We arrived in Italy, exactly one year ago, today. Such an anniversary should be a day of celebration. But the thought of it leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

Why bitter?

My heart remembers the very real pain and fear that it knew that day and in the days surrounding it. I shared candidly out of that brokenness in the third blog entry I (Erika) posted after our arrival and so I won’t rehash that here. But I do find it important to take that honest look back and reflect on where we were in order to fully appreciate how far we’ve come.

A year ago I was staring a list of fears in the face and I was able to do that because I was holding fiercely to these words God provided for me:

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself,
‘The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.'”

(Lamentations 3:21-24)

So how did things actually pan out? Throughout this past year many fears were realized on various levels as we struggled through challenges such as:

  • countless transitions
  • spiritual warfare
  • culture shock
  • language learning
  • team conflict
  • ministry misconceptions
  • separation from loved ones
  • the strain it all put on our marriage

However, that’s not all there is to the story, not even close.

Why sweet?

Imagine this: God’s Word remained true. We were not consumed. His compassions, His mercies, were new each and every of the 365 mornings (even when we didn’t recognize it or appropriate what it offered us). He was faithful (no matter if we were or not). He was always our portion, or our “inheritance” as another translation puts it, and nothing we faced could change that.

Specifically, this day is a day of celebration for several reasons.

  • There were so many amazing things God did to make it possible for us to arrive in Italy one year ago. It was the culmination of months of watching God move mountains.
  • It was exciting that we made it along with the cases we had meticulously packed with our life’s belongings.
  • On the other side of transitions we found blessings. Moving from the U.S. to Italy brought the blessing of having a place to call our home in Italy. Changing jobs brought fulfilling opportunities to participate in new ministries God equipped us for including the chance to invest in the lives of 17 wonderful artists and 7 special women passionate about combatting trafficking. Realizing we were going from a family of 2 to 3 brought the blessing of watching our daughter grow in-utero and anticipating her arrival.
  • Enduring spiritual warfare made us more aware of the realities of the battle we are in and strengthened our faith. It also gave us the opportunity to feel God use our team of prayer warriors to sustain us at times when we needed extra support.
  • We have experienced not only the downs but the ups of culture shock with triumphs big and small as we’ve made Italian friends, learned to enjoy some of the Italian ways, and become more able to speak the language.
  • Misunderstandings and conflicts with teammates have caused us to grow as people and resulted in deepened relationships with those we work with.
  • Discovering our ministry misconceptions forced us to reevaluate our stance on some things, realize new ways of working, and become more versatile.
  • Even though we were separated from loved ones, we did have the pleasure of having some of them visit our home here and were even able to make a quick trip back to the States to enjoy a few days with some of them!
  • Our marriage was tested but in general it was one of the best years we’ve had as a couple. We’ve never been closer together or stronger as a couple!

Ultimately, it is sweet to look back and see all that God brought us through this year. We made it! And we have another host of markers of God’s faithfulness.

A Year Ahead

Now after looking back we can even more clearly see that we have a lot to look forward to in the New Year! A daughter due to arrive very soon, ministries we both feel God has specifically called us to and equipped us for, continued relationship with new friends and co-workers, more time to improve our Italian, more visits from family and friends, and whatever else God has in store!

Thanks so much to all of you who have shared our journey this past year in one way or another. You’ve often been instruments God has used to remind us of His faithfulness and we celebrate your partnership today and every day!

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