Happy New (School) Year

7 09 2015

Already, we are in the third week of school, and summer seems long gone.  Of course, it helps that last week’s temperatures in the high-90s have given way to this week’s highs in the low 80s!

I always say at the beginning of the school year that I wish it were October because that’s about the time that the routines are established and most of my paperwork is organized and I hit my teaching groove.  But the view from September this time is a bit different. 

I don’t have my usual high school English class because this year, BCA has a total of 3 high school students, and they are all underclassmen.  In fact, I’m teaching (GASP!) two grades of elementary language arts every morning.  I’m waaaay out of my comfort zone to say the least.

There was a lot of doomsday talk at the end of last year, when a large senior class graduated and several families moved away.  But the truth is that this is a good season for the school.  The atmosphere has changed significantly this year – for the better.

This is a God thing.  The last several years have seen their share of strife, but I am fully persuaded that the Lord has brought us into a time of refreshing and renewal.  The three 9th and 10th graders are stepping up as leaders in mature, responsible ways that most freshmen and sophomores don’t.  The teaching staff are united and morale is high, even among those who are stretched quite thin due to a shortage of teachers in the elementary.  And perhaps the most telling sign of all:  Teachers are loving the middle school classes!  Instead of “annoying” and “overwhelming” I now hear words like “fun” and “spunky” to describe that group.

No, not everything is perfect.  But this school year is shaping up to be meaningful and memorable – one in which the Spirit of the living God falls fresh, when students are drawn to Him not by the might of our teaching or activities but by our yielding to His Spirit every day.  This is the school year that the Lord has made, and I am already rejoicing and being glad in it.

Casa Barbusca

17 02 2013

On these cold wintery days (It’s snowing as I write this!), we are thankful for our warm apartment every day.  It’s a lot smaller than our apartment in Morocco (at least 1/3 smaller), of which many of you saw our kids give a tour over three years ago — but still quite large by Romanian standards.  We are on the southern end of Bucharest, just past the edge of most tourist maps.  Let our kids show you around!  (And stick around for the out-takes at the end.)


Mary, Joanna and Susanna the Financiers

28 06 2012

I just have a few things running through my head, and it is four o’clock in the morning and I can’t sleep, so here goes.  I have read Luke 8 many times and never saw what was at the end of verse 3. Here is what it says (NKJV) :

Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance (emphasis mine).

“Ministered unto Him from their substance”?  That caught my eye. So I looked up the meaning of that phrase. What I found was that these women were financial supporters of Jesus and his disciples. The first thing that crossed my mind was that this is strange.  Then I thought, “Well how did Jesus pay for His ministry?”  I know that there was some carpentry work going on, but that was before He went out full time.  Maybe the disciples were still fishing on the side, for extra income.  But He asked them to lay down their nets to follow Him.  Judas was the treasurer, so they must have had some money.  It turns out that one of the ways that Jesus and the disciples supported themselves was by receiving financial support from people.  Now there may were many others, as this passage states, but this passage specifically points out these three women.  I find that interesting also.  The financiers mentioned here weren’t some rich bankers or businessmen.  They were women whom He had helped in some way.  People who had a relationship with Him.

Then I thought, “How come I never realized that Jesus was financially supported?  Did I just assume that as the Son of God he was just taken care of supernaturally?  He was fully man and had the sames needs as anyone else, of course He needed money for food shelter and other things. If I was around would I have been a partner with Jesus?”

I think He gave us a model of what we are to do to get the gospel out to the world.  He could have done it differently, but He choose to be supported in order to give those who supported Him a piece of His vision for the world and a chance to be part of it.  They were blessed to be able to give into His ministry, the ministry that He left for us to continue.

Why Missions?

1 05 2012

“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.” — Henry Martyn

Missions is a tricky subject. It is the heartbeat of God and the focus of the Bible. It is what Jesus told his disciples to do when He came back from the tomb. It is what we are all called to do. So what is it?

