Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Motor Scooters

I absolutely LOVE riding on the backs of motor scooters in Italy. (Some of the delirious joy and novelty is lost if one rides on a scooter outside of an Italian context.)

Having ridden multiple times on the backs of no less than two different motor scooters in the (and again, this is important) Italian context, I consider myself to be quite the accomplished American visitor. Ever since watching that Mary-Kate and Ashley film in Italy the desire to try this for myself was planted within me. Upon arriving to Italy and realizing that this desire was shared with an American friend of mine who had gotten the privilege of this tourist rite of passage before me and assured me it was worth it, I set out to experience this for myself.

Opportunity struck when I had to meet a student for English and we decided he should pick me up at a meeting point. I was woefully unprepared for a scooter ride, but after picking up a pair of 5€ pants from a street vendor and classily putting them on in the middle of the sidewalk, I was ready to ride. He went easy on me and didn't go too fast, and my first ride on a motor scooter in Italy finally happened! This student of mine went to the same cell group as me the year before, and so ride number two was to the train station after one of our Bible studies.
Rides number three to roughly six occurred in Loano, and here I had the experience of riding with an actual Italian (my student is Brazilian). Awesome, and much more frightening. We were chugging along on high mountainous roads with no railings and once the scooter swiveled and I freaked before bursting into hysterical frightened laughter. My Italian friend promptly responded with, "What's so funny?! We almost died!"

Ride number seven was an exhilarating dash through city streets on the way to a birthday party. That ride is by far my favorite. I had gotten abandoned by one car ride and had to abandon another because we were going to different destinations, when my student pulled up on his motor scooter. Yaaaaay. All ill will against the first ride who had abandoned me flew out the window as I hopped on the back of my super-hot-holds-my-wrist-too-long-in-public student's motor scooter while artfully hiding the hole in the crotch of my jeggings. Helmet in place and jacket secured against the eventual cold, we took off.

I realized there were six of us in total whizzing along, dipping and swerving and breaking suddenly, and at one point one of the other guys drove up behind us, then beside us, and his passenger held onto the back of the scooter I was on. After praying for our safety for what must have been the tenth time, I let the speed fiend in me enjoy the ride. It was fabulous. Here are some pics of the action.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Immodest Proposal

In life, many things are asked of us...

On Facebook I recently saw a lot of buzz around an engagement. Wistfully, I looked around me and said, "I want to get proposed to." It doesn't take much work to imagine the folded arms and two-year-old pout that accompanied this statement. Well, as it turns out, dreams do come true.

Later that same day I was speaking to an Italian friend via Skype, telling him about the annoyance of the permit to stay here, and explaining that if God has called me to Italy long-term something is going to have to be done about that. He shifts a little, looks me in the eye as best as one can through Skype, and says, "Here's my idea Allegra. Why don't we get married, consummate the marriage-because it's important to consummate the marriage- and then we can go to the immigration office and fill out all the forms".

Maybe I should have been more specific in my request.

I mean, I've never had someone older than my mother propose to me for what seems like just to get into my pants. I mean, who emphasizes consummating a marriage when they propose to someone!? I don't care if it was a "joke"! My friend D. (sensitive missionary info, so I won't say her name or location here) says that every joke contains some truth. Needless to say, I did not expect my first marriage proposal to happen under quite these circumstances.

Then the next day I was hanging out with some new friends, telling them the story. One of my buddies says, "You know who you should marry? You should marry P." (just gonna go ahead and leave out names...)

Does this count as proposal number two?
Either way, it was awkward. I mean, the guy is cute and we've got a lot in common, but he doesn't like girls with short hair and I'm not putting in extensions and crap just to make my hair look longer until it grows out more. Perhaps as a protective style, if I get around to it, for the winter.

Either way, I have a list I wrote out in Prof. Hucks' class that one amazing year of college, and though I don't have the physical copy, the list stays with me in my mind. I've got lots of things I want in a partner, though of course compromise is a part of any growing and joining together.

