Entry 10 Citta di Castello in Umbria

Citta di Castello 10 29 09 016

The Town Hall as evening approaches

Luke and Dawn Mann

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Citta di Castello 10 29 09 015I am writing this entry from the third row on the right side of the 8:20 bus to Arezzo. It has been a long complicated series of rides from Ancona to Citta. Citta is a city of approximately 30,000 on the edge of Umbria and Tuscana. I had to take three different trains and de-board each time in progressively smaller villages where I would board smaller and smaller trains.

Citta di Castello 10 29 09 001

Luke with his unique urban mountain bike

Arriving and seeing Luke running alongside my car shouting my name and then desperately popping on to the train to quickly pull me off (there were two stops at Citta and I was about to take the second and the wrong one).

Citta di Castello 10 29 09 007

Has Dawn earned the emotional right to be called an Italian?

In case you’re wondering about why Dawn is so animated, she is just explaining her most recent visit in an attempt to get permission to stay on in the country for even another six months. Nothing is easy. Everything is exasperating. Cynical Italian government officials pride themselves in their ability to make life complicated for someone else.  They are perfected kill-joys. Bring the papers and they will want different and more the next time.

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In spite of the chaos she made this simple Tuscan favorite

Luke and Dawn have no car, actually Luke and Dawn have pretty much nothing except a few books and clothes along with their only transportation a perfectly elaborate urban, mountain bike. Luke is recognized in the entire region as a top bike mechanic and has landed work in a popular bike shop as their principle bike builder and mechanic. There was virtually no place we went that  he and Dawn were not recognized then immediately and rather lavishly greeted.

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Stopping to chat, AGAIN!

As we later walked through the streets we were met with “Buona sera’s!”  at almost every stride.  

Those going into missionary service often ask me, “What will I do?” Very little of this is about “doing” at all. In fact, for the longest time, those entering other cultures will not be able to “do” very much. We are occasionally able to do something but for the most part, we are called to ”Be” not “Do.” We are called through “ the love of God spread abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit”  to express  light and life.

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The giardino at the apartment where I slept.

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 I was put up in a loaner. There is a couple from Florida (Peter and Marsha) who own a cute little two bedroom apartment and since they only come for four months a year, they make it available to Luke and Dawn for guests to stay in. I am one of the lucky recipients of this generousity. There may be only one draw back. It is situated opposite the Baci court where old, baggy panted men gather for the entire day, drinking beer and yelling obscenities and objections. By the time evening rolls around they are all quit lit and contrary, calling for the measuring tape even when the outcome is obvious. Still this sort of thing does present to the occasional visitor an authentic, rustic, provencial charm. 

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Luke Mann

Citta di Castello 10 29 09 019

Dawn Mann






Two people could not be more common than Luke and Dawn. They have nothing by which to impress people except their cheery greetings, warm smiles and focused listening. The words will come later. But these are veterans. These are people who have, throughout most of their married lives tromped through a wide variety of cultures and circumstances, Asian, Latin and   European. They are the real deal.

Citta di Castello 10 29 09 017

Luke at work building a bike.

 I can usually tell if people are having an impact. When we are on the street or in a coffee shop and people see the Mann’s walking by, people will heartily wave or shout “Come vai!” from their doorways and  windows or even when seated  in a coffee shop as we were this morning , those passing by will turn about and come into the shop for hug.  There is an undeniable magnetism that could only be the power and presence of God working through a supernatural love of God for the people and natural affection for the culture they call home.

Entry 9 I Know Train Stations

Okay, I am not expert at everything Italian but I am so familiar with many of the train stations that I could find my way around blind. Here’s a new lobby for me. This one is Arezzo, Italy. Buses and Trains 10 30 09 003                                                                                           

Buses and Trains 10 30 09 001And here I am on the bus from Citta di Castello to Arezzo. Lot’s of buses too. This something that I always wanted to do. I always wanted to “Take the bus and leave the driving to us.”  What an absolutely dreamy life I lead.


Entry 8 Pescara, Italy

Monday Afternoon

October 30, 2009 (I think)


Pescara Trip Oct 26 2009 017

Finalemente, io sono in Pescara dopo sette ore di viaggio su il treno. 

