Missionary Diary: The rhythms of family life in Italy

Richard Wilson has served the local church in Italy for 29 years as a missionary with European Christian Mission (ECM). He recently moved to the town of Rovereto, with his wife Pinuccia and their four children, where they are helping a small church plant to grow.

Family life has a lot of similarities around the Western world – in Australia, in Italy (where I live) and anywhere else. One of the common elements is the early morning rush to get everybody where they should be for the day. For us, that means gently, or some days not so gently, waking our two teenage children so that they can get ready to get out of the door by 7.14am, in order to catch the bus to their respective high schools. Then at 7.15am, it is time to wake our two smaller children and get them breakfasted, bathroomed and dressed, and then leave at 7.45 to walk with them to infants’ school. In the meantime, my wife helps and gets herself ready at the same time, as she leaves at 7.40 to drive to the pre-school where she works.

When I get back home about 8am, I still need to finish getting myself ready, tidy up the kitchen that has been left in a mess and start on the clothes washing. This means that when I am finally able to sit down at my desk to work, it is time for a bit of a rest! So I usually start by looking at some news or recreational sites in order to “warm up” for the day.

After dinner is usually the time for church meetings, for seeing and talking with other people …

Then when I am ready to work, I start with a small Bible reading and prayer. It is easy for me to just work through the morning without thinking much about God at all, so I try to force myself to do so. How I do this varies, as I regularly change methods to make sure it does not become a habit. At the moment I read one or two verses in Greek, which helps me to slow down and think about what I read. If appropriate, I use it as a “theme verse” for the day, trying to remember, meditate and apply it during the day. I also set a timer to 30 minutes, so that every half hour I have to stop and pray about what I am doing.

Usually, there is something I need to do that requires constant attention without interruption. It might be something like preparing a Bible study, writing a newsletter or other article (like this one), participating in an online meeting or working on my websites. I try to dedicate the mornings to such things, knowing that it will not be possible at other times.

Towards the end of the morning, I have to start thinking about preparing lunch for the one to four children who will be at home for the meal that day, and twice a week pick up the smaller children from school at midday. Naturally, this means my afternoons tend to be less productive, as I have to look after the children as well, although my wife does usually return home mid-afternoon as well, so can relieve me of some of the duties. For this reason, after lunch I work on smaller, easier tasks, between the times helping, playing and talking with the children. For example, my desire, not always realisable, is to read a bit of a book every day. Then there is always “family bureaucracy” to look after – forms to print and sign from school or other activities, banking and bills, and so on.

However, a day without anything unusual would be very … unusual.

After dinner is usually the time for church meetings, for seeing and talking with other people – Bible studies, prayer meetings or to organise other activities. These are still mostly on Zoom, as they have been since March 2020, although recently one “hybrid” meeting has been started, with some meeting in the church hall and the others joining by Internet. Being able to stay at home is certainly more comfortable for everyone, and the only possibility for many, especially those with small children, those who live far away and people who work in the evening, but there is a loss in the quality of the relationships between participants.

The last act of the day is to sit down with my wife and spend some time talking, reading the Bible and praying. All important things to do, but hard to dedicate time to during the day when there are a thousand other voices crying out for our attention.

Of course, all this is for a day without any unusual happenings. However, a day without anything unusual would be very … unusual. There might be medical appointments for the children or myself, unexpected long phone calls, something breaking in the apartment or house that needs looking after. In other words, life often gets in the way of what we want to do in ministry. This is all part of serving God, whether we are a missionary or not, in a world in which we are not in control of what happens and where not everything happens as we would like. But a world in which we glorify God in all that we can do and accept what we can not do.