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After Effects From Italy

The Emmaus Summex Team started our time in Italy by being the typical camera-touting tourists for two days. On our first visit to Rome we saw the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and enjoyed some Italian pizza and gelato. The next day we visited the Vatican Museum and saw the beautiful Sistine Chapel. After returning to the hotel that night our first task was to fill binders and bags for the 700 participants registered for the IBCM Conference. We also took shifts of greeting missionaries as they arrived at the airport and directing them to the shuttle. The first days of the conference were long work days and we were exhausted each night. Other tasks included helping with registration, directing people to workshops, passing out notes, and trying to help wherever we could. One of the biggest challenges was the language barrier, even English dialects were hard to understand at times! We kept fairly busy but on occasion we had a break to go into town for gelato or take a nap. When the conference came to a close, we were relieved but sad. We had made some good friends from France, India, Paraguay, Italy and more. It was amazing to see how God’s love can cross all cultural barriers and unite His children. No matter how many people we met, we were instantly connected because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Sunday morning we went to our first official church visit. Our Italian hosts greeted us warmly and we enjoyed worship and a sermon in Italian. Our missionary host, Daniel Pasquale, was our translator and also our driver. It was always a joy to find a few people who spoke English wherever we visited. After the service, we enjoyed an Italian potluck and good conversation. The elders told us the history of the church, outreach work and the struggles that the church is facing. Every church we visited gave us a similar format. We visited at least one church every day, usually two churches. The Italian churches we visited are not the typical American evangelical church. The standard Italian church had about 30 chairs squeezed into a small building, which was either originally a house or store. We made stops in Nettuno, Florence, Naples, Arezzo, L’Aquila, Rome and many more. We also visited the evangelical Bible Institute of Italy, IBEI. The quantity of people we met was often overwhelming, but by the end we had a very clear picture of God’s work in central Italy. For our final night we enjoyed some delicious pasta at Monte Porzio with our hosts and said farewell. The flight back the next day was uneventful and we arrived safely back home with memories and lessons to last a lifetime.

Some of the best characteristics of a culture are also the worst. American’s value organization, material possessions, the bottom-line and everything that makes America a world leader. We network to promote our businesses or ourselves and to achieve accomplishments. But it comes at a price. We are seen as materialistic, egotistical and harsh. While I realize plans and organization are necessary, the Italian culture taught me that we should be more concerned for the person than the product.

I learned how selfish and stagnate American Christians are. We sit in our oversized padded chairs in our large church building singing quietly. We complain about the music, the space and the color of the paint. We should be more concerned about why people aren’t coming to church, why we have to find another building because it is standing room only, why we have to buy louder speakers because the singing is drowning out the instruments. Even though the Italian churches have their own struggles, and even though I could not understand everything that was spoken in Italian, one thing was obvious, they are passionate in their worship.

Every week when I walk the streets of Dubuque I see people. These people are either driving their fancy cars in a hurry to get somewhere or watching television on their huge screen in their comfortable homes. Every week I wonder if this is all there is to the ideal life: housing, transportation, entertainment, and a job to obtain these things? Every week, I question if I am on the same path. Am I living for worldly pleasures or am I seeking eternal things? Unfortunately, this is a question that I will have to keep answering every week because I am an alien living in an imperfect world. Did I realize my own individualistic nature before Italy? Probably, to a degree, but it may be the most important lesson that I still remember. No matter what this world offers and no matter how appealing it appears to be, this life is but a vapor.