Saturday, July 31, 2010

Making Assumptions...Lowering Expectations...

I am making way too many assumptions here.

Our schedule today called for a day in the Teramo marketplace—where to our knowledge no church existed—to support a work to start a church. A handful of believers were to join us, distributing invitations for our ‘gallery’ (and I use the term loosely now) show next Saturday.

We would be working with a young family who hold a Bible study in their home, which they hope will become a church one day. Jonathan met us at the parking lot, and we unloaded books and literature, and our art supplies.

I assumed there would be well, a table, and a chair or two. What we really had was a space, between a fresh pile of dog poo and the Jehovah's Witnesses. The only table there was the one we brought to set up as our arts workstation, and that was promptly commandeered for the books. Oh well, maybe I misunderstood…but that left us with an improv act that would be tough to follow...but we did it!

Scouting the piazza, the team found some boxes and two plastic chairs—voila! Covering the piles of poo with scraps of paper, three on our team set to with face painting, and two other sets of three positioned themselves in other corners of the piazza, to do some artwork and hopefully engage with the public.

Three hours later, the drawing teams had nary a nibble, and returned to the book table, as we began to see face-painted children float past us. There, the line extended into the crowd, and a small group of people were gathered around Jonathan, animated and engaged with a group of people around him; he was giving out quite a lot of literature.

Three of us returned to the drawing in a nearby cafe. After trying two other locations, I am stumped to report that no one engaged with me or my team over artwork. That is a first, and seems yet another indication of the spiritual deadness of this region. Truly bizarre. The Italians seemed quite suspicious, even the children.

But overall, we had a good day, and I think the team has turned the corner. Last night there was high silliness around the dinner table, as yet another meal of pizza and watermelon was served. That deserves a post in itself, but for now let me just say, you haven’t lived till you have eaten cornflakes and nutella for dessert.

Oh, and we learned that there is indeed a church in the city, an Assembly of God denomination, and that was a great encouragement to Jonathan. Hopefully he has now found some compadres to help him in his work. And the pastor called from Germany to say he had one response already to the invitations given out--surely a great encouragement to him.

The night finished with an impromptu drawing class with the team and some Italian guests, to my great delight and more laughs and good cheer. I left the team to move to my new new room, happy and satisfied, mindful of how much prayer went up for us yesterday, and rejoicing in my spirit. This team is beginning to prove what it is made of, and God is fighting for us. We had so many messages of encouragement coming in via email. I fell asleep thanking God for each artist on the team, starting to fall in love with each one, and they with arts ministry. I think we’re going to make it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bowing Often

Today’s festivities could be summed up like the New England cliché about weather: “If you don’t like the new decisions and schedule, wait a few minutes because it will change!”

We learned this morning that some of us have to change quarters again, as a new group is arriving and needs our bedroom. So off we went—two of the artists and myself to another building.

When we asked about the gallery space in which we will be exhibiting, we learned we need to create the gallery space. Ah. And do we have things like trellis, chicken wire, etc.? Blank stares…”We can get some!” And if it rains? “Well, maybe we can borrow a tent."

Time to alter course again…we had another quick brainstorm, scrapping all but the simplest ideas, the quickest and easiest to execute in the time frame left (which seems to be dwindling by the day), and to focus in on what we can realistically get done, in view of the fact that we also need to create a gallery. The team is handling this better than I expected. They are pouting briefly, then renewing their efforts with energy and commitment. We will go to 7:30 tonight, then break for dinner, and maybe watch a movie. A little decompression before packing out tomorrow morning at 7:30 am for marketplace outreach.

I think we’ve reached that point of the outreach where things have gone so haywire, one must bow to the absurd. Bowing we are…and I’m proud of our team.

Speaking of bowing…and to put things in perspective:

About an hour ago, a man named Giovanni saw the sign at our entrance and knocked on the door. He is homeless after the quake and looking for food—could we help? We loaded him up with as much food and water as he could carry, listened to his story, and sent him off with prayers, some artwork, and a Bible. Overcome with gratitude, he said he could only offer one thing, and putting his hand on his heart, he bowed and said: “God bless you.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Monkey Business

Today’s agenda: create artwork, and then visit a sister city, Teramo, to prayerwalk, learn some culture and history, and distribute flyers for our upcoming exhibit there next Saturday.

