About 7 months ago I was laying on my bed in Hawai’i Kai and asking God to give me confirmation to travel the world. The only country Suzanne and I were thinking about traveling to at the time was Italy. So I opened my Bible and the first words I read were: When the time came, they set sail for Italy- Acts 27:1.
So, I’ve been in Italy for 24 days, and I feel like I’ve seen and experienced a LOT. We started off in Rome for four days where we saw all the major sites such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and of course lots of pasta. We also had the opportunity to couch surf with a local Roman- Davide and quickly got adjusted to the italian schedule of waking up late, eating late, and going to bed late!
Then we went down to Napoli- or Naples and explored the city for five days. For the first three days we stayed in the city at the Art Hostel where we met other travelers from Israel. They were so fun to talk to and taught me so much about the Israeli culture I will be seeing soon! They even cooked us an authentic Isralei dish shakshuka!
Our last two days in Naples were spent in a small town outside of Naples couchsurfing with Walter! He was an amazing host and it was so fun staying in his cozy family home! One of the days he took us on a 5 hour hike around a volcano which was gorgeous, and an something we would have never experienced without him showing us.
After Naples we went up North and stayed 10 days in Florence where we really got to know the city. We couch surfed with two different host. My 10 days in Florence were mostly spent walking around the city and taking photos. I found that I wasn’t extremely interested in seeing statues, huge churches, or the big museums, I much more enjoyed creating my own adventure and trying to capture the city through my camera lens. However, I had a favorite activity in Florence, which was going to the San Lorenzo market and buying rings to give out as presents. Suzanne and I became good friends with one of the shop owners. One day he shared his story with us of how he is a Muslim from Bangladesh and is working in Florence to save up money to return home to his girlfriend and marry her. He was an honest seller, and gave a lot of thanks to God. He even told us that he didn’t understand why we kept coming back to his shop because we weren’t his sisters, family members, or lifelong friends. Then he went on to say it must be God blessing his dream through our finances. This hit me because I had felt every time I bought from him,that God was leading me to do it. Plus our whole reason for going around the world is to help God encourage individual dreams, even the dreams of a Muslim from Bangladesh.
One day while we were in Florence Suzanne and I had a deep talk about how Italy isn’t fulfilling everything we thought it would. It was the first place God originally told us to go to, and we had both hoped for so much more. So we dropped everything we were doing and went home to pray and research for our next step. In Suzanne’s words, “If something isn’t going the way you want it to, you’re free, just change it.” But we didn’t have to do the work because God did it all for us. We were praying for a family style vineyard to stay at, so that we could experience the real Italy and get connected with a family. We were finding so many different places on google but everything was really expensive. Then Suz remembered that she had received a couch surfing message from a guy offering up his country home to us. His name was Alessandro and we called him and he told us we were more than welcome to come. So we took a train to Arezzo. When we got there it was way more than we could have ever hoped for. His house was an old rustic Italian house, with a newly remodeled inside. We had our own flat, including a kitchen and bathroom. He had 30 acres of land surrounding his house, including a vineyard where he made his own Chianti wine, and a pool! He had two gardens, one where we could pick off anything we wanted to make fresh salads and a big garden to use fresh ingredients to make dinners. Alessandro was an amazing host. He made sure everything was perfect for us. He created atmospheres for all of our meals, such as eating in his vineyard, picnics under the tree, making homemade pizza in his authentic outdoor pizza oven, everything was perfect. To make it even better, we were sharing our flat with two other couch surfers, who just so happened to be YWAM graduates traveling the world. It was so much fun to share this experience with other christians our age. The best part about our stay was that we got to help Alessandro harvest his grapes in the vineyard. It was awesome to be able to bless him back (even though it was so miniscule compared to how he blessed us). We spent two days harvesting grapes a total of 8 hours picking time. The coolest part about the whole thing was the location of his house. Suzannes initial desire to come to Italy came from seeing the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Before we went she showed the movie to me which of course excited me to go. Alessandro’s house was located only a few miles from where the movie was filmed. So not only did God answer our prayer of an amazing family vineyard to stay on for FREE when Alessandro and his family rent out the flats for about 200 Euro a night which is equal to about $350. But God brought us to the very spot where we had desired to go in the beginning without us even knowing it. How amazing is our God. (I will update pictures when I’m back in the states!)
While we were staying on the vineyard us girls decided to start having a bible study. During our first study we started talking about how we really needed to stop giving people short answers when they ask us why we are traveling and start giving all the glory to God. So the next day we were leaving Arezzo and taking a train to Cinque Terre. We had no idea where we would be staying and were praying for God to provide a place. While at the train station there were a group of southern American ladies that we started talking to. They were from Florida and Texas enjoying a holiday together. They started asking questions about our trip and we all took turns telling them stories about how God brought us together, what we were doing, and stories where God had provided for us throughout the trip. When we were finished they told us they were all christians and had been missionaries at various parts in their lives as well. One of the ladies was named Linda and her 14 year old daughter had started the organization Taylor’s Closet giving designer clothes to women who have nothing. When the train came and we were saying our goodbyes Linda walked up to Suzanne and handed her something. When we sat down on the train Suz showed us what it was and she had given us 50 Euro and told us to use it on our trip. So not only did God bless us for giving glory to his name, he provided money for us to stay somewhere that night. Again, how great is our God.
So now I’m in Cinque Terre (which means five lands) and yesterday we enjoyed hiking to 4 of the 5 towns. We got to the 4th and ended up swimming for about 2 hours and jumping off rocks. It was such a fun day. Everyone was in a good mood, the sun was shining and the water was an amazing crystal blue.
So now I only have 5 days left in beautiful Italia. During this 24 days God has truly been working on my heart and showing me this new freedom that I have. I’m only 19 years old so my whole life I’ve been used to being under authority, and in groups. While on this trip it’s as if I feel released to just be individually me on this adventure of life. Ever since I became a christian I knew freedom, but this is a new freedom of really feeling that it’s possible to do what God individually leads me to do, and not the group. Yesterday I was praying for a fresh word from the Lord and he told me, “all things new”. I prayed into what this meant and I feel as if he is really creating in me, and around me all things new. I felt this answer to one of the reasons he brought me on this trip was to create a new character in me. It is true that while you are traveling the real you comes out, which as mentioned in my last post I really had to work on. So he brought me on this trip to create a new character in me. Also, a new, bigger mindset. Before I had dreams, and I believed I could achieve them, but now I feel like God is creating this new mindset in me to believe in the impossible and to see him make it possible. A word my pastor Sarah gave me and Suz before we left was to “Raise the Bar”. While Suzanne was walking to Ikea in Florence God told her to raise the bar. She was repeating it over and over to me and I remembered it was the same word we had received before the trip even began. So God is now challenging her and me to raise the bar on our dreams. To believe in the impossible. For me one of them is having enough money to go to college. It is a desire of my heart to have the authentic college experience. I want to go to a four year university, play sports, get involved on campus, and make those lifelong friends. Looking at my bank account that is literally impossible, but I am now believing in God to make it possible. Along with other things such as my photography, jewelry, relationships, everything. I’m only beginning to raise the bar. So God is creating something new in me. I don’t think I’m going to return from this journey as the same Emily that I was before.
So I challenge you with the same word that God gave me and Suz before the trip, and then repeated to suzanne only about a week ago, “Raise the bar”. What dreams, desires, that seem impossible can you trust in God for? In Romans 4:17-18 it says that God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. The only way He was able to do this was because Abraham dared to trust God to do only what God could do, and to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. So if we believe that the word is living in active, raise the bar and expect for God to make all things new.
Amen and Aloha. =]