3 years of life here in Italy. 3 years of ministry in a country that is slowly becoming more “home” with each passing year. To be honest, it’s hard to believe we had to “celebrate” our 3 year anniversary here in total lockdown. That’s the reality of life and ministry, it’s always changing, always shifting, and at the end of the day we can’t control it.
Over these past few years we’ve certainly learned a lot. We’ve experienced so much; we’ve laughed and cried, succeeded, failed, lived with much and with little. We’ve celebrated breakthroughs with a few. We’ve mourned the hardening of hearts with still a few others. We’ve had the privilege of experiencing life in ways most could only imagine and we’ve recounted the losses of comfort and preference.
As we’ve said many times before life cross culturally has a way of stripping you, and that’s certainly true. Cross cultural living takes all that you once held to be “the most important” and lays it bare before you. Your world becomes upended and forces you to reevaluate and reorient. It prods, pushes, and provokes your deepest insecurities and most sacredly held beliefs. This certainly shifts and changes as the years abroad go by. As we’ve seen over these past few years, if you open yourself to what God has for you in this process, it will re-form you in a way that only expands the prism of beauty and life through which you can view all of life. Cross cultural living has a way of forcing you to search for beauty and life, because if you don’t, your soul can wither.
In 3 years of life in Italy we’ve learned to search for and celebrate beauty and life wherever we can find it. We’ve learned to look for life, look for beauty, choose to believe that God is good and at work this very day, even in the most insignificant and smallest forms – and celebrate that – every day. Even when the days are long and life sucks, even when fear and death swirl around us, search for and cling to life, search for and cling to the good.
Over the past three years these words of Dallas Willard recounting Jesus’ Kingdom invitation have guided us, encouraged us and remind us of our own invitation and the invitation we offer to others:
“Re-think how you’re living your life in light of your opportunity to live in God’s Kingdom today and forever by putting your confidence in him. (Of course, Jesus’ gospel includes forgiveness of sins, liberating the oppressed, and being faithful to a community of Christ-followers.) The gospel of the kingdom steadies us against believing anything bad about God. It calls us, rather, to believe that what is good God will bring to pass. In fact, this world is a perfectly safe place to be as long as you’re in the Kingdom of God.”
We’re grateful for these past three years here in Italy. We look forward to what lies ahead. Whatever may come, we’ll look for the beauty, we’ll trust God is with us and choose to believe that God is good.