I tend to like guys who are a little older anyway. Just not older than my mother, please.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Sense of Adventure

One day as I was walking home from something (probably work), I went a slightly different route. As I was moving along, on impulse I asked God for a little bit of adventure. "My life feels a little boring right now", I thought. "Why not spice things up a bit?" So I asked, and I immediately started looking for what the adventure would be. When I saw the homeless woman I had made friends with a week or so ago in church, it was as if I had known all along that that's all my adventure ever could have been in this moment. I went over to talk with her and see how she was doing. The time before when I had seen her I had been rushing off to catch the metro to work and we hadn't had time to stop and chat. Now, however, I was able to stay and we talked for a bit. She told me about her struggles and her joys, and I promised to keep her in my prayers.
 I wanted to leave my number with her but I didn't have a pen! At first she didn't believe that a teacher coming home from work wouldn't have a pen (I don't blame her...) but my sincerity and generally open nature in the end convinced her. Anyone who gets to know me in any depth knows that going to work without a pen is just the sort of thing I'm capable of doing. But then, God covers us and any writing I needed to do, a pen always showed up from somewhere.

But not this time. We expect however, that the next time we run into each other I will have a pen and we will be able to exchange numbers. (Her phone wasn't working at that moment, if you're wondering why we didn't just exchange numbers using our phones.)

So, for those reading this blog, please pray for my new friend Nancy. She is a refugee of the conflict in Libya, though she is originally from Nigeria. She has refugee status and all the legal documentation that goes along with it, but she has found life in Italy to be incredibly difficult, and would really love to be able to start over in France. She left the refugee camps because of the horrible way the refugees were treated. In her own words she says, "They treated us like animals!" Please, let us ask God for a miracle for her. She needs to find work, a place to stay, an affordable way to get back in contact with her family in Nigeria, and a supportive Christian community to help her on her walk with God.

I have offended her, I think, by always offering to get her something to eat or trying to give her things. She seems to me to be a person for whom independence is important, and she struggles a lot with adjusting to living on the streets. In Libya, she says, life was good. If things continue like this for much longer increased consumption of alcohol may inhibit her from moving forward.

I believe that miracles happen around us each and every day, even in our own lives, and so often we don't even realize or thank God for them. So I thank God in advance that Nancy will be taken care of, that alcohol won't become a problem, and that God will bring her where she needs to be in the way and time she needs to get there. Amen.

The Great Divide

Anyone who has ever travelled to another country (or in some cases simply to another neighborhood...) knows that there exist cultural differences between people groups. Such a cultural divide exists, in the large overarching and oversimplified sense, between the United States of America and Italy.

I will point out the often frowned upon U.S. tendency to be overly politically correct (notice I didn't simply say "American tendency"?) by saying here that no one culture is better than another. We all have areas in which we can learn from each other and grow together. That I actually believe this is besides the point, I suppose, as we are speaking politically here.

I've had ample opportunity in my time here to speak with Italians, and there are some fun differences I've noticed or that have been pointed out to me. I list them below in no particular order for your reading pleasure.

Customer Service
In Italy the customer's rightness is not a given. Contrary to what seems like a good business model to me, the goal here is not to aid the customer's consumer habits. If you have to wait half an hour for something you were told would take five minutes, well such is life.

In Italy if your server is tired they are not going to grin and bear it. Oh no. If you annoy them or are a little indecisive no one is going to put in a little effort and be gracious about it. Change got thrown at you? Be glad you got any! What can you do about it? Nothing. Your tip is already part of the bill.

Italians have a concept of equipment preservation. When I mentioned that I never restart my ipad I was met with an immediate "You're so American." Indeed.

Now this right here can be it's own blog post. Heck, it can be it's own blog. In the interest of not dragging this list on any further I'll focus on one major difference here: Breakfast.

Why is there no such thing as real breakfast?! I want pre made bad-for-me egg and cheese and meat sandwiches on the go. Instead I get chocolate, cream, and jam filled brioches and cappuccinos for breakfast. I'm sorry but sugar doesn't equal long lasting healthy energy in the same way a protein filled egg does. Even if it comes with artery clogging bacon on the side. I'm too lazy to get up early enough to make myself an omelet, and by golly I am entitled to pay a few euros to have someone else do it for me faster!