Jesus commands us to make disciples. He wants us to tell the world about what he did for us. Then He wants us to make them into disciples to do the same for others. There are over 2 billion unreached people in the world today by most estimates. You might say, “Hey Tony there are millions of unreached people in the United States.” No, unreached means that they do not have access to the Gospel. They can’t have a bible. There is not a church on every street corner to walk into. So while missions in the local community is important missions to the world are crucial. Don’t neglect local missions, but don’t tell me, “Well Tony I do my missions locally and let other do them other places.” That is great but it isn’t what God told us to do. Acts 1:8 says that “…you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. Find out what God has for your ministry (everyone has one, but that is a different post). Use your talents and gifts for His glory to bring people closer to Him.

Act locally AND globally!

How Italian Are We?

19 01 2012

Well, of course Chrissy isn’t Italian at all (unless marriage counts).  But all of my ancestors are full-blooded Italians.  My mom’s grandparents and my dad’s parents came to the USA on a boat from the old country.

Why does that matter to me now, except when it comes to what we’re having for dinner?  Well, there is a possibility that I might be able to obtain Italian citizenship — and, more importantly, a passport that would allow us to live in Romania visa-free, thanks to the European Union.

It’s tricky.  And heavy on the paperwork.  We have to find naturalization papers for my 6 relatives (both sets of mom’s grandparents and my dad’s parents) as well as birth, marriage, and death certificates for all of them.  The big question is whether any of my Italian-born ancestors who came to America got naturalized AFTER having the children who would be my direct forebears.

Today we tried contacting some lawyers who specialize in immigration law and particularly Italian dual citizenship.   But it is Friday, so no surprise, I guess, that we couldn’t get through.  I’m thinking the trick is hiring someone who knows how to navigate all the paper research.  Most of it is on microfiche in the National Archives, probably in New York City, and we weren’t planning a trip to that area anytime soon.

With visa requirements for all five of us to live in Romania being quite complicated, lengthy, and pricey, Italian dual citizenship (if it is within reach) is definitely a worthwhile investment for our family.

It’s Been Such a Long Time

24 10 2010

Long Hard SummerWell, I haven’t posted in a very long time, and the date that gets stamped on these things keeps staring me in the face.  So I will attempt to catch you up without boring you.

Last spring was an exciting time here in Morocco.  We finished our first full year here and were ready for a well deserved vacation to Romania.  Too bad we forgot to renew Rocco’s passport and had to delay our long awaited flight.  But the US consulate here really outdid themselves coming to our rescue – kudos to them!

Then it was off to Bucharest, where we enjoyed such space-age conveniences as malls, movies in English, Ikea, and efficient public transportation.  We didn’t drive all summer!  We stayed in a friend’s home, which is next-door to a sprawling park filled with playgrounds, bike paths, and even free bounce houses.  Also free to use in this park were several charcoal grills – just mind-boggling to those who have lived in pre-EU Eastern Europe.

Most of all, though, we were blessed with much time to enjoy with close friends.  We got to hang out with many people that we and our children had missed tremendously since leaving Romania a year ago.  We even had a chance to host a new friend who came from Casablanca to visit us.  Gianna turned 4 in July, and we had a fun party for her at one of the malls with a nice children’s play gym.   Marco was baptized at the church we attended when we lived there.  Swim lessons for the boys at the national stadium.  Long conversations with dear friends.  The world’s best babysitter.  Cinnabon. More than we can say here.

While it was great for us to be able to go back to Romania and spend the summer reconnecting with people, there was one negative.  We didn’t get to see any of you back in the U.S.  We hope to be there next summer and get to see all of the friends and family we miss so much.  Please continue to pray for us as we do for you.

“Should We Park Here?”

27 02 2010

Sun shines into the underground cistern in El Jadida. Click on the picture for more shots from our trip.

Since moving here from Bucharest we have been comparing driving practices.  For example, in both cities, lanes are irrelevant and people are very aggressive.   They also have the same way of making left turns (see picture).  But one big difference between driving in Morocco and driving in Romania is parking – or, more specifically, tow trucks.

In Bucharest you can pretty much park anywhere.  There are a few rules but in general if your car can make it up onto the sidewalk, you can park there.  There are virtually no tow trucks in Bucharest so the worst that would happen is someone would put a boot on your car – easily rectified with a few lei (Romanian money).

