Last night, I had the most awful attack of Homesickness. I have no idea where it came from. All I know is that it left me with the sense of loss and pain. I found myself wanting to buy a plane ticket and fly to where? I have no idea where that was supposed to be. I know why but this is not the place to discuss that.
I made the decision to go for a walk today, no matter how hot it was getting and how much the heat would hurt. So, a few weeks ago, I found this Villa in the back streets and so I got off the bus and arrived there.
it was hot and arriving at 12.30pm in the midday sun was mad, but after walking through the park. I was so pleased I made the effort. It was full of hidden gems and included a cafe; open air theatre; columns (their description of two Obelisks);a science centre; art museum and then this place. I want to know more. I want to discover more, so a visit in Autumn needs to happen.
Has my homesickness passed? More or less – yes? And the walking around Rome after getting on the wrong bus means I had time to process and make a decision about what to do when it happens the next time. How to deal with the elements that brought it on.
I will go back, when the sun is not so strong and enjoy the walk even more.
So here I am just a couple of months short of 2 years in Rome working with issues of Human Trafficking and Prostitution and suddenly lots is clicking and happening that is making me return to 13 years ago and 9 years ago and 2 years ago. It’s crazy how I get the chance to sit and look at things.
Let’s go back to the 9 years ago “thing” or “moment” because that is the one that is most on my mind at this time. I have spent a few days rejoicing and celebrating God and also remembering some stuff.
I had a meeting with my leaders of The Salvation Army project in London and we were talking about the need to discover diversity and what that would mean in a project as I was in at the time. I prayed and asked around and discovered that the groups for men in prostitution (not the clients and there is a serious lack of provision there too) were so few and far between that this was a possibility and a way forward. I connected to groups and met with group leaders but always “the door” of opportunity was closed.
I genuinely got annoyed with God because I wanted to do something different and that came – we began an outreach to Massage Parlors and Saunas and even after 6 years of being persistent, a lap dance club.; but this wasn’t what I wanted. It was not what I had thought about. I never liked to fit in and thought that the premises we visited were easy. How wrong was I? I got so excited about this ministry and work, and the “men” project wasn’t going anywhere. Jump ahead 9 years now.
Then before Christmas along with my colleagues here in Rome we decided to begin Outreach. And the Green Light Project Rome was born.
I had my ideas and really wanted something different and I along with a group of “volunteers” climbed into the red van. Off we went armed with homemade biscuits and coffee and tea and smiles and a few nerves too.
Did I expect results – yes because even one person talking to me would be great.
What happened though was something that I never expected. In 4.5 months we have over 70 names and a whole load of “unknowns” and 90% of those we have met are Transvestites and they admit they are men, we have their male names too.
Last week reflecting on all that had happened with my leaders, I realized I was reaching the men in prostitution. men who are looked at differently to others. men ignored by the world. Men judged by the world at large. And yet God had prepared me with knowledge and information many years ago.
Now I know why God closed all those doors and why it wasn’t the right time. I am glad that the right time is now. I am glad that I didn’t try and do something back then, but more than that I am humbled by these amazing people I meet every Tuesday evening. They welcome me and accept me and we laugh, cry, talk and pray together. In confusion and pain and hurt and rejection, I am privileged to be a friend to them all.
So, there will be theologians and Christians who have something to say, well come with me and let me take you to the place that one called “Hell”. It doesn’t fit any artists image but who cares, it’s where I meet L and all those other amazing people.
William Booth said the following words and when “B” told us not to pray because the place we meet is hell, then my thoughts turned to these words again. And yes I am prepared.
“You must do it. With the light that is now broken in upon your mind and the call that is now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning hands that are now before your eyes, you have no alternative. To go down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your happiness from now on will consist in sharing their misery, your ease in sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross, and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them.”
So, I share this wanting you to know – that as a Christian, nothing is ever wasted.
Yesterday evening I sat and wrote 20 things I miss about being in the UK and with friends/family etc (I will start with that post – already published on FB) ; but after are my 20 things I love about Italy.
