Outreach Day 14

Our last day in Italy was spent mostly on cleaning and travel. We got up at 5 to get ready to go and after making many pots of coffee, got to work cleaning the church, sweeping, mopping, wiping down surfaces and raking the leaves outside. When we finished we took a bus ride to Milan, than a couple metro rides and another bus trip to get to the airport. After getting through security we spent the rest of the morning relaxing or shopping while we waited for our plane to go home, and then tried mostly unsuccessfully to get past the boarding pass checkers with the rest of our bags/drumming supplies. Thankfully they were merciful and didn’t charge us anything extra.

After that we just had to fly home, time that was mostly spent reading, talking or cataloging the good qualities of our friends, get past security, and take the train and bus rides home.

As with most travel days it was fairly boring and tiring, but it was also nice to be home.

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Outreach Day 13

For our last full day in Italy, we went to Pavia. It started off with work duties and then we went to the bus stop. Unfortunately, once we got there, the man who we’d been buying from all week didn’t have any of the right tickets!

Time to step out in faith.

Thankfully, God provides. When the bus finally arrived, we explained the situation to the driver and he let all of us ride with the assurance we would buy tickets when we arrived (which, for the record, we did). On arrival we bought both our tickets for the ride we’d just taken and the one back and then headed outside, most of us seeking out patches of sunlight since it was so cold outside. Also, as a side note, one of the teenagers we’d finally talked to the previous night was there at the stop. He was there for the day with his girlfriend, so some of the guys from our group he’d clicked with stopped to say hello. It was awesome.

Anyway, after getting all of our tickets, we started out for prayer walks. The first place we stopped was a really old church. It was kind of cool at first, even though it was falling apart, but then we got inside.

So, I don’t know how many of you know this, but there are such things known as incorruptible bodies, corpses of saints that, after death, refuse to rot. It’s kind of a big deal in certain Catholic traditions (possibly others, I don’t know that much about them) because of the verses that talk about God not letting his holy ones see decay (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27), and this church was definitely in that vein. At first it was kind of cool because I’ve heard about these bodies but never seen one, but then as we went further in, I started to see and feel more. This church was full of dead bodies. Skeletons in golden boxes, the incorruptible one, jars with bones and ashes. Each was meticulously labeled and carefully laid out, rows and rows of candles for prayers and offerings lined up before each.

And where was Jesus you ask?

Well, there was one statue of him next to an altar and I think over some remains. The other was tucked behind a massive, curtained altar, the contents of which I’m not sure we ever really discovered. It was the largest of them all, roped off (Chris wasn’t even allowed to touch the Bible on the table in front of it, despite being a pastor), and if you didn’t walk all the way up the steps to purposefully look behind it, you wouldn’t see Jesus at all.

And that’s not to say we should worship or offer prayers to a statue of Jesus anymore than we should remains, but it made it pretty clear where the real focus of this church was.

Tragic.

We spent a fair amount of time praying at that church (including stopping at their terrifying portal-to-hell sounding bathrooms), and when we got outside, we made sure to pray again. It felt so dead inside (go figure), it made me more thankful than I’ve ever been (or at least in a long while) to serve the Living God. Thank you Jesus for being alive!

Anyhoo, after the church, we stopped at a few other places of interest in the city, like statues, universities, and a castle before stopping for lunch. Then we prayed at the university for a long time, some of the youth from Casorate joining us.

Something of note that happened personally while I prayed was the arrival of birds. Pavia has a very subdued, quiet feel about it, to the degree that all the colors seem muted and you just want to yell. Because of this (and because God told me to), one of the things I prayed for was more noise and vibrancy of color. And apparently when I did, especially for greens and yellows, two green birds with yellow by the faces (they look like parrots really) flew into the courtyard chirping, the first that had been there since we’d shown up. I didn’t quite make the connection in the midst, but Ole told me about it after the fact. Really cool!

The afternoon was spent on slightly less heavy things. We walked by the river for a while (Italian rivers are so much cleaner than English ones. Even if the bottom is muddy you can still see it. So strange.), and then for the last time–after a nice little misadventure of getting separated from the rest of the group with Chris, Gabby and Eric, got some gelato. This time I got raspberry and a flavor called Sacher, which is kind of like dark chocolate with this weird brownie-like goop which is needless to say delicious. They also put melted chocolate in the bottom of the cones there, so I got white chocolate in mine. After a quick stop at the grocery store we ran for the bus, and then I spent the ride home talking video games with Jenn while sitting uncomfortably close to an Italian dude’s thigh.

On the plus side, the sunset was amazing, probably the most diverse and colorful one I’ve seen in all of my life. Gold-rimmed clouds in corals and yellows, others from pink to baby blue, periwinkle, purple. The sky was a rainbow of hues covering mountains in purples and blues. Cranes stood under navy clouds in darkening fields, tall trees lining the landscape in perfectly planted man-made rows. It was amazing.

