Fall 2016 - Greetings from HUF Newsletter

Dear Parents et all,

It is a pleasure and a blessing to have your children here at HUF.  
We are off to a great start!

Here are some of the things we have done so far:
Scandicci Walk (Scandicci is the city where we are located attached to the south-west side of Florence), Benvenuto Party (mixer), Worship with the italians at the Cappella Demidoff Church of Christ in Florence, Classes-classes-classes, Florence Walk (we climbed the Palazzo Vecchio with the group, 1st time ever!), Medici Godfathers of the Renaissance documentary film (with popcorm and sodas), Florence Scanvenger hunt and Religious center onsite classes (Baptistry, Cathedral "Santa Maria del Fiore", Museum of works of Duomo and Duomo climb), optional Horseback Riding in the Tuscan hills, Corri la Vitabreast cancer benefit walk in Florence with 35,000+ others (Run the Life - this is the 14th year we have participated in this great event), Florence vs Milan seria A (top category Italian National league) soccer game at the Franchi stadium, Cultural exchange "Festa della Lingua" (celebration of languages, this is the 5th year we have participated in this event) with the Spinelli middle school (we sang Amazing Grace and our national anthem and offered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and milk to guest), devotionals, chapel, worship and more.
Tonight we are going to the Santissimi Apostoli romanesque medieval church (a church that is 1000 years old) to observe a mass and to have a song service and supper, another beautiful cultural exchange.
We stay super envolved and try to offer as many experiences for your children as we can.

Please pray for us as we continue our travels and our adventure together.

Have a great day.  God bless you,
-Robbie, director

It has been a little over a week since the HUF Fall 2016 group arrived here in Florence. Though I was a part of the tail end of the Summer semester, I consider this one my first on the job. While I am not new to HUF, participating in the program as a student during the Fall 2016 semester, there is still a lot of “new” that comes with being on the backend of the program. I am excited to help others learn things that I have already experienced but also learn alongside as there is still much for me to know. We have had a great start to our time together here in Italy, with so much more still yet to come and even more to learn along the way!

Thank you for sharing your sons and daughters with us. Every person who is a part of this program brings something different and new to the table. And that is what makes HUF so special; the fact that though every person comes from a different background, when we are together, we are family.

-Grant, assistant to the director

I’m overcome with amazement.  I’m sitting in a corner of the villa to write this, trying to sort through the past few days. I mean, how cool is it that I get to write and tell you all about my new home, here in Florence?

We’ve made indescribable memories in just the past nine days because of the amazing people who are on this journey. Next to them, the city and its culture stand out to me the most. 

On our first day walking around Florence, we couldn’t believe we were finally in the city we had waited so long to see. One of the first things we were able to do as a group was climb the tower at Palazzo Vecchio. The sea of terracotta rooftops and the Duomo elegantly towering over the city took my breath away. However, it’s only one of the picturesque views that we’ve been able to see in the short time since our arrival.

Each new street with its amazing architecture takes you back to Renaissance Florence. Wherever you wander, you will witness beauty.  Everyday here at the villa is gorgeous. When I look out my window in the morning, it’s as if I’m in a postcard. Its rolling Tuscan hills sprinkled with golden villas, towering cypress trees, and seas of olive trees great you each morning.  The new day holds the excitement of memories waiting to be made.  We’re learning so much about Italy, whether we’re walking through the streets of Florence or forming friendships in the villa. It’s these moments with each other that make the trip so special. Whether it’s the teachers, staff members or fellow students, we share so much laughter, love, and joy. 

With love from our Italian home away from home,

-Rebecca, HUF Student

Watch a video from our first Onsite Class visit of the semester!

Posted on September 27, 2016 .

Glorious Ruins

written by Kelly Vetter, March 2016

Greco-Roman Amphitheater, Taormina, Sicily

Greco-Roman Amphitheater, Taormina, Sicily

I was exposed to an incredible amount of history during my semester abroad. Everywhere that I turned, everything that I touched, it was all laced with history. But it was the sites with ancient ruins that captivated me the most. I know and appreciate history, but never before had I actually set foot upon an ancient site, never before had I experienced anything quite like it. It blew my mind. I could barely comprehend something so old, so enduring. How could something stretch over time and still be here for my eyes to behold? I came to believe that these ancient sites I was visiting are symbols of His love for me, what He’s done for me – and that His love stretches over time and stretches over me.

When we visited Sicily and Southern Italy as a group we visited several ancient sites. We were at the heart of ancient Magna Graecia after all. It felt like I was transported to another time, or as if time stood still in these places. Ancient temples dominated the skyline, the Mediterranean Sea in view, mild weather, olive trees for miles upon miles. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Whether we were visiting Taormina, Agrigento, Pompeii, or Paestum, one thing tied it all together- glorious ruins.