I have been enjoying some sweet memories and so I ask my friends who are far from family & friends because of ministry what maybe you miss.
I am going to list a few (without mentioning names) and I guess my mates who know me will get which one is meant to be them.
1. Cooking up a great plate of pasta together.
2. singing and harmonising old Salvation Army songs.
3. drinking tea and chatting for hours
4. going to the theatre to see a musical
5. laughter, giggles for no reason at all
7. sitting in silence with your friend.
8. Girly movies
9. silly games
10. texting & commenting on Strictly
11. Late night Bagel run
12. wandering because you can do that together
13. standing on Waterloo Bridge
14. Sunday Roast (special mention to Andrea Kathy & Nina – who in my opinion make some of the best roast dinners ever)
15. shared memories of random life moments.
16. Dancing…………..with anyone who will.
18. being with them instead of just Facetime or Skype.
19. Tim Hortons French Vanilla Cappuccino
20. politics and social justice and learning together.
Actually my favourite has to be a late night drive through the streets of London with all these fab people.
so many more could be written but yes these are those i love.
maybe tomorrow I shall do 20 things or so about Italy.
Late entry – bookshop browsing with friends in a chain & Skoobs especially.
here’s the Italy list
1. Pasta in it’s many different forms with it’s many different sauces. In particular Pasta Fagioli. Seriously this stuff is amazing
2. Pizza in particular in Naples with Mozzarella di Bufala.
3. Gelato – why can’t I find coconut gelato in the UK?
4. The Blue Sky, my boss and I were discussing this the other day. It has a special quality here in Italy.
5. Space to just sit and relax during and after a meal. Time to spend and discuss whatever you want? Football, politics……
6. Orange and yellow and pink buildings that are faded and wont be painted for a while because that costs money. Especially on a sunny winters day when the cold bites and the sun catches the colours.
7. Buildings that were trendsetters ahead of their time – like the Colosseum. every sports arena and concert venue is based on this kind of structure
8. Music – the passion that is held for regional music and the classical stuff that unites a region or a nation. (No matter where you are in the world, start singing ‘O Sole Mio’ and people will join in.
9. La Dolce Vita, basically italian life for real.
10. Men who can still look amazing at any age when they dress to leave the house.Most of the men here have a sense of fashion. Mixing colours and styles.
11. Time – there is always time for a coffee, no matter how busy the day is, there is always time to have a coffee with friends.
13. Family and extended familes.
14. Love and respect for children.
15. Love and respect for the older generation.
16. The Salvation Army in Italy. It may be small numerically but their faith and belief is amazing. They have an understanding of Scripture beyond anything I could imagine.
17. Open Homes: I have experienced this in ways I could never have imagined. I am welcomed into families and extended families as a member of the family.
18. Fun – the love and joy of being together. Watching and observing some of my friends in family life always cheers me.
19. National Self Belief – even when things are bad, there is a pride in being Italian.
20. Well it has to be the snow capped mountain ranges and the sea and the plains and the rolling hills in Tuscany and the Olive Oil and the Salami and the bread……
you see my list could go on for ever but I will leave it here. Have you ever been to Italy? What did you love?
Life is strange and here I am writing to you. What can I tell you that will make the next few years go smoothly!
Mum & Dad are amazing people. Stop arguing with them, mum especially. They are amazing people who care so much about you and in a few years time when they push you to grow in the areas of your life that you don’t care about now, trust them. You and dad will never agree on politics (or dancing in church) so don’t bother.
You and mum will agree to disagree and she will care for you and love you and you need to make sure you laugh more with her because that is what you are going to miss the most, I say that but then asking her to make certain recipes would also be really useful.
On the other hand, make the most of the family time you have because you remember all those second hand Italian language books, well you are going to need them pretty soon. Man that is going to be one big adventure and you will learn a language even if you don’t think you can.
In a few years time, you are going to become a Salvation Army officer and you will make friends with some pretty amazing people in those 2 years. You will meet people that will become your support link and your best friends and your party friends and there will be tears but also laughter.
I suppose you already have worked out that the important things in life are faith and family and friends and justice.
