The Music and the Dance

February 25, 2009 at 8:06 pm (Uncategorized)

 

Imagine yourself in a large house in which those who are deaf and those who can hear are living together. In one of the rooms, you see a guy sitting in a chair and listening to music on his iPod. Rhythmically, he’s tapping his foot, drumming his thighs, jutting his chin out, swaying to the beat. His entire body moves in response to what his ears are hearing. It’s obvious that he’s enjoying himself and listening to a pretty good song.

A few minutes later, one of the deaf persons enters the room. Seeing the guy listening to the music, he thinks, That looks like fun. I think I’ll try that. So he sits down next to him and begins to imitate him. Awkwardly at first, he tries drumming his thighs, jutting his chin out, and swaying to the music just like the guy with the iPod. With a little practice, he begins to catch onto it. By watching and trying, he begins to mirror the other guy’s actions pretty closely. But although he eventually gets better at keeping time, he concludes that it’s not as much fun or as easy as it initially seemed.1

After a while, a third person enters the room and watches the scene. What does he see? Two people apparently doing the same thing, apparently listening to the same thing. Is there a difference? Absolutely. The first guy hears the music and his actions are a natural response to the music’s rhythm and melody. The second guy is merely imitating the outward actions. Being deaf, he’s not listening to anything. 1

 

Dancing Lady

There’s an interesting parallel between this illustration and the spiritual climate in Rome today. I first heard it at my New Staff Training from Larry Kirk, pastor of Christ Community Church in Daytona Beach, Florida. I instantly thought of Italians. Many Romans live the life of a deaf man: perhaps seeing the “dance steps” of the Christian life in the moral teaching they’ve received without hearing the music of the Gospel– the message of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. After some time (or even as the generations have gone by) many see the steps as meaningless “religion” and abandon it as irrelevant, restrictive, and outright old-fashioned. Bitterness sets in as dancing without music has been reduced to a series of dance steps– do’s and don’ts, going though the motions and a behavior modification program. The music of the gospel is nowhere to be found, and Romans begin to revolt. I meet students like this everyday in Rome.

But the music of the Gospel isn’t just for Italians.  It also has strong implication for my life, and for yours as well. I remember writing in bold letters THE GOSPEL IS FOR ME on the top page of my journal my first year in Rome. When I encounter hard times, when I see sin in my life, or face a challenge, do I beat myself up for missing a step? Do I watch other believers around me and mimic their moves, or do I turn to Christ? When I approach another believer about sin, do I tell them 

“Christians don’t do THAT– do THIS instead! See? Put your foot here and wiggle it this way!” or do I point them to the cross and turn-up the music of Christ’s love and forgiveness and see their life change?

 

God created us to know him. We were created to respond to His music. I’m confident that the music of the gospel will change the city of Rome, and I’m anxious to return to call Romans to tune-in and turn-up the music of the gospel in  their lives and see a culture change!

 


1. Illustration developed by Larry Kirk (themusicandthedance.com) but the text is by Keith E. Johnson, director of theological education for the U.S. Campus Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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Postcards from Summer

September 17, 2008 at 6:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Goodbyes are hard for me. So you can only imagine what a Tuesday night with 12 student goodbyes would feel like as I left Italy this summer. It was my Discipleship Dinner, a dinner for the Italian women (believers and unbelievers) with whom I had spent the most significant times over the past 2 years. There were so many sweet faces of women I had spent hours with– talking about God, laughing, reading the Word. Even though I know the Lord is calling me back to this place, that Tuesday night was such a wonderful gift from the Lord. It really was a picture of what He’s been doing through me specifically in the city of Rome. The women took turns sharing with me farewell words. All of them talked about how our relationship revolved around Jesus and how much that meant to them. As a goodbye present, I gave each girl a framed photo of us and a card encouraging them in their pursuit of Jesus. (The cards literally took me 4 hours to write 18 cards in Italian!!) The night ended with Mia, a recently graduated Political science student, saying, “Lauren, you often talk about hope for Rome. You paint a bright future for us for what Jesus could do. This is my city, but truly, this is your city too.” (Translated)

