Trip 39 / Entry 53

Congress Missione 2014, Pesaro, Italy

Thursday – Sunday, October 28 to November 2, 2014


With all of this we still managed to pack ourselves into Natasha’s little car and make our way back to Pesaro in time for the opening session of Congesso Missione 2014. The speakers for the weekend would be two Scotsmen, Lindsay Brown and David Robertson of Dundee.

Southern Baptist friends

Southern Baptist friends

The largest contingent were clearly those of the Reform persuasion with John Piper being referred to more than I care to hear but all in all the meetings contained good preaching and tons of useful  information.

ACCI Members Mariela and Francesco

ACCI Members Mariela and Francesco

I bunked in with Francesco, who when not in a meeting was manning three booths at once, “Joni and Friends”, “Progetto Archippo” and “ACCI.” Francesco is well-known and made sure that I was introduced and included me in many conversations. This being said, the truth was I felt a bit like an outsider and even with many Americans and other English speakers in attendance I felt slightly out of my element. The conference did have a bit of a cliquish feel to it since many of those in attendance had come for many years. I particularly connected with three Southern Baptist (IMB) fellows planting churches in Napoli, Rome and Milano.

Reverend David Robertson of Dundee, Scotland

Reverend David Robertson of Dundee, Scotland

I kept my head down some and just stayed in the background absorbing the information with this prayer, “Lord, if for any unforeseen reason I have come here, I will not pursue anything on my own. I will not go about giving my resume’ and attempting to charm anyone to engage me. You will have to do it. I am in your waiting room.”

Me with Jonathan Gilmore and Francesco

Me with Jonathan Gilmore and Francesco

At the last, on Sunday morning, John Gilmore, respected life – long missionary and the event organizer came along side of me and asked my plans for lunch.  We agreed to meet. I had no idea what he had in mind and hoped that he had no complaint for me. I had heard of him as early as 2000.

Great Worship

Great Worship

I thought him to be an exceedingly older man but it turned out that he was younger than me by at least twenty years. Francesco had pointed him out as he buzzed around the venue. I agreed to find his table and at 1:30 or so we sat down. I was really taken totally off guard. I knew that he, a rank Calvinist was as much committed to reconciliation as I and ACCI are. It turned out that while we disagree on “Soteriology” we are arm and arm on the need to face the headwinds of criticism in Italy and push for “one body” without compromising our core theological values. He thought of me and ACCI as a good partner for this.

After inquiring about our ambitions in Italy and who ACCI was generally, in a nutshell here is what he had in mind, we would like IM (Italian Ministries) to collaborate more closely with ACCI in the future. I could be wrong, but from my perspective this is an amazing opportunity that comes as a complete surprise. I am certain that the many years of faithfulness on the part of European Director, Francesco Abortivi had much to do with gaining favor and opening the door.

I left having felt some divine intention in my extending my trip to Europe long enough to attend this bi-annual interdenominational and inter-agency conference. It was well worth the extra expense and days spent.

Trip 39 / Entry 52


Wednesday to Sunday, October 29 to November 2, 2014

IMG_4316Fifty Euro later I was in Pesaro (Pay-Sa-ro) being met by Isabella Italia (not her real name). I called her “Izzy” until I found out that Jesus and her mother call her “Baby.” She met me at the top of the stairs coming from Binario (Track) 1. We began walking with explanations regarding my new living arrangements. Izzy actually lives with two other girls (Natascia and Palmina) in Rimini, a resort city about twenty-five minutes north up the Adriatic coast. It turns out that I would be staying with Gigi and his wife, Patricia. I was some surprised to find out that the Congresso Missioni 2014 conference was only a couple of miles away and this meant that I would only spend one night at the Feroni house and then get my room at the Familina Hotel the next night.

