God. Students like Luigi and Maurizio.
Ten years ago: I hadn’t heard of the church in Naples: Giuseppe (who married Marisa and I) and Jennifer and their beautiful children, also Lino and Rosaria, etc. I didn’t know about an awesome family in southern Italy, Stefano and Rina Spina, their three (at the time, now four) great kids. I had not met the great little church in Anzio.
Ten years ago: I didn’t know a lot of cool Americans, either, like Jay and Alicia Walls, the Nystroms, and all my fellow Avanti workers.
Ten years ago: I only spoke a little Italian. I didn’t like broccoli or spinach. I didn’t know how wonderful fresh mozzarella was. Or how good olives truly were. I never had made the decision between prosciutto crudo and prosciutto cotto (I love both). I had never heard of Francesco Totti or Lucio Battisti!
I remember so much:
- baptisms of many, being there Vincenzo, or finding out, especially about Gisella
- Walking up to Scandicci Alto, the Panda chinese take-out place, Giovanni’s great penne and pizza at Gallo’s, the Petit Bar
- Playing dominoes with Jesse and Laura in Rome
- Ringing in the New Millennium by kissing Marisa at a party at Robbie and Mona’s apartment
- playing soccer on the tennis court size pitch, calcietto
- long discussions with Angelo, a man of a thousand questions, who was so confused and so doubtful about everything as a new Christian, but now is a mature brother in the church
- The Leeds-Roma match at Stadio Olimpico, and Kewell’s goal from way out
- cappuccino for 80 cents
- the night Adrianna Walls was born and the Bible School flooded b/c of a overflowing toilet in a locked room on second floor
- Moving to Rome
- Villa Ada, Villa Borghese, Il Papiro paper store, the Forum, gypsies on the bus, piazza navona at night time
- getting pizza by the slice or chinese from Gian Wei near the church building in Rome and all our gang eating together in the building
- Agapes (potlucks) and Assembleas (church meetings)
- music performances in Florence church building
- Eating porchetta and taraluccie at Castelli Romani
- Florence convegno and Santa Severa convegno
- the camping trip at Cinque Terre
- language class and harassing Boyce
- leading singing once or twice and preaching once or twice in Italian
- un Gallo senza funghi pizza; una sfoglia con crema
- the heat, the tiger mosquitos, the peach tea, in the summer
- Calabria! Lago Ampollino in the mountains
- Angelo, Walter, Silvia, Chris and I going to Pompeii
- and lastly, our wedding!
God blessed me in so many ways during my time in Italy. From giving me a wonderful wife to working on my spiritual growth and pushing me towards a decision to enter into paid ministry, God did a lot in Italy and through the people of Italy. Thank you Father for everything.
Thanks to family and friends, especially my parents and the Lone Oak Church of Christ in Paducah, and all who supported me spiritually and financially for those two years.
It seems like 20, or even 50 years ago. And it seems like last year.
Happy Anniversay to Me!! Ten Years!!