Agenda interrupted by spiritual monkey business: several on our team continue to be plagued by nightmares and demonic presence in the bedrooms. The pastor with whom we are working has been called to the bedside of his gravely ill mother-in-law, in Germany. He leaves today (Thursday). Our other contact in Teramo was not able to meet us in the city to show us around. And our van languishes in the mechanic’s garage…

So, agenda altered to include a solid time of prayer and worship, to push back the very oppressive darkness enveloping us. It is as if the heavens are closed off to us, that Satan rules here, and he is not about to let us do anything. He couldn’t be more wrong.

After some devotional time, we went outside. With the Gran Sasso mountain as our backdrop, we gathered around a campfire circle and performed three symbolic acts, prompted by our prayer leader at Transform, and one of our artists, who had experienced a demonic presence in her room the night before: first we poured water on the ground as a symbol of refreshment—the refreshment we hoped to bring L’Aquila (yet how much we needed it ourselves!). We then poured oil as a symbol of the softening of the soil of people’s hearts we were praying for. More prayer and song, and reading of the Psalms, as we circled the property and the campfire, recalling the promises of God and the truths we were operating in. Then back to the studio…

Our prayer time actually seemed a rather forlorn experience of discouragement; nevertheless, there was a shift. The artwork began to flow…our studio room began to fill with sketches, watercolors, and a collage. The pastor stopped by to give us his news, but assured us he would stop by again this morning to say goodbye. We were able to borrow another vehicle from the place where we’re staying, to visit Teramo.

For me, the most significant sign that God is with us greeted us for breakfast. Our artist from Hong Kong had made a simple stone sculpture with stones collected in L’Aquila. As we came to the dining table, light was flooding in from the window, casting a long, solid the shadow of the cross along our white table. And of course, the cameras and sketch pads came out…

“No weapon forged against you shall stand.”—Isaiah 54:17

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We’ve had two visits to the city now, and it couldn’t be more sobering. The devastation is so complete, one is tempted to think the best thing to do is bulldoze the town and rebuild elsewhere. Especially as the scientists warn that a second earthquake is preparing itself.

The town center, which we were told wasn’t open for us to do ministry in, has in fact opened recently. We walked with the Aquilinos on Sunday evening, down the main street and into the main piazza, in a hushed reverence as if we were all in a museum. The Italians were commenting to one another about various restaurants, cafes and shops: “This is where we used to meet for coffee…This is where my mother died…I worked in this building. If the earthquake had struck during the day, I would be dead now.”

A young lady in the church took us to the remains of her dorm, where she lost 8 friends, and narrowly escaped herself—and that down a human pyramid, students helping students escape after the stairwell collapsed. Photos of the victims were posted on a fence and a memorial across the street, along with flowers, poems, memorabilia. She turned away with a comment: “I wonder when my picture will be hanging on a fence.”

On another fence, lining a city block, a military vehicle is parked and several soldiers stand guard. The location is the site of a recent manifestation, and the fence is filled with keys: house keys, building keys, symbolic keys, keys with pictures attached, one key with a drawing of a kitten on it—tied with ribbon, rope or wire by demonstrators demanding to be let back in their condemned homes to see what they could salvage.

Scaffolding is the new city skyline. Every building seems wrapped in it, which gives the city an eerie, sculptural atmosphere. Doorways and windows are braced with 2x4’s. Windows are cracked and covered in plastic. Two homeless dogs sleep in the piazza.

The Aquilinos are in despair. Not the wailing, weeping, ranting kind, but the more dangerous kind: mute, numb, and apathetic. What good is it to hope, when corruption is rampant, another earthquake is coming, government officials are stealing funds designated to rebuild, the Catholic Church has been conspicuous by its absence of help, and the Italian character will not do anything about it? These are some of the comments we are hearing.

How do we pierce the numbness? Or do we? Do we sit, like Job’s friends, and mourn with the Aquilinos, or do we try to do something about it? We’re still discussing it, and beginning to sketch and draw out ideas. The Italian church would be happy with a simple distribution of literature; we’d like to go further. Pray for divine inspiration, patience and unity. We’ve got a long way to go till next week, when we are to exhibit in two locales, including the main piazza of L'Aquilino. May we prove worthy of the opportunity and privilege.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Little Van That Couldn't

After our herky jerky ride up to Isola, we left in fear and trembling for church Sunday morning. But Frederico the van was not up for it, and gave up the ghost on the A24 to L'Aquila.

