The past three months have been incredible. We have eaten amazing food. We have seen some beautiful places. Taken some funny pictures. And we have walked…a lot. But what was our purpose? How did the past three months fit into the story we are trying to tell about being a part of a bigger Story?
For the past three months we lived in Scandicci, Italy teaching 38 college students during their study abroad semester with Harding University in Florence (HUF). We all (all 40 of us) lived in a villa where we ate together, studied together, played together, and traveled together. It was living in community.
We were just there as the visiting professors for the past three months, but there are several others that live there full time to make the experience happen.
Robbie and Mona have been the directors of HUF for almost 25 years. The love they have for their job is incredible. Their enthusiasm and love for a place rubs off on all of us as we walk up to Roman Colosseum, which I am sure they have seen over 200 times. And it happened over and over again this semester, of them sharing this country with us that they love and call home.
Emily Woodroof is their assistant and I am convinced that HUF wouldn’t run without her there. She knows how to do everything and does everything. Acting as host and “mom” of the villa (since she was the oldest one living at the villa :), she took care of us and the 38 students. She has a love for people that is beyond comprehension sometimes and would go out of her way every day to make sure the experience for the students was the best they could have.
There are four Italians that work at the villa to keep things running as well. Silvia takes care of all the bookkeeping and has been working with HUF for 20 years. Sandro is the grounds keeper, but would go out of his way to get you whatever you needed. Paola and Leda are the ones that kept us well fed and clean. They cooked Italian food for us everyday and did our laundry. They didn’t speak any english but welcomed my terrible Italian with a smile…every time.
Yes with HUF we ate some amazing food:
And with HUF we saw some beautiful places:
And we got to take some funny pictures:
And with HUF we walked…a lot:
But what these pictures don’t tell the whole story. What these pictures don’t show is that while eating this amazing food, we sat in conversation with these college students.
And yes, we saw some beautiful places, but this picture doesn’t show that inside that castle I sat by the fire having a great conversation with one of the students.
And there are some funny pictures. But what they don’t tell is the time we got to spend with these students playing a game twenty times until she finally lost and had to wear that crazy shirt all day; or the time we had to play the game once for Emily to lose and have to wear that crazy shirt on her head:
And we did walk a lot. But it was on the walks up and down the hill that we got to be with the students with no other distractions besides the few cars that might pass by as we walked down to get a gelato.
We were only the visiting professors for three months. Robbie, Mona, Emily, Sandro, Paola, Leda, and Silvia make HUF happen…three times a year! But we found our purpose in investing ourselves in the lives of the students that we lived with. We believe that God’s “blessing” is God’s presence with us. So we try to be a blessing by being the presence of God, and challenged our students to be a blessing as they return home.