Cross Points 11.13.20

Discipleship Afoot:  Walking in Italia

Of all the trips we’ve made, and all the walking we’ve done within them, none had us walking more than the trip we made to Italy in 2017.  This was the one foreign trip that was