From Hatred to Home

When someone is called to share the love of Christ to a foreign land it can feel like a big mistake. As Chad sat one morning on the front stoop of the house they were staying in, the only thoughts that went through his mind were unhappy ones.

Sitting on the stone steps with his head in hands, he stared unseeing at the vehicle parked down the hill. He and his wife Sarah had only been in Italy for 7 months, but it felt like an eternity. “I hate it here”, thought Chad, “the language is impossible and there is nothing that I like to eat.” 

Chad and Sarah arrived at the camp a few days ago. They had been in language school outside of Rome for the past 6 months until the school closed for the summer. In order to keep going with the language, they signed on at the camp simply to learn more Italian in its proper context.

Hearing the door open behind him, Chad straightened up and accepted the steaming mug of coffee from Sarah. Grateful, but still lost in thought, he didn’t notice his 11-month-old toddler Jacob, teeter by him and slip on the steps. Startled by the sound of Sarah’s gasp, Chad dropped his cup of coffee in a futile effort to catch the toddler already falling down the stairs! They both watched in helpless horror as he bounced off of each step all the way down. When he stopped on the landing, they were one second behind and scooped him off the ground.

They could tell right away that he was hurt and panic started to set in. Shouting at a staff member passing by, Chad got instructions to the nearest hospital 40 minutes away. Loading his family into the car, they rushed off down the road, hoping that Jacob was going to be alright.

They arrived at the ER and presented their toddler to the Dr. with their heart in their hands.  “Was he going to be ok?”, they asked? The hospital staff did an x-ray and a full examination. Seeing nothing obvious, then observed him for the rest of the day. With nothing else to do, Chad and Sarah sat waiting for hours, praying nervously over their hurt baby.

Basically, ignored by everyone else, a janitor took pity on them and brought them bread and vegetables while they waited and hoped against all hope. This small act of kindness by a stranger was a bright spot in an otherwise dark day.

Finally, towards evening, the Dr. came and cleared them to go back to the camp. Jacob was fine, he had some bruises, but no breaks or serious damage.

As they drove the 40 minutes back to the camp, they thanked God in prayer knowing that this had been a close call.

In spite of God’s blessing, Chad still felt dread in his heart that maybe coming to Italy was a big mistake. This accident seemed to confirm how he felt.

A few days later, a letter arrived at the camp with the costs of their time in the Emergency Room that needed to be payed as soon as possible. Chad loaded his family in the car and headed back to the hospital to settle the bill. They arrived and were ushered into the small office of the financial secretary.

Fortunately, the bill wasn’t too bad, so Chad pulled out his checkbook and proceeded to write a check to cover the costs.  As he scribbled the amount on the check, Jacob squirmed suddenly in his lap causing Chad to lose his grip. Faster than a blink of an eye, Jacob fell against the corner of the desk, splitting his head open and screamed in pain! 

The Secretary saw it all happen, so as they scooped Jacob in their arms, she led the way back to the Emergency Room.  Explaining what happened, the secretary turned them over the nurses and doctors who proceeded to comfort him and then stitch him up.

Later as they loaded a now sleeping, exhausted, stitched up baby boy into his car seat, Chad and Sarah looked at each other unbelieving the day they just had. Chad got into the driver’s seat and headed back towards camp. 

Still in minor shock from all the events of the day, Chad missed a crucial turn and after driving for a while had to conclude he was lost. Without a GPS or smart phone, they drove on until they entered into a small village in the Italian countryside, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Pulling over in the middle of the village to take a break, they opened the windows of the car.

Jazz music slid softly into the car as Chad turned off the motor. Feeling very curious, Chad and Sarah slid the sleeping Jacob into the stroller and set off in search of this beautiful music. Rounding a corner, they came upon a small square. At one end was a small bandstand and stage where a jazz band was playing.  Ringing the square were small booths selling meat and vegetables raised by the farmers who lived close to the village.

Entranced by the beauty of the scene, they bought some food from the farmers and sat down at one of the many tables dotting the square to take in the scene. Completely captured by the beauty of what they were seeing, they forgot for a moment how they got there.  Completely lost, the moment seemed surreal.

Surrounded by other Italian families, happily eating and visiting with each other, the Lord spoke into their hearts. “I know you can’t do this alone, but I brought you to Italy to show my love to the people here.  They don’t know me and I want you to introduce us”, He said.

Chad realized in that moment how his heart had changed. The hatred of the country and it’s customs somehow floated away with the sounds of the jazz band. Even though they were actually lost, for the first time in months, it felt like they were actually home!