Being a volunteer is like living a dream, like dreaming a reality.
It's been seven months since I came. I have "kind of" learned Italian, which is not that hard with Spanish being my mother tongue. It's not like I can write books in Italian, but at least I get my point across.
The change of culture has been awesome. Being in a city as spectacular as Florence is amazing with its historical monuments, majestic works of art, museums and stunning architecture.
One of the biggest adjustments for me was the food. Eating pasta twice a day everyday is not easy for a Mexican who misses his "tortillas." It's not that I don't like pasta. I do, but hey, the change from tortillas to pasta was a bit overwhelming.
One of the first things I had to do when I arrived was to help the dean set up the dorm rooms: hauling furniture, fixing things, cleaning, etc. Classes were about to start and we didn't have much time to do the work, so it was really tiring.
Now I work as the web
developer for Villa Aurora and take care of the computer lab. I've completed various projects for the school including the creation of a system in which students can view their grades online. I've finished developing a website for the Florence Adventist Church, and I'm currently working on a project for the Euro-Africa Division Department of Education. I'm also designing posters, flyers, a website, etc. advertising the first Adventist Latin American congress in Europe, to be held in Rome in August 2006.
I have often played the guitar and sometimes the piano for church, and I've been invited to perform in churches in other cities such as Pisa, Venice and Rome.
One of the most impressive
experiences for me was going to the Casa Circondariale di Livorno (a prison) to perform. The local church began a prison ministry and we went at Easter time to share the holiday with approximately 20 inmates. The pastor gave a little devotional thought and afterwards we had time to chat. Three Latin American guys were there, so we talked about our cultures and all the things we have in common. One of them started to tell me about the wife and little daughter he had in Chile. He was working as a sailor at the time of his arrest. He couldn't keep the tears out of his
eyes. Suddenly I was speechless…the only thing I could think to tell him was about the hope we have in Jesus, the hope of freedom and salvation. This experience had a big impact on my life and refilled my missionary spirit.
Another great experience was going to Mestre (Venice) where we did public performances (music, mimes, preaching) in some of the piazzas. People gathered around to see what was happening. We gave them flyers advertising the week of prayer that was about to start. The main aim of this activity, as Pastor Davide Mozzato says: "Is helping the smallest churches in their evangelization projects by going to public places to present Christ in various ways. Here in Italy, a historically Catholic country, you can not go fishing with a net, you need to use the fishing rod to catch people one by one."
I've learned one thing in particular: sometimes we think that in order to serve God we need to be prepared and have the best skills in some areas. Years may go by and we won't feel "ready" to serve God. I encourage you to start serving Him now. He knows how to use the skills you already have and He'll give you more. He wants you the way you are.
And yes, being a volunteer is such an experience… It's been seven months, only five to go, and believe me, I would not change this experience for anything. I thank God for bringing me here, for letting me do a little of His work.
Samuel Gutiérrez Colorado, from Mexico, is a volunteer at Instituto Adventista di Cultura Biblica "Villa Aurora," Florence, Italy