Izzy waked me through the streets and to a popular sandwich bar called “Da Peppe” quite famous in the area for what we might call a “Wrap.” We ordered up and talked about her ministry and the spiritual climate in the region. Much of the time was spent discussing heavy handed leadership and small, defensive, legalistic churches of which Italy has no shortage. She and many others are incredibly discouraged as sheep not having a shepherd.

The Feroni Home

The Feroni Home

Gigi and Patricia

Gigi and Patricia

In a while, I stood at the corner across from Da Peppe where Gigi would pick me up. He soon arrived and we loaded into his Mazda to go over to his house and settle me out for the afternoon.

After a good nap of an hour I would be delivered again in the evening when Izzy would introduce me to a visiting team of eight from Bobio. All of this took place like clockwork and by dusk I was standing on the street with five young Americans I didn’t know. We got them into their rental apartment and then walked two miles to supper at a popular pizza restaurant called C’Era (or “There Was). The students and their Director ordered pizza but since I have had more than my share of pizza, I went for Frutta d’Mare (mixed sea food in linguine).

They went back to their respective beds and I wandered the street for an hour until Gigi would pick me up at the same corner again and I would go back to his house and my bed there.

Thursday, October 29, 2014

Elim's Smile

Elim’s Smile

IMG_4319This would be another day of seeing ministry venues with Izzy and her roommate Natascia who was great fun. They first showed me Elim’s Smile (a play on words), a storefront, volunteer organization that collects, organizes and distributes clothing to the poor and needy. They explained their model which allows for actually connecting with their clients and thought it made a lot of sense when most similar ministries just allow people to pick out what they need, “willy nilly” and then disappear.

IMG_4322We took coffee in the city center at a marvelous place the likes of which I have not seen anywhere. It makes the Starbuck’s atmosphere seem clinical by comparison. We did more walking and then after we bused to my hotel and I checked in, they had to make lunch and rest while I found a Sushi restaurant and had myself a grand time with Spring and California Rolls followed by Teriyaki Chicken all at a respectable 20 euro.

Rimini, Italy

My girls, Natascia, Palmina and Izzy

My girls, Natascia, Palmina and Izzy

IMG_4329IMG_4333That evening Izzy, Natasha and I finally got our act together enough to make it to Rimini and their house for supper, a smashing pumpkin and sausage risotto made by Natascia. However, before any of this took place, Natascia rushed off to prepare supper as Izzy walked me through Rimini a famous and beautiful Roman resort city on the sea.

IMG_4325I always like it when missionaries run into people they know and want to introduce to me, like the homeless man, Giancarlo we met outside of the Rimini train station. Upon seeing Izzy and Natascia he happily greeted them with a smile and the customary kiss to each cheek. They introduced me to Giancarlo as though he was the Mayor.

Trip 39 / Entry 51

Chris Scobie comes to Venice

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


IMG_4284I have talked about so much about Pastor Chris Scobie of Ljubljana in other blogs so I hardly need to say anything about him or our relationship. Chris went to some trouble by driving to Trieste and then taking the train to Venice for a meet up. After a couple of hours with Piero, I went over to find him and once we connected at the Brek Restaurant we walked down toward Piazza San Marco and on the way had lunch of Branzino (Sea Bass) for him and pizza for me. Of course, ninety percent of the conversation centers around church stuff.

I greatly admire Chris and give him credit for sticking to the helm in often very rough seas. This New Zealand rugby player is tenacious so I don’t expect him to abandon ship in a squall.

IMG_4279IMG_4293The afternoon was enjoyable as I brought him over to Giudecca to the Hilton where we could have a nice (non coffee shop) cozy visit and meet Piero who finally came away from his desk for a short talk. At about five o’clock we parted company with him taking the 4.2 Aqua Bus around to the Santa Lucia train station. I went to my room, laid down on my bed and feel fast asleep until 8:30 and then jumped up, showered and ran down the canal to find a restaurant with the kitchen open. I did. I ate at the Cacciatori, a super little local Trattoria. I ordered a thick spaghetti with a fresh tomato sauce, spinach and parmesan. I followed this inexpensive but tasty dish with their signature desert, Tiramisu.