I remember arriving at the amphitheater in Taormina. It was my first stop among this tour of glorious ruins. It was a warm and humid day, overcast, with the chance of showers. We got into the theater and I could not believe my eyes. The theater is immense. It looks out on the Straits of Messina, beautiful turquoise water flanking the stage while the tip of Mt. Etna framed the back of the theater. Red bricks everywhere. Benches overgrown with vibrant green grass. How could this still be standing, how was it still so beautiful? All I could think of was glorious ruins.

Streets of Pompeii, Sicily

Streets of Pompeii, Sicily

Glorious ruins. That’s what came to mind. He makes beautiful things. The juxtaposition of beauty and ruins. It’s what He makes of me too. I’m crumbling apart, but He still manages a way to hold me together and bring out my beauty. The Taormina amphitheater. Sheer beauty. A glorious ruin. His handiwork was evident. So much beauty to behold. Everywhere I turned, every angle. His beauty is unparalleled and it’s the most stunning in its rawest of forms- glorious ruins.

And then there was Pompeii. We had left Naples. It was a beautiful November afternoon, not a cloud in the sky. I wandered around the streets of Pompeii, enchanted by this ancient city. One moment it was there, the next is was destroyed. Yet it remains. And I thought, again, glorious ruins. They captivate me. And they remind me of His love for me. That day I was taken back 2,000 years. If you close your eyes, nothing changes at all. His love remains the same. He won’t fail me now. Looking at the ruins, wandering the cobblestone streets, watching the sunset. It was all God-breathed. He was there, at Pompeii. Glorious ruins. I was taken back to the beginning. All the way to Pompeii. And I realized His love stretches over time and stretches over me.

This journey of glorious ruins revealed His love for me in a unique way. I saw tangible ruins, and that they still remain. They endure. And it was then that I realized His love is the same. His love remains. It has always been. Since the beginning of time, like glorious ruins. And this truth captivated me and sent me on a journey to find more tangible symbols of His love for me. It’s a journey that I’ll never stop taking because I’m resolved to discover new depths and heights of His love for me. And perhaps it all started with the lyrics to this song, Glorious Ruins, which I’ll leave with you.

Let the ruins come to life

In the beauty of Your name

Rising up from the ashes

God forever You reign

And my soul will find refuge

In the shadow of Your wings

I will love You forever

And forever I’ll sing

Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily

Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily


I only want to know more of His love. And these ancient ruins gave me just a glimpse of His glorious love for me. 

Posted on March 7, 2016 .

Paintings in the Sky

written by Kelly Vetter, February 2016

Sunrises and sunsets are God’s paintings for us each and every day. He hand paints them everyday, everywhere, full of vibrant colours. I was in Italy for 80 days. There were 80 sunrises and 80 sunsets for me to see there, halfway across the world from home. 160 sunrises and sunsets vividly on display for me; 160 different paintings to see.

I remember one sunny fall morning in chapel Dr. McNeal asked us to share moments of beauty that we had been encountering so far on our journey in Italy. And I remember Jasmine saying that each and everyday the sunrises and sunsets are beautiful. She could now understand why the Italian painters were so enchanted with sunrises and sunsets, they are magnificent. That struck me. I realized that I’ve always found sunrises and sunsets to be beautiful, even amazing, but I tended to take them for granted, because it is something that happens everyday, as I’m waking up and going to sleep. But that was just it. They happen everyday. That is amazing. God paints the sky everyday in the morning under the sun’s first light, and in the evening when the sun is going to rest.

So I resolved to chase the beauty of sunrises and sunsets. To look for those magnificent colours in the morning and in the evening. To sit and watch. To do nothing but watch the display of colours lighting up the sky. I remember Robbie saying that we should watch as many sunrises and sunsets as we could. They are different every time, striking in their own way every time. It never gets old.

I found myself getting up early to watch the sun wake up. In late September I woke up shortly after five in the morning to watch the sun rise on a misty morning from the top of a medieval castle in the Casentino Valley. The whole world seemed as if it were still sleeping, and the sun shown through the gray clouds just for me to see. And then I woke up early in Agrigento, Sicily to watch the sun rise with Jasmine from our hotel window. To watch the magnificent colours paint the sky above the ancient Greek temples and the palm trees in the center of the city. Lavender and rose and yellow. Or that very same day, to watch the sun set from the sandy beach below the Turkish Steps. To see the sun fall lower and lower in the sky, behind the Steps until they were silhouetted. Or to watch the sun set in the late afternoon in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. I remember watching it set from the Princes Street Gardens and seeing the beautiful, pastel colours frame the city skyline- the ferris wheel in the park, or the Edinburgh Castle perched up high in the center of the city. No matter where I was it was a spectacular sight to see each time; it never ceased to take my breath away, in the early hours of the morning when the world is still sleeping, or in the wee hours of the evening when everything is winding down.

