Another Bible School Thanksgiving has come and gone! Well over a month ago, we began the preparation process of sharing this American tradition with our students, friends, and church family here in Italy. Turkeys were sourced, ordered, and prepared with care.
Trips to no less than half a dozen different stores were made to gather all of the necessary ingredients and decorations to create the perfect food and atmosphere. Impossible-to-purchase-in-Italy ingredients, like cream of chicken soup and jiffy corn muffin mix, were homemade in advance. The menu was finalized and set into motion five days in advance to give adequate preparation time given our countertop, stovetop, and oven limitations.
The classroom and living room were transformed into dining and serving areas with little touches of Italian hospitality to make our guests more comfortable. Invitations were extended and accepted and even so we still had no idea how many people would actually attend. In the end, we had a lovely evening with around 80 of our nearest and dearest and a few new faces too!
The addition of an “aperitivo” with American style appetizers was a huge hit. The guests oohed and ahhed over the turkey and they cautiously eyed the casseroles with a bit of doubt as to their tastiness, but they knew better than to ask how much sugar was in the American desserts - opting instead to simply indulge and savor the experience. It was a special treat to connect our church family with those who we study with each week and a beautiful sight to see all of our Italian worlds gathering together in one room. Our friends gave generously to our meal and to our church food pantry.
Friendships were both made and re-kindled after extended periods of time. It was truly sacred time and space around the tables that evening. Fittingly, the most appropriate response for that time and for those people was sincere and joyful thanksgiving. It may have been a bit early on the calendar, but the timing was perfect to lead us into this holiday season rejoicing over the work the Lord has done and continues to do in our community.
The Avanti Italia family would like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! We pray each of you will also find sacred, blessed moments this Thanksgiving as you gather.
The last week of October provided an opportunity for two of the Avanti Italia workers to help the school cook, Rosa, harvest olives at her family farm in the southern region of Puglia. New to the tasks of olive harvesting, the two workers learned the proper way to collect the olives from the trees and how to gather and bag them. On multiple occasions the workers had the opportunity to go to a processing plant that transformed the olives into olive oil. The weather gave fair fortune throughout the week with only one day of rain. Though the workers were few in number, the season’s produce exceeded expectations with a strong yield.
Alongside the bountiful harvest, the Avanti Italia workers had the opportunity to experience the hospitality of the Pugliese table. Every meal saw a marvelous assortment of cheeses, meats, and pastas. The conversations were full of cheer and laughter. Entertainment abounded whether it was the playfulness of Pippo the dog, the conversation of local news, or the drama of a subpar German soap opera.
Outside of the farm, the workers had the opportunity to visit local towns in the area. While there were many beautiful vistas and churches, perhaps the most iconic of sights in Puglia comes from the Trullo – conical, roofed houses with a ball or symbol atop of it. These beautiful buildings serve as a reminder that unique and authentic experiences can be found in all corners of the world
While a week is a fleeting amount of time in life, there can be no doubt that it only takes a week to see something beautiful in its proper season. The olives will go and come again next year. The food will only keep us full for a short time. But the memories and relationships will last long into the future. It was a good harvest indeed.
The scent of citronella bug spray, sunscreen, and dreams of frolicking through sandy beaches hit as hard as the 95 degree heat wave outside. Summer has come and the significantly increasing temperature and humidity aren’t the only things changing for the Avanti Italia program. The end of May to the middle of September marks a period of vacations, for both students and workers, and varying degrees of busyness.
Compared to the spring semester, the summer schedule is a little more sporadic. Some weeks students will be in town for lessons and other weeks (or months) they will be out of town on vacation or spending time with family. Others opt for an academic hiatus and will resume lessons in the fall semester. While there are fewer students in the summer, those newly freed time slots can easily be filled with other activities. Gelato with friends and students, giving and accepting invitations to dinner, summer parties at the Bible School, movie nights, and the less exciting, but necessary, activity of lesson planning are all different ways of filling that time.
Intentionality is key during the summer months. Whether that’s intentionally resting and taking time for self-care or setting aside time to complete personal projects, such as reorganizing personal bedrooms, e-mails, etc., or school projects. Various upkeep projects are usually required every summer. Some summers that entails plastering walls or deep cleaning the kitchen. All summers require the heroic effort of watering the plants in order to protect them from the assailing heat, even if that means battling small armies of mosquitoes and sacrificing a shoe or two to misguided hose sprays. In particular, this summer the outside of the school was waterproofed, a donated swing set was constructed, and a lot of cleaning and reorganizing was done inside of the school.
More specifically, a typical summer day begins around 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. The coffee machine is started, breakfast is consumed, and outside errands, if any, are completed before it resembles too much like the surface of the sun. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings are spent helping the Bible School cook, Rosa, prepare meals which will be shared as a group these afternoons. After lunch and the quick clean up that is required, the afternoon is open for lessons, chores, projects, etc. Work related things, with the exception of the occasional evening lessons, are usually completed around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Afterwards individual dinner preparations are made and the rest of the evening is free to be filled as one wishes. Saturdays are always days off and Sundays are for church and usually more relaxed work chores or lesson prepping.
The month of August deserves its own special mention. During August there is an Italian period called Ferie where many businesses either close or have limited hours in order to take a break from work. People also disappear to the coasts, islands, and mountains for a month of vacation. Very few lessons are had this month, as 95% of the students are participating in this period of relaxation. This month is a great time to lesson plan, delve deeper into personal bible studies, or complete school projects that require more time and attention. The break from the crowded streets and shops is nice for a while, but as the end of August nears and people begin to fill the neighborhood once again, one can’t help but be excited to see familiar faces and students more regularly. As September approaches, the schedule will change once again with the start of the fall semester.
Friends and family near and far: Saluti di Firenze! Greetings from Florence!
If you’ve found this blog, it’s likely that you have some sort of connection to the Avanti Italia program. Maybe you served with Avanti Italia in the past. Maybe you support one of our teachers currently serving. We hope and pray some of you are considering joining this work in Italy. No matter why you are here, we are thankful for you!
In September of 2019, Avanti Italia launched a new website! We encourage you to browse the website if you are interested in learning more about Avanti Italia, our history, how to serve with us, or how to support us.
For those who would like to know more about what we do, you’re already in the right place! Of course, when you boil it down, we are seeking to love God and love our neighbors, though what that looks like varies. Our goal for this blog is for it to be a place where you can catch a small glimpse of how the Lord is working here in Italy - in big and small ways.
Here, you will have the opportunity to step into our daily schedules and into the cycle of the Florence Bible School, where most of us live and work. You’ll get to know each of us better and find out how we are using our passions and talents to make connections with our community.
If you have any questions about our work or lives in Italy that you would like to see answered here on the blog, please reach out and let us know!
May the Lord bless and keep each of you,
The Avanti Italia Team