First the stats. Fourteen Americans, twelve days, four concerts, two Sunday church services. Or how about 347 cups of espresso, 118 scoops of gelato, 438 pounds of pasta, three horse meat sandwiches.
It is very difficult to assign metrics to a trip like this, or anything spiritual for that matter. I think it is an American thing, to want to quantify and analyze and somehow gauge the effectiveness of a thing. I’m trying really hard—as a simple act of spiritual formation—to avoid conjuring up metrics with which to measure success, particularly with this trip. Remember I had stated in this blog before this adventure began that I was applying my spiritual formation mantra to this trip: To have great passion and commitment for something, while not attaching my identity to the success or failure of it.
Bob Kilpatrick and I discussed this issue this yesterday morning over coffee. We have a few disappointments and several successes. But on the whole, I pretty much felt the smile of God upon us each day of our trip. I do think that should count for something.
Here are a few comments and musings regarding the Italy Missions Trip 2009. (In addition, Rick Dupea has posted a ton of photos on the following website, so if you like pics, this will give you a sense of what we experienced.)
• Praise. Only one half of one percent of Italians profess to be born-again Christians. This is less than China. According to Pastor Douglas, the Italy missions field is largely a forgotten one by the evangelical church. (I encourage you to check out Rick Dupea’s blog on Naples.) Just the fact that we were there, to encourage and support them with our time, finances, talents, and hearts, was a huge thing to them.
We were able to connect on a very personal level with people at several ministries in both Rome and Naples. For full-time missionaries out on the field like David Cubit at the tent ministry, they were so appreciative that we cared enough to be there. Even the idea of just watching their children or having dinner in someone’s home has the element of encouraging and rejuvenating missionaries. And from the standpoint of leading worship, I think we did very well in making long lasting friendships with both Torraccia and Casoria.
• Praise. Strategic relationships were created. We facilitated contact with one of the largest studios in Naples, and Brandon Bee may be doing some work with them. Oikeo Music, under the direction of Melissa Saulnier, is working toward establishing a CCLI connection with Italy. Both Brandon and Bob Kilpatrick will probably be going back to Casoria in September with bands to perform. Bob also made contact with one of the biggest blues musicians in Italy, who was a closet fan of Bob from the seventies, and he hopes to foster that relationship in September. Rick, Melissa, and Bob lent credibility to the Naples outreach for Pastor Douglas Valenzuela in a meeting with the Mayor of Casoria. The stage is now set for further work, in September and beyond.
• Disappointment. The largest disappointment was that we recorded only a few Italian songs. There are probably a lot of things we could have (and should have) done differently; hopefully our hindsight, as well as some of the contacts we’ve made, will help us in the future. Jonathan Kvamme will attempt to master some live stereo tracks of the tent concerts, so hopefully the team will have a musical memento we can share with our supporters, and you can get a sense of what we sounded like.
• Disappointment. The second disappointment was not being able to go to L’aquila to see and minister at the earthquake site. While our supporting churches have their own relief efforts going on, we weren’t able to logistically join them in any of their trips there.
• Praise. One of our on-going prayer requests to our supports was unity among the team. Thanks for your prayers in this area; It worked! We were very blessed to have some stellar people on the team, and everyone got along so very well the entire trip—no egos, no drama, no EGRs (extra grace required people). We mentioned before the trip began that unity amidst our diversity was very important to model to the evangelical church. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.
• Praise. From a performance standpoint, I think the band did great. Given the circumstances, we were able to play some really good music that connected with the Italians, and also share in worship with both Casoria and Torraccia churches. And we had loads of fun doing it. Also, during our concerts and services and workshops, a variety of people took center stage, and we also purposefully enfolded Italians as well, which I believe modeled mutual submission and community.
• Praise. Just from a practical standpoint, we were able to give a lot of money away to the several ministries, as well as donations of a wireless mic, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, digital recorder, pro studio headphones, bass guitar, CDs, etc. These gifts were all very much appreciated by the Italians. Thanks for your support here also.
• Starbuck’s coffee seems a little skinny now.
• The day after I got back, the family got out the ice cream for some dessert, and for some reason, it did not at all seem appealing to me. I really miss the gelato—a lot.
• I sat down with Debbie and bored her for an hour with all the slides and video I took back with me. The missions team will be very unhappy to know that she pretty much knows something embarrassing about each of you!
• After getting back to my own bathroom scale, I found out that—in spite of all the carb loading the last two weeks—I actually lost 6 pounds during the trip. Others on the team experienced the same weight loss as well. I can’t explain it except for the fact that we did so much walking every day. No wonder the Italians are skinnier than us.
• Everyone on the team is experiencing major jet lag (we’re all Facebook buddies now). I am experiencing it as well, although I think the larger issue for me isn’t physical. It’s spiritual. I bring back to Folsom a spiritual high from being with the missions team and with our Italian brothers and sisters, and I am not sure what to do with it—it doesn’t quite fit my overly comfortable suburban California life.
And maybe that’s one of the biggest intangible benefits of missions. To be reminded that God is bigger than the life one leads, to know that His church is bigger than the church one is in, and that He is at work around the world, even at 4:45 AM, when the internal restlessness inside you jolts you awake.
THANKS to all of my supporters who sacrificed their money and prayers on behalf of this missions trip. I thank you and I thank God for you.
Standing at the threshold (Photo 1). Alessandro Mungai (Pastor Valerio’s son and our drummer), Brandon Bee, and Jebby Moates chillin’ in the pews (Photo 2). Taking the Cubit family out to lunch (Photo 3). Danilo Tosto, our talented Italian guitarist…before he hit his nose on the glass (Photo 4). The band rockin’ hard in Naples (Photo 5). Saying our goodbyes at the airport: Brandon Bee, Jebby Moates, Jonathan Kvamme, Steph Dupea, me, Keith Swyers, Rick Dupea, Cate Morris, Melissa Saulnier (Photo 6).