This brings up a sub point: eating on the go. Despite Milan being a fast paced and rather New York like city, they have still not taken up the indigestion inducing U.S. habit of stuffing your face in public while walking or running from one meeting to the next.

Pity. It's serving us so well...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Busking in Cordusio: The Good and the Bad of it

I've always been a happy person (pun tooootally intended) but I have moments in which I feel exceptionally high. That's been the span of a couple of weeks now, and with this mood combined with my novel reading, I felt that after work I deserved to have some gelato and take a walk through the city center in my "teacher heels" and vintage sailor style dress without a care for Milan's fashion protocols.

On my walk past the Duomo and a few shops I stop to pick up a gelato that is way too expensive and isn't the best I've had. Still, it gets the job done and I'm happy with my choice of hazelnut and chocolate. Walking along I hear some beautiful jazz guitar and I decide to stop and listen. In my newly typical Eat, Pray, Love fashion I ask myself, "Why not enjoy some of the last bits of summer warmth, some decent enough ice cream, and some excellent jazz guitar playing?" Why not indeed.

Now, I've sat down for all of two minutes when this guy who immediately gives me bad vibes sits down uncomfortably close to me and asks me something about Africa. I tell him I wouldn't know, since I'm American and have never been to Africa. And even if I had been there whatever experience I had wouldn't have spoken for the entire continent... I'm annoyed, but I can condescend to be amused by his ignorance. "He just doesn't know any better," I tell myself while soothing my recently healed anger reflex to such questions. I was doing well, but this guy, well he just doesn't quit. He barely misses a beat, pumping me for critical information so he can make his move. How long have I been here? What do I do? Would I give him my number? Would I take his instead? Will I call him? Will I teach him English? Will I take his number and call him and teach him English?

He really did repeat questions like he was on some kind of loop. I don't know how long you can employ closed off body language signals and politely refuse a guy before he takes a hint and gives up. I told him bluntly that I wouldn't take his number and wouldn't call him if he gave me his, and I called him on the BS of his suddenly wanting English lessons. "Well I do want English lessons. And anything else you'd be willing to offer." (rough translation)

There's only so much a girl from the hood can take before the roots make themselves known. Maybe he sensed the impending danger and decided to make his escape before my patience ran out. Perhaps he grew tired of trying to wear me down, but he made sure to remind me of the nights of mindless passion I had tossed away by refusing him. (Ugh. Blegh! [insert preferred sound of disgust]) Either way, he left, and the jazz busker took a cigarette break at the very same moment.


Sleaze-Man immediately forgotten, out of my mouth bursts the question that's been burning in me since I walked past him to sit down. "Can I play?" He looks at me and I tell him I'm a singer songwriter. "Will you let me play?" He asks me what I play and seems to like what he hears. He waves me over and I drop my half eaten ice cream cone in a nearby trash can and head for his guitar and mic stand like an oasis in the desert.

I've wanted to busk in Europe since I started busking. Another dream coming true. I sang a couple of tunes and then we did "Stand By Me", by the request of the second gentleman (nicknamed Becky, short for his last name of Beekmeyer, a colonial holdover that we both laughed about and could relate to, since in a way Fletcher is a holdover as well) you can see in the pictures below. (In fact, it was Becky who was so kind as to take these pictures of me and tag them on facebook for me. Yay!)

Basically that one blurted out question made my day. I had a blast performing, drew a crowd, and earned a few euros that I graciously left in Simone's (that's the busker's name) case. I'd say it was a good day, and I can be nice about Sleaze-Man. Sort of. Here are some pics of the action.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Eat, Pray, Love

I saw the movie Eat, Pray, Love before heading back to Italy, and oh was it satisfying to see places that I'd actually been to. Just in Italy, but still, I felt accomplished. Now this is my kind of movie, and when I saw the book a week ago on the book-share shelf of a wine store (excellent inexpensive wine) by the square where I currently live (Pza Le Susa) and it was in English, well I just had to borrow it. The man who owns the shop likes to practice his English and when I return the book, along with a few offerings of my own for the share shelf, I imagine we'll pick up where we left off on our conversation about the horrors of American pop music and the downward descent of most of the music scene in general. I tentatively shared my YouTube page (, and I hope (but honestly and conceitedly I'm certain), that he'll have a different opinion of my contributions to the music scene.