So after an excursion to the Habous last week, we decided to stop downtown and find a good spot for lunch.  Chrissy remembered a little hole in the wall joint that had good shwarma and pizza down in the Marif section of town.  We drove around for a couple of minutes before a space was available.

“This looks like a good spot.”

She said, “Are you sure we should park here?  The curb is yellow.”

“Look at all the other cars parked here.  I’m sure it’s fine,” I responded confidently.

So we got the kids out and headed towards the lunch spot.  A policeman right next to us on the corner gave no indication that this was not a perfect place to park.  My confidence was reinforced.

As we headed back from lunch, Chrissy looked up and saw the car in front of us with its rear end in the air, ready to be towed away.  I ran towards the parking spot to find a void where our car used to be.  I asked the guys in the tow truck  where my car was.  They looked at me quizzically and shrugged.  French? Arabic?  they asked.  I shook my head and they yelled something in Arabic at me as they drove away with the Mercedes in tow.

Three trips back and forth across the city with a Moroccan friend later, having run the gauntlet of paying the fine ($12) and finding the car (impound fee: $15), we finally drove the car back home with an expanded, intimate knowledge of the parking and towing systems in Casablanca.

Holiday Weekend

26 11 2009

In the back seat, all three kids strained against their seatbelts and craned their necks to get a good look at the big white tent in the parking lot of a large grocery store. “What is it?” Marco asked.

Hmmm. Should we just tell them? After all, the banner over the entrance to the tent was most unambiguous.

While we looked forward to this weekend because of Thanksgiving, Saturday is the Muslim holiday Aid el Kibir, which commemorates God’s provision of a sacrificial ram in place of Abraham’s son. The tradition here is that every family must purchase a ram, sheep, or goat and slaughter it.

So yes, the ram markets are everywhere – kind of like Christmas tree sales in the US – in parking lots and vacant fields. We have seen live sheep in luggage-rack-like cages on top of cars, on balconies, and even offered as a promotional bonus for buying a new stove from an appliance store.

Our students and friends all have an Aid el Kibir story – mostly ones that don’t make for the most appetizing dinner conversation. And ubiquitous is the advice that if we go driving around on Saturday, we should get a babysitter and leave the kids at home: The blood flows, the streets are eerily quiet, and the air is pungent with the smell of burn hair and flesh rising in the smoke of the charcoal fires that dot the fields to roast whole ram heads for the first celebratory meal.

So what do you tell the kids?

“It’s kind of like a petting zoo,” Chrissy finally answered. “Only they just have rams, nothing else.”

Under his breath, Tony added, “They call it the killing fields.”


“Can we go in there?”

“Sure, we can go in to see the rams.”

Explain it to a 3-year-old

2 11 2009

During dinner, one of the five-times-a-day calls to prayer rang out from a distant mosque. Gianna dropped her fork and gasped.

“Daddy! He’s calling the moths!”

Rocco the Snake Charmer and Other Stories from Marrakech

22 09 2009

Barbuscas in MarrakechSince the end of Ramadan was approaching our school had scheduled a four day weekend to incorporate the Muslim holiday Aid al-Fitr.  A group of us took advantage of the break and headed up into the Atlas mountains near Marrkech to a place called au sanglier qui fume (the smoking boar).  It was an old French Legioneer stopover and a hunting lodge run by the same French family for over 60 years.

We had a great time relaxing, swimming in the icy pool, hiking in the mountains that surrounded the lodge, and spending time together in worship and fun.

On the way back to Casablanca, we stopped in the city of Marrakech to see the spectacle everyone had told us about.  We headed to the Djemaa el Fna, which is the central square and marketplace or souq.  Snake charmers, henna artists, and boys with apes all vie for your attention.  We didn’t see the place at night, but we hear it transforms into a busy open air restaurant complete with goat heads for the eating (see this article).  We roamed the square and took pictures of our boys holding snakes and smiling.  Even Chrissy got into it and reluctantly held a snake.  I think I paid the snake charmers too much for the privilege of taking the shots, but it was well worth it.  We then headed back to Casablanaca to finish off our long weekend.  Maybe next time we will experience Marrakech at night.

Here are some more pictures form our trip.