Finally, I am Pescara after seven hours of travel by train.

I am here in Pescara (with Beto, Rachael and, their daughter Nikki Tavares and later Elia and Virginia Viola, plus their five children), after seven hours of travel by train.

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Beto and his wife have just, four months ago, come to Italy from Brazil to assist the YWAM base in Pescara. Beto is the founder of YWAM’s Praise Village in Brazil.

Pescara Trip Oct 26 2009 020

The Viola’s formerly worked with YWAM in Catania and I remembered Elia from my visit there in 2005. At the last minute I was made room for. Thanks to Sandra for giving up her room to a stranger!

It’s a small world as Beto and Rachael worked in Brazil with Bethany and good friends with our friends in Minneapolis, former missionaries to Brazil, George and Dolly Foster. Never underestimate the power of connections as these will provide one with free food pretty much anywhere in the world.

Mario and Sheila 10 29 09 002

On the map I am down the Adriatic coast toward the boot (Puglia).

Mario and Sheila 10 29 09 003

I have just had a fairly good night of rest and will wait in an empty house until M and S ( I preached in his church in Sassuolo on several occasions ) will come to meet me at about eleven this morning. In the meantime, I will write this account and then take a shower. Hopefully by tonight, or perhaps tomorrow, I will be in Citta di Castello with my friends Luke and Dawn Mann. Citta is in Umbria near Perugia at the edge of Tuscana. 

Entry 7 Bologna to Pescara

Girl Art Cropped

Luiza calls to tell her friend.

Here, I demonstrate how I capture the attention of Italians as well as attempt to gain their favor. These are two young people that I drew and then chatted with. I have found that this almost always works best when I am in a small six person compartimenti.

Man Art Cropped

Everyone perks up to what I am saying and doing. I don’t always get to share my faith but occasionally I do.

Entry 6 Parma to Bologna

In route to Pescara

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pescara Trip Oct 26 2009 001

Francesca reading "How to have Peace with God"

I suppose you won’t believe me if I tell you that her name is Francesca? Is every girl in Italy a Francesca? As I waited on my train I saw this young lady reading what appeared to me to be a Jehovah’s Witness publication. It was identical in size and formatted with typography identical to Watchtower materials that cover Italy from the top to the toe. I looked over her shoulder and saw a heading, “Why Pray to Mary?” Now I was certain, so I politely told her that the magazine she was reading was false doctrine that was when she made me to know that it was a Catholic booklet. I could see what they have done. There are so many going over to or being taught by the JW’s the Roman Catholics have come back at them tit for tat. Well, nothing was improved by her reading a Catholic publication over a JW so I engaged her by explaining that I was an  Protestant and believe only Jesus, only scripture, only grace, only by faith, inviting her to church, then handing her the one tract that I had left, Come avere pace con Dio (How to have peace with God).” She took it and began to read it. So, you may think, BIG Deal! It is a BIG DEAL when we manage to get an Italian to even consider the gospel.

Entry 5 “Mama Mia”, The Wedding!Parma, Italy

Daniel and Michelle Araujo Lana

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dan and Mich wedding October 25 028

Exchanging their vows.

Daniel is a Brazilian and his new wife, Michelle is from the Dominican Republic.  The photos should explain more of the story than I can tell in words. This ranks close to something like the longest day of my life. It did not help in the least that the clocks turned back giving us an extra hour.

I waited most of the day until the scheduled church service and wedding at 3:30. It was terrific seeing scores of friends who greeted me upon arrival. For a moment, I felt like the bride. It does feel good to be appreciated by so many who search for words that will communicate affection in a way that this foreigner will understand. If H1N1 is active in Italy then, with all of the kissing from cheek to cheek, I should, within less than a week, come down with the flu.

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Only a portion of the enormous crowd gathered for this popular couple.


After about a half a hour or so the Teatro Toscanini was filled with nearly three hundred people as the bride made her way down the aisle.


