Friday, January 22, 2016

It is amazing to think that this has been the view we have been surrounded by for the past week. It is wonderful to be here. We are in a rural location, with country views on all sides.  So very different from the forest we live in in Georgia.
The conference center is as beautiful as the surrounding mountains. We are all aware that we are on holy ground.  Many years of persecution, prayer, hardship and faithfulness have shaped this small enclave into a place that is truly set apart for God.  This is the only Evangelical conference center/camp in Italy that is staffed year round.  As well as hosting large groups, this center also runs an after-school program for local children with learning disabilities. They have earned a great reputation in the local area.
We are delighting in getting to know some of the local staff.  We have had a few evenings playing volleyball and indoor soccer and hockey with some of them.  Tonight we turned the indoor gym into the dance studio ready for the Incarnate students to arrive on Monday, so the games came inside to our apartment here at the center.
This week the Incarnate staff have been preparing for school to begin. We have been amazed at how easily and quickly we have gone through a huge to-do list, and are all feeling pretty ready for school to start.  There is a great sense of excitement and anticipation among us. Including, Nigel, Ben and I we are 12 staff from 4 different continents. Our unity has been immediate as well. So many many things to be thankful for this week.

Prayers would be welcomed for the 26 students who arrive on Monday. Ben will spend several hours in Rome airport welcoming them and getting them on the right bus. Nigel has been meeting people off the bus in the nearest big town, about 30 minutes away.
The students will be moving straight into orientation week on Tuesday.  Nigel and I both have many commitments during orientation week, and will be gone from the children a lot during the week. They have been great this week as we have been working, but next week will be even longer hours. They are very safe here in the apartment, and we have been completely amazed at how well they are adjusting to a new culture and a new lifestyle. Already they have opened doors to the people here.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

All in a week!

The past week has been a whirlwind of tasks, travel and emotions. There is no way I can describe it all in a short blog. I am so glad I got to live it all though.
As we left America, for these several months in Europe, we felt loved, cared for and blessed. Overwhelmingly so. People stopped by to say goodbye, threw parties, brought meals, cleaned our house and took some of the children shopping for last minute bits.
Fast forward a couple of plane rides later, and we were in England surrounded by family and friends celebrating Nigel's upcoming birthday.  What a good time of seeing people we just have not seen enough of over the last 14 years.
What is it about family, that creates such bonds that even though our kids haven't seen their cousins for over 4 years, they instantly get along again. It was such a highlight to watch them interact with Nigel's family.
Today, we were back at our church in London, drinking in the sights and sounds and renewed friendships.  It is amazing what you notice about a place that was once very familiar, after a long absence. Everything delights in a new and vibrant way.
It was also very sobering to be among people who have faithfully prayed for and supported our family over the years. Our prayers for them felt so inadequate and generic as I heard about the death of a spouse, or the recent cancer treatment or the uncertainty of a future in retirement etc.  What joy now to be allowed into those places in their lives again and be able to pray. Then there were those familiar faces we did not get to see, as they have passed on to glory.
It has been an amazing few days here in England. If this was all we came for, it would seem enough to me.  It is incredible to think there is even more ahead.
On Tuesday we begin our journey down to help staff Incarnate2016, the 12 week long discipleship school for artists. We will be traveling through Belgium, Germany, and either Austria or Switzerland, depending on road conditions as we cross the Alps.  Snow is forecast in those parts of Europe so we will just wait to see. Snow is also forecast for Isola, Italy (our home for the next three months) for the first few days we are there. I hope these Georgia settlers can cope!
We would love your prayers as we travel down in the OM van.