Friday, December 12, 2014


Have you ever thought about why life is so difficult sometimes? I realized that sometimes the only way to see the positive things in life are through the negatives.

~ Without failure we don’t know success

~ Without bondage we don’t know freedom

~ Without brokenness we don’t know healing

~ Without hard times we don’t know good times

~ Without difficulty we don’t know ease

~ Without a climb we don’t know the view 

~ Without crying we don’t know laughter

~ Without fighting we don’t know rest 

~ Without long nights we don’t know daybreaks 

~ Without loneliness we don’t know relationships 

~ Without strife we don’t know satisfaction 

~ Without longing we don’t know fulfillment

~ Without mistakes we don’t know forgiveness 

Psalm 103:13-14

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers we are dust. 

Come quickly Lord Jesus and restore your broken creation! 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Beautiful, Hopeless, Reassuring

A couple of weeks ago when I got back from Bulgaria, my friend asked me to describe my trip in three words. As I thought about it for a moment these are the three that came to my mind: Beautiful, Hopeless, and Reassuring. God used this trip many different ways in my life and think these three words sum it up really well.

Beautiful: The country of Bulgaria is breathtakingly gorgeous! There are many different types of landscapes. Everything to farms with fields and orchards to mountain tops covered with snow. But more importantly, the children we ministered to were beautiful. We visited many homes where most of the children were handicapped and many parts of their bodies were physically deformed. Putting shoes on some of their feet was really difficult because there was no way their foot would fit inside a shoe. Many couldn’t walk. But they were still beautiful. Many people have cast them off as garbage and have classified them as ugly. But God made each one of them and He made each one uniquely beautiful. One of my favorite song is by a band called Gungor and the song is titled Beautiful Things. This is what the chorus says:
“You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things You make beautiful things out of us”


 Hopeless: Much of what we saw while we were in this country left me feeling completely hopeless. As we drove through the beautiful country side we would come upon a village that would be completely run down. The homes were ugly and falling apart. Gypsy villages would be made of cardboard boxes and broken pieces of fences. Even in Sophia, the country’s capital, there would be some nice buildings and shops and then right next to it would be a complex that was built when the country was under communism. Windows would be broken out of it and wooden boards would be supporting the structure on the outside. In some of the orphanages we visited my stomach would churn as we walked into the building and the smell of the sewer would overwhelm our senses. In October the weather was starting to get cold and the children would be improperly clothed and no one seemed to care. Even the attitude of some of the children was disheartening because you could tell they were just out to get as much as they could and they were not grateful for anything. The country of Bulgaria is in a hopeless state. Life there is very difficult even if you have a job. But life is a living hell if you are an orphan in Bulgaria.


Reassuring: Even though this country is in a vicious cycle of brokenness and there seems to be no hope to help these people God reminded me that He will take vengeance on all the evildoers who harm the helpless. Psalm 37:8,18-20 says:
 “Refrain from anger; and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
 The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish - like smoke they vanish away.”

As much as I wanted to act out of anger and do something to help the helpless and bring hope to the hopeless God reminded me that anger only makes things worse. He knows each one of those children and I believe that there is a special place in the Kingdom of God for each one who is born into this broken world and treated like trash, not just in Bulgaria but all over the world. One day the Lord will take revenge for those who have been mistreated and misused. As hopeless as some of the situations are in Bulgaria there were some homes were the children were well cared for and the buildings themselves were very clean and well built. This trip was reassuring in the fact that there are some people who do care for the helpless and are doing their best to take care of them. It was also reassuring to know that one day God will come back and fix this broken world and restore His creation.



Beautiful, Hopeless, Reassuring 

"Beautiful Things" 
All this pain I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things You make beautiful things out of us

Monday, September 29, 2014

Stories too short to make individual blog posts

1. I was traveling with my friend by train out to his house by the sea for a party. We were chatting back and forth the whole time about life and how my experience had been in Rome so far.  When we get up to get off at our stop a random guy muttered something under his breath but since it was in Italian I didn’t understand it so I just continued to get off the train with my friend. Later he told me that the guy said, “Oh, finally we don’t have to listen to her talk anymore!” #loudvoice #getoverit  

2. I was waiting for my appointment to submit my paperwork to get my permission papers to live in Italy when a big  bald guy with a white beanie cap and a huge beard, like duck dynasty big, walks to the front of the line and says: “So I’m American and I would like to attain refugee status here in Italy.”  Why would anyone want to leave the states and come live as a refugee here in Italy? What did you do that would make you want to come live as a refugee in Italy? “Dear America, I have found one of your most wanted criminals. Please come get him as soon as possible. Sincerely, I hope to never meet you alone at night.”