Anyway, it was when we were wrapping up our conversation that I spied the aforementioned novel and proceeded to squeal like a Belieber who just spotted Bieber. Over the next week I read the book in snatches, squeezing it in between all the other things I had to do. I feel though that I haven't been merely reading this book. I think I'm subconsciously trying to meld myself into it.

I found myself pondering, "Why shouldn't I take more pleasure in some of the more enjoyable aspects of Italian food and culture? Why not have a second helping?"

I even dusted off my yoga mat. "Why not sit and contemplate on the Word of God with my audio Bible playing softly in the morning light? And who says I can't have a good stretch and dance time while worship music plays afterward?"

It's the love part of the book I get stuck at. While I could modify the whole meditating in India bit to suit my spiritual needs and convictions, I find I can't simulate a Bali-esque experience in the middle of Milan. I do happen to know a Felipe (who looks remarkably like a younger version of the actor who plays Felipe in the movie and who is therefore quite handsome), but I somehow doubt that's gonna happen. When he does things like hold my wrist for an unsuitable amount of time in church (thereby ruining hopes with other men and raising unnecessary speculation) and talks about taking my pulse (or something like that. wasn't exactly focused...) I remind myself that he is simply unaware of his charming good looks (as if...) and is just too man-stupid to understand that you don't do things like that with single women who are most decidedly not called to celibacy. Especially if you're not going to follow up and deliver the goods.

Though perhaps this whole love thing is closer than I think. This Tuesday, in what I can only describe as a rather Ketut-like moment in this context, a friend of mine told me he felt certain that soon some romance was going to come my way. Just in case you're wondering, he's engaged and didn't mean himself. But who could it possibly be, I wonder? And how soon is soon? Like Liz, I have my fair share of control issues. But these past few weeks of bliss, this letting go and letting God, makes it much easier not to know. I'll just keep swimming, just keep swimming, and I'll bump into the right fish when the time is right. No sooner, no later. Juuuuuust right.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Silver linings around half full glasses (unsuccessful combination, but whatevs...)

I have been so deliriously happy that I don't know what to do with myself. This state of bliss comes as a complete shock to me because I haven't been having an easy time of it, regardless of how you look at things. Whoo-hoo fruit of the Spirit! These past weeks saw me in an unenviable position in just about every major and not so major aspect of life. And yet I'm happy. I suppose I'm a glass half full kind of person.

I mean, I've been so glowing these past two weeks that people randomly smile at me on the streets, and there is a decided pep in my step even when they don't. Everything was such a mess that there was nothing to do but trust in God. There is such a beautiful weightlessness when we actually cast our burdens on the Lord. I was almost upset when my financial situation was resolved, because it meant I had to start being responsible for it again. Though perhaps the lesson here is to leave my finances in God's care and have done with it. Why not just do that with my entire life? That way I can continue to waft about in this beautiful place of being fully aware of and responding to what's happening without suffering the crushing worry, guilt, shame and other accompanying emotions that went along with my perceived successes and failures.

I've decided to count my blessings, take note of them, savor them, and look back on them whenever future trials come. And of course, troubles will come. But victory is (literally) my middle name, and now more than ever I feel the appropriateness and power of my name. Happy Victory Arrow-maker.

My mother named me well.

People Watching

October 1st
I find myself in the square of the main church here in Milan, trying to do some discreet people watching. I suppose staring at people for hours while you try not to look sketchy as you write things down doesn't always work. On top of that, my wardrobe screams, "look at me!" Sort of. It's just the boots and bag attract attention in a place as name brand conscious as Milan. My lovely yellow scarf doesn't exactly blend into the dirty concrete on which I'm sitting either.

But I digress. This self given assignment isn't about others watching me, but about me watching others. "The other", to be exact. With all of the soul searching I've been up to lately I needed to do something. Sure, I received healing with regards to my own personal connection to slavery, but I've been aware for some time now that there is another form of modern slavery running rampant and receiving even less attention than the transatlantic slave trade.

