Every evening after English Clubs, we go as a group to a local restaurant and invite the students to join us. The conversations we enjoy over food are often quieter and more personal than any we could have in the short break time during English Clubs, so we were excited when a large group joined us on Friday.
That particular night, we had an additional attraction: bowling! I’m terrible at the game, but I *almost* got a spare once, and laughing makes you bond with people, right? I don’t mind being the joke. 🙂
|“Giorda” is apparently the only logical way to spell my hubby’s name…|
After bowling, we headed over to the food court. I was with a sweet, talkative girl I’ll call Rose, and I decided at the last second to join her group at “The Wild West”. It’s Italy’s attempt at Tex-Mex, and while their guacamole leaves much to be desired, they do have pretty good nachos.
As the four of us at our end of the restaurant booth talked about the civic role of the Catholic Church in Italy, our studies, and our families, I was praying. I was listening intently, trying to hear past the surface and understand their hearts.
Usually, Italians are very reserved, and they have a hard time sharing personal details or discussing deeper topics. But if you listen well, there are often clues dropped about painful circumstances in their lives that can help you have a deeper conversation with them later.
Rose told how her mother had suddenly become very devout after visiting a shrine in another part of Italy. She now goes to church daily, as well as praying an hour every evening.
“How do you feel about the change in your mom?” I asked.
“Oh, it is fine and good,” she said. “I like that she chooses this herself. It is not only religion. There is no person forcing her to do this–she decided it on her own. I think there is big difference between religion and a faith.”
“I agree,” I said. “When I was little, it was easy to believe in God because my parents told me. Later, I had questions and I found the answers when I read the Bible for myself. My cousin told me that it is ok to have questions because if something is true, it will still be true after you test it.'”
The conversation shifted and I listened for a long time. Then one of the guys said, “Wait–I want to hear you talk. Tell us about Texas.” They listened, disbelieving, as I described the distance from Houston to Dallas, the variety of foods and cultures represented, the fact that not everything is desert, and the country dancing. The conversation was about to veer into an animated debate about Wild West shows when the same guy said, “No, this is OK, but tell us something else. I like to hear your voice. Tell us whatever you like.”
Could I have asked for a more perfect chance to tell how God has changed me?
So I told my story.
How I used to find my value in the fact that I was a good student. How I thought my family was perfect. How my Grandma died. How Dad lost his job. How God helped me forgive my parents completely because I have been forgiven. How I now know that my value comes from the fact that I’m loved by God–not from what I do.
As we paid and walked out of the mall, Rose said, “I can feel everything you said. It is so similar to my life!”
She had to leave early and can’t spend any more time with our team because of a job in another city, but neither one of us wanted to stop talking.
Please pray for this beautiful girl and for the other students who were sitting close. I know from experience that only God can give hope to a family that is breaking apart.
Only God can help us forgive wounds like that.
Only God’s love can silence the accusing voices that tell us we’re unlovely and unlovable.