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Cities of the World

May 15, 2008 at 11:02 am (Uncategorized)

CITIES OF THE WORLD:

THE NEXT10/40 WINDOW

As many of you know, I’m not much for statistics. I’m one of those right-brained people. (Numbers, what?) But these particular numbers make me stop and really think:

● 3 billion people– half the world’s population– live in cities
● 2/3 of all people will live in cities by 2050 (in 1050 only 30% of the world was urban)
● Almost 180,000 people move into cities each day
● 60 million people move into cities each year in developing countries
● Over the next 15 years, many cities in Africa and Asia will double in size

We often hear of the need in the 10/40 window. (That is, the nations between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator.) Nations spanning from North Africa to China have been (and continue to be) in desperate need for Gospel proclamation. And praise God, He has been drawing people from all of these nations to Himself. The Joshua Fund reports over 10,000 Afghan followers of Christ. Many claim China is close to being considered a Christian nation. In Korea last summer, I personally witnessed believing students from all over the world dedicating their lives to making Christ known. Praise God for what he is doing in the 10/40 window.

Cities of the world are the next 10/40 window. Cities have a habit of chasing out Christians, exhausting missionaries, and stifling spiritual movements. Ministry in the city is hard. People are at a distance; sometimes a 2-hour commute is necessary to meet someone within the same city. People in cities are different. The city changes them. In Italy, for example, Romans are still Italian in some ways, but are just as urban in culture. In some ways, Romans have more in common with those in Paris, Mexico City, or London than they do with their countrymen in Florence or Pisa. The heartbeat of the world’s cities is postmodernism, so ministering in this context is often disorienting. Many missionaries come from the suburbs and find themselves bewildered in how to function even the most simple day-to-day tasks. Cities are often referred to as “missionary graveyards.” However, as missionaries are moving out, the world is pouring in– by the millions (180,000 daily) into the cities of the world.

There is hope for the city. Praise the Lord, many churches, believers, and organizations have identified the city as a major focus. In Rome, I’ve already rubbed shoulders with 2 new evangelical church plants in the city this year alone. Campus Crusade in the USA, as well as in Europe, has identified top influential cities and are dedicated to sending laborers and resources to the city. (Rome is on both of those lists!) There is growing awareness for the city. God is drawing people to the cities. In Rome, our staff has grown from 7 short-term members in years past to 26 next year (17 long-term and 9 short-term members). Above all, God has a heart for the city. This is His mission, and His alone. However, He is calling us to be a part of what he is doing. Thank you for your faithful prayers & giving to what He is doing here.

Called Back to the city. . .
So, I’m coming back to the city. It’s been quite the process deciding where the Lord is leading me next. Lots of options were on the table: graduate school, a job in Public Relations, or coming back to Rome. Lots of factors, too: a family in the States (My twin sister Erin and her husband Ben live in Chicago, my parents live in Michigan, and my younger sister Marissa just got engaged (yay!) and will soon be moving.), a boyfriend in England, a dream to go to graduate school, and the looming question “What do I want to do with my life?” The decision wasn’t easy. But it came down to this: God simply hasn’t taken Rome off my heart. I didn’t see the Colosseum light up with “Lauren, Stay!” It’s been more of a quiet call. There’s a lot going on here. God is moving. (See page 2!) I’m also very passionate about the city, and being a part of figuring out how to do ministry in the city– something that could translate even to other missionaries & churches around the world. Please be praying for me. As I’m very excited, It’s also a little daunting to think about raising support and moving overseas more long-term (at least more 2 years?). I’ll keep you updated in future letters!

Thank you again for your prayers and support of these students and me this year. I have seen God work in amazing ways in the lives of Roman men and women over the past 2 years. I’m excited that God’s calling me back to Italy for a while longer. I appreciate your prayers and encouragement as I venture into this next stage. Dio é veramente buono! (God is truly good!) Praise be to Him and His name both in my life and the cities of the world– including Roma!