Looking at this situation I am being made more and more aware of how limiting personal pain can be. While I've been moping around about something that happened centuries ago (to be fair to myself, I must acknowledge that there are still the aftereffects to contend with), there were people being trafficked into all kinds of horrific forms of modern slavery right under my stuck up nose. But I speak for myself. Someone else might have taken their personal pain and used it as fuel in the fight against the modern day slave trade. That's all fine and well except for the fact that I don't want the work I do to be fueled by pain and hatred. What good could possibly come of that, in the long run? For sure I'd burn out or lose effectiveness as the bitterness consumed me.

Back to the task at hand.

I am people watching. I am watching the people who no one pays any attention to, and I am waiting. In a sense, I am putting myself in a place to receive divine appointments. Many of the African immigrants here in Milan feel comfortable coming up to me. They ask me what I think about the city, how I like it. They take the time to listen to me, while I've just been breezing by, missing out on deeper connections. But I want to slow down now, and I've determined that now it's my time to listen.  I may not be particularly trained at dealing with people who reside on the fringes of society, but clearly that hasn't mattered.

I know that I can listen, I can ask questions as well as answer them, and I can write. It's time to write about someone else's experiences now, though in typical egotistical human nature fashion the connection of this project to myself is incredibly obvious. I think in some way all of our creative outputs are a reflection of ourselves. Really, it's only our lives that we live, but part of the beauty of living is intersecting with other lived lives.

So this creative effort here is both a step into the new and an exploration of my past. Here we go!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Vanity, thy name is Italian male

It is said that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Perhaps, perhaps not. I do know that my return to Italy allowed me to better know this population God has given me a heart for. As the title suggests, I had a rather shocking discovery: women, after all, are not the vainest creatures on the planet. No, that covetous standing in society is reserved for the Italian male.

Now I make this observation with the utmost fondness. I myself have my fair share of vanities, and while I adore my waistline and rear end I equally loathe each day I have to face the fact that my acne didn't miraculously disappear after my teen years.

I have to be fair here. I mean, what person doesn't take a quick peek when they pass a mirror? Everyone stops to adjust their gelled and carefully coiffed hair every time they pass any reflective surface, be that a shop window, an ipad screen, a mirror, or the spoon they've lifted up from the table in front of them. And let's not forget the vainglorious profile picture with the simpering half pout and sultry bedroom eyes. Ah. Perhaps we should.

Now the grooming practices of the well-kept Italian male extend beyond head hair. Let me clarify. I was surprised to find out that certain younger male members of society here pluck their eyebrows, and they're straight (Sorry Bryn Mawr, but gender stereotypes are not so easily escaped, it seems. ). I never expected straight males to pluck their eyebrows, and I honestly thought that for two of my friends, their eyebrows just grew that way. Needless to say, the disdain with which they glanced upon my bush brows had me running to my tweezers in record time. It also had me diligently checking on any new beard growth that needed plucking. 

When one of my male students told me he waxed his legs it didn't exactly send me running to the esthetician, but perhaps that's because it's easier to hide hairy legs than it is to hide bush brows. So you see, the shadow theory (or whatever it's called) is reconfirmed. You really dislike or notice most in others what you dislike or notice a lot in yourself. However, having moved past any guilt in my self grooming and beautification practices it makes it much easier to accept Italian men for theirs.

I must admit that allowances should be made for cultural differences. I mean, one of my friends, his girlfriend does his brows for him. And really, Italian men as a lot are generally stylish and easy on the eyes, so I don't particularly care if they pluck their eyebrows and wax their legs to achieve the desired effect on the lady folk. (And trust me, the effect is desire(d)...) I mean, while in Poland our boys stood out for the clear anointing of God upon them, and their clearly superior style. Clearly no one was complaining, perfectly arched brows and all ;).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

God's Song Over Me

It's getting harder to keep track of how this week fit together. There were so many significant moments that even limiting posts to those is adding up something fierce. Anyway, one of these special moments was God's song for me. Alisa was in her morning prayer and she received a word for me, which she was instructed to sing over me.

