Saturday, August 21, 2010

Church in a Shack

Well, not exactly…but we did meet for a second time with the church in L’Aquila. The first time, as you may recall, we met in a grove of black birches, in a field next to a restaurant. This time, we pulled into the parking lot of a shopping mall. Along one edge, we parked next to a line of those little wooden cabins you might plunk down in a mountain campground. We followed the singing (yes, we were late again), and climbed into one of the tiny, hot cabins, and there was the church! We were then ushered into an even tinier back room, where we would have translation. (We learned that the church doesn’t always know where it’s going to meet; Pastor Giorgio phones around 11:00 pm Saturday night to tell everyone where to go the next morning!)

I took a seat on a surprisingly fancy and upscale sofa, with carved wood and floral fabric, and began sketching our translator, the daughter of the pastor. She has been impressive, I thought as I sketched—20 years old, mature beyond her years, already tested and tried by the earthquake. She is well-positioned for a future place of leadership in the church.

After the singing, an invitation came to share: what has God been doing in your life this week? And of course, they wanted to hear from us. As that bit of translation came, I signaled our team member Ellie, who speaks some Italian; it would be a nice token of respect to have someone from our team give a report in Italian. Immediately our team translator came over and reminded me of a cultural faux pas I was about to commit: women don’t speak in churches.

After a brief inner growl, I thanked him for the correction, and leaned over to Ellie’s husband, asked him to take the lead, and asked another man on our team to also give a report. Our dear and nervous team translator relaxed. He would speak too, he assured me, and introduce me as the ‘one responsible’ for the team. Sigh…ok, got the script, and not that I’m looking for honor and glory here, but it seemed that we had just been asked to act out something that felt very wrong to me—like a cold bucket of water on a lot of enthusiasm to report what God had done.

What felt like the quench of the Holy Spirit in my own spirit was miniscule compared to all that must have been quenched in the women not only in this church, but across Italy, and across so many other countries where this was the case. I felt a deep grief for the loss. The Body of Christ was hopping on one foot in so many contexts.

What would it take, Lord, to be able to move in freedom in the Italian church as a woman? What about someone like Sarah? With so few committed, engaged believers, with so few ‘workers in the field,’ would the Italian church forego someone like her because she is a woman? Not that the women are perfect of course, but….

Well, this is not a battle for me. Women have a faithful Advocate on high, who does want to hear from them, and who will fulfill his purposes for them. I trust that. Sara is in God’s hands, and he will help her find her voice and place in the church. I am sure she will navigate the cultural waters with great skill.

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