My hosts, Izabella and Natascia

My hosts, Izabella and Natascia

Back to my room and slept until six the next morning when I packed to go to Pesaro, Izabella (an ACCI missionary) and Natacia then attend Conferenza Missione 2014. More about this in Entry 52.

Trip 39 / Entry 51


Monday and Tuesday, October 26-27, 2014

IMG_4262I arrived by train from Trento at about noon on Monday then went directly across to Isola Giudecca to see Piero, Natasha and their two children. It is almost unbelievable but it costs 20 Euro for a twenty-four hour travel pass on the Aqua Bus in Venice. Individual trips are seven Euro so it is a little crazy for a fifteen minute canal ride. I went across and walked up to their apartment where Piero was alone minding their two-year old daughter.

This is a typical Venetian scene (left). Mary is locked up so she won’t get out and nobody will be able to get in.

I got friends in high places…

Sometimes I wrangle first rate accommodation.

The Five-Star Hilton.

The Five-Star Hilton.

Piero would go to work at three so we were able to visit until Natasha came home and relieved him so that he could go to his job at the Five-Star, Stuckey-Hilton  where I would stay for a measly 55 Euro a night. This easily compensates for the gouging I took on the Aqua Bus.

IMG_4265It is a grand room (#244) with plenty of hot water and pressure! It is nothing remotely like anywhere else I stay. Everything works and works the way it should.

Because both Piero and Natasha work we didn’t get to see each other as much as we would have liked but I can see that Piero continues to grow and has all of his ducks lined up. I am still trying to explain to Natasha the difference between religion (Russian Orthodox) and Christianity. This is most difficult has she has little background and speaks virtually no English. My Italian is not strong enough to go there.

Here’s the good news. Until now there has been no Christian IMG_4264church in Venice. Community for Piero is something I have prayed about since his hours and water travel make it difficult for him to go far for church or Bible study. He tells me of an old friend by the name of Arianna who has gotten saved and now married to a Nigerian and living in Venice Mestre a brief boat and short train ride away. Arianna’s husband has launched a church and Piero sees that he would like to become involved.  This will not be at all impressive if you don’t understand how rare this occurrence is. Almost NO ONE ever becomes a Christian so for Piero to have a friend that has become a Christian is almost nothing short of a miracle.

More recently I have heard of another church launch in Venice. A Brazilian missionary pastor has a new one on the island. I know of the mother church in Milan and it has a good reputation so this should be a healthy congregation. Great! Piero has a choice.

Trip 39 / Entry 50


As usual, I was late to my bed but it was daylight savings night so I picked up and extra hour. This allowed me time to rise early and take some photos in the brilliant morning sunlight before the streets became clogged with people.


Fosca, a dear friend for many years would be my translator so at 9:15 she came by to collect me and walk me to the church. She brought with a Tunisian fellow who said he would come to church but once he got their and people started to come in, I could see him “crawfishing” (a term I learned from Larry Brune… meaning to swim backwards).  In this area of the city there is large population of Muslims so the church is watched in case a Muslim entering might be recognized. In this church there are a number of Pakistani believers so right away, when he saw them he became nervous and slipped out of the door and on to the street.

The Worship Band, Trento

The Worship Band, Trento

Pastor Pippo Rizza

Pastor Pippo Rizza

The church began to fill and though the space is splendid it is already to small and every one of the hundred seats filled by the time the musicians began to play. In other rooms the children had their classes so this building is at its capacity.