My friend Sarah (CCC in Florence) and I went to
London for a weekend. We’d been talking about it for a long time
It was so fun and refreshing to speak in English!

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Tanti Aguri! (and pancakes.)

April 15, 2008 at 10:42 am (Uncategorized)

Celebrating my birthday with my Italian Bible study!APRIL FUN
April 9th came and went and I celebrated my birthday in Rome! (For the second year.) The picture to the left is me at our Italian bible study eating the cake and ice cream they bought me after singing a round of “Tanti Aguri a Te!” (Happy Birthday to You!) It was really fun to celebrate my birthday with some of my sweet Italian friends, as well as get messages, emails, and phone calls from my family and friends back home! Thank you to all of you that encouraged me on my birthday!

I also got to go to England to visit my boyfriend, Andy, to celebrate! The entire trip was a big gift– even the plane ticket was bought for me from my family! It was great fun and such a relaxing break of seeing Andy, speaking and worshiping in English, and doing things like driving in a car, seeing open green space, and not eating pasta for 3 days! (But to clarify, seeing Andy was the highlight- ha.)

PANCAKES! The day after my birthday we threw (another) massive party at our apartment to continue to have touchpoints with the new students we met during the month of March. The picture on the right are just a few of about 50 students who came to enjoy a traditional American Breakfast of pancakes & syrup, scrambled eggs, sausage, and American coffee. It might not seem novel to you, but to the Italian students who came, it was quite the strange combination of food! Please continue to pray for the students that were met in the month of March. Pray that we could meet with them during the week, get to know them, and engage over the Gospel.

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Chris and Sara on TV!

April 8, 2008 at 1:01 pm (Uncategorized)

UniRoma Logo

Sara e Chris English club Video

Sara and Chris are on UNIROMA tv! Unless you can speak a little Italian, the video might be a bit confusing, but Sara and Chris were explaining one of our weekly outreaches “Conversations in English” to the University Television website host. “Conversations in English” is a way to meet new students, meet the needs (English!) of students at La Sapienza, and enter into spiritual conversations. Check out Chris and Sara on the website by clicking HERE.

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Focus Rome: HOPE

April 7, 2008 at 11:51 am (Uncategorized)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Here’s a video created by Amos Miguel focused around HOPE in Rome. It includes our country director, Greg Lillestrand, and some interviews with students at Roma Tre University. We also interviewed our friend, Luca, who is a student at La Sapeinza University. You can check out Luca’s blog HERE.

Check out other video postings on the MINISTRY VIDEOS page

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175 Americans: Impacting Eternity in the Eternal City

March 25, 2008 at 11:11 pm (Uncategorized)

soularium.jpgThere’s an advertisement here in Rome: “Marzo é Pazzo” (March is Crazy) And it’s true! March has been a crazy month full of, well, Americans! We’ve had about 175 Americans come through this last month. Our theme was ‘Impacting Eternity in the Eternal City,’ and that’s what happened! Students spent their afternoons interacting with Romans over the truth of the Gospel. . . Please pray specifically for the new Italian believers, the students we met that we believe are followers of Jesus, and the students that are interested in learning more about how to have a relationship with God.”
Read more
HERE (Link to my prayer letter viewed on the web)
** Special Prayer Requests**- Please pray for our last outreach with the Americans THIS THURSDAY 27 MARCH. We’re having another BBQ ourtreach. Pray that students would come and it would be a neat connection point for us as a team with new, spiritually-interested students that the Americans have met this month.

. . .You’re online you might as well . . .
Check out a few websites!
– Agape Italia’s NEW website for students (it’s in Italian, but you’ll get the idea!): www.roma.agapeitalia.eu
Agape Roma’s Facebook group for Prayer, updates, pictures, and more: HERE
Thanks everyone! Please drop me an email and let me know how you’re doing!

