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Life as a STEP-per

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

What a week! On Tuesday morning I did not have to get up as early as the rest of the crew because the lovely people at OM gave me some time to rest. They invited me to come have lunch with everyone at noon instead of starting the day at the prayer meeting at 8.30am. This gave me some time to really get to know the apartment a little bit and I have to say, it’s quite nice! I have my own bed, two large drawers and some sort of walk-in closet next to the bathroom. I share my bedroom and bathroom with Silvia from Argentina and my other roommate Shinee has her own room and bathroom. We share a small kitchen and a big living room. It was nice to have some time to unpack my suitcase and to make this place my home!

Our nice little neighborhood at the Southborough Road!

Back to work!

Just before noon I walked over to the OM warehouse on the other side of the road. And with ‘warehouse’ I mean the gigantic place where the thousands of books are (un)packed, sorted, labeled and send off to the ship and to stores and clients all over the world. At the warehouse Cece was already waiting for me to arrive. She immediately gave me a task: no time to waste! My first job at the warehouse was to count books and to stack them on a table. Sounds a bit dull maybe, but it was actually quite nice to finally get my hands dirty and help out with the incredible work that’s being done here every day! And in the meantime I slowly got the meet the other volunteers and chat with them a little bit. It is nice to see so many different kinds of people with so many different nationalities helping out at the center. There are both local and international volunteers, there are fulltime employees and there are also some people who are doing community service here because they did ‘something bad’. And all these people are not only sorting the books, but you can also find them in the office, working hard behind the scenes! There are people from Bolivia, Argentina, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Pakistan, Switzerland, South Africa and there are also some other Dutchies walking around here! Funny thing: there is even someone from my hometown, Alkmaar, who only lived a few streets away from my house. It’s a small world after all.

The warehouse full of books!

After a great lunch with some typical American sausage with bacon, it was time for Rolf to show me around the compound and to introduce me to the people at the office. I was surprised to see how many people are actually working here to get all the books in the right place. Some were on vacation but it must have been around 40 people. Some are responsible for all the correct numbers, others for all the international sales. Some take care of the internet orders and others are raising funds for the whole ministry. Rolf explained to me where all the books come from and how the ministry works. So here’s a little recap: most of the books are misprints, old versions or a little damaged which makes them unsalable for bookstores. The publishers send them here to Florence, which is very kind of them, but there is one problem: all the books are mixed up and come in a giant box. So here in Florence all books need to be sorted according to their barcode, checked for damage and re-packed to send them off to the Logos Hope. Books that are so damaged that they cannot even be sold on the ship will go to the bookstore outlet here in downtown Florence, where they are sold with a great discount. All the money OM makes with selling the books goes to the ship ministry. As you can imagine with the thousands of books coming in every day… the work never ends. Luckily for me, the day did. Although it was a super interesting day, it was also quite exhausting to meet so many different people and hear so many new things! And on top of that I also have to speak in three languages every day because my roomie doesn’t speak any English… I am not complaining at all, but this day was quite the challenge!

All the books come in like this…

Life as a STEP-per

“What’s a STEP-per?” Well, I am one. And Silvia is. And Raquel. STEP stands for Short Term Exposure Program, which basically means you are coming to Florence for a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of three months to learn more about the work of OM, the ministry in Florence and to explore your place in missions. And for people who don’t speak English there’s also an English course. Right now there are only three of us but a few weeks ago there were fifteen! As a STEP-per you can never know who and how many others will be there. Because not everyone stays the same amount of time and because everyone comes and goes on different dates, you have the chance of making many new friends in a short period of time. On the 18th of this month there will be a new STEP-per from France, but on the 21st Silvia will leave and on the 28th Raquel will follow. So sometimes I will pretty much be on my own.

A typical day of a STEP-per starts around 7.30am when we have breakfast. At 8.30 we have to be in the central meeting area for our daily prayer time. This lasts until 9am and every day of the week prayer time is a little different. On Wednesdays it’s time to pray for the Least Reached (people who have not heard the gospel) and it’s often for the people of the country where the Logos Hope is located that week. So this week we were learning about Brazil and praying for the Brazilians. At 9am we start working at the warehouse, until noon. Then we have lunch and time to rest until 1pm. After that we work until 5 and then everybody goes home. Most volunteers live in the area so sometimes we get invited to have dinner at someone’s house. But other days we go back to our apartment and make dinner for ourselves. Which is quite the challenge for me as well, since I am a terrible cook and a very picky eater. But hey, I am here to learn!

Since I am not allowed to drive yet – I will hopefully have my exam next week – Silvia has to drive me around for now. So whenever I have to go to Walmart my roomie has to go with me. Which can be quite annoying but on the other hand we get to spend a lot of time getting to know each other. This Thursday we even spent two hours driving to Myrtle Beach together to celebrate our first Fourth of July… But I will tell you all about that in my next blog!

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