Faith will keep you going when you feel like nothing else will. When you feel depressed to the point of not wanting to get out of bed, that is what is going to get you up and then to take you to a place of healing. A place where you will learn that the Joy of the Lord is your strength and healing and capable to change life.
Friends are going to become brothers and sisters to you. You will get hurt but you will also learn to forgive and more importantly be forgiven because you will be needy (well most teenagers are!). You are going to meet some people who will change your life and the way you look at life. I won’t mention all of them here but keep an eye for a particular Salvation Army officer from Holland. A meeting with her will transform you in ways that will make sense later.
You will travel to places you never dreamed and you will learn to overcome prejudices and realize that you have something to say to the world. Mum will tell you this a lot.
There is going to be a rotten moment with our parents dying and you will hate the moments when it happens but you will discover the reality of the love people had for them and the love they had for you. You are going to struggle to find your identity. You are going to ask lots of questions but the answers will come. Store up as many stories as you can right now because when the darkness of grief comes over you, then these stories will be the light in your heart. In those dark moments, you will feel prayed for and loved beyond anything you can imagine. Don’t panic – it’s okay.
And finally, You are going to realize that you are different and weird and don’t fit in. That’s actually a cool thing. No-one says you have to fit in. It’s completely okay to wear some of the crazy clothes you are going to love and especially the glow in the dark earrings that dad will hate. Others will love the fact that you enjoy being yourself and give them the chance to be themselves. With this is going to come a responsibility to the youth you will meet, most of whom are fighting a battle along the way. Some days they will annoy you and others you will love them being around you.
So I could tell you so much more but I reckon that would ruin life.
Take Care of me.
Firstly to say thank you for all the wonderful Birthday cards I receved and now the flurry of Christmas cards that arrive daily and they cheer my heart. My house has Christmas all over it and so does my office too now.
Lots has happened since I last wrote. Officers (ministers) met together for 3 days of teaching and worship. I presented the Anti Trafficking project and what we have done so far. Some were in shock about how much we have completed and I am pleased to say that also we are thinking ahead for the future, I have someone who is a Corps (church) leader to aid me in the project and being Italian this means we are looking to the future. I think and believe that God has something special planned for this small band of followers here in Italy.
In the mean time, I was privileged to be a part of the youth weekend here in Rome and to share on a subject very close to my heart: Friendship. It was a lot of fun but here I am 3 days later and still recovering from it.
And then there is carolling for Christmas in central Rome – which looks simply amazing and glorious and made me feel less homesick as it looks great and is done in the Italian way. Our little band of musicians, including myself go out 3 or 4 times a week and we are pleased with the response and the possibility of converstaions with people.
Soon it will be Christmas and it will be my first in the Italy for 11 years. I have to admit that I am not missing all the busyness that came with Faith House but I am missing singing some of the carols and so each day I blast one out in my house and enjoy that time.
Next year is going to be a busy year with me visiting places for a week and time with our church leaders and sharing the what Trafficking is and how we can move forward to see change in our world.
Please continue to pray for us and for the witness we share each and every time we go “carolling”.
If I don’t get time to send you a message – just want to say Have a blessed and peaceful Christmas and a joyful New Year.
Today is anti-slavery day and if you search the social media websites then you will be able to find so much information about what is happening today around the world. I have been posting on my Facebook bits and pieces all day to challenge and inspire and inform and this is when Social media makes sense.
This morning I read a great quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that made me think again.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Last weekend I was given the opportunity to travel to Budapest in Hungary along with 30+ “warriors” who area about fighting Slavery and Human Trafficking. It was a Salvation Army conference and you can see a short video about here European Anti-Trafficking Response Launched It was a brilliant thing to be a part of and it was history in the making. I am honored to be a part of something that is world changing and especially here in Italy.
This week some friends have blogged about it too and so I suggest that you check out & Mel and Lucy Now I am hoping you can access everything as I am still working it out myself.
That’s it – I was made to speak out and I will continue to do so!
As the Founder of The Salvation Army said, “I’ll Fight” What Fight are you involved in?