Pastor Pippo Rizza and his wife Enrica are terrific leaders and I can see why the church is growing both nutritionally and in numerically. This is one of the happiest and healthiest churches I have encountered. Rizza’s church as is Pastor Sotera’s are Baptist congregations of the Reformed persuasion but these guys are easy to entreat since they have Jesus and John Calvin in their rightful places.  I preached with great liberty to a receptive audience who received the Word as though it came directly from God Himself.

photo 3

photo 2 (2)About ten of us attended a grand lunch at the Rizza home where we had Gnocci, a wonderful chicken dish that was Italian until Enrica added curry to it. Then also French fries as well as salad then three different desserts. Most of those at the luncheon were Sicilian where Rizza comes from. Pippo is a bi-vocational pastor and additionally works as a professor of Economics at Trento University. I have an open invitation to return.  Lord being my helper, I will.

I took the evening to myself and then this morning (Monday) boarded the train for Verona and Venezia.

Trip 39 / Entry 49


IMG_4201Saturday, October 24, 2014

Long associated with Ann Hinrichs of ACCI, Pastor Angelo Sotera is one of the most open, loving and energetic people I know. He invited me to come to his church on Saturday where I would present two hours or more on Contemporary Evangelism Methods or “Piety to Celebration.”  I was rather preaching to the choir as these people are not at all religious. Chiesa Evangelica di Rovereto is a multi-national congregation and demonstrates that the gospel can be seen as well as heard. They understand the concept of “Party.” At any rate, the material seemed to be new and the stories inspiring, I left with many new friends and an invitation to return.

The Soteras in front of their meeting hall

The Soteras in front of their meeting hall

Of course we had to go eat pizza. This took another hour and this time I missed it entirely. I usually have pizza but sometimes you just have too much so when I travel, I try to mix it up a little. So, with fifteen others eating pizza, I ordered a massive salad. I wasn’t at all disappointed until  Simona gave me a a piece of her Margarita. I could kick myself. This was simply outstanding so I just slugged my way through lettuce, tomatoes, tuna and corn.

Trip 39 / Entry 48

Rovereto and Trento

Saturday and Sunday, October 25-26

Hotel Venezia

Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, Trento

Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, Trento

The Venezia

The Venezia

I was referred to the 2-Star Hotel Venezia across from the Duomo and overlooking Piazza Santa Maria, the main square and gathering place in the city. It is extremely good value for a measly 58 Euro a night including a prima colazione (a simple breakfast).  Though the hotel is superbly located and well-managed. One must remember that mountain climbing may be involved and if you aren’t specific you will be stuck, as I was, with climbing four floors straight up.

There are two buildings, one has an elevator and the other doesn’t.

Trip 39 / Entry 47


Wednesday, October 23, 2014

IMG_4161 crop

Giacomo Lerici

Giacomo Lerici

I was here for one main reason and this was to meet up with Giacomo Lerici, a church planter discussing with me and others a new church initiative in Levanto about thirty minutes by train from Sestri.  Surprisingly, fellow ACCI workers from Citta d’Castello, Luke and Dawn Mann drove the almost four



hours to take part. In all it was a full and beneficial day. We were later joined by two more young believers from La Spezia so in all we had some fairly lively discussions on how church might look in this region of Italy. I offered fresh “Community” model that seemed to appeal to do them so we will see where we go from here. Giacomo will likely move here before November and begin. Hopefully others will join him.

Trip 39 / Entry 46

With Emile

Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, October 21-22, 2014


Emile and his wife Imra who are originally from Belgium have been my friends for as much as seven or more years. I first visited them when they lived in the mountains near Trento. Now they live in Liguria between Sestri Levante and Chiavari. Emile works for Italy’s oldest family owned, wood yacht building company Sangermani. His wife Imra who for the moment was in Dallas at a Mom’s in Prayer convention is an Italian leader with the same organization.