3. My friend and I were trying to go to a concert and we followed my GPS on my phone to the location of the auditorium.  When we get there we spend about ten minutes walking around on the outside next to the highway and when we get to the other side the auditorium entrance is across the barrier and about two stories below us. Already running late, my friend asks if my GPS could now turn us into bird so we could fly down to the bottom. Unfortunately this did not work so we run back along the side of the highway till we come to a parking garage and come up the back way where they were doing construction. “No, we’re not breaking in, we have tickets, we were just uh, being creative with our entrance.” 

4. Vespas, or motorcycles, do in fact drive down the sidewalk.  While standing on the corner of a street chatting with a friend not one, not, two, but three different vespas turned onto the sidewalk and drive continue driving along with the other pedestrians. #notenoughroom #imwalkinghere! 

5. American idioms and phrases can become misunderstood very quickly. “I’ve gotta hand it to you” can literally mean that you give someone your hand; “Cat got your tongue?” would cause people to look around for an actual cat or check to see if your tongue is still in your mouth; and “Fly by the seat of your pants” just gets weird looks or if you’re from the UK it might mean “Fly by the seat of your underwear.” #language #communicationisfunny 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Being Effective = What?

Being effective and productive is something I’ve always taken great pride in. I work hard, I’m efficient, and I get the job done in a timely manner.  Upon arriving to Rome however, the efficiency I felt I possessed in the States ceased to exist.  I was suddenly thrown into a culture that didn’t value the same type of productivity that I valued.  Not only was I thrown into one culture that I didn’t understand, I was actually thrown into multiple cultures that I didn’t understand. At Rome Baptist Church there are about 40 different countries represented on any particular Sunday and each with their own idea of efficiency and effectiveness.  And to top it all off the country that I just started living in took the whole month off for vacation closing shops and restaurants that would normally be opened and causing public transportation to run on odd schedules or not at all.

So what does efficiency and productivity look like across different cultures? Even in different parts of the States, people have different definitions about what is or isn’t efficient. How is there possibly a universal definition of efficiency and effectiveness that spans across all cultures? At first I was baffled by this thought and realized I could work as hard as I possibly could to understand and relate to each culture individually and still not understand what people meant or what they expected from me.  How in the world am I suppose to be able to make an impact here at this church with only one year to learn all of these different cultures?
The other day, I started reading 2 Peter and as ironic as it sounds, this is what is says starting at verse three:

 2 Peter 1:3-9 says: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted us to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

“For if  these qualities are yours and increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” A universal, cross-cultural definition. My pride wanted to tell me that I’m so good at accomplishing tasks and getting the job done.  But here in Rome, I’m not, because my focus has been in the wrong place.  I’m slowly and sometimes painfully, changing my definition of effectiveness and efficiency.  Peter has reminded me that there are greater things to invest in other than a check list or certain accomplishments.  This definition of effectiveness covers every culture, background, and perspective.  If you claim Jesus as your Lord then there is no excuse for you to not adopt this definition as well. It is a daily prayer of mine not to become frustrated with the people I work with or the culture I live in, but it is worth the misunderstandings and miscommunications if the gospel is shared with those who haven’t heard it and current believers are pushed to a deeper relationship with God. Whatever your job, situation, or life circumstance right now, I would encourage you to remember the larger goal of our lives and be willing to change your definition of effectiveness and efficiency.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Different Hats

Do you ever spend the day going from one activity to the next and none of them connect to each other at what so ever? One minute you could be a musician, then a children’s leader, a coordinator, a house guest, a single and available girl, and finally a clueless tourist and foreigner. Yes, these were all the different hats I wore two Sunday’s ago. 