Tony Hedrick at Parma's Gruppo Latino Church

Blessing the Marriage

My job was simple enough as I was assigned to, at the end of the whole business, pray a blessing on the new couple.

There was worship, dance, a sermon by Victor ( the youth pastor) and then the vows, but surprisingly all of this part took only an hour and a half.    Michelle's Worship in Dance Team Perform







Dan and Mich wedding October 25 032

Daniel and Michelle on their way out.

The real problem was trying to get people to leave after the event was over. I was still there in the crowd at 6:30 waiting to go to the reception to be hosted in a restaurant up in the mountains south of the city. I was told that it would be a “small and simple” affair. I was tired and hoping for small and simple. After all, not everyone could come.


A Simple Reception in the Country

 Of course, this description was all a bold faced lie. Finally we left, cars all going different directions with Italian drivers, one trying to out-smart the other, not caring that the idea was to drive in a procession, honking our horns as we went. No, they thought it a race and something like a scavenger hunt.

Dan and Mich wedding October 25 063Dan and Mich wedding October 25 037Dan and Mich wedding October 25 053




The hotel was a difficult place to find (cell phones are a must in the Italian countryside) as we traveled around through small villages and the many diversioni (detours). Anyhow, there were enough of these to make a person cuss. Driving while cell phoning directional advice, over narrow roads, in the fog and cliffs to the left and right, made this an even greater challenge.

Anyhow, once there, the place was a packed and it took two dining rooms to manage the crowd of, at least, one hundred fifty people in attendance. I will not describe everything that went on except to say that we went through nine courses of plates (yes, I lie not). In front of each person were three plates, one stacked neatly on top of the next. This should have provided a clue about what was to come.

After two hours of eating, everyone was so full they almost begged not to see another thing but the owner is famous for over feeding his guests the finest of local cuisine. As we approached midnight and completely staggered by the various and sundry food items, we swallowed down our toasts to the happy couple and chomped through our sliver of cake, happy to be finished!

Here is what we attempted to consume. First, a parmigiana panini which I have never liked but folks from these parts absolutely adore. It is a hard roll and as dry on the inside as it is hard on the outside. In order to get one down I have to coat it with olive oil and drink a liter of water. If you can imagine, eating one of these is like choking down a stack of twenty saltines or one hundred communion wafers.

However the situation brightened up considerably when the anti-pasta tray arrived laden with prochiutto, cotta and salumi’s with lots of pickled things that I don’t have the energy to describe except to say that some looked like onions, others like funghi (mushrooms) and peppers of one kind or another. I am proud to say that we did well at this first round and once pulled away we moved on to a kind of rotini dressed in tomato sauce quickly followed by a tagliatelli covered with mushrooms, then came veletto (veal) and lettuce salad, then another round with wild boar and roasted potatoes ( I kid you not).

Fatima CroppedA former Nigerian Muslim (Fatima) sat next to me happily declaring that she did not eat pork and declining all obvious pork items but later devouring the wild boar while thinking that it was goat or beef.



I said, “Fatima, this is good, isn’t it?”

 “Oh, yes”, she replied, “I like it very much.”

“Fatima,” having a little fun, I went on, “what kind of meat do you think this is?”

A look of curiosity came across her face, “I don’t know, do you?”

 “Certo, Fatima, “It’s wild boar.”

“What is boar?” she inquired.

My answer was short. “Pig.”

By now my head was swimming so when the next two plates came out of the kitchen I didn’t even attempt to participate. I was offered what appeared to be a steak item of some sort along with the restaurants’ renowned polenta. Finally, everyone was anxious for a change and threw themselves into a refreshing fruit salad made of kiwi, pear and apple. I was told that all of this was only 23 Euro a plate. Half of everything made was thrown out or perhaps, as Aldo suggested, it will appear the next day on the plates of the local crowd.

We finally pulled out of the parking lot at a quarter to twelve and drove thirty minutes to Parma getting lost one more time. I blogged, packed and got into bed at 1:30 to arise at seven for my trip to the south. Obviously, the night was a bloated and uncomfortable mess for the entire Cerasino household. 