Nothing much else happened after we got back to the church. Some of the staff went out to the cafe one last time and some of us watched Wreck-It Ralph before finishing Indiana Jones 3. One of the heavier days we had the whole trip, it still ended strong.

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Gabby looking really pretty. Me looking…something.

Words for Milan

In Milan, we visited a plaza well known for its live music and night life. We stopped to pray and to listen to this really awesome street performer named Sean from Scotland, and I felt God wanted to say something quick while we prayed. This is what I wrote:

Milan, city of 1,000 voices, sing your song, worship your God. How I love all your songs, your efforts, your beauties. I love seeing your street art, I smile at your paintings and songs. How beautiful are your ways. How much I love your songs.

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The plaza in Milan.

Outreach Day 12

Day 12 of outreach started with work duties to take care of the church. It was a Sunday, so once we were finished cleaning, people started to come. We did worship in Italian, which was obviously pretty different but also really fun (it’s really rewarding to sing with brothers and sisters who speak a different language actually, to know they’re so different but to still be united as one), and then after Ole shared a picture he’d received during worship, we started in on the message, one about hunger delivered by Chris.

After church we all went to get lunch. Sarah’s family and some of the other church members went with us to a local pizza place called Il Mago 4 and each of us got a whole pizza! They brought out appetizers before that too, bruschetta, cheese bread and fries, so needless to say we were all pretty full when we left (I ate all of mine but the crust, but even that was a challenge)! Heading back to the church we all spent some much needed time to digest.

After resting for a little while, we headed down to the city center for what Chris said would be about 5 minutes of poi and drums. Turns out God had other plans. We weren’t even required to go, but I’m so glad so many did. Drumming in that plaza was powerful. I could feel angels flying around, and even the teens that had spent most of the week avoiding us started to get engaged. We danced, got them to talk to us and even prayed for a crippled boy. He wasn’t healed on the spot, but I know seeds were planted.

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Gabby supporting Jenn. Both of these pictures were actually from my birthday, but I think they show the beauty of the town and the weather. The statue is a war memorial and it’s where the kids hang out. It is also the source of a lot of their spiritual problems according to Chris (romanticizing suffering, abandonment, trauma, etc.).

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Then, as was our habit, we headed to the cafe to hang out (Andrea’s two brothers both came so we had all three present!) before coming back for dinner and a spontaneous worship/dance party. Some of the girls had ballet lessons with the dancers, some people played cards, and then while those who didn’t want to partake hung out in the kitchen, the rest of us watched most of the third Indiana Jones on the church’s projector screen. With such powerful evangelism, great food and fellowship it was another one of my favorite days.

Outreach Day 11

Day 11 started off with rain. We went to the cafe for breakfast (by this time we were practically regulars), getting a bunch of croissants and coffee, and then headed back to the church for a time of worship and intercession. We spent some time getting ready for the youth group after that (we had invited some of the people from town, though unfortunately none came), and then had youth group with them, sharing some of what we do in London, worshiping, and helping them plan a party (super hero themed, yes!).

When youth group was over we headed back to our beloved cafe, this time to enjoy a dinner they had made for us. Apparently in talking to Chris the night before, they had generously volunteered to make it for free! They gave us the rest of their baked goods before we left too (as they had done the night before), and of course the food was amazing. Seriously, their generosity and kindness is still hard to believe. To give so freely to people you can’t even talk to, it was amazing. It was also the first time I tried apricot juice, which for the record is delicious. That little cafe, with its music videos on the tvs, the black tables and chairs, the global wall art, the little counter, it will always hold fond memories for me.

Outreach Day 10

Day 10 of outreach was when we went to Sarah’s hometown of Binasco. After our morning routine of breakfast and quiet time we hopped on the bus. On arrival we met up with Sarah’s family at her childhood home. In typical fashion, they welcomed us inside like family, and then after a wonderful morning relaxing in their beautiful home, they made us lunch: pasta for the main course followed by  home made apple dessert and coffee with whipped cream she made on the spot.

After lunch, we stopped by her grandma’s (also welcoming and lovely), and then walked more around town, prayer-walking, interceding and in general looking at/enjoying the local castle (previously burned by Napoleon), Sarah’s old school, her step-father’s music studio, the bank and a grocery store. It was pretty quiet there, which seemed kind of spiritual in some way (Chris wanted us to go back there actually, though we never got the chance), but it was also during siesta time, so it might have been mostly that. We tried to get gelato at Sarah’s favorite place (the best in Italy according to her), but the place was closed for the season. On the plus side, we got to go to a bake shop instead, which was made especially nice because then we could pray for the owner, who had donated food to us the night before! He donates food a lot, and though we didn’t get to talk to him too long, he seemed like a really nice guy. The baked goods were amazing too. I got a cannoli, a chocolate beignet, a creme puff with a bit of custard and some kind of custard-y tube the name of which I still don’t remember. All of them were delicious (even after I accidentally left the cannoli on one of the heaters when we got back, haha), and especially so because of how well my stomach was doing by that time (I had been having stomach problems for months previous to this, so being able to eat anything I wanted during our entire trip was an insanely wonderful blessing).