Three weeks ago I had agreed to sing with two other Filipino men who had arranged special music for the following week for service. And for those of you who know me well, know that I don’t like singing in public in front of people, at all. But they wouldn’t let me get out of it. The Sunday started off with broken guitar strings that couldn’t be fixed and then trying to figure out who would take care of the children after children’s sermon until I could go upstairs to do children’s choir.  Nervously waited for my turn to sing, ran upstairs and led children's choir, and then forgot to go up during the invitation to present my testimony to join as a member.  After the service I had about four different people to talk to that only come on Sundays, as well as trying to figure out my phone because my plan hadn’t rolled over like I thought it would.  I was leaving the city later for lunch so I also had to make sure my ride would wait for me while I tried to get the other errands accomplished.  After rushing through several meetings, running across the street to fix my phone, then coming back to "Where were you, I've been looking all over for you! Come on it's time to go!" I was swept off with a group of people to enjoy lunch on the country side about 20 minutes outside of the city. On the way out of the city a man stopped me and my friend and said: “Ladies, stay calm I’m not a terrorist or anything.” Then proceeded to ask us about donating to help with drug and aid prevention. It was all we could do to walk away far enough before we started busting out laughing.  Why would you start a conversation that way? Just one of the many things you encounter in Rome. 

The afternoon was spent enjoying a lovely lunch with good friends and delicious food where I was promptly set up to marry a 34 year old African who lives in Chicago and works as an engineer.  We spent the next ten minutes laughing and joking about how my “southern” family would react and probably disown me if I brought home a “black” boy friend or husband.  To laugh at something in my own culture was so refreshing and I appreciated how these people from Nigeria were able to relate to me and my culture based on time they had spent living in the states.  

At about 6:00 that evening I was dropped off at the train station where I needed to get a ticket from the automatic machine before I could go back to Rome.  I walked over to the machine and spent about ten minutes trying to get a ticket with no avail.  A security guard was standing in the corner chatting on his cell phone watching me fail at getting a ticket out of the machine.  Once he finished his conversation I politely asked him if he spoke English to which he replied that he did not.  So in broken Italian I tried to explain that I needed a ticket back to Rome.  He conveyed to me that the ticket machine is broken but I could get one at the shop. Once outside I looked around and there was no shop or building for that matter, anywhere.  Looking like a lost puppy and not sure what to do, especially since I didn’t have numbers of the people I was just with, an Armenian man asked if I needed help.  I went through the whole thing again and then the same security guard comes out and tells me in English, which he said he didn’t speak, that the ticket machine was broken and all the shops around were closed because it was Sunday and August. He said I could get on the train, but I would risk getting fined for not having a ticket. Great, so how was I suppose to get back to Rome?! I don’t have the right phone numbers and since it took twenty minutes to get there by car I knew walking would take forever! So in my final attempt I showed the security guard my metro and bus pass that I have for the city.  He said oh yeah that will work, and asked why I was asking about a ticket? Well I didn’t know how far outside the city pass worked! But I guess I do now.  So I thank him and as I walked away I heard him and the Armenian laughing behind my back about me being Inglese. Thank you, I hear you clearly, yes I know I’m English and that I don’t know your culture yet and I’m sorry I’ve only lived here a month!

Flexibility and patience are both characteristics that are indispensable for working here in Rome.  Living in Rome as a foreigner and facing all the different cultural frustrations reminds me of how Christ compared the life of a Christian to that of a traveler in foreign lands. We are not suppose to understand the culture and people we live with because we don’t belong here. I often dislike this reference especially when people then refer to heaven to our ‘real’ home as opposed to the earth.  I think that we do belong physically here on earth but as Christians we should feel like foreigners in the sense that the world we now live in is now broken.  The grace and patience that we should extended to foreigners and travelers should be the same grace we extend to other believers. We are all foreigners trying to figure out how this broken world works. Working with believers from all different types of cultures and backgrounds on a regular basis has made this truth more evident to me.  Not only do we have work against a language barrier since English is not the first language for many people, but also the different backgrounds and ideas that each person has based on their experiences and cultures.  It’s very difficult sometimes to be patient and extend grace especially when conflicts arise and communication is difficult to begin with. But God has uniquely orchestrated this church here in Rome and it shows how everyone from every culture can come together to glorify and worship the same God who created everyone equal.  We are all travelers together through this broken world and I pray that through this journey the love of Christ would be evident in all of us because He is the only comfort for this hurting world.   

