Trip 38 / Entry 23 / The Hinrich’s Team

Wednesday, May 27, 2014

Parma, Italy

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With unpredictable jet lag, we were reluctant to schedule a meet up with Ann, Luke and Wendy but by noon we were feeling up to the challenge of taking a pizza lunch with them at La Duchessa in Piazza Garibaldi.

Of course, we have done this before so it was a bit of a reunion. We chatted over pizza and prochiutto and melone  (an in season must) and then went our separate ways.

The rest of the day was spent finding me a pair of sandals and re-arranging our gear for the travel to Spiaggi Romeo some three hours away. Later in the evening I took Jeanne to Pollo Oro (Gold Chicken). This name makes almost no sense at all since there is almost nothing chicken on the menu. Their most memorable items are tomato and olive based stew with coniglio (rabbit) and torta fritta (prochuitto, ham and salami’s stuck between pieces of light deep – fat fried bread). The weather was ideal – a perfect evening and with almost no room for gelato we, nevertheless choked down a single scoop of Nocchiola each on our way back to our room and bed.

Trip 38 / Entry 22 / Collecting Jeanne

Tuesday to Thursday, May 26 – 28, 2014                            

Milan and Parma

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On Monday morning I flew from Alesund to Copanhagen and then to Milano then went to The *Best Hotel (*in name only). It is a suitable 2-Star if you only want a bed and a shower. If I had thought of it, it would have made more sense to stay at an airport hotel rather than shuttle all of the way into the city then back out again in the morning laden with baggage. It cost me twelve Euro but I left my bags in the train station while I went back out to pick up Jeanne who had traveled all night from Charlotte with the Haley family.

We made the connection and then took the shuttle back down to the central train station in Milano, and then went directly to Parma and or Bed and Breakfast at Ducale where I always stay. Giovanni was thrilled to see us and gave us a nice room on the breezy side of the hotel.

Hostaria da Beppe

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

IMG_2910 cropAfter a short rest, Jeanne felt awake enough in the evening to go for amazing risotto at da Beppe just behind our hotel. I have written about Beppe before when last October I ate there for the first time (scroll back). I told her that she just had to do this once before she died. Beppe does everything (EVERYTHING) himself. Parmeseani turn their noses up because Beppe is from Napoli but foreigners have discovered him.  Seated across from us were three tourists from England and within an hour there were at least sixteen others. In one group alone there were ten people to feed all at once.

I think there is an unspoken rule you should know about. If you eat at Beppe’s Hostaria, you must just relax. He washes every dish, sets every table up, then delivers the “liste” and takes your order. Then he goes behind the door which is posted with a clear sign “ENTRATA VIETATO” (Entrance Forbidden). There a mystery takes place. Somehow from his menu of thirty or more risotti and other items, he turns out plate after plate and delivers them to the table with lightning speed. Oh yes, and somehow he serves up the right wine with flair.

Jeanne admitted to being impressed. After devouring his specialty (ham hock – for the specialty “ossobuco di vitello da Beppe”) and a small, but perfectly grilled steak we stumbled back to our hotel three blocks  away. For more information on what people have to say, see Trip Adviser.

Teatro Toscanini Concert, Parma

The idea was simple enough. We would rent a well recognized venue, advertise by inviting friends and those we meet while playing short sets of three songs in different areas while on the street.

Teatro Toscanini has about three-hundred seats and for an unknown band and music in English we knew they might be hard to fill. Further complicating the situation was the fact that Friday night at 8 is no easy sell for people who work until 7:30. When it came time for the first song the theater was only half full but knowing Latino’s as well as we do, we expected the room to eventually fill up as it did giving us a respectable audience. Better still, many people, perhaps twenty are more were people who do not attend the church at all. The aim of the concert was to acquaint people with the church and the gospel. It was our hope that members of the church would make new friends.

The concert lasted two hours during which more people came but no one left even though Fred and Joel pulled no punches as they transitioned with the gospel by explaining how and why the songs were written. Francesco had gone to the trouble to translate and print into an attractive brochure the words to about five songs which people were encouraged to read as the band played and sang.

Pastor Aldo Cerasino “texted” me last night with the following comment (I give it exactly as written without grammatical changes).”Good evening, relaxing evangelism, 120 people with about 15 new and other 10 not believe or just born again. Few came from your invitation by street. The aim was to sing to unbeliever, you with have done, winner night. Thanks we learn a lot, we have seen a new system to do. blessing aldo”

I meet some very nice people!

One of the pleasures I have is meeting interesting people of many cultures.

Unfortunately, I often spend entire days going from one “BAR” (not what you think) to another just waiting until a particular ministry appointment time or person is available to meet. Part of my work is to get to know people so I frequent coffee shops (“Bars”) in Italy and other countries. Sometimes I make a new contact but often I don’t and it’s just a way to “hang out” without having to stare at four walls all day. I get a kick out of people who imagine that I go to the beach. My work is often extremely boring and except for the language and cultural barriers,  I could just as easily be in Oklahoma as Italy.

