A bit of a break till we are managing to pass along our thoughts about the next city on our recent trip, but that doesn’t mean that our final stop was insignificant.
This particular city was Bologna, famous as the birthplace of lasagna, bolognese sauce, and the world’s oldest university. It’s not a small city-about a million in the metropolitan area-and rich in history. If you look at a map of the city you can still see the shape of the old medieval walls around which the city developed. The gates of must have been an impressive wall are still standing at the corners even though it was destroyed over a hundred years ago, not by an invading army, but to make way for almighty progress.
We were aided in our tour by our friend David Hannah, who works in university campus ministry for TEAM, and who arrived with his family in Bologna right around when we were touching down in London. David gave us a bit of a tour around the city centre-taking us into a few amazing places we would never have found on our own-and shared about their experiences transitioning into Italian culture. It is always encouraging to hear about what’s happening in Italy. On the surface things there seem to be moving a less than a snail’s pace, but under the surface there is the rumblings of something bigger on the move, which is deeply exciting for those of us who want to be a part of it.
At the same time, our time with David was a reminder that what we are getting in to is not the easiest thing in the world, a helpful reminder for an idealist like myself. When you add up the visa issues, the strain of learning a new language, the disorientation that comes with stepping into a new culture, the resistance to the gospel endemic in Italy, plus anything else that I am missing, it gets a bit overwhelming. I’m not even sure what the political and economic crisis in Italy would add to the equation. But I suppose this is part of the adventure, and despite it all, I meet very few who have regret for choosing the life. And I have been thinking recently about how nothing of value comes cheaply (think Israel having to battle its way into the Promised Land, the prophets facing abuse and rejection for speaking truth, Paul facing death and much more to share the gospel, and, of course, Jesus giving his life on the cross). The desire to see something big and dramatic of God-something bigger than I can explain, something of truly biblical proportions-is a large part of what has drawn me here. Maybe taking a risk and stepping in to a battle is the step we take to see something happen. And when I look at what the people of the Bible had to go through, even Italian bureaucracy holds no terror for me.
Bologna was an important stop because it has been at or near the top of cities we would love to end up in, since it meets all of the criteria we are looking for in our next home city. And while there continues to be outreach in various places in the city, like in the rest of Italy it is no where near enough to match the need. A lot can happen, of course, and maybe we’ll end up no where near Bologna. But it was fun to be able to visualize us setting up shop.
Hopefully we can spend some quality time there this summer, but I’ll have to save that musing to another time.