Don’t think that we didn’t have fun. It was a great and noisy night but the indulgent socializing, extravagant eating, lateness of the evening and trying to physically process 2,500 calories, left me completely buzzed out. My wife, Jeanne, an introvert, modest and simple, would have been overwhelmed by the frenzied affair. There was absolutely no tranquil place to hide.

Entry 4 Parma, Italy

Sunday Morning

October 25, 2009

Corcagnano, Italy

The house is filled with the smell of olive oil and garlic as Mariela, singing to a Christian music by Nicola Battaglia while in the kitchen cooking us something great!  We will go at 2:30 for a service which includes the wedding of Daniel (Brazil) and Michelle (DR) so it appears to be a full day until midnight when the festivities end.

I’ll tell more about all of this next week after I return from my visit with YWAM, Village of Praise leader, Beto Tavares, a Brazilian. I will return to Parma by way of Citta di Castello where Luke and Dawn Mann, missionary friends from Vermont have been living.

Leslie Narraway Brune and Lauren Carrion of Ottawa, Canada
Leslie Narraway Brune and Lauren Carrion of Ottawa, Canada

Yesterday was terrific with Lauren Carrion (ACCI Canada Director) and Leslie Brune of Ottawa, Canada arriving from Cinque Terra where they have stayed for a few days before going to Florence and then out to Turkey and finally England returning home to Canada. They have already been to Uganda, Zambia and Dubai.

They arrived in Piazza Garibaldi exactly at 1PM when I met them. The others would show up later, around 1:30 so we had some time to talk and secure a reservation for nine people at La Duchessa in the city center. After taking our table, others arrived.  

Rebecca and Aldo Cerasino, Tony Hedrick, Leslie Brune, Lauren Carrion, Julio, Francesco and Francesca Abortivi.
Rebecca and Aldo Cerasino, Tony Hedrick, Leslie Brune, Lauren Carrion, Julio, Francesco and Francesca Abortivi.

In all there was ACCI missionary Francesco Abortivi, his wife Alessia with son, Julio and daughter Francesca. Francesco is the Director of Progetto Archippo, our Missionary Training and Church Planting School in Parma.  Then also with us was ACCI missionary Pastor Aldo Cerasino (Gruppo Latino Americano Cristiano) and his daughter Rebecca.

Strolling Parma at Passagiata

Strolling Parma at Passagiata


We had lunch and then walked Via Cavour with gelato in hand. At four we all split up and I went with Lauren and Leslie to the train.

Ilaria and Andrea

Ilaria and Andrea

Later in the evening, around seven, I was picked up to go out to a village for super at the home of Juliana and Andrea. Juliana always sets a splendid table of local meats and homemade pickled and hot items not found in the regular market.

I was surprised by a brief visit from Andrea and Juliana’s daughter Iliaria and her new husband (also Andrea) and proposed to get together sometime next week when Jevin and Ashley Maltais of Ottawa, Canada arrive to join me here in the Parma area.

I’m finally back to the Cerasino’s and in bed by midnight.

PRAYER REQUEST:  I am having a terrible time with pain in my shoulder and not sleeping well at all. This has gone on for over two years with only one six month cortisone break. There is not a pill in the world that will give me relief.

Entry 3 Parma, Italy

October 24

Lauren and Leslie…

I am sitting in an outdoor cafe (the very glamorous Gran Caffe Orientale in Piazza Garibaldi) while waiting on Lauren Carrion and Leslie (Narraway) Brune who will be coming from Cinque Terra for lunch with the ACCI leadership team today. We finally have a day with gray skys and rain!

Update on Giovanni and Takako Horaguchi…

Takako CroppedI had an interesting, unusual  and, I think, profitable day yesterday. I left one of my numerous alter egos (my hat) at the di Italia home but had no idea where it had gone, so at midnight, after thinking through every place I had been that day, I received a text message. I had left it at their apartment. I thanked them and went back to bed, finally relieved at having my personality returned to me and I would collect it tomorrow. 

