Saturday, August 28, 2010


we made it...somehow we made it through the most intense spiritual training i supposed we will undergo in our lives.

i am strengthened, blessed, grateful beyond words, tearful (happy tears of course), nervous, prayerful, encouraged, changed, and ready to pop with excitement.

if you would like an in depth look at more exactly what we have been doing for the past 2 weeks, look at jessica's blog because she gave better details than i did.

we will be headed back to memphis this evening, after ryan, peter, and eric play golf with howard and his friend. meanwhile, i will be recharging my batteries before next week's chore of packing and moving out everything we own. i'm really excited to be back at highland tomorrow and see our friends that we've been away from for a while now.

i feel like i'm wrapped up in a warm blanket of jesus, and i want to wrap up everyone else in it with me.

words will never be enough to express how thankful i am for these men and many others (and their wives) for the difference they made in my life in only 14 days and they ways they touched my heart.

don england

howard bybee, jim woodroof, and carl mitchell

Monday, August 23, 2010

meet the group...officially

i know i have talked a little bit about our new friends but now i'm officially introducing all of them.

here are angela (left) and andrea (right). both from texas, (garland and houston, respectively) angela graduated from harding and is a computer programmer and andrea graduated from abilene and is a high school government/economics teacher. these are our beautifully talented singers/musicians and i love them both dearly. angela leaves august 31st and andrea leaves september 1st for italy.

here is peter. he is also from memphis and we grew up in the same youth group. he graduated from harding with a bible major and was working in a local memphis toy store. he is our resident preacher and i can't wait to hear him! he leaves in october for italy.

here are jessica and eric. they are married and originally from ohio, but they had been living in cabot, arkansas. eric graduated from ohio state and is a professional surveyor and jessica graduated from harding and is an artist. they leave september 7th for italy.

we are all having a ball together already and it's like pulling teeth for us to tell each other bye every night. we have already had some incredibly special bonding times and i know that it was only the beginning. if all of this was over today, i would still feel like i had made 5 new best friends. i can't wait to do this work with all of these people in florence, italy.

these are just some pictures of all the men tonight at the corbin's house for dinner. this was story time with howard (the man in the recliner)

look at their crossed legs, haha. they were laughing at stories of missionaries saying the wrong italian word on accident in some really awkward situations. i hope i don't do that, but i'm sure i will.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

we thought we knew, but we had no idea

last monday, we began what we thought was to be our "missionary" training for our work in italy. turns out it was actually more like "reality" training for the rest of our lives.

we started out monday morning with psychological testing performed by a psychologist who was one of the men to begin this mission work in italy in 1949. we met with him every morning from 8 to 9 to discuss the results of our testing and learn how to work with the other personalities of the group (that's going to be a cinch, really it is).

sitting in class
from 9 to 10 we learned about Jehovah's witness, Mormons, and the Catholic doctrine, and from 10 to 12 we had church history from the first century to present.

at noon everyday, we walked across the street to the home of paul and joli love...

this marvelously eclectic italian/american family (who by the way live in a historical searcy home that practically acts like a boarding house and fed us authentic italian everyday at lunch) taught us some basic italian language concepts and choral singing. we learned some italian church songs, how to sing parts, and "read" music. luckily, andrea and angela (2 of the girls in the group) can sight read, play the piano beautifully (and some other instruments), were in chorus/band in college... thank goodness! they are going to teach me to read music when we get to italy.

here we are practicing our singing (joli is hiding jessica)
ryan practicing his singing
all the girls helping prepare lunch with joli
so, after the love's we would walk back to the house where we did our training for our afternoon classes. monday and tuesday afternoon we learned about culture shock and cross-cultural communication (that will really come in handy) from a man who has been a missionary most all of his life.

for the rest of the week in the afternoons we first had "getting to know jesus" and then "faith and evidences"... amazing.

all these teachers were so genuine and so transparent, so real and so loving, so open and so intelligent, so caring and so gentle, so refreshing and so beautifully well spoken. the perspectives from where these lessons came were so new to me and perfect for this time in our lives.

when ryan and i came to training, we knew God had led us to avanti and we were ready to do whatever he led us to do next. however, we were pretty much just coasting along waiting to be taught some pointers and helpful hints for reading the bible with the italians. sadly, we had put our personal relationships with Jesus on the back burner in preparation for all of this mission work (i know... how ridiculous... ready to give up everything and spend 2 years in a foreign country in the name of Jesus but putting on hold everything that was necessary for a close relationship with him... what were we thinking? i don't know) and were kind of in the dumps. i don't know what i thought was going to happen when i got to italy and was supposed to start evangelizing, only to realize that i didn't know what i was talking about but was too proud to rely on God to get me through it.

well, maybe these men have something up their sleeves, because everything i thought i knew, and the selfish attitude i had that was supposedly going to carry me along were pulled out from under me like a rug. i feel like God had a meeting with our teachers and he told them exactly what to say to break me down so that he could start building me back up to be the person he wants me to be. we have seen a man talk with so much love and passion about Jesus that his face lit up the whole room. we have all been pushed to the edge of our seats and pushed to tears by the most convicting and awe-inspiring stories i have ever and will ever hear in my life.

even better is that i have been able to share these moments with my husband and the other 5 amazing people that will be going with us to italy. i have been touched to hear how God has worked in the lives of all of us in such real and specific ways to get us to this point. after class thursday and friday we just sat in silence, glued to our seats for a little while. then we began to share. we shared joy, fear, doubt, hope, happiness, loneliness, love, faith, scripture, tears. God opened us up in a way that brought us all closer than i've ever felt to a group of people in such a short amount of time. wow. i have never felt so confident that i was where i was supposed to be doing what i was supposed to be doing.

so as not to run the risk of getting wordy (haha, i think i already did) i will wrap it up. perhaps, our teachers know how powerful their material is and that we are undergoing a type of "spiritual bootcamp", maybe i'm just hearing it in a way that i've never heard it before, but perhaps they don't know and God is using what the teachers give us as helpful advice and present it in a life-altering way.

whatever the reason, i know that i am scared...this is a scary thing and i feel very inadequate. but where i am weak, God is strong, and he actually prefers to use weak people for his good. this kind of thing means listening when God calls you and doing what he says no matter what. but i feel so much more prepared now, which is ironic because at the same time i feel like a new Christian with new enthusiasm and a new desire to learn as much as i can. i feel so renewed, so safe, so happy, and so ready to go wherever he leads.