I have been a very negligent person, I went to Italy last summer and I’ve never formally shared about my experiences. I even just added the pictures to facebook a few days ago. You can read my intro post here.
I was so excited to be on the Italy team, my entire life Europe has been my #1 traveling goal. When I was about 2 years old I lived in Germany for awhile, and we even visited the Neuschwanstein Castle, but of course I can remember nothing.
Throughout my time at the “world’s largest Christian University” we heard about missions opportunities around the world on a regular basis. However, mostly these were geared towards interesting the students in the 10-40 window or sharing about the poverty that existed in non Christian places around the world. I would leave such events frustrated that they were not sharing about Europe, knowing that they were in drastic need of evangelical witness.
With Xtreme Impact I’ve helped to lead several trips, when another opportunity became available to return as a leader for my 3rd year my first choice was to Italy! I researched, googled, and studied Italian waiting for the trip in July. I was slightly afraid that I’d be disappointed once I got there.
We start our trips on campus and do training before leaving for each team’s country. Despite looking forward to the trip the last night on campus before we’d be leaving for the airport that next morning, I ended up being filled with anxiety. I had fears about being able to connect with the high school students, if I’d be able to communicate well, and several other insecurities. Honestly, I just wanted to go home.
The next morning those feelings had faded, and I felt more excitement getting to know members on my team. Travel went by quickly, especially though the France airport, through which we literally ran from one side of the other being escorted by the workers so that way we would not miss our flight. We tiredly trudged to our rooms, I was very excited to sleep, as I tend not to throughout the flights.
That first night I woke up, and then realized one of the high school students wasn’t sleeping either. She was one that I’d got to sit next to most of the travel, so we’d already formed a bond. She asked me to pray with her because she couldn’t sleep. We went out the porch and prayed so that way we wouldn’t wake the rest of the team. In the end it became very apparent that her anxiety/worry was a spiritual attack about, being made to feel guilty about her struggles. It was awesome to be able to sit there with her and be God’s conduit of peace, sharing that missionaries didn’t have to be perfect, that we are all people who struggle and that God works through those struggles. From that moment I really felt my place on the team.
From the moment that we arrived Italy enchanted me, outside of my window was gorgeous views of the vineyard across the street and the Alps in the far distance. My favorite time of the day was Riposo, a nap time that occurs from about 1-3 pm. In my opinion Italy has a very quiet beauty, it is ages old, but it doesn’t scream and demand attention, it just exists and enchants.
Not only did I click with the physical environment (besides the exhausting heat), and the amazing Italian fare that we were able to eat (oh my goodness Gelato), this was the easily the best trip that I’ve ever been on emotionally. My personality really meshed with that of the team. I wasn’t seeking it, but on this trip I really was showered with God’s love and security as well as that of my team.
Ministry wise we participated in three basic activities: children’s ministry, track distribution, and drama ministry. We rotated based on amount of children at the park, people in the piazzas, weather, and other factors. Track distribution was enjoyable because the groups that I was in we’d usually use it as a prayer walking time, and check in with prayer requests of the group. Children’s ministry was surprisingly one of my favorites; it felt refreshing to simply have fun and just love on the kids. Yes, you had to develop a program/service, but the focus is on play which is very restorative. Drama ministry was just impacting. During my trip we may not have seen a single salvation, but I know that God was working.
For our fun days we visited a beach city, visited Aquilela, and spent a day in Venice. I’d been looking forward to visiting Venice the entire year preceding. I have a picture poster that I purchased in college of Venice. However, surprisingly, Venice was one of my worst days of the trip. I had an amazing group of students I was chaperoning, but I was just exhausted from the heat, the crowds, and my poor choice in foot wear. On one hand I was really bummed, but on the other hand I really feel like this may also show that I clicked with Italy in more than a touristy way, since I didn’t even enjoy the most touristic thing that we did.
At the end of the trip I missed Italy so much. I was happy to be home, to rest, to be in my own bed, and to see my husband, but I missed Italy. I really felt a drawing to return. However, I know how hard mission trips are…I did NOT want to go if God didn’t want me to go. Therefore, I prayed throughout all of August asking that God would close this door if He didn’t want me to go.
Looks like He didn’t since I’m set to meet my 2012 team tomorrow! I’m excited but also nervous. Each year is so different with various teammates with different personalities, and who knows what God has in store. Something that He’s been showing me, though, is that I can only accomplish these things through his strength! Please join me in prayed for my trip. I’ll be on campus until the 9th when we’ll fly to Italy, and we’ll be there until the 26th when we’ll return to campus for a few days and everyone will head home on the 28th. I’ll be posting pictures at www.dailybooth.com/ciao_erin , as well as my twitter ciao_erin, which both link to my facebook. Hopefully, afterwards it won’t be a year before I blog about my experiences ;0).