After arriving in the city I tried to arrange geting together by texting and it didn’t work. I never heard back a thing so I began to worry. Finally, while in the National Museum and bored stiff at viewing Madonna’s and saints of every description, I got the text I was hoping for. She had been out all morning and that, if I wanted to pick up my hat subito (immediately), I could by going to Giovanni’s dental studio as he had taken it with him in case I came around. This is when it sometimes works to advantage to have selected amnesia. I just didn’t get her point that I could go across the street from their apartment and pick it up at his office. All of this forced me to go their house and ring the bell.

I was surprised when Takako answered but seemed unusually distant and telling me to go across the street first and then come back to the house for tea. I thought that perhaps I was getting the cold shoulder and Giovanni wanted to have a few, “man to man” words with me.  I did as instructed and as soon as I opened the door he left his patient to greet me with my hat in his hand. He seemed very pleased that I had come by and said with emphasis, “Be certain to tell your friends to get in touch with us, we very much want to meet them.”  When it comes to Italian’s and in particular, Parmigianis, you have no idea how important this sort of friendliness and openess is. 

When I returned back across to their apartment, Takako was super friendly (I surmise from this that they had discussed my visit the day before and liked what they heard) saying that I should come in for Japanese tea and have a visit.

This was just what I had hoped for as I had brought along an Italian New Testament and a tract, “Come avere pace con Dio.” (“How to have peace with God.”) as well as personal intructions on where to begin reading and selected readings from Romans. All of this was enthusiastically recieved.

In about another thirty minutes or so, Giovanni came across for lunch and we talked again for another half an hour. I invited them for American hamburgers in the evening and they seems happy to come if Takako wasn’t but a week from having a baby.

So, at the moment, this is where it stands. I am always happy to have been used and to have taken “every opportunity.”  I kick myself down the block when I have these “divine appointments” but, for whatever reason, let them slip by.

Next week, providing we don’t yet have a baby, we’ll find some way to connect Giovanni and Takako with the local church leadership. In this culture, follow-up by credible nationals is curcial to the evangelistic process.

Entry 2 Italy and Slovenia Fall 2009

Pranza con Takako e Giovanni

Pranza con Takako e Giovanni

Takako Horaguchi and Giovanni di Italia

Parma, Italy

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Once in Parma and at the home of Aldo and Mariela Cerasino in the suburb of Corcangano I had to stop completely and catch up on my missing sleep. In a day or so I began to emerge again and started making calls of greeting.

A year ago I dropped into a Sushi Restaurant that had just opened on Piazza Garibaldi. A year later it is out of business. Mostly I was attracted by the sushi Chefette with her tall hat and her slender Japanese features. I thought that she might make a good drawing but as it turned out Maria was not so photogenic and useful as her friend Takako Horaguchi. Takako had first come to Italy to study opera at the Parma Conservatory and from what I can tell, fairly accomplished at hitting high C’s. She loves to sing Puccini and has been in several opera performances since her graduation two years ago.

Working my way through the Primo.

Working my way through the Primo.

I took her photo (you can see the drawing at www.tonyhedrickart. com). Anyhow, as promised, I mailed it to her and she seemed to be thrilled with the outcome so she found my email and wrote thanking me for going to all of the trouble and asked when I would return to Parma next. I thought, at first, that I would be here in the spring of 2009 but this was not to be the case as Jeanne (my wife) discovered cancer and of course I am not the kind of guy who would drop her off at the door of the chemo center and then catch a plane to Italy. I spent another six months being with Jeanne at home so this delayed my return.

When I told Takako that I would be delayed and the reason she was sympathetic and said that when did finally show up, I should call and she would have me for pranza (lunch). Did I tell you that she is also a chef of some accomplishment? I did reach her and after about ten text messages later I managed to get to her apartment today.

I was met by her Sardenian husband Giovanni on the street, in front of the Black and White Discotec just across the street from their apartment on Via Zambiotti. We walked across to their place and, though a little awkward at first, I was relieved to discover that Giovanni spoke English fairly well having studied pediatric dentistry in New York City for three years some twenty years earlier. He was happy to use it again but this left poor Takako a little out of the conversation so every so often he would stop to explain the missing parts of the various stories. We alternated between English and Italian. They were impressed. I was impressed that they were impressed.

