When I get up this morning, the sun is out. I have slept like the dead. Everyone is awake, joking and laughing and pouring thick espresso into dainty cups.
A word about this year’s Italy Missions Team. I am more than amazed at how quickly everyone has gelled. There is genuine and deeply felt community with everyone, and they with themselves. I can honestly predict that I am making some lifelong friendships here. We have recording artists, talented producers, leaders of churches. But no ego clashes, no internal dynamics, no drama. Sitting at the table listening to the rapid-fire conversations going on around me, I am struck again by how God’s grace works quietly in and through us.
We rehearse at our apartments, then leave for lunch at the home of one of the people at the Torraccia church. Once again, the food is amazing and the hospitality displayed humbling. But in this outdoor gathering, we see the dark clouds begin to roll in, hear thunder in the distance. Among the conversation, I begin praying for God to push the clouds away. Our host pastor, Valerio Mungai, reassures me as if he has had a special word from God.
The Torraccia Church is very special. They are the church that, as I mentioned last year, was given the opportunity to purchase land, making them the first protestant church to own land in Rome proper. They squeeze a congregation of about two hundred (mega-church size for Italy) into a storefront facility. And they keep growing. As I quiz Pastor Mungai on his plans, he describes to me his desire for a sanctuary, classrooms for an elementary school, a small hospital. Big dreams from a humble man. They hope to get final approvals and begin building in 2010. Remember that the Italian economy is very bad. About one third of men under 35 are unemployed. I say a prayer for their ministry.
We are able to walk to the Piazza from their storefront, then set up. The sun begins to shine. The Crista E la Risposta team has arrived and they are setting up their outdoor sound system. We now have seven songs, not including Bob’s set. And this time, we sound tight, we rock hard, and we have a blast doing it. In short, What About Bob? kicks some major spiritual butt. It must have come as a surprise to the Italianos, to see these Americans from all over, having so much fun together.
The turnout is very good—maybe 250 have come out to hear us. And since it is a piazza, we don’t know how many other thousands of people where listening from their balcony windows. The team is tired but giddy. Mungai is pleased. I am exhausted. After another post-concert meal (“Here Manuel, have a plate of chicken, turkey and sausage”), we are hustled back to our apartments where my face becomes iron and my pillow a magnet. Tomorrow, we go to church and have another concert. But tonight I sleep.
Fun Facts: (1) Keith Swyers, one of the vocalists on our team, split his pants during the concert. (2) We have two members of our team that are just 18 years old: Alessandro Mungai, the son of our host pastor, is a very capable drummer, and Jonathan Kvamme from Tacoma is on our Recording Team. (3) The Italian Sausage is incredible. I might ask a plate full to marry me.
Photos: Lunch with some of the team (above); Kicking the band at the Torraccia Plaza (middle); The crowd gathers to hear us play (bottom).