If you haven't tried to wear that many hats in a single day I would challenge you to try it! You never know how you will grow and learn from that experience. Who knows, you could end up with a story funnier than mine! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Culture Shock

Culture Shock #1:

1. For as much as the culture loves, I mean loves coffee, no one takes it to go. You stand at a coffee bar order your coffee, drink it in 5 minutes and then leave. There are no travel mugs, no to go cups, you don’t typically set up a coffee date to sit and chat, you just drink it and go. So yes I am the weird American on the metro, squished between everyone with my to go coffee mug because I haven’t figured out how to order coffee in Italian yet.

2. The post offices here a huge. You do almost everything through the post office and you can wait up to an hour or more for your turn depending on when you go. But for as many services as the post office offers, the one thing you can’t buy there is stamps. Go figure. 

3. Public transportation. The trail sent from God to teach me patience and that there really is no such thing as personal space. However, men are generally nice and typically offer women or older people the seat if one opens up. 

4. Italians love American music. So you’ll be waiting for the metro or shopping in a store listening to Italian songs and all of a sudden Bruno Mars or Michael Bubble will suddenly start playing and my typical American self wants to burst into song with them because I actually understand what they are saying. 

5. Ordering wine is just as cheap as ordering a soft drink and no one cards you or checks your id to see if you are old enough to drink alcohol. And if you want water make sure you order naturale because if not you will receive water with carbonation and without a flavor it just tastes weird.  

Culture Shock #2:

1.Everyone takes the month of August off, or at least the last few weeks of August. Shops and restaurants that are normally open or have regular hours are just closed for no reason. There’s often times no sign saying when they will return or if there is one it says we shall reopen when we come back. Thanks, that’s super helpful when my phone credit has run out and all I need to do is put some money in my account so I can use it again but the FIVE stores I tried to go to are all close with no sign of returning soon. So tell me again how I’m suppose to call someone if I get lost but can’t use my phone because NO ONE IS OPENED? I’m not bitter or anything….

2. I have finally found to go cups for coffee, but they are about a half or quarter of the size of American to go cups, so it begs the question, what’s the point of having one anyway?

3. When working with large groups of people from other cultures be prepared to eat a lot, and I mean a lot. Everyone loves the food they make and thinks that you should too so they push you to the front of the line and force you to eat their food. But when you try to be polite and only take a little bit, because you realize that you have to eat three more times that day, they yell at you and ask why you don’t like their food or chide you for not liking food at all! People! I like food, I like your food, I like everyone’s food, but I have to eat 3 more times after the other services too and I can’t eat three full meals less than 3 hours apart from each other! I would also prefer not to gain 50 pounds in the first four weeks of being in Italy either. 

4. There is no such thing as a Walmart. You buy groceries at the market or grocery store and everything else at miscellaneous places. But you should always check the Chinese stores, they are basically like an over crowded explosion of Dollar General.  I’m not sure how they get all their merchandise to stay in the store with out the store actually exploding… 

5. Sometimes when someone talks to you but you don’t expect them to, you miss what they said, whether it was in English or another language. So there will be times here when I won’t be expecting for someone to talk to me and me automatic reaction is “what?” But then they proceed to repeat themselves in English, which is really nice when you first think about it. But the more you think, the weirder it becomes.  In the States we wouldn’t ever repeat ourselves in Spanish because someone looked at us and said “Que?” In fact, many people would find that racist. But here the next most common spoken language is English so often people will just repeat things in English if you didn’t understand them the first time.  

6. For as diverse as Rome is with all the different types of ethnicities living here, their food options stay pretty much the same. The question “Where do you want to eat tonight?” in the States is usually followed up with well, do you want Mexican, Chinese, Hamburgers, Italian, Japanese…..and the list goes on and on. Here the same question is followed up with, what kind of pasta do you want or what kind of pizza do you want…and that’s it.  Thank you Italy for options. 

7. Speaking of options, when going grocery shopping only expect to find one brand of a particular item. There are not many options to choose from, UNLESS you want olive oil or wine, then you have about twenty to thirty different types of brands to choose from. 

8. Nicknames are not that common here so when I introduce myself as Bekah I always get confused looks and cocked heads as they repeat slowly, B e k a h. I then follow up with, or Rebekah, and they respond Ohhh Reeebekah! It never occurs to them that Bekah is just short for Rebekah, but they don’t hesitate to shorten Bekah to Beks. Alrighty then. 