Three hundred meters from Ducale Bed and Breakfast on Via Costinuente in Parma is the coffee shop and eatery, Caffeteria Pulciella (named after the bird not the clown). The owner and hostess Halla Margret is an opera singer who comes originally from Iceland. Her husband and co-owner, Paolo was equally as pleasant to both myself and The North Street Band.

At Pulcinella

Most often they feature classical music but after we were acquainted they invited North Street to play on Friday night and then begged them for more.

I met Halla and Paolo when I came through in late August, drew her picture and then proposed the idea of having the band perform to which she gave me an immediate “thumbs-up”.

Me with Lydia, my new “hottie.”

The main thing is this. While I sat there in their coffee shop, drinking tea and typing blogs, I observed something I had never seen before. Paolo seemed to know every old lady in the neighborhood and would, when seeing one of them hobble by, go over to the window and tap on it. Once he gained their attention, he would wave them in for coffee. Every so often he would actually leave his place behind the bar and race out to get them. One doesn’t see this sort of thing often (especially in Italy) and it caught my attention so I wanted to tell you about it.

North Street Band become “buskers” in Parma, Italy…

Francesco had this idea that we should go out on the street, where the people were, do some music and then hand-out invitations to the Friday night concert. To be honest, we weren’t too sure about this. I had my doubts because when I have tried to hand out invites or tracts, I have been thoroughly turned aside. I think this partly has to do with my being a foreigner and people thinking that, something I might give them would be in English and therefore irrelevant. Nevertheless, since we are guests and committed to supporting the ground team, we decided to try it. At two in the afternoon on Thursday we met on Via Farini, an area where many small cafes reach off of the curb and into the streets under large canopies of umbrellas. Usually at lunch (12:30 to 3:30) hundreds of young Italians sit and stand having their glass of wine, beer along with a Panini or slice of pizza. Regrettably, on this day it was unusually quiet with less than thirty percent of what might normally be expected. In spite of this discouragement, Fred, Joel and Asher struck up the Johnny Cash tune, “Grey Stone Chapel” which arrested people in mid- bite or mid-sip. No one expected to hear what they were getting. While the band went from song to song we (Dave Tysoe, the drummer and I) as well as others handed out invitations to Friday nights’ concert at Teatro Toscanini.

Usually, almost all street ministry is unproductive and often counter-productive accomplishing the opposite of what you hope for. In this instance, this was not the case with people eagerly taking our invitational cards. On several occasions I had conversations with English speakers who expressed their appreciation for the sound and skill. When I told them what we were up to, several said they’d come and many of those promises were fulfilled. About fifteen people at the concert were people we met on Farini and Cavour Streets in the center of Parma. Poor Asher had to drag a double-  base from place to place but it proved to be well worth the effort.

Here, I would like to re-iterate what I have said in other places. In all of my years of street ministry in Italy, this was undoubtedly the best reception I have ever had.

Let me give a little final advice at this point. This would not have been nearly as successful with about ninety percent apparently expressing approval if the band had been less than terrific. This is one of the problems with American style street evangelism (mimes and music) in Italy and Europe. Americans do not yet understand that Europeans are culturally sophisticated and will not tolerate mimes that feature tee-shirts turned inside out as costumes and card board boxes with hearts painted on the side as props.

As important as the audience and message might be, we must buy credibility by doing our best at what we do. Any audience must have some reason to listen to us share our story. Europeans are suspicious of the Church, “Christianity” and religion. They come into the conversation already having a bad taste in their mouths. Creating confidence is the big challenge and few will care about the message unless the messenger is credible.

Perhaps this gets boring?

The sixty-seventh celebration

I know that I blog a great deal about Parma and the church here, “Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano” so it is possible that you might have heard all you want to hear by now. Nevertheless, I do not just blog for my readers, I blog for myself as a form of diary or journaling experience. This has provided a great historical record for me and now with at least three hundred and fifty blogs beginning almost seven years ago (I believe) my journey through Italy and Europe as wel as Canada has been well documented.

Sunset in Parma

I came into Parma late on Sunday evening and let folks know that I had gotten into my room. After this things began to slowly emerge with calls from Aldo and Francesco, good friends and ACCI leaders here in Italy. Both fellows work at full time jobs so I have to simply connect with their availability. This meant that several occasions presented themselves.

When I asked to take her photo she said, “Sure! My friends say, ‘I am vain.'”

The first thing was my birthday party on Friday night August 31st when about twenty people gathered at Aldo and Mariela’s to celebrate with finger foods, cake and finger foods. Lots of nice things were said to me which I appreciated. It is great to turn sixty-seven with friends on the other side of the world.

