Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rained Out!

I woke up Friday before the exhibit with a nagging concern about the weather. The Italian team didn’t seem to deal in ‘what if’s’ (nor do I as a rule) but one does need to consult one’s left brain from time to time and be practical. I could see the Italian creative process was at least in motion, with hints of tents, but nothing was definitive. Prayer always works well in these situations, don’t you think?!

The response to prayer time was…unexpected: God reminded me that Jesus’ commanded the wind and the waves, and I could too. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not there yet!!! I was about to get my faith stretched.

To my relief, Saturday dawned bright and beautiful. No tent appeared, but we did find a large patio umbrella, unused for the past several years. We set up under a hot sun, joking that maybe God could arrange for one little cloud, directly overhead. A Catholic cathedral loomed over the piazza; we sat on its steps, in the shade, to eat lunch. And then a little cloud appeared.

We went back to work, ignoring it as best we could, until Meri came up to me, her big eyes wide with fear. “Look!” she pointed, leading my gaze up to an ominous cloud bank forming over the cathedral. Hmmm….now comes the stretch of faith part of the day…I grabbed her by the shoulders and we prayed. The clouds moved off.

More installation…chicken wire to scaffolding, artwork carefully wired to chicken wire. Our translators were already busily engaged with Italians circling the exhibit, wondering what was going on. We were just about finished...and the sky was completely covered with clouds.

The looks on everyone’s faces were as dark as the clouds. I gathered the troops under our umbrella, and we linked arms. After a few anemic prayers, I shouted out for a song: “Cantiamo!!!” Startled, the artists began singing…hesitantly at first, and then with more verve. We may not lick this rain thing, I thought, but we are not going down without a fight! The sky and the artists brightened. We resumed our work.

As the last of the exhibit was set up, I noticed a few rain drops on the ground. I sat on the steps again with a forlorn Sarah, who was eyeing the darkening sky. “We might want to start thinking about moving the artwork closer to the arcades,” I suggested…

KABOOM!!! The skies opened and under a torrential downpour, we scrambled—SAVE THE ARTWORK!!!

A maddening fifteen minutes later, we were drenched and huddled under the umbrella, the artwork under our wings, with every available towel, tablecloth and jacket conscripted into service. The boxes of literature were soaked, and being run to the arcades by several on our team. Cameras got wet. The looks on everyone’s faces…well, watch for photos on Facebook!

But we had managed to rescue most of the artwork. Diving first for the watercolors and collages, we sustained minor casualties, mostly with the photography and literature.

Time to regroup. When the rain let up, we had a quick discussion. Technically, we didn’t have the right to set up under the arcades; if the police didn’t come after us, the shopkeepers might. What did the Italians think? “Bouf,” grunted Sarah. “God’s law.” Good enough for me!

Again, my team gets high points for perseverance under difficulty! We marched the whole exhibit under the arcades, in flagrant violation of Italian law, and defied anyone to roust us. We did not come this far to be rained out!!!

The police did come…but not for us. The shopkeepers didn’t complain. In the end, however, we were licked by apathy. The Italians didn’t come. Well, not many.

I’ve never drawn in public without drawing a crowd, except in Teramo. Even face-painting couldn’t draw folks in, and the artists were soon painting each other; eventually they abandoned the effort altogether. Suspicion was so strong, not many even ventured down the arcade to see the artwork. When they did, the Italians set to with earnest expectation and traditional hardcore street evangelism, getting dangerously close to a fight at least once!!! We were there for four hours, then packed and left to no one’s regret.

Results? In spite of as lackluster a day as you could imagine, what did happen in Teramo is important for the church.

We connected with some isolated believers, who didn’t know that there were any churches in the city. An Assembly of God church identified itself, and so we were able to connect that group with Jonathan’s house church, and the isolated believers. Jonathan was greatly encouraged. And Pastor Giorgio got a text message, in Germany, from someone responding to our distribution of literature. We hope to hear more positive fruit in the future, but only God knows all that happened there that day.

And my faith? I am still in the school of prayer, pondering what it takes to command the elements. When I grow up, I want to be like Elijah…“a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”—James 5:17

But I won’t agree to an open-air art show any time soon!

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