Bare-Bones Luxury Part Two

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All my possessions in two suitcases.  I still need to pare-down!

Those who regularly follow my blog might be wondering where Bare-Bones Luxury Part One is.  It is at the very beginning of this blog.  The second post to be exact.  I wrote it the day after moving into this apartment almost six years ago.

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Here are pictures of my apartment from moving in six years ago.

Yesterday all the furniture was moved out to sit in the moving company’s storage until the missionary family I’m donating it to arrives from the US (about six weeks from now).  Last night I slept on a mattress on the floor, and this morning when I woke, I thought about that day almost six years ago.  I feel like I’ve come full-circle.  I enjoyed moving into the apartment, sparse as its furnishings were, and now I’m enjoying my last week in the apartment, unburdened by a lot of furniture and possessions.

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This was the scene soon after the movers arrived yesterday.

When the Faith Trip[1] ended in 2012, the Lord told me to look for an apartment in my old neighborhood in Milan.  He told me to rent, and not buy.  There was a time when I would have rejected this word because it doesn’t make sense to throw money away on rent if you have the money to buy a place that you can later sell or rent out.  But that was my instruction from the Lord.  And specifically He told me to rent an apartment with two bathrooms.  When I began looking for an apartment, this was the only one for rent in the whole neighborhood that had two bathrooms.

At the time, I had no idea how strategically-placed this apartment is.  Even being in my old neighborhood, it was in an unfamiliar corner of my neighborhood.  It was only after moving in that I discovered that it is only two blocks from the 24-hour bus line that circles the city in both directions.  And those buses stop at the Central train station, where you can catch buses to all three airports or a train to Malpensa.  The apartment is also right around the corner from a bus that will take you to the center of town.  It is about five blocks to the green metro line, seven blocks to the red metro line, and now they are building the blue metro line just two blocks away—but too late for me.

The purpose of renting an apartment that is huge by Milan standards is for hospitality ministry.  Hospitality has played an important role in my ministry of encouraging missionaries in Europe.  This is probably the most expensive mission field in the world.  It is also one of the most difficult, being post-Christian[2].  Because of these difficulties, a place where they could come and rest for free in one of the most expensive cities in the world was very encouraging.

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And this was the move as it progressed.

But now hospitality ministry is being phased-out.  I don’t know if I will be asked to do it again, but for now, without an apartment, I am the one who needs the hospitality of others.  To be honest, this is not easy for me, but easier than it was when I took my first Faith Trip.  Having a good deal of experience in hosting by now, I know that hosts must be flexible, and not too attached to their possessions.  The things in your house will be lost, broken, and even stolen (even when you host missionaries because missionaries sometimes come accompanied by unredeemed (or unsupervised) children or nannies).

Your kitchen will be raided or invaded.  Families with teenagers tend to empty out your pantry and refrigerator.  While others go grocery shopping without first checking to see if you’ve already got plenty of whatever they need.  After a busy season of hosting, I have been left with three open jars of pesto, five open kilo bags of flour, thirty cans of tuna, eighteen eggs, and twenty kilos of pasta—way too much food for a woman living alone.

Most guests do their own dishes, but some will not.  A gracious host must be willing to wash up after people.  A wise host will set a limit to how long guests can stay.  The Lord told me to limit stays to three nights.

Your guests will most likely see you in your pajamas first thing in the morning or last thing at night.  You’ve got to learn not to let it phase you.

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When the movers went to lunch, I took advantage of the sunny first day of spring out on the balcony.

A host needs to be generous with their time as well as their household goods.  Most people will want you to be their tour guide while they are in town.  I didn’t mind leading tours for my guests, and actually perfected a two-hour walking tour of Milan’s major sights.  But some people refuse to set foot outside the door without you.  I really enjoyed leading those attention leaches to the train station and showing them their bus to the airport so that they could return home as soon as possible.  My ideal types were those who wanted the tour, but then were comfortable and adventurous enough to set out on their own, armed with bus tickets and a map.

And sometimes the unexpected happens and your guest becomes sick.  I’ve had two guests with attacks of appendicitis—one of which actually burst while in my home.  Sometimes this kind of stuff happens.

So with all its pitfalls, I understand when people are reluctant to open their homes to me.  It’s certainly not something that came to me easily or quickly.  I got myself over each new hurdle by reminding myself that it is only by the grace and generosity of God that I have been able to live in this apartment.  And if this little thing is what I must do in the service of God and for the love of Him, then I will adjust my attitude and do it with a grateful heart.

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My empty living room.

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My cozy bedroom.  Notice that I’m keeping the prayer chair for Nina.

To those who will and do open their homes to me (and to others): I am grateful and will do my best to be a good guest.  To the rest, well, don’t worry about it.  It’s hard, I understand.  God is good!

[1] Recounted in Look, Listen, Love.

[2] The difficulty of a post-Christian mission field is all the effort that must be put into deprogramming the false assumptions that people have about Christianity.  People simply cannot embrace true faith until they let go of ideas like doing penance and heaping up good works in order to earn salvation.  Much of Europe is Catholic, Orthodox, or atheist.  And much of the Catholicism and Orthodoxy of Europe resembles superstition and shamanism more than Christianity.  Who wants to repent and start reading their Bible when all they’ve ever had to do was carry around a picture of a saint, who did all these things for them?

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