Now, Alisa received healing for singing not terribly long ago, and so the fact that she was asked to sing the message was like an extra confirmation of God's wanting her to sing. As she told me about this being the first time she was asked to sing a message we both laughed at the idea that God was blessing "Two birds with one song". I was instructed to prepare myself with tissues, and I was asked about my preference: song at the beginning or end of our session? I opted for beginning, since fewer people would be there to witness any sobtastic behavior. Just for added context, this word came after my healing and racial (or I should say continental) reconciliation. Here it is.

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Alisa sang of God's love for me, and on the other side of the paper was a message from her:
You are loved. You are valued. You are His own precious daughter. People may hurt and disappoint you, but never forget who you are! He has made you. He is pleased with you. He brought you here to Kalisz. It is not by chance! You are here for your healing. He is the Balm Gilead. Let Him heal you. He will heal your heart. Pain and wounds be gone in Jesus' name!

In the song God had given her, He told me that he felt every hurt and every blow, and He sang of His love for me. It was beautiful.
We then went on and finished our last worship session, during which another member of our team claimed his healing and sang worship songs, overcoming the mental block he had for singing. Then we went back to the hotel for breakfast.

Kalisz 2013, Word 2

This second word came over two different occasions but from the same guy, and so I've decided to combine it all.
One evening after coming into our lovely hotel after worship, team Italy was fellowshipping in the restaurant/bar with a few beers (and one very classy martini), as we were wont to do. As we talked and enjoyed ourselves a man from the table behind us left, bidding us goodnight in Italian. We promptly set about determining whether or not the person was Italian, which in essence was us trying to guess how much of our conversation had been understood. We determined he was not Italian, and that our musings were safe with us. When the second guy bid us goodnight in the same manner, we turned our attention to the table behind us to meet the people there.

Three Swiss musicians, only one of whom spoke Italian well, were sitting at the table. We shared stories and talked, switching to English once the native Italian half of our team went up to their room. These guys were pretty awesome, and the peace and humility pouring off of them was wonderful to see. None of them had had easy lives, and yet here they were, praising God through their circumstances. It was inspiring.

I got to talking with one chap in particular, as there were three of them and the three of us left from team Italy, and I talked about my plans to go on to grad school and study international education. I felt that it might be time for me to give Italy some space. He listened, told me more of his story, about  his involvement in social work among other things, and by and by we all bid each other goodnight.

The next morning as I was walking in the cafe upstairs, from clear across the room this sedate man yells to me, "You are a great woman of God!" I was surprised, and I think he was too. I thanked him, albeit a bit awkwardly. God was working something in me and I was feeling exposed. Every time I came to a moment of doubting, something like this would happen.

Then the next day in the restaurant I passed the Swiss table at breakfast. I greeted them and bid them good morning. Again this particular guy had a word for me. He asked me, "What are your plans now?" I truthfully responded with an anguished and awkward, "I don't know..." I had a feeling about what was coming next, and when he said, "I think you should stay in Italy a while longer." I wasn't terribly surprised. He broke it to me nicely. I think he realized that the tower of security I had been building for myself was being torn down to make way for God's much better version. Given that he was a social worker, he probably understood that I wasn't particularly ecstatic about the process.

You see, I like the known. Sure I like to travel and meet new people, but I like it all to happen in predictable and familiar patterns. A vacation, an internship, a job and an apartment. Something well structured with a comprehensible and me-controlled beginning and end. But you see, God is the beginning and the end and I can't possibly hope to fully understand or even partially control God. So I have resolved to step into the unknown. God is so patient. I had to come to this conclusion about twenty times during Sukkot before anything started sticking. Thank goodness God is so merciful!

European Communion and Reconciliation pt II

Now, I may have convinced myself that I didn't need to hear an apology from someone but God knew better and he gracefully provided for me.
Later during the morning meeting, the youth (under 30) were called up to receive prayer and Alisa came to pray for me. No one else from team Italy had come to this particular morning meeting so it was just me and her.

She began to pray over me and before I knew it she started tearing up. She confessed that she didn't realize the burden she had been carrying for her family's part of the slave trade in North America. Her family had owned slaves in Texas, and while they hadn't had a huge operation, just one slave in her opinion was already too many. She then asked for forgiveness and I felt something crack and shift inside me. No one had ever before apologized to me. I freely forgave her and thanked her for apologizing, and in short order we were both sobbing all over each other. I imagine we got a few strange looks.

