A friend asked me to send a write-up of what I do in Italy. Here's what I sent her.
What I do in Italy.
It is somewhat difficult for me to piece together what it is exactly I do in Italy. What I am not doing in Italy might be easier to handle. I learned long ago that we bring ourselves with us wherever we go, so all of my energy, thoughts, and interests have followed me to Italy, and I have found a way to engage and be engaged with all of me.
My day job, you could say, is teaching English as a Second Language. My internship through the SITE (Study, Intercultural Training, and Experience) program doesn’t pay enough to keep bread on the table and a roof over my head, and so my second job is also teaching ESL, but with elementary aged students. I also do private lessons, translations, editing of theses, and other such things.
Despite the largely minimal interest in learning English, I’ve had some wonderful times in the classroom, and I’ve always enjoyed a good challenge anyhow. My real passion, however, is being a missionary. I pray for my students, and my faith and desire to see them grow and reach their potential helps me through the more difficult lessons.
When appropriate, I share my missionary heart with my students. One of my favorite moments was when I told a class that my future goals were to be a missionary in Italy, and they reacted with utter incredulity. What followed was a wonderful discussion on the over emphasis of Africa as the “starving continent” where the missionaries were “really” needed. I shared that spiritual health and healing is important everywhere, and often “those starving people in Africa” are in better spiritual health than the well-to-do people in Europe and the U.S.A. I explained that to me a missionary is someone who has a mission, and that I can follow my mission to serve God to the utmost wherever He calls me. It’s okay that He didn’t call me to Africa. It wasn’t a fluke.
While pursuing this mission in Italy I have come across a wonderful body of believers. I strive to encourage everyone I come across. I’ve been praying that my mindset be changed so that I seek to serve, and not be served, and that I always take advantage of opportunities to be loving. I’ve been praying this for a month now and I am finding out that I am not nearly as loving as I thought I was!
In my church here in Italy I serve by leading worship in my small group and encouraging people on their walks with God. They encourage me too. The praise and worship jam sessions at my apartment have been some of the most fulfilling times of my life artistically, relationally, spiritually, and emotionally. I’ve also gone to Poland to lead worship during a week-long retreat with other members of my church, and I sang in Italian! Talk about amazing opportunities and experiences. I love intercultural worship, and hearing other countries in Europe worship in their languages was wonderful.
In April I plan to be able to speak at a conference in Moldova for ESL teachers who are also missionaries. By sharing experiences from my journey I hope to encourage them on theirs. So, what do I do in Italy? To quote the great Jill Scott, "I'm living my life like it's golden."