While our menfolk bent over the engine, wiggled wires and cleaned the carburator, we womenfolk did what we do best: bonding! Walking along the roadside, collecting discarded objects for possible art projects, we took pictures of ourselves with the Gran Sasso as a backdrop, and waved to the women walking over the overpass above us.

A round of prayer and our hero Edi finally got it started. We limped to church, which was held in a field next to the restaurant where we would have lunch. Since the earthquake, which collapsed the church building, the church has been meeting wherever they could find a space, sometimes splitting up into homes and meeting throughout the city. About 50 were gathered.

We had the privilege of witnessing three baptisms--truly an event in any European country--and enjoying a festive meal afterwards: fresh trout, salmon, white beans and pasta, salad watermelon. The obligatory nap in the lounge chairs completed a very long meal...of several hours...and then we were off to L'Aquila to survey the damage...

Frederico is now at the mechanic's for an indefinite hospitalization. Three of our number are experiencing nightmares. And our pastor/leader has been called to Germany for the serious illness of his mother-in-law. Yes, prayers would be in order.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mount Sinai

Our trip to L’Aquila, was typically OM. We were the last team to leave—after our van was conscripted to transport several other teams back and forth to the train station or airport. Eight teams scattered through Italy; the ninth, ours, paced the lobby, read, drew, chatted, packed art supplies, laid by the pool, or ordered more cappuccino. At noon, we ordered the obligatory pizza, feeling that if we never eat another slice of pizza, we would be cool with that.

At about 4 in the afternoon, about six hours from our estimated time of departure, our field leaders sounded the signal, and we loaded the van. A team heading to the north of Italy were just pulling out of the parking lot; we waved them off with a shout, and then climbed into ours, after a cup of water.

At the edge of the parking lot, the van stalled. “A problem with the carburetor,” our driver shrugged, and restarted the van. We made it to the exit ramp—and stalled. Another restart, and we made it onto the highway—and stalled. We laid hands on the van from wherever we sat, and started again. This time we made it a few miles. By now we had bonded with our van, dubbing it ‘Federico.’ Our driver was a peach of a phlegmatic, just chuckling and shaking his head as he patiently restarted and restarted and restarted….ignoring the less patient drivers and honking horns that whizzed around us. And so we made our herky jerky way up into the mountains, to our lodging place in Isola della Gran Sasso, just past L’Aquila. A ten-kilometer tunnel was our final pass, emptying us out at the foot of the Gran Sasso.

“Welcome to Mount Sinai!” greeted the pastor of the church with which we would work. We exited the van in awe. Indeed it did seem to be Mount Sinai, as we craned our necks up and up to the top of the mountain, which was shrouded in a dark cloud, and wondered to what we had come.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Doo Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Doo…

Inexplicably, at 7:17 am in the Hotel Selene, I break out in a Herman’s Hermits song: “Singing doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo….” What?!?

I blame conference overdose, and hanging around with my friend Linda too much!

We are coming to the end of our two conferences. Eyes are at half-mast, waistlines are a little wider, dreams are a lot bigger. Songs are being sung in the hallways, brains (right and left) are full to explosion with new ideas, contacts, information, dreams, visions, plans and ruminations. Where do we go from here?

Having worked through our ‘stones’ and stories, having build a mosaic table, unity and friendship, having learned some cultural cues and our favorite flavors of gelato, we are about to scatter to the 22 countries of the Mediterranean. We will attempt to love God by loving its many people groups. He alone knows what we’re in for!

I have a new cell phone, loaded up with Italian emergency numbers, and a team looking at me with fear and trembling—single women from Canada, Hong Kong, Finland and England, one married Swiss man who lives in Austria, here without his family, an American man married to a German woman, living in Germany, here with his family, and a young man from Bryan College. As I write that list, the words of Ezekiel 37:3 come to mind, “Can these bones live?!” As Ezekiel answered, “You alone know, Lord!”

I’m optimistic. I’ve seen it happen over and over: vision cast, people as diverse as it can come uniting over their passion for art, and passion for Christ. I expect to see it again: God moving through artists making themselves available to Him.

Ten artists coming to Italy with their five paint tubes and two cameras, asking the Lord, “What good are these among so many?”—knowing God loves to multiply!

Soon we climb in a van, to be transported to L’Aquila, about one hour from here, in the Abruzzo Mountains. Let the outreach begin…

Liplock, Stares and Other Cultural Cues

OM Italy’s field leader stood to ask a question in the midst of our cultural orientation: “Can I say something about kissing?”