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The food gets it’s own box. Doing my momma (and the generous bake shop owner/his amazing work) proud.

After our stop at the bakery, we had to take the bus back to Casorate. Thankfully this time they stopped where we needed to go. Chris came back once we reached the church (he had to leave for a few days for meetings) too, so he was able to come with us again when we went back out. The church was having a prayer and intercession that night all in Italian, so we decided to go evangelize and intercede in the city center instead. Mostly we spent time hanging out in the square or cafe, playing games or talking to the local youth who kind of use that space as their center, but it was still walking in the opposite spirit, and we had a lot of fun.

Outreach Day 9

Day 9 of outreach started with me dreaming that the Cubs had won the World Series. Then I dreamt I had only dreamt they’d won, and then finally (before waking myself up since I was driving myself insane), dreaming that I had dreamt that I had dreamt they had won and then actually lost but that they had actually won. It was in extra innings when I woke up, but after a bathroom break and some prayer, I came back to find that in real life, completely awake, they had won the series. After that I was able to go back to sleep, haha.

When I woke up again for the morning, after telling everyone else they had won, we got ready to go to Milan via the bus and Metro. We took a tour of the city and did prayer walks and intercession all day. We started off by visiting Sarah’s old school, where we met some of her teachers. Sarah’s mom told us that one of the teachers there brought her to Christ and in true Italian style, they fed us, sharing chips and soda and pies as well as these little cards talking about our power in Christ.

After the school we went to this plaza where a bunch of musicians always hang out. It’s a lot more popular at night, but we did meet a man from Scotland there named Sean, and he was super great (you can just barely see him under the arch in the second photo). Genesis (one of our staff) asked if she could play the cajon (a box-shaped percussion instrument) with him and then after that he even let us use his guitar and sound-system to play a couple of songs. There are street-performance rules in Milan and we hadn’t brought much of our stuff as a result, so it was pretty awesome that God provided for us in that way. Sean was really nice too, even offering us one of his guitar strings when he found out one of ours was missing. We definitely invited him to London.

After that, we moved on to the Duomo, a massive cathedral that’s been under construction for literally hundreds of years. It’s beautiful and unbelievable in its size and scope, but also dedicated primarily to Mary, so a little bit missing the boat. We prayed against idolatry there, took a bunch of pictures of the beautiful architecture, and moved on for coffee and snacks at an “American” (they had doughnuts) coffee shop called Arnold’s Coffee. We stopped at Sarah’s university around that time too.

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Me and Eric outside the Duomo, looking ready for camp.

The next place we stopped was a large shopping center. We got these delicious pasty type things called luinis, which were basically fried or baked pizza dough wrapped around either sweet or savory fillings. I got a baked one with chocolate and pear and a fried one with some kind of salami similar to pepperoni and cheese. Both were delicious, though I liked the fried/hot one the most.

Moving farther into the shopping center, we came to this open air place in the middle with a bunch of spiritually sketchy mosaics in the ceiling. There were also two Prada stores, one across from the other, and a bunch of other really expensive places, so in general, it was kind of a materialistic place to be. Following one of the arms of the place back outside, we came to a smaller plaza with a Da Vinci museum, theater, government building and statue of Leonardo Da Vinci. We spent some time praying there and then moved on to a giant castle turned museum.

From the castle we exited out into a giant park, one looking to an arch with Europa on one side and the castle on the other. We enjoyed the weather for a while and this one dog chasing ducks in the pond, and then moved on to a quick bathroom break/cafe stop before the Metro/bus home. The bus missed our stop on the way home so we had to walk quite a ways to actually get home (single file in the dark by the side of the road in the middle of the country), but it was actually kind of fun too. We wound up at the grocery store, so after a quick stop for snacks, we finally made it back to the church. After dinner I had some discipleship time with Carrie and then sleep after a long day.

Of all the days, I think Milan was one of the strangest. Some of the strongholds there are anger/aggression and confusion and I definitely experienced both. I remember being a little peevish or snappy with people all day, and to this day I still struggle to remember properly what all we did and when. It was still an amazing day, but I guess it just goes to show the kind of power strongholds can have, even if you’re aware. Nonetheless, God is greater and stronger and has already won the day, so we continue to pray and walk in His eternal victory.

Pray for Milan.