On Saturday, I met with the “Youth” which in reality turn out to be “young adults.” Some already have begun families. It was my plan to explain the North Street Band Concert concept with samples of their music and so forth. In all, about twenty showed up for the information-inspiration session.

A Parma pic

Then the following morning I was the guest preacher to a summer holiday crowd of about one hundred twenty people. I am always met here by expectancy and enthusiasm. I, once more, preached on “The Exceptionality of Man,” as I did in Slovenia two Sundays before. On Monday morning I would leave for the Italian region known as Liguria. Liguria is takes in the Italian Riviera. I would stay in the beautiful city of Chiavari near Porto Fino on one side and Sistri Lavante on the other. All three of these cities are stunning. My hosts would be Emile and Imra D., Belgian friends who have made Italy their home.

…More from Trento in the north

Regrettably, I only had one full day in Trento before going on to Parma. I hadn’t been invited for more than Sunday so on my first trip I preferred not to over-stay my welcome. This is especially true when one has likely kicked someone out of their bed.

On Sunday morning we gathered ourselves up and loaded ourselves into the car for the ride down the mountain to the city and the church. Arriving early and in vacation season the church seemed sparsely attended but by the time we moved from worship to preaching there was a respectable crowd of about seventy or so people of all ages and a number of nationalities represented.

Pastor Pippo (Giuseppe Rizza) welcomed me to the pulpit where I preached on the mark Rutland theme of doing ministry in the spirit (style) of Jesus. This is a great “body-life” message that takes us behind the Book of Acts asking two important questions. I will put both questions into one statement because they are similar in content. When and where did Jesus think he was engaged in ministry? In my view, the early church was (more) effective than we are because they did not have the New Testament and only the living model of Jesus Himself. We are hearing a great deal about missional rather than attractional  church and frankly, it is not all so complicated. The “missional” church is no contradcition.  It is just doing what Jesus did. The first believers simply did what he did. He did almost nothing inside of a building and when he did, he was invariably kicked out. The early church did not rely on what they did not have, seminaries, power point or special lighting. Of course, I want us to use whatever we have available and do not advocate giving up technology. No one wants to give up electricity or resort to travel by mule. I just believe we need to reassess what constitutes ministry. Look at the Gospels to see what Jesus thought ministry was. He was always in the divine moment. He was sensitive to every divine appointment. The raising of Lazarus story makes no sense without this fact. Well, this is what I talked about to what I think was a good reception.

My room at “The Ducale”

Later, we went over to Pippo’s  and for lunch where we did the entire “nine yards” Enrica’s. From there to the train and after what should have been a three-hour journey that turned into six, I arrived at the door of my B and B in Parma, The Ducale.

Not bad, $3,000 and about 250 attendees.

The North Street Band Fund Raiser

We relied heavily on free social media like Facebook and MailChimp for getting our crowd so we had no idea how things would turn out. One of the guys thought he’d be happy not to be “skunked.” Thirty would have been his idea of success.

The Carleton Place Arena

Putting the event into the Carleton Place Arena seemed like it made sense when our crowd would be drawn from thirty miles in four different directions, Perth, Almonte, Merrickville, Smith’s Falls and Ottawa. With people having to add a rather lengthy drive no one could read how things might go. When at 7:30, the start-up time came, it looked pretty ominous – as ominous as the threatening weather outside. The day had been sultry and now the wind had kicked up with perilous “tornado-belt” skies and warnings all around us. We were sunk.

Still, with the first lick of the guitars the room started to fill up and at its peak about two-hundred fifty friends and well-wishers filled out the crowd.

Joel Williams

The band was terrific! They were much better than anyone had thought they might be especially since lead guitarist and vocalist, Fred Williams had run a wood chisel through two very important “fret” fingers which considerably limited practice time in the weeks leading up to the concert.  It all turned out to be a rousing success wit a mix of popular cover tunes and composed Christian tunes written by father and son  Fred and Joel.

The party atmosphere was evident and the crowd was some noisy at the back since so many people were renewing old friendships. Somehow my warning them not to have such a good time went over and after the second break it became less like a coffee house and more like a concert.

With Asher on the double bass and Dave the drums the music filled in to make a terrific sound causing a great deal of well-deserved applause. Later Joel’s two sisters, Meriam and Emma stood up to sing one of Meriam’s compositions. Incredibly, the siblings bluegrass harmonies gave us something akin to Emilou Harris or Nancy Griffith. This was a delightful surprise for everyone even the two girls.

People stepped up in a big way to help out by donating almost $3,000 for the ministry trip to Europe in September. In all they’ll need about $12,000 but this was a good start with another gift coming in for $500. In all they are half way there and three more months to go.

Thanks to everyone who came and gave to the project!

Coming Soon! Fred and Joel Williams & North Street Band

Ottawa Valley Friends

Help us promote this FUND Raising Concert by telling your friends. This is going to be a terrific night of listening to great music and reuniting with old friends. Forward to your contacts the link and let them know.