“Italians greet one another with a hearty and obligatory series of kisses. Always start with the left cheek of the person you’re greeting, or you risk liplock. Italians are also known for ear kissing, nose kissing, big sloppy juicy on each check (and maybe on the forehead too) kisses…

“They also stare. Italians stare. They just do, and you may find this strange, but they are waiting for you to greet them! Return the stare. Acknowledge it with a smile and then they will smile and then say ‘Buongiorno to them!!!’”

And for more cultural cues, you will want to visit this link:



A quick Google search of Via del Nazareno yields no spiritual insight, but this tidbit of information:

Via del Nazareno was named for Cardinal Michelangelo Tonti, appointed under Pope Paul V as Archbishop of Nazareth. In 1622, the Cardinal bought the building in order to establish a panel to be assigned for the education of poor young people, but barely had time to make a will before he died that same year.

Nazarene College, located on this street, was built in the second half of the sixteenth century, in a former palace of a nobleman from Parma. Students were divided into two categories: boarders belonging to rich families, and students educated for free. The reputation of the College grew so that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was considered one of the finest colleges; students came from all over Italy and became cardinals, diplomats and politicians.

Well, no great spiritual insights, but no less a spiritual battle that we’re engaged in.

Via del Nazareno

Our prayer leader challenged us at the 6:30 am prayer time:

“Do you believe your prayers can make a difference?”

A few hours later, we were launched into Rome—in a ball of confusion. The buses to transport us to the train station arrived in the middle of lunch (which had miraculously been served on time), necessitating a scramble for fruit, rolls and waterbottles, maps, literature, teammates, hats and suntan lotion.

The mass exodus happened in three waves: two buses left about 12:45, and a third at 1:30. We had to go in groups of 10 (cheaper tickets) and return in groups of 5 (during commuter rush hour). Another scramble as everyone tried to find their teammates in the swarming hundreds of Transform participants and commuters on. Are you confused yet? (The more seasoned types knew we would probably never be checked for tickets, and just boarded.)

Fifteen minutes later, spit out into Rome’s Termini station, we swarmed around looking for teammates again, as of course the ‘groups of 10’ concept didn’t really work. We plucked artists and dancers from the crowd, and planned our strategy.

With our prayer leader and a friend, I took a cab (in deference to various hurting body parts); we put our team on the subway to meet up with us two stops along the line—and never saw them again until dinner at the hotel.

Our plan was to prayer walk a Renaissance route, reclaiming the arts for Christ, there at the geographical heart of the Renaissance, the greatest flourishing of the arts in Western Civilization. Another Artslink team went to the Vatican.

We headed to Piazza Venezia, on Capital Hill, where sits one of the most imposing edifices in all of Rome. From there, we would start our prayer walk, heading up Via del Corso towards Piazza del Popolo, stopping to pray at the many Renaissance sites I had marked off on my map.

At Piazza Venezia, exiting the cab into a furnace of heat and a pack of tourists (all the Romans were at the beach if you asked me), we began climbing...the edifice was on a high place, and we love to pray from a high place. Fortunately, at the top of the high place, there was a reviving breeze and some shade.

We could barely see below us for the light blinding off the white marble. Squinting into it, I searched for our team, feeling like the loser leader, but it was hopeless. We prayed on.

On our descent, I noticed a placard which designated this spot as the Altar of the Nation; behind us the ‘Goddess of Rome’ stood in an honored niche, a flame and flowers at her feet, and two soldiers standing guard. We prayed again—rejecting the counterfeit authority and invoking the name of Jesus as the true God of Rome. A few praise songs, and we were at the bottom of the hill.

Still no team... while I continued to pray at the gate, my colleagues went off looking for them, but soon returned, shrugging their shoulders. We decided to push forward and trust the team would find their way home. Up the Via del Corso we went.

As we prayerwalked, we passed site after site of Renaissance history. I shared the little bits of history I knew, so motivated to research more, and soon we were at the famous Trevi Fountain. Gelato or no gelato?! We decided we were still ‘on duty’ and kept walking.

On across the Via del Tritone, where we arrived at the corner of a narrow side street, filled with kitsch and cafés, another site I had marked off on the map. As we got into single file to navigate the crowd, my friend suddenly stiffened, stopped and turned.

“Someone just said to me ‘Who do you think you are...” She looked back, scanning the crowd.