9. It never rains in the summer. It’s always sunny and usually clear skies, except for this summer.  It has rained a total of three times since I’ve been here and everyone is so confused because it’s rained so much. Three times is a lot? 

10. Italians have a legitimate fear of air conditioning and fans. So it will be 95 degrees outside but there is no a/c anywhere because they are concerned that they will catch a cold or cancer from the artificial air.  So you would rather have a heat stroke or go without sleep for two months because it’s so hot than put an a/c unit in your apartment? I spent the last 22 years in air conditioning and I turned out fine, I think... 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rome, What a City

It has now been a full month since I arrived in Rome.  I’ve seen some of the major historical sites such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Saint Peter’s Basilica.  But most of my time has been spent figuring out public transportation, Italian grocery stores, and trying not to sweat to death without air conditioner.  My first Sunday here held quite a few adventures in it of itself.  I woke up at 8:30 which is when I wanted to leave for church since it’s about a 30 minute commute between taking the metro and walking.  Got ready in 15 minutes, record time by the way, rushed out the door and headed to the metro stop which is about two blocks from my apartment.  Got to the metro and found out it was closed. I immediately started to panic because I hadn’t ridden the bus before so I had no idea which stop to get off at once I got on.  So I joined the group of the Italians waiting for a different bus that went to Termini, a big transition point for buses and the metro, and I thought I’ll just catch this bus and get on the metro at Termini and then I can figure out how to get to the church from there; perfect.  As we were waiting a few Italians tried to ask me why the metro was closed or if I knew what was going on and I just looked at them and said sorry, Inglesi and they would nod and say oh and move on to someone else. It’s very disconcerting to not know what’s going on or be able to communicate to see if anyone else knows either.  So I caught the bus and then the metro at Termini and successfully made it to the church only 40 minutes later than I was suppose to.  The rest of the day was a whirlwind of being introduced to many people from all over the world and even met someone who has a nephew attending Cedarville University.  After the service and tons of introductions I attended the end of the Filipino service and was invited to eat lunch with them in park.  I think about 13 of us piled into a small Italian car and drove through beautiful downtown Rome to a local park to celebrate two birthdays that happened earlier that week.  Once we arrived they promptly pulled out a whole hog fully roasted. They all looked at me to see my reaction and asked if I was freaking out yet.  Being my first full meal of the day however I told them I was really excited to eat almost anything they had prepared.  It was some of the best meat I’ve ever eaten. The rest of the afternoon was spent meeting and starting relationships and talking about funny American culture differences.  Thankfully the metro was opened by 5:00pm and I made it back to my apartment without any other adventures. 

As funny as my first Sunday sounds it was actually very encouraging and very eye opening as to the people I will be working with.  At the Bible study before the service they were looking at the passage in 1 Peter about enduring for our faith.  And as I sat around the table with people from different parts of Africa, Italy, Asia, and America listening to their stories of endurance and then praying for the refugees that have come from Muslim countries living in refugee camps, I realized that my definition of endurance is nothing compared to what some of these people have endured.  Here I am, an American girl with a college degree that contains a Bible minor with all these ideas of what hardships and endurance is but some of these people have left their country to come to a place where they can worship God freely. They didn’t move because of a job or because it was necessarily a wise financial choice, but they moved to Italy solely to be able to worship freely.  As I sat there around that table and then through the two different worship services that day I began to realize how small I had made my world.  God’s creation is so diverse and so beautiful because of it’s diversity and I realized how narrow minded I had allowed myself to become.

There is a song by Hillsong United called Oceans and there is a phrase that has really encouraged me these past couple of months.  It says:  “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, Wherever You would call me,Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, And my faith will be made stronger, In the presence of my Savior.” Before I graduated Cedarville I sang this song with 3,000 other Christian students and prayed that God would really call me out and that my faith would be made stronger. This adventure in Rome has tested my faith more than I could have ever imagined, but it still pales in comparison to some of the sufferings and hardships of other Christians, even here in Italy.  God has been so good to me and has blessed me in more ways than I could possibly imagine. I’m so thankful for this opportunity to be here in Rome to work with these wonderful people at this church and I can not wait to see what God is going to do this next year!