Wednesday, October 23, 2014
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.
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.
In 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.
On 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.
The 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,
cheesy 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 spread. By now I was pretty much finished but I had one more item to face, pancake dessert with Nutella.
Oh my, oh my.
Monday to Wednesday, October 20 – 22, 2014
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.
I 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.
Over 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.”
Monday, October 20- Thursday October 23, 2014
I had an interesting ride from Marseilles to Genova, changing at Nice and Ventemille. Along the way I met a number of nice people but in the last ride my reservation put me in a six-seat room with three ladies. Though only one spoke English I quickly deciphered that all three were terrific. They were headed to Milan but before I had gotten off at Genova we had enjoyed a great time together. All were very friendly and bright. They happily tolerated my Italian and so we had an interesting couple of hours. I mention this because it is atypical of what usually takes place. Most often, no one speaks to anyone they do not know and the trip is made in silence. I thought, “I wish Jeanne were here. She would find this out of her element but she would have really liked these gals.” They were just intelligent, ordinary and nice.”
A brief stop over in the Marseilles, St. Charles Train Station
Monday, October 20,2014
I took the early bus from Carpentras which took me back through Aix and then to St. Charles, the train station for Marseilles. When I got off of the bus and started toward the Depot, I was prevented from entering by police and safety personnel who had sent everyone outside until the swept the station of a possible bomb. Nothing came of it so in the meantime, having nothing to do, I encountered the Jehovah’s Witnesses and again left them spinning. I used to be terrified of these encounters but now I look forward to it and look for the opportunity. It is a game of cat and mouse. I am the cat.
Sarah and I hanging out in France with the legends…—
Grayling, Sandra Trees, Sarah Halberg and Amy Owen
They had to go to some trouble in order to meet me at the station but it was good to see the Trees’ finally back in France after so many years. Sarah Beth brought along Amy Owen who runs around introducing interns to various missionary teams. She had been my student a number of years ago so it was nice to see her outside of Facebook.
Grayling and Sandra are slightly unsettled having just arrived but they are conversant in French and should be up and running in a short time. Though we only talked for an hour or so, we shared a lot of similar thoughts regarding missionary strategies in France and Europe in general. Basically we both have the same idea that American and existing evangelism methods and church planting models will no longer be attractive in Europe. “High Predictability = Low Impact” and vice versa. In our view, church as usual will not work. With this in mind we threw out many ideas that we confirmed.
They time came for me to go and they headed off.
Sunday, October 20, 2014
“You can’t go back to the ole’ swimming hole.” Harry Hedrick
I regret to say, not much going here worth a photograph. I’m fairly certain that my father did not come up with this and many of you heard it expressed in different ways but my first recollection of hearing this was when my dad said it to me as a young boy. His point was simple enough. Once you grow up the joys and excitement of the former places and experiences are significantly diminished with age, travel and so forth. When it comes to my revisit to Carpentras this is the case and proves to be true. I came here about fourteen years ago with Jeanne. We walked the streets and sat under the trees watching the southern France, Provencial style unfold. After watching the BBC series, “A Year in Provence,” I was enthralled to be here. Everything was so enchanting, the enormous, leaf filled Eucalyptus trees threw their speckled shade on the sides of the old, weathered buildings making a sun dappled glitter of gold.
It is 8:15 Monday morning and I am on my way from my second excursion to Marseilles for the train to Sestri Levante, Italy where I will meet Emile, Francesco and Giacomo.
My dad was right.
I arrived here yesterday on a Sunday in the mid-afternoon. The stores were closed up and streets were empty except for the Muslim men sitting in the outdoor cafes drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. There was a market in town but I didn’t discover it until they were packing up their wares and heading home. What I did see was again, North Africans and Muslims taking down their shops.
Carpentras is not what it was fifteen years ago. In my memory the village was what one should expect when visiting the south of France and quaint, charming Provence. Instead, even with the danger of appearing discriminatory, the city feels like something out of Algeria or Morocco. Fifteen years ago (perhaps I was never in this part of town) this cultural shift was hardly noticeable. Now, however, many stores are closed up. The streets are lined with empty shops except for the occasional Hallel meat market, barber or Kabob shop which appear to be numerous. In fact there is an absence of decent places to eat and I finally found an Italian restaurant after walking for almost an hour.
Say what you will but…
Since it’s days of Imperialism, France has little choice but to take North Africans as immigrants but the truth is this. Wherever they live will change the atmosphere. The streets will be covered with trash as no one picks up a thing. Large groups of less than industrious, Muslim men will fill the streets and cafes doing little else but loudly talking. To me this ghettoization is a tragic reality and a pariah of Arabic immigration in Europe.
Sweden and Denmark finally admit to this with the influx of crime associated with ethnic groups coming from the Muslim world. Statistics prove what people have suspected all along. The numbers to support the claim that Islam is largely the washing of the outside of the bowl while the inside is covered with corruption.
“You can’t go back to the ole’ swimming hole.” Harry Hedrick
Not a good day for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Aix en Provence.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Since my bus for Carpentras didn’t leave until noon I had some time to kill. Coming down the street to find a place to sit I saw the familiar Jehovah’s Witness literature stand and four well-dressed young people standing around waiting on passers-by. Unfortunately for them, I happened to have been a (intentional and going entirely out of my way) “passer-by.” The question was clear, “WHAT DOES THE BIBLE REALLY TEACH?’ so I thought I would tell them. Having one person proficient in English and another moderately capable in the language it was not a good day when I explained that the Bible from Genesis to Revelation can be explained through faith in two words, “vicarious atonement.” I knew that these words were bigger than they were used to so I enjoyed explaining the concept to them beginning with fig leaves and going right through to the blood of the Lamb in Revelation. My, my, my! You think they had been struck by lightning. They are so used to people who know absolutely nothing about the scriptures that this encounter set them completely back upon their heels. So, here they got the red thread of redemption from Genesis to Revelation with a challenge regarding where they placed their confidence. “No doubt, you all were once Catholics. In those days your salvation was dependent upon the auspices of the Church, The Vatican, the Pope, Mary, the priests, the sacraments and so forth. These were your mediators. You were raised to be hopeful that this might work. Now, however, you have done yourself no better having only substituted Rome for Brooklyn. All religions follow the same pattern, Catholics, Islam, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and so forth. They control their subjects by procuring salvation for them as long as they follow the prescribed requirements and rules.” They didn’t like it but they got the point. It did not take them long to pick up their display and move across the street.