I thought the move was going to be a simple change of scenery, possibly requiring some minor adjustments at most. After all, I was returning to my home country, already knowing the language, people, and customs. If I had managed to get used to the scorching heat, spicy food, rickshaws, and monsoons of India and Nepal, where I had spent eight years as a volunteer, surely this move in the opposite direction wouldn’t be too difficult.

I was in for a surprise!

From the moment I landed back in Italy, on what was supposed to be familiar ground, the challenges began: a sense of awkwardness, like I no longer belonged there, needing to catch up with changes in society, along with some serious health problems and concerns about the future. I got dizzy entering a superstore and dreaded traveling on fast highways. A friend reassured me, saying I was probably experiencing culture shock. It helped to put a handle on this very confusing mental and physical state.

At one point, I found myself in the hospital preparing to undergo a delicate operation. I had lost all confidence in the strong person I’d felt myself to be, and I was scared. Thankfully, it was during those lonely hours lying on my hospital bed, weak and hurting, that I was able to reconnect with heaven. I had a small New Testament with me and another devotional book that I started reading with desperation, as if my whole life depended on those words.

It brought me back to life spiritually and to new beginnings. Every word in my little books was jumping out of the pages, filling my soul with a newfound sense of clarity and direction.

By the time I left the hospital, my body was still aching, but my heart and spirit weren’t the same.

I slowly gained strength, a little more each day, and eventually went on to another fulfilling phase in my life.

Every time I look back at that very trying and debilitating period, I’m thankful I “got lost” for a while, as it renewed my passion and prepared me for my next job.