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!