Our prayer leader caught up with us and asked what was going on. She repeated, “Someone just said to me ‘Who do you think you are?...The Spirit of Anti-Christ reigns here!’”

Whoa!!!! What was that?! Voices in her head? An emissary of the evil one? Imagination? We didn’t know—but you can imagine our prayers after that!!!

And guess what the name of that little street was that we were about to enter, famous for I know not what in Renaissance history?

Via Nazareno—the Way of the Nazarene.

“Do you believe your prayers can make a difference?”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


With some trepidation, and plenty of sunscreen and bottles of water, we’re off to Rome today!

I’ll be leading a team in a Renaissance prayer walk, walking important sites of the Renaissance, and asking God to restore what has been stolen from the church in its understanding and appreciation of the arts.

In preparation, we’re reading “Letter to Artists” by John Paul II (

In the meantime, you might want to look up this link to read another report of our SALT conference, on one of the sessions I led—“A Whole New Mind: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”:

(Sorry for the length of the links! Someone teach me how to make them short version!)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Restoring the Ruins

As we transition from the SALT conference to Transform 2010, some snapshots of the last week…and day one of the new week about to begin…

“Pass through, pass through the gates…”—Isaiah 62:10

An Italian heatwave. A line of cars heads for the beaches where the Allies landed during World War II, and our SALT participants, travelers from eleven countries, set out by bus, car, taxi and train to return to their lives, or sightsee in Rome, before beginning Transform 2010. The Hotel Selene is bustling, filled with hundreds of OM-ers and guests. So many happy reunions, so many old and new friends connecting…it’s a joy to watch.

“Prepare the way for the people…”

The SALT conference was astonishing. After preparing for it, we sit back and now watch the Transform team prepare to receive their guests. Registration table, maps to orient, bottles of water, workshop sign up sheets, room registrations, followed by room swapping, glitches upon glitches, and squeals of delight as friends find each other. Soon we are all supporting lanyards with our nametags. Soon we are sitting in little huddles around the lobby catching up.

“Build up, build up the highway…”

Over three days of training with Colin Harbinson and the OM ARTS staff, SALT participants were filled to overflowing with teachings, case studies, powerpoints, interviews, networking, and resourcing. Participants were equipped with foundational teachings, case studies of successful arts ministry examples, a “Stone by Stone” DVD set (Dr. Harbinson’s foundational teaching on the arts), and a 2-GB flash drive, filled with all the teachings of the SALT, a book list, and an email list to enable further connection and networking.

“Remove the stones…”

Starving artists, one and all, starved for resources, affirmation and confidence; starved by fears and doubts; starved of desire and vision; yearning to fulfill the calling God has on their lives, and wondering how. Some struggled to even believe they could have a vision; what was the use? (Others had more vision than they could carry; connections and networking helped forge new, strengthening links.)

Small groups provided the safe setting for confession: removing stones of unbelief, doubt, pride and perfectionism from our hearts. Tears—tears of grief from artists coming back to art late in life, after long exile, feeling ‘robbed’ of their artistic calling; tears of joy from younger artists, finding their ‘tribe’—and receiving words of affirmation, validation and empowerment.

“Raise a banner for the nations…”

One morning, one of the worship leaders, discovering an inadequate keyboard that arrived for him, found a Steinway piano in the hotel lobby. After receiving permission from the hotel staff, he conscripted the piano into service, and praise was lifted in the lobby, to the astonishment of staff and guests (presumably the Buddha statue, sitting in a corner to our left).

Andrew Garvey-Williams (OM Ireland) created a painting that became our signature piece: “Restoring the Ruins.” His wife enacted a dramatic reading of Ezra 2: the exiles returning to rebuild the temple, weeping for joy, weeping with grief. And we are rebuilding the broken walls of Christian arts, our troupe weeping for joy to find compatriots, weeping with grief for the lost years.

A mosaic table, symbolic of our theme, slowly took shape through the week: a visible representation of what we were attempting to do: fitting together the whole Body, "joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective (proper) working (of each individual part) by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying (building up) of itself in love.”—Eph. 4:16 (NKJV/NASB). In our final session, it became our communion table, artists serving one another; leaders serving artists, artists serving leaders, colleagues serving colleagues, spouses serving spouses.

