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July 16, 2022 by

Italy was my first missions trip, and my first international flight. To say I was nervous was an understatement, and to say I was excited was an understatement as well. My stomach was doing cartwheels days before leaving.  

I knew missions trips were growing experiences, but I had no clue how much God would work in me and teach me. 

After a few flights, the group and I all connected in JFK, anxiously awaiting our flight to Rome. We were stoked to see each other and excited to serve. However, my anxiety was through the roof as we made our last calls to friends and family before jumping on a flight for way too long, thousands of miles away from our comfort zone.  

The long flight went quicker than I thought, and I felt God’s perfect peace, which I was so grateful for. We landed and had a relaxing day, trying to adjust to the different time zone. I have never been so narcoleptic in my life! 

The next day, our team woke up at an obnoxious hour to explore Rome. It was an absolute dream. We started with a tour of Paul’s prison. I cannot put into words how moving, humbling, and somber that experience was. All of us were stuffed into this underground stone hole that Paul resided in so long ago. We stood in silence, and I had goosebumps all over my body, with tears forming in my eyes. There were and are not adequate words to explain all the emotions flowing through me in that moment. 

Later we explored different areas around Rome, which was so surreal. We were all so high on life as we saw historical sites you read about in your history books but rarely experience in person! It was a wonderful day that I will forever remember. 

Early the next morning, we set off to go to camp! It was a three-hour bus ride to the beautiful Isola del Gran Sasso, Italia. Seeing the remarkable mountains and views as we got closer to the camp, I felt the Lord’s presence and peace, ready to see what the next weeks held for our team. 

The next two days were all about settling in, making Centro Evangelico our home, fixing last minute camp details, and eating GOOD food.  

Before we knew it, it was the first day of camp. Y’all, Italian kids are crazy energetic! It was about one hour into the first day, and I knew that it was only going to be the grace and strength of God (with espresso as well) that would get me through the days and weeks to come!  

Every day we would play with the kids in the morning, have an English lesson, play games, do crafts, listen to the camp director’s story and lesson, and play more games. They were long days, and the language barrier made them seem even longer. 

After the first couple days, I crashed. I ended up leaving dinner early and I fell apart. I felt homesick, useless, overwhelmed, and frustrated. I was not expecting the language barrier to make me feel so helpless and uncomfortable. In so many moments I felt like I was not making an impact, because all I could communicate was “STOP” in Italian. I longed to just be able to understand and communicate, so I could establish relationships with the kiddos. But then I longed to just be in the United States and to be comfortable again.  

This was not the only time I struggled with these thoughts, but every time I did, the Lord conveniently showed up. He’s good like that. 

Every day was a reminder that actions are more important than I think when leading people to Jesus, and I cannot do anything without the Lord. Since I couldn’t talk to the kiddos, I thought “why am I even here?” if I couldn’t form solid relationships to evangelize. But my team members reminded me that actions can impact the kids more than I think. The way I acted excited to see them, took care of their best interests, and served them says a lot to them and their parents. Because the only true way to show Jesus was through my actions, it challenged me through the hard and frustrating days to lean on Him to give me strength, peace, and patience when all I wanted was to go to bed or yell at the kids.  

One of my favorite moments was when a teenage girl and I were having a conversation over Google translate and it read, “You Americans are so much nicer than Italians.” One day I hope she realizes our team was different because we loved like Jesus. 

The trip was draining and frustrating. But the trip was also beautiful and fun. I made unexpected friends, learned unexpected lessons, and God came through time and time again.  

The last night we were there, we had our final debrief and said goodbye to the mountains, camp, and Italian counselors and translators. It was incredibly bittersweet.  

Italy stretched me, taught me, and grew me. Italy also fed me really amazing food. Wow. 

In my worst moments, outside of my comfort zone, Jesus still worked in and through me.  

If you would like to hear more lessons I learned, funny stories of the kiddos, moments from the week after when I traveled through Italy, let me know. I would love to share! 

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