When I say “dentist” in American it conjures the idea of a certain lifestyle. People might expect a big home and a professional air about this. However, this was not the case. In Europe Doctors and Dentists are not treated with the same sense of demagoguery as they are in America and Canada. In fact, most doctors employed by the state may make even less than a typical small business man. Giovanni di Italia was not dripping in wealth. The apartment was very modest as were the accompanying surroundings. Even still, they went all out to serve me the nicest meal possible. She started me off with RISOTTO (the real thing) unlike the one I make and call risotto, each individual rice kernel had not been turned to porridge but stood on its own two feet, as it should. After lazily plodding through every bite, out came the Prima, roasted potatoes, green beans and this fantastic chicken with a wonderful mushroom sauce. I exhausted my gastronomic vocabulary in Italian (this may be my best Italian) and finally ran out of complimentary things to say.

The conversation did turn toward spiritual things as they wanted know what it is that I teach. Once they were convinced that I actually did know what I was talking about they gave me full run of the table. Of course, Giovanni did not wish to look uninformed so he did challenge my perspective on several occasions but at the end gave in to the idea that religion is only about one thing, control, power and dominance but authentic Christianity is the opposite. Jesus was not top down, He was bottom up so from this I clearly communicated the real Jesus and Giovanni seemed to like what he heard. I told my story of how I came to Christ, how he is interested in both our hearts and our heads. I explained how being sacramentalized and catechized is not the same as being evangelized. One must be converted (born-again for lack of a better term). I managed to get all of this done in two hours “Gloria di Dio!!!”

Giovanni continued to insist that Takako could not understand what we were talking about but I noticed on two occasions she mentioned her contact with evangelical Christians in Japan. She knew the word Evangelical and more than once interrupted to ask what we were talking about. I can tell you that Takako is more interested than Giovanni thought. I promise that when I send her New Testaments in Italian and Japanese, she will devour every word. Let me explain this to the reader. Takako introduced me to her friends as her Uncle (Zio) Tony. Both she and Giovanni are far from family and have no friends (or so they say) in this entire city of 120,000 people. Through the kindness of a portrait and emailing I have earned the right to be their friend. I am certain of one thing if I am certain of anything. Evangelism in Italy and Europe, in general will only happen through carefully built and cultivated, one on one relationships. People must trust you before they will trust what you say.

The door to their hearts has been cracked open and when they have their little girl in two weeks time, I will be on their doorstep with the cutest present you have ever seen. Next, I introduce Aldo and Mariela who will take them another step.

Entry 1 Italy and Slovenia Fall 2009

US Airways Flight  704 

Monday, October 19

Alessandro Barbera

Charlotte to Frankfurt

Perhaps you’re like me? If you get seat 7H you are hoping for an opportunity to engage 7G in a conversation. As I entered the plane, I immediately sized up what I might be up against. There she was a little tiny, college aged girl with her bright green and rather ugly hat on askew in a rather (like almost everyone else her age) individualistic manner. She was already plugged in and scrolling her IPOD while surfing her IPHONE. She also has a copy of Dan Brown’s, “The Lost Sign,” opened in the middle. Grudgingly, she rose, stepped into the aisle so I took my seat next to the window. After settling in I tried to launch a conversation and was met by curt answers and back to her music, messages and fiction.

I have heard that people hate to fly next to a Christian. In fact, there have been Advice columns designed to help people politely ignore seatmates they would prefer not to talk to. I am one of those people.

It was at this point that there was some kind of commotion in the aisle with a very large (did I say large?) man talking aggressively with the little Korean (I think) Purser who happened to be absolutely splendid in handling oversized German men. I finally figured out what it was all about. Because of his size (about six foot eight and three hundred (schnitzel heavy but not bratwurst fat pounds) he was attempting to wrangle two seats in the bulkhead. There were none to be had. 