Wilted artists, revived, gave testimony as to how God had met them that week, and thanked us profusely for our blood, sweat and tears in laboring to achieve traction within the arts movement. A repeated theme was thankfulness for the discovery and knowledge of so many colleagues embedded in a movement larger than themselves, and a team of advocates back in Tyrone, GA. Sent back to their fields, they are now strengthened, equipped and encouraged, their imaginations fired with vision and desire.

Frank Fortunato, founder of Heart Sounds International, and elder statesman in OM Arts, gave a final commission: “There’s a book that came out that spoke about the love of fellowship from the standpoint of warfare. A very unusual setting to describe fellowship. The book, G.I. The American Soldier in World War II, by S.L.A. Marshall comments: "I hold it to be one of the simplest truths of war that the thing which enables an infantry solider to keep moving with his weapon is the near presence of a comrade." The author calls it a soldier’s “love of fellowship.”
After a closing prayer and blessing by Colin, we were dismissed.

After lunch, departure…goodbyes…endings…or beginnings?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Starving in Italy

Metaphorically speaking that is…

Lots of tears today—tears of grief from artists coming back to art late in life, after long exile, feeling ‘robbed’ of their artistic calling; tears of joy from younger artists, as they find their ‘tribe’—and receive words of affirmation, validation and empowerment. Tears of frustration from those who are scurrying around, trying to find all the materials we need and back us up as we dive deeper into our conference (one worker drove one mile in two hours of Italian heat, trying to find art supplies; he arrived in time to a “Closed for Siesta” store and had to return to the hotel—to return again later when the store opens.)

Starving artists, one and all, starved for resources, affirmation and confidence. Starved by fears and doubts. Striving to fulfill the calling God has on their lives, and wondering how. It’s not easy to answer God’s call, impossible as it initially appears to be.

One could weep, to hear the artists. True, sometimes it is self-pity, and the temptation is there to kick 'em in the butt and say, "Get going!" But most often it is a deep frustration and wrestling with God. Finances and time always lacking; support seemingly non-existent, except in the fellowship of other artists.

“Why did He make me this way?” is a complaint I often hear (and have voiced myself). And I answer over and over, “We live in a fallen world…” and encourage them to fight on, to fight for their calling, and to get busy. No surrender. God loves art and beauty, and He wants the artist to value that too, and challenge the world with it. We are pioneering, reclaiming territory long given over to the enemy of our souls, misunderstood by a majority in the church, though we are the church, and fighting our own demons.

Pray for us, as we tap this deep reservoir of emotion, and get artists to look at their wounds, get them healed, and remove the stones that prevent them from proceeding along the path God has set before them.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Internet & Italy

Well, they weren't speaking to each other this week, so with a delay of several days, as we wind up our SALT conference today, here's how the first day went!


“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”—Eph. 4:16

With some grace for jetlag, we each got into motion in our own rhythm yesterday morning, gradually finding one another, ‘to do’ lists clutched firmly in hand (or in a computer folder). The last of our staff arrived, eyes twirling in his head. We assembled the nametags, then gathered for a lunch meeting, surprisingly light for Italian standards…fruit for dessert…and no coffee! What gives?! No colored tiles to be found, and no coffee?! We must be on the budget plan…

Our art supplies have yet to arrive. We discuss a Plan B, as some of them would be needed in about 3 hours. And I don’t know if I have a table coming for the mosaic project, or simply a support board that would become a wall hanging. The space they gave us was too small for our gathering; Bill ‘sorted it’ with the management. Did we need another table or two?

”Someone is at the registration table, Signore…”

Dileep runs off to attend to them, returning with the happy news that our OM Italy colleagues have arrived, looking about as wilted as they come, with all our supplies. I leave to help move them to the conference room, and find out about the mosaic project—table or wall hanging? Only a slight hesitation, then a hesitant:

“We’ll go buy something as soon as possible! We couldn’t fit another thing in the van.”

I loaded what art supplies were available onto the luggage valet, and got lost with Anna in the bowels of the building, trying to find our meeting room in the labyrinth. With the help of a plumber, and to the stares of his crew, we made our way into a room at the furthest point from anywhere in the hotel, and began the set up as registrants arrived upstairs. Trusting that whatever needed to still arrive would arrive in time to begin the mosaic project, Linda and I tackled the Italian easels, but had to admit defeat.

“Bill! Help us figure out these easels!”

Happy greetings among old and new friends could be heard throughout the hotel, backdrop to Dileep scurrying to finish up last minute photocopying, and Pat and Linda deciding “We need two more tables, and a tableclcoth!” Off to fetch those, while Linda ‘borrowed’ the flowers from the hallway arrangement.

