I have been asked the question "how are you feeling?" regarding our transition off of the Ancona team an onto the Verona team. It's a hard thought to formulate. I guess in many ways I feel numb. Not in a "I don't care" kind of numb, but in a I honestly don't feel affected inside. I know the way that I usually process things, means that once we are off of the team and we have returned back to the states, then moved to Verona, it will start to sink in and I will think fondly of the things I miss. If I stopped and thought, I know that I would feel nostalgic now, however, I haven't felt like I have time to stop and think right now. We have been going through this transition for almost eight months now and I have been taking it in little by little, and slowly moving towards this goal.
Before we joined the Team Expansion Italy team, I was working at Hastings Entertainment in Joplin, Missouri while working through college. Hastings, is kind of like a Barnes & Noble meets Blockbuster meets Best Buy (music and software depts only), in other words they had books, videos, video rentals, music and software. When I started there I was a cashier at the front. I remember telling my interviewer that I would be their best salesman. I'm not sure if that was too confident or not, but they did quickly see leadership abilities in me, as well as other character traits that prompted them to promote me as manager of the music department. I was good as a cashier and they saw that I might be good as a manager also. So for the next year and a half, until we heard the Lord's call to Italy, I was the music manager. They even started sending me to other stores to help them boost sales and do inventory. As a cashier and as a manager, I worked for Hastings. In many ways, that is how I see the two situations with the two teams in Italy.
In Ancona, we are part of Taking Christ to Italy, a Team Expansion PACE project (adopted and set in motion by Shively Christian Church, Louisville, KY). In Verona, we will be part of Taking Christ to Italy, the same Team Expansion PACE project. If God were leading us to another country I would be feeling very different I think. But God is leading us to another city, that is part of the same plan that we have been working towards for eight years now. It isn't a step away as much as a step forward in seeing this PACE project fully realized and God's kingdom grown because of it. I think it is because of this that I feel numb. It isn't because I don't love the people here in Ancona, I do. I know that God will add people from Verona to love in my heart. It isn't because I don't cherish the great memories that outweigh the bad memories with our team members here in Ancona. I do and will cherish those memories. I know this isn't the end, not really. I'll miss seeing our Ancona team members on a regular basis, of course, but at least we'll only be 3-4 hours away. We can visit and they can too.
It will also be tough to remove ourselves from a ministry that has seen great momentum in the past couple of years. The book "Good to Great" talks about momentum and how when people usually see momentum it is always after years of great effort and commitment working towards that momentum. I also know that God brings us momentum when we are ready, after he has taken the time to prepare us for what he has coming. This ministry in Ancona is at a good point and I look forward to seeing how God works here in the future. As we make the move, first in thought then in the physical realm, to Verona we have have to start over. Maybe not at square one totally, Angie and I already know much Italy....in any case much much more than when we arrived in Italy in March of 2001. But we do have to start over at learning a city, the people, their needs, the 'slang' for this region. We will start with very few acquaintances, like when we started in Ancona. But it is like a brand new canvas. One that we do not paint upon, but one where we are merely the tools of the Great Artist. Our new team are the brushes and paints, the oils and watercolors. When a master sets out to paint a masterpiece it is on the same blank canvas that anyone else can find. But it is through the particular strokes, colors, artistic talent and images one creates that it becomes a masterpiece. I greatly anticipate the two masterpieces that our Father is painting in Italy, in Ancona and Verona, along with the other cities where there are those that call out His name. I long to see the paintings finished and to see how we were used along the way.
So, how does it feel? I guess numb is only one aspect, the other is anxious. Anxious to see God's masterpieces of his people.