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Spring Break: Week UNO {1}

March 11, 2008 at 10:55 pm (Uncategorized)

Ol’ Miss Spring Break

FIFTY AMERICAN STUDENTS from Mississippi and Ohio are in Rome this week on 5 faculties of La Sapienza and Roma Tre. It’s been a great start to our 3 weeks of Spring Break trips! Here are a few events you can pray for Rome (remember our over-arching prayer requests are a couple posts down on this blog!)

(^ photo) Students from Mississippi share the Gospel with Italian girls (on the bench) using a new tool called Soularium (a survey using a stack of photos where a student chooses cards that represent their own life and their views on God.)

Wednesday 12 March:
English Club at La Sapienza (Citta’)

Thursday 13 March:
‘La Bella Vita’ (our weekly meeting)- at a new location!
Texas BBQ Party Outreach!! (upwords of 50 students?)

Monday 17 March:
English Club at Villa Mira Fiori

Tuesday 18 March:
English Club at Roma Tre (?)

Wednesday 19 March:
English Club at La Sapienza (Citta’)
** Benefit Concert for Malawi** (pray for 400 people)

Thursday 20 March:
La Bella Vita– at our new location!

Everyday pray for GOOD WEATHER, GOOD CONVERSATIONS, and NEW BELIEVERS!
Thanks so much for praying for us!

Mia and I at her graduationMiriam Graduated!

It was a privilege to attend Mia’s (one of my Christian students) graduation. At 10:30 in the morning I went to the Political Science faculty and sat in a room for 5 minutes when Miraim defended her thesis. A panel of professors asked her questions. Afterwards we waited in the hallway until they rang a bell. Mia and her family (and me!) entered the room again where she got word that she had graduated!

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Without cap or gown, the Italian graduation is very different. Many students receive a crown of laurel!

You can pray for Mia as she finds a job in Italy, (which is very difficult) and as she continues to have a heart for her city. I’m challenging her to team up with one of our post-graduate CCC couples to bring a Passion worship band to Rome! Pray for us as we try to connect Mia with my friend Kelly!

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New Website!

March 11, 2008 at 10:16 pm (Uncategorized)

https://i2.wp.com/ucdavismagazine.ucdavis.edu/issues/sp04/graphics/Online-Computer.jpg

THE WEBSITE IS UP!

I’m happy to announce the arrival of our new website for students! It’s been quite a few months in coming, but it hit cyberspace this week. Check it out by clicking the link below!

http://roma.agapeitalia.eu

Unfortunately, English translation isn’t an option for the site, but at least you can see what students are seeing! There are a few things still under construction, but you’ll get the idea! Praise the Lord for a large donation from the States that made the creation of this website possible!

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Spring Break ’08 Prayer Requests

March 6, 2008 at 10:47 am (Uncategorized)

http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/~dir21/gallery/palm_tree_casa_sollima_sicily.png

We are gearing up here in Rome to receive 3 weeks (March 8-15, 15-22, 22-29) of USA university students to help out with the ministry here during their Spring Break. We will have about 125 students through Rome over the next month. Would you pray diligently for this time? Below are some prayer requests. Write ’em down, stick ’em on the fridge or your car . . . anything to help remind you to pray and ask the Lord to move in Rome this month!

1. That the Gospel would be advanced here in Rome; that students would hear the Truth about Christ and respond; that we would see new believers in Rome! (2 Cor 5:11-21)


2. That we would s
ee future laborers rise up; that Spring Breakers would get a vision for the world and for the need in Rome. (Matthew 9:36-38)


3. That we would better learn our missional audience; that spring break students, staff, and Rome staff would learn about how to more effectively connect with Italian students’ hearts and communicate the gospel in a relevant way. (Prov. 18:15, 24:5)


4. That the 3 weeks of spring break would build momentum in Rome as we seek to build movements all over the city; that we will be able to follow up all of the contacts and share the gospel with the students who have only heard some of it. (Col 4:2-6, Acts 2:42-47)

Thank you so much for praying! I’ll do my best to keep you updated as the chaos unfolds!

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