Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To Italy with Love (In Italia con Amore)

To Italy with Love
(In Italia con Amore)
by Virginia Knowles
for Rachel and Joanna
on February 2, 2011

To Italy with love, I send two daughters
Together on a mission to go forth, beyond!
To their ancestral homeland
Of beauty and ancient lore
For the love of Gesú and ordinary people
Story by story: telling truth
Stitch by stitch: knitting hearts
Meal by meal: nourishing souls

Sweet Sovereign Spirit
In and through these two
And those who came before
And those who shall come after evermore
Kindle a fresh flame
A new Renaissance in Italy
When art retells the gospel glory
And minstrels sing Amazing Grace

May a rebirth of your vibrant presence
Abide in this place
Neighbor by neighbor
Village by village
Bring your abundance of life
To Italy with love.
Sì, abbondanza di vita
In Italia con amore.

My daugters Rachel and Joanna are flying to Italy today.  Right now they are on their connecting flight from Atlanta to Rome and then on to Genoa, finally arriving in the little coastal town of Chiavari sometime tomorrow. They will be staying for three months with our dear friends Lee and Jeannette Walti and children, who are missionaries with Italian Ministries, and help them teach English as an outreach to the community.  It is the Waltis' hope that in building warm relationships over the course of years that they can share the grace of Jesus wherever they go. Eventually, they want to plant an evangelical church there, which is quite a rarity in the vast majority of Italian towns.  This is a country which, despite its heritage, is surprisingly non-religious in daily practice.

And so, after months of planning an preparation with them, Thad and I sent our girls on their way this morning, with a few tears amidst the flurries of last minute packing.  I handed them each a copy of this prayer-poem as they left.  Does the title sound a little familiar to you?  Two years ago, my daughter Julia went to Bolivia for three months by herself to help a missionary friend in Entre Rios in her ministry in the remote mountain villages. I wrote "To Bolivia with Love" just before she left.  It was a much more hazardous and primitive trip, but she made it back in one piece!  Italy will be much different from Bolivia, I am sure, but still as life changing for my girls.

The end lines of the poem might seem familiar too, since one of the ending phrases is the name of the girls' new Italy blog, Abbondanza di Vita.

And early draft of this "To Italy with Love" poem included these lines:

My own going is still just around here for now
A mother tending children
Instilling vision for nations and generations
Story by story, launching these young arrows
To go forth, beyond!

Oh, I know that sounds so noble and spiritual.  Sometimes, my life as a mother seems more a matter of keeping my young arrows from poking each other too much, and trying to give them a radical vision that love, peace, and grace should begin right here at home. Sometimes it is Mommy who needs the fresh vision.  (And speaking of world missions, sometimes the thought of eating grasshoppers in a mud hut in the jungle sounds easier than mothering.  :-)  But my job is "still just around here for now" and today, for our unit study on the pioneers, one of our stories was about Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, missionaries to the Oregon territories in the 1830's.  I don't think I could have handled what she endured as the first white woman to cross the Rockies.  I think I'll pass on the mud huts after all.)

Is it hard?  Hard to raise kids?  Certainly! Hard to let them go when I'd rather hold them close?  Definitely!

Today my younger kids watched a favorite old Winnie the Pooh video. Rabbit has struggled to raise a stranded baby bird, but now Kessie has grown up and wants to fly south.  Poor Rabbit is gripped with despair at the prospect of letting his precious one go.  But birds are meant to fly!  So with love and much trepidation, he blesses Kessie's new season of life and says goodbye.  Isn't that the story of parenthood?

So then, is it all worth it in the end?  Absolutely!  It's just a life of faith, from first to last.

God bless you!  (And say prayer for my girls!)
Virginia Knowles

P.S.  You might like to see the Missions page I created for this blog, as well as the article And They Are Strong and Bold... (Girls and the Grand Adventure).

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