It’s hard to pick a favorite sunrise or sunset. It’s like trying to pick a favorite painting, you can’t- or at least I can’t, it’s just too hard. But one of my favorites was the sunset on the beach in Paestum while we were having our sunset devotional that Sunday evening. It was November but it was refreshingly warm. We had had a relaxing day in Paestum doing nothing much. As we sat on the cool sand singing songs and reading our favorite Bible verses God painted one of the most beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen. The colours were so brilliant. Bright reds and yellows and oranges and royal blues covered the sky above the Bay of Salerno that evening. The colours were intense and the setting was perfect. I sat there running the cool sand through my fingers and let it sink in between my toes, and I lifted my eyes up to the sky, because I could hardly believe what I was seeing. God creates the most perfect paintings I have ever seen, and they are new every day.

I started this journey of chasing sunsets in Italy. Challenging myself to not let their beauty pass me by. There is a new piece of artwork for me to behold in the sky each and every day. This challenge carried me through my 80-day journey, and it has carried itself through to my journey here at home. I just can’t let this beauty pass me by. 

Posted on March 7, 2016 .

His Beauty Has Blown Me Away

by Kelly Vetter, written January 2016

I’m sitting here mulling over what I’ve been blessed with. I just can’t comprehend it. Every single day I think about it. I’ve been given three months in Italy. An abundance of opportunities. To learn and to embrace a new culture, to meet people, to forge genuine friendships, and to see new sites. But above all, I’ve been able to pursue creativity and beauty in every single day. It’s been everywhere that I turn. Like a kaleidoscope, I keep turning and shifting, and I see something new every time. He never ceases to amaze me; His beauty has blown me away.

When I think about the beauty that I’ve encountered on this journey countless things come to mind- people, places, precious moments shared together. I’m going to treasure all of these things in my heart, like Mary did, and never let them go. I will hold onto them with all that I am. Italy has captured my heart and become a part of me. It holds a dear part of my heart. But the pinnacle of beauty for me was Sicily. Never have I seen a place so ruggedly, yet so flawlessly beautiful. I was in complete awe of God. How could something so beautiful exist for my eyes to behold? Those six days spent in Sicily were perfect. I constantly replay them in my mind. They changed me. His beauty changed me. 

On a perfect fall morning that Tuesday we drove away from the sea, up, up into the mountains, to Mt. Etna. God met me there. Mt. Etna was the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on. It was unlike anything that I have ever seen. The barren landscape that stretched endlessly met up with the clouds that spread out like a blanket, capped by the peak of the volcano, framed by the endless blue sky. It was there, walking along the volcano’s ridge, looking down at the black sand beneath my feet, and up above into the seemingly endless blue sky that I wondered who am I to behold His beauty with unworthy eyes? I was standing in this landscape that was oceanic; it could swallow me up. And I was reminded of His love for me. He loves me tirelessly. And I get to enter into His greatness, His grace. Again and again. What a Saviour that I have. What a privilege that I carry.

I am constantly reminded of His greatness, of everything that He is. But He convicted me in that moment. He showed me that He is far greater than I can imagine, but even in His greatness there is room for me. He wants to let me into the secret of His beauty. There are these lyrics that I had been listening to, but on that Tuesday is when I truly listened to them for the first time. It was God’s whisper to me that day.


Holy is the Lord revealed before my eyes

And my burdened heart can scarcely take it in

As I behold Your beauty with unworthy eyes

The only song my soul can find to sing

Is hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, my King


I can’t get Mt. Etna out of my mind. I truly am unworthy to behold beauty like that. I don’t deserve to lay eyes on His masterpieces. But His grace allows me to. This truth is what I clung to on this journey. His beauty is all around, and I don’t deserve it. But He loves me so, and He wants me to behold it, for His greatness to be revealed before my eyes. And sometimes it leaves me without words. But hallelujah will suffice. He just wants me to enter in. That’s all. Take the first step into the unknown, in oceans deep my faith will stand. And that is where He will take me deeper still. He has taken me deeper. Into the realm of His beauty, that has elicited awe in me. It has woke up my wonder. And in that wonder in Him I have been driven even further into this desire to create. To emulate the beauty that I see in Him and from Him and to open Heaven here on earth, to reveal Him, to make that dent I so desperately want to make. Italy was just the threshold. I’ve now just begun this journey of finding the beauty in every day.



Posted on January 13, 2016 .