We may have had puffy wet faces, but I think both our hearts had a new lightness to them, and also a new link.

While Alisa continued to pray for me the message she had for me was to think BIG. She received for me that there was a ministry of my own prepared for me, and that if an idea scared me, than that was the bigness I was to go for. She said, "Thing big. If it scares you, that's good."

The funny thing is that she didn't even remember saying any of that to me. Apparently she doesn't remember most of the prophetic words she receives. Either way, it was nice to hear.

Her words were also timely, because I am now at a point where I have to make a decision for God, and I need to make it soon or risk missing the train. This restored heart for Italy and Europe is an important part of it all, I am sure. It was with great joy and mindfulness that I entered into communion with everyone over the rest of the week, and the final communion, in which everyone present broke break together, was especially nice for me. Whatever the heart of anyone else, I know that at least on this issue my conscience is clear before God. Certainly there will be more levels of healing that come through the years, but that burning anger and defensiveness is gone, and I am free.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

European Communion and Reconciliation

It was the end of one of our worship sessions, about the middle of the week, when our team and a few others with whom we had all made friends were gathered together to take communion. One of the fabulously friendly members of one of the German teams had invited us. Having taken communion with my team many times I expected this to be a rather similar experience: the solemnity of pondering what Christ had gone through along with the joy that comes from pondering what He accomplished. Of course, there is also the step of repentance for any sins I am aware of, because communion is serious and as a youth pastor dutifully informed me, we don't want to take God's judgment upon us because we entered into communion with hard hearts. Now, I had taken communion just two hours before with my team so I skipped the self examination and repentance part and just pondered the cross.

I went to place the bread, representing the body of Christ, in my mouth. As soon as the bread touched my tongue I realized that skipping the repentance part might not have been so good an idea after all. I was physically unable to take communion! In a split second I was down on my knees asking for forgiveness.

God had revealed to me that I could not take communion with the greater community of Europe because I had not forgiven the entire continent for their involvement in the slave trade of Africans so many years ago. I had not forgiven Europeans (and people of European descent) for the fact that what heritage I did have would always be hyphenated, as I would always be AFRICAN-American and AFRO-latina. I was tired of being asked what country in Africa I was from after having just said I was American, and I was tired of people touching my hair and asking me awkward questions about my African heritage when any knowledge of it had been purposefully taken away from me.

Most of all, I was tired of being angry.

God had mercifully brought me to a place of repentance and through that, healing. Burning in my heart as I got up from my knees and drank the wine, representing the blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins, was the desire to confess the sin of the hardness of my heart and my lack of forgiveness.

Now, I was the only person of color at this event until someone who looked to be of Latin American descent arrived with one of the teams from England. At any rate I was certainly the only Black person and one of two Americans, the only non-Europeans present. I wasn't exactly thrilled to go up in front of everyone during the morning meeting and be like "Up until yesterday I subconsciously hated all of you, but God revealed that to me and healed me. Forgive and forget?"

I asked to speak with the organizer of our team, who is also the other American. I explained to her what I was going through, and I asked if it made sense to go up and confess. Given the focus on Israel no one was thinking of the enslavement and torture of Africans. Germany was far too busy feeling guilty about the Holocaust and their poor treatment of the Polish people in general, and that's all most anyone else was focused on. Why bring it up, even if to apologize for my lack of forgiveness?

Alisa told me that in my place she might not be so gracious as to go up and apologize, but I felt it was the right thing to do. What use is there holding on to hurt and pain? It just holds you back from entering into the fullness of God's will for you. She agreed with me.
So up I went to apologize, and as I rushed off I heard the scattered "We forgive you!"s.

I had resigned myself to the fact that most likely no one would apologize to me, but it still hurt not to hear it. But then, having a knowledge of the way of the world I know that Black people are generally not much more valued than they were during the slave trade, however enlightened the world may now consider itself to be. I expected no one to feel guilty or compelled to confess to their nation's part in the slave trade, and I had determined to come to my place of forgiveness without receiving someone else's apology.
With the weight of un-forgiveness no longer dragging me down I already felt I had come out a winner.