IMG_4150In her absence Emile is looking after the five kids (apparently) and dining out with me. We are both foodies and he knows of the most interesting restaurants to visit. He usually finds places that specialize in traditional cuisine you will not likely find anywhere else and such was the case on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

IMG_4149On the first night he took me to a restaurant (Raieu) owned by the same fishing family for four generations. They cook nothing but what they catch on the night and morning before. Some go out and catch it and the others cook it. I was told that it does not get more fresh and authentic than this. We had a little of everything and since the restaurant bears the local dialectic name for Ravioli (Raieu) we had it stuffed with fish and covered in a tomato sauce. This was complimented on another plate by raw anchovies simply soaked in olive oil (it is said in Liguria, “The fish live in the sea but die in the olive oil.”) sprinkled with fresh oregano. Later came out spaghetti covered in steamed shrimps and small mussels in tomato sauce. We were also served up an enormous pile of steamed mussels.  In spite of the volume it was exceedingly light and I suffered not a bit of discomfort during the night.

IMG_4164The next night he wanted a report on the meeting of the day in Levanto so he picked me up at 8:30 and took me to another out of the way and traditional restaurant, called Il Polpino. This was more different than anything encountered in Italy. It was something like torta-fritta but served up differently. This came to us as puffy deep fat fried bread with which we were served what might only  be described as small, crisp pancakes. The first to show up were pancakes covered with a light,

IMG_4165cheesy cream sauce, the next round the pancakes came served in a tasty, made from scratch tomato sauce, once this was down and taken away, more pancakes arrived covered in a smooth, creamy pesto. These were all small portions but they do begin to take their toll when finally, in comes the killer, a basket of pancakes accompanied by a platter of ham, prosciutto, two varieties of salami, cheese that looked like Brie and one more cheese IMG_4166spread. By now I was pretty much finished but I had one more item to face, pancake dessert with Nutella.

Oh my, oh my.

Trip 39 / Entry 45


Monday to Wednesday, October 20 – 22, 2014

IMG_4117 crop

I often tell people that I am going to Sestri Levante where Jesus takes his holiday. Really, it is one of the nicest small cities I have ever visited in all of Italy. It is quaint, charming and extremely active being located  right on the sea. This is where I like to roost when I am FORCED to take up residence in the Italian Riviera some twenty-five minutes south of Portofino.

Sestri could be expensive so I thought (money running low) that I would try to find a room on Air B & B. This was the first time for me but I landed a spot on my first try. Vincenzo (not his real name) got right back to me and offered me three nights in his house only two blocks from the sea and a short walk from the train station.  He would even do better by picking me up and having a little supper ready for me when I arrived. I rushed and reached Sestri by 9 at night. He was right there to fetch me.


From the beginning he was incredibly attentive so I got much more than a room. Little did he know what he was in for nor did I. I brought with me a cold with a certain amount of hacking and nose blowing not to mention a case of diarrhea, so I spent the night up and down. Happily, in the morning he claimed that he hadn’t heard a thing.

IMG_4121 cropI got around as best I could and he took me to the city on bicycles for coffee and a brioche. This took a lot out of me but I made it. Vincenzo was an interesting fellow who speaks five languages. He is originally from Milano, moved her five years ago, turned out to be sixty-three years old and just married for the second time to a 26 year old Brazilian. She works in Milano as a model but in the two full days I was there, I saw no evidence of her existence. Not a feminine item or picture in the house but I know it is true since he showed me a one hour video of the wedding ceremony.

IMG_4129Over the days he acquainted me with his life as Rouge, telling me of his continual escapades with young beauties from the discotheque. I saved myself until the last when I finally said to him as he let me off at the train, “Vincenzo, would you mind if I gave you some last advice?” So, he was quite excited to hear me since we had shared rather good comradery during the two days.  While getting out of the Volvo, I carefully quoted Jesus, “What does it profit a man if he should gain the entire world and in the process lose his own soul?’ Jesus said that” On several occasions he had mentioned how you only live once and I had agreed with a certain caution that sex was something but it isn’t everything.  He seemed to think and talk of nothing else. Often he took up his phone to show me his many young conquests.

Since we had lunch on Tuesday with a young Senegalese Muslim who would neither eat pork or drink wine but seemed to have no problem with sex, I just said one more thing, “Vincenzo, the Muslim’s will eventually take Italy from the Catholic Church because Catholicism and  Italians are empty.”