In Italy, there is a common saying to describe the amount of me and paence it takes to accomplish something important: “Pian piano.” Literally, it translates as “slowly, slowly.” But the expression is used to mean something more along the lines of, “Slowly but surely” or “In due me.” I remember how my Italian teachers would use this expression whenever I lamented how I wanted to learn the language more quickly. They would usually smile with some appreciation for my zeal and simply say, “Pian piano.” In other words, “Just keep at it, and it will come. You can’t rush the process.”
Since moving to Italy last November, Janie and I have heard this beautiful phrase many times as Italian friends have reminded us to be patient and remain encouraged during the arduous process of getting settled in the country. As any foreigner who has moved to Italy will tell you, the bureaucratic maze of obtaining residency permits from the government can be mystifying and frustrating. We have jumped through what seems like dozens and dozens of hoops and still have many more in front of us.
Then there is the challenge of furnishing a home. If you want to buy a couch, prepare to wait three or four months before it is delivered. Seriously. And a kitchen? Well, when you move in Italy, you usually take the kitchen with you. And I mean the whole kitchen: the cabinets, the fridge, yes, even the kitchen sink! We ordered a kitchen six weeks ago when we moved into our home and we are still waiting patiently for it to arrive. In the meantime, we are managing fine with a microwave and crockpot in the basement. (Let’s face it: these are only first‐world problems and minor inconveniences.)
When our Italian friends kindly ask how we are doing and we describe these challenges, they always smile sympathetically and reply with that familiar phrase, “Pian piano.” In other words, “Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. It will come to pass eventually.”
The Lord has used this little phrase “pian piano” to give us a great life lesson as we learn to live in a foreign country. As Americans, we are accustomed to things happening at a face pace. We expect quick results and efficiency. It would be wrong, however, and detrimental to our mission, to expect Italy to accommodate our American cultural habits and expectations. As a missionary family, it is essential that we learn to adapt to Italian culture and embrace a lifestyle of “pian piano.”
This also rings true regarding the results of the gospel ministry here in Milan. I have come to realize that, as an American, I have a tendency to be very results‐oriented in my work. While certain aspects of this drive can be helpful, it would be foolish for me to expect the same pace of church‐growth in Milan that I have seen in the United States. Although the gospel is the same in Italy and America, and it alone is “the power of God for salvaon to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16), it does not produce the same results to the human eye. The two lands are extremely different in their respective cultural challenges. Many missionaries have come here over the years only to find the spiritual soil too hard for planting churches that will bear lasting fruit. Some have given up and returned home where life is more convenient and church growth is less challenging. To this day, therefore, there are no Reformed or Presbyterian denominaons in all of Italy, a country of more than 60,000,000 people.
What I find encouraging, however, is that the results of the mission are not my responsibility. My responsibility is to labor diligently with a good work ethic, preaching, teaching and tending the flock while depending on the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit. As the apostle Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6‐7).
“Pian piano,” then, is more than an expression in Italian to be patient while waiting. It is a motto that we can embrace as laborers for Christ’s kingdom. Do not despise the day of small things. Do not lose hope when you see little fruit on the tree. Keep going! Press on! “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
~ Rev. Michael Brown
This mission to Milan is only possible with the faithful prayers and generous contributions of people like you. If you would like to help us meet our goal by making a donation, you may send a check to:
Escondido United Reformed Church
1864 N. Broadway
Escondido, CA 92026
Checks should be made out to Escondido United Reformed Church. Please indicate that the support is for Rev. Michael Brown as a missionary to Italy.
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