In the first seat of the second row was a young guy wearing one of those orange deer hunting ball caps. The hat was obviously too large for him and with his dark brown and almost black rather page boy haircut hanging out of it – he politely stood to offer his seat which the large German did not want anyway. Yet, the gesture seemed to offer an avenue for negotiation and all sorts of people were suddenly anxious to offer theirs as well. In the end there was a game of musical chairs with the German unhappy all the same since he was unable to gain two seats in the bulkhead, one for himself and another for his wife. With his one seat on the outside, aisle right in the bulkhead and his petite wife in the rear someplace, he took his seat and all was quite again and I was stuck with the little precocious, hip-hop, ball capped, fluent in German, college girl in the Purdue University sweatshirt.

I wish I had pictures!

This was the state of things for another five minutes until the Purser returned to the big German, whispered in his ear to which he quickly rushed to a seat in first class. Who said that it doesn’t pay to complain? Now, with this move she asked the young fellow in the orange cap to move to one of the two free seats in the bulkhead while she would move the German’s wife to his seat which he did. As the young man bent over I happened to see a large portion of his underwear (the term “under” means virtually nothing anymore), an Italian flag of red, white and green. Of course, I had already surmised as much as his accent had given him away.

When he took seat two and put on his bright turquoise ear phones I removed myself (my young female acquaintance was thrilled to have the entire two seats to herself), I slid into the now vacant aisle, bulkhead seat beside him.

I said, “Buona Sera!” to which he happily responded and for the next hour or so, we talked about what why he was in America and why he spoke English so well. Turns out that he is Italy’s top BMX athlete / performer and just returning to Torino from Orlando where he was in some sort of world competition. With these accomplishments most Italian males would be overly proud of themselves but my new friend, Alessandro Barbera remained his smiling, friendly, earthbound self.

I tried everything I could think of to get to him. He never asked one question and there was not a leading question that brought him to an avenue for the gospel. Though he didn’t understand it, he was a little curious about what I did, liked my artwork, we exchanged cards and he, swallowed by his turquoise earphones commenced to watch a spy thriller. Near the end of our eight hour ride and the media now off and the lights on with a Danish and coffee in front of two-hundred and thirty-eight, weary travelers I asked the German boys on the other side of us where they had been though I knew it to be San Diego. I had listened to them in the waiting room and overheard them say. The evangelist is always watching and listening.

Once the older of the brothers replied I further inquired what he was reading, an enormously thick book of about seven hundred pages. He proudly responded by showing me the cover and telling me that he was reading Sarte and a student of philosophy. This was a door opened big enough for me to go through so I began asking him questions regarding existentialism and free thought. I quickly demonstrated that there was no such thing as a free thought and few of us come to any personal opinion on our own. In a pleasant and favorable way I was able to show him how we are influenced at every move. I started by explaining to him that in cities like New York, Paris, London and Milan there are people gathered in board rooms deciding that in about three years time we will (almost everyone in the world) suddenly like the color “egg plant” purple or perhaps uncomfortable, tight legged pants. I proved that people were actually in cahoots on this sort of thing. I was able to show him by other examples how all of us are  being massaged in one way or another. This is called, social engineering. It is not only Madison Avenue but entire governments and educational institutions conspire to take advantage of you. There are people who actually determine how we should think about things. When I got to the university, supposedly the freest place on the planet, I convinced him that they didn’t mind if he graduated with more intelligence than that with which he came but what they really hope for – their main product (outcome) – is a certain kind of world citizen who will be agreeable to a rather universal way of looking at the meaning of all of life.

I didn’t know it but while I was talking over my young Italian friend, Alessandro, was all the while, taking it in. When we parted and left the plane, he waited for me and walked with me saying, “That was very interesting, what you were saying to those dudes.” As we walked went through customs and security we had LOTS of time for follow-up. He promised to stay in touch and stop by Charlotte at some point in the future. He gave me his card and it appears that he is a fairly significant fellow as far as the flipping of bicycles might go. He is sponsored by Red Bull, Fiat and a dozen other major corporations.

Here is my point for all of you out there. Over hearing the Gospel is a useful methodology so when together at a table in a restaurant, in a classroom, in every situation, in season or out of season, discuss together the Gospel. People overhear you. His word does not return unto Him void. His Word accomplishes His purposes. A word fitly spoken is like apples in pitchers of silver.”