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Sweet Freedom!

The lockdown in Italy is almost over! For the last couple of weeks our freedoms have been getting slowly restored to us. The lockdown began on March 5th. About two weeks ago we entered phase 2 of the lockdown which meant we were allowed to leave as a family and go for walks and visit parks. Most stores were still closed, but we were at least able to get out and take walks. And boy did the Italians (and the Shanahans) take advantage of that! The first time we went out as a family I was pretty sure that every single family in Florence was outside. They also allowed restaurants to do take out orders. Previously, some restaurants were doing delivery orders, but you were not allowed to go and get food from restaurants.

Today they have opened all stores and restaurants. Violet lost one of her front teeth this weekend and she could not wait to go to Dreoni, the huge toy store just down the road from our house, to spend the money she has saved over the last year. If you've followed her live very closely it will not surprise you at all that she bought a Barbie doll. She has just over a million of them now. 

Starting today we can also visit friends in their homes. We plan to go see the other Avanti workers in Scandicci later this week. We haven't seen anyone from the church in nearly three months! It's really crazy to think about it. 

The rumor was that after the lockdown we would only be able to travel within our region (Tuscany). There are worse places to be stuck, but fortunately they have lifted all travel restrictions. Unfortunately, we still can't leave Italy. Rebecca had her immigration appointment scheduled for April 27th, but with the lockdown it was postponed until October so we cannot leave until after that. This was very disappointing to Violet who would very much like to celebrate her birthday in the U.S. but now she's excited that she will get to celebrate her birthday a second time when we go back to the U.S. this fall. 

The last several weeks have been pretty rough. For the most part we just accepted what was happening, but I'd be lying if I said we didn't have any low moments. There were times when we were depressed, and felt like giving up. One of the major problems was the uncertainty. Nobody was certain when the lockdown would end, or what the summer would be like. We wondered if we should stay here at all. But, through your words of encouragement and prayers and God's grace we were able to make it through. We are so thankful to each and every one of you and we pray God's blessings on you as you go through your own lockdowns and difficulties related to Covid-19. 


Just What Have We Been Up To?

Fortunately, this virus hit at a time when the world, at least from a technology perspective, was prepared for it. We have been able to continue having studies with several of our students either through Skype, Zoom, or WhatsApp. It has been challenging, but we are so thankful that we did not have to just sit at home entertaining ourselves. I've had some very good studies with Valentino, Chiara (in Pistoia), Alice, Ginevra, Luciaalba and Maria. I think I'll be able to start meeting with Chiara (in Florence) and Giulia soon. It will be a little while longer before we can start our children's class in Scandicci again or before I can study with Roger and Flavio. But, we're thankful for what opportunities we have.

We have also been worshiping with the congregation here through Zoom. The first few weeks we just worshiped on our own at home. While we enjoy worshiping as a family this way (when it's just the three of us we sing in English, Italian and Pohnpeian which is a nice treat) we missed seeing our brethren. Finally two or three weeks after the lockdown, when it was clear we would not be able to worship together for a while we started using zoom. That has gone well, but it has taught us that there is no replacement for being with your brethren worshiping God together.

We think we'll be able to worship together again this coming Sunday, but we may have to wait until June. Right at first we might have some meet at the building together and set up Zoom for the others. We have several aged members and they, obviously, have concerns about being out among others. We want to make accommodation for them, but many of us would like to be together again. 

The women of Italy, not just Florence, but all of Italy and some in the U.S. have been having hour long (at least) devotionals on Zoom every week. Rebecca has been joining those and last week did a Scripture reading in Italian! This has been a great opportunity for her to get to see some of the faces of the other ladies in Italy and to give them an opportunity to see her. 

We have also continued to study Italian with Rebecca's teacher. There are two moods that Italian has that English does not (conditional and subjunctive). These are very hard to get used to and our biggest challenges, but we are starting to understand them better. 

Violet has been studying with her Italian tutor for two hours a day five days a week and with her normal class two or three times a week. It has been good to see her interacting with her teacher and classmates this way. When she speaks Italian it is not always correct, but she can get her point across. What is most impressive is that she follows everything the teacher says and very rarely gets lost. If the teacher tells her to read she always reads just what she is supposed to. She is also one of the best readers in her class. She's starting to read in English too, but normally pronounces the words like an Italian would which is sometimes hilarious. We hate that she has missed a lot of time being around other kids which is the best way for her to learn, but again we're thankful she at least has the opportunity to be with them online. 

What's Next?

Well, that's the question, isn't it? No one really knows just what this summer and especially next fall will be like. We are prayerful that the virus will not come back in the fall, or at least if it does that it will not come back as strong. But, no one knows just what will happen. 

What we plan to do is share the Gospel with as many people as we can while we can. When we go out we will bring tracts with us to pass out and invite people to study with us. We also will continue to make our lessons available online to whoever wants them. I might have an opportunity to work with some of Violet's classmates over the next few weeks. I'm offering to help them with their English lessons which I hope will lead to opportunities with their parents. 

As the saying goes, we don't know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future. 

We thank you so much for your continued support and words of encouragement. We love and miss you all and pray God's blessings on each one of you! 

The Shanahans
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