“Jill, would you mind playing some background music as we start?”

“Colin, where’s your powerpoint?”

“How do we get these lights to work?”

Coffee! Not to be missed. Our first official gathering to welcome everyone—we hurry upstairs for a quick latte, trying to look cool, calm and collected, and then back down—to the organization of tables, tablecloths, flowers, tiles for the mosaic, and dropcloths. Rearrange the chairs. Figure out how the lights and shades and air conditioner work. Pray. Jill starts plunking on her guitar, centering us all down. And the noise of the crowd descends from the coffee bar to the spiral staircase, from the staircase down the corridor, and in to the space we will spend the next week in…

Folks from Finland, Italy, Germany, UK, Austria, Canada, France, USA, Ireland, and Kosovo….leaders from these fields, plus OM’s ship, the Logos II…a mosaic of artists or arts advocates, seeking to establish an arts ministry on their fields, hungry for the fellowship of the like-minded, now “joined and held together by every supporting ligament”—about to grow and build itself up in love, each part doing its work.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Finally broke into my own account, with a labyrinth of codes, connection settings and passwords duly ferreted out, balancing the angle of the keyboard in the right direction of the wireless signal, and planets lining up over the here I am again:

An uneventful journey over the pond, stopping briefly at London's Heathrow Airport, and then, after a 3-hr layover, onto Rome. A hot and sweaty car ride to Anzio for a wonderful reunion with the Zitos, and then dinner (eggplant rigatoni), followed by a walk along the Mediterranean with Alisa. Yikkity yak till about 10, and then I called it a day (or maybe it was two).

Yesterday, convergence at the Hotel Selene in nearby Pomezia: several of us OM-ers from several corners of the world met around the pool to finalize details of the conference and fight jetlag. Probably the wrong place to do that...but we managed. Another copious dinner, and we wandered off to the rabbit warren of sleek contemporary Hotel Selene rooms, to sleep the sleep of the dead, or cope with insomnia and maladjusted body clocks, and wake with the inevitable question of one-too-many bits of travel: "What country am I in?"

The crowds descend in about two hours..."where are the mosaic tiles? What room are we meeting in? How do you get wireless to work? Who has the nametags?! When does Jill/Frank/Anna/Tim/whoever arrive?" We repeat and repeat ourselves, as our brains try to stay focused and retain the details...boy, does that coffee look good. Wonder what the pool temperature is?

Thanks for your prayers and stay tuned for the next exciting episode in the life of a creative consultant in a global artst enterprise. Or something like that...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Just Another Day...

6:07 am and I am watching the gray dawn ease into sunlight. There is much to do; might as well get at it.

85 degrees by 10:00; sweet breakfast (my favorite meal), and first attempt at packing suitcase… aborted for reconsideration of priorities…and an enriching phone call with Dianne Collard. Time to take a shower…

Dang these emails keep pouring in…Friday’s usually quiet, but of course, this is the Friday before the SALT conference next week, and folks are scrambling on both sides of the ocean. As one of the point people… well, you know how it goes...

Putter through domestic chores, financial chores, delegation of the plants and car chores, and the phone keeps ringing... seems there are no colored tiles to be found in Italy…can we do something about that?! (Slight panic evident in the e-speak… mosaic project in jeopardy.)

No colored tiles in Italy?! How can this be? Implementing Plans D, E, and F fails...implementing Plans G and H, including an email to friends in Italy, recruiting them for the tile search…dangerous to be friends with a missionary!!! Never know what you're going to get asked to do!

On to the sorting of the toiletries, trying to bring the least amount in the smallest homeland-security-approved containers or baggies. Or wondering how grubby can I be in Italy and get away with it?

Take a trip to the office to return a shovel, drop some things in the mail, and add some mosaic tiles to the too-big pile of stuff at my desk that hasn’t fit anywhere else—maybe the Carsons can carry it?! They’ll be by later to see…

Blitzkrieg of errands…done with incredible smoothness, serendipity and efficiency…or so I think until I return home, unpack, and find empty cartons, mistakes on receipts, necessitating a return trip to 3 stores tomorrow. Good grief.

Well, tomorrow’s another day. Time for an iced coffee, a deep breath, and another whack at packing. I'll round out the evening with another attempt too at completing my last unfinished workshop for Transform 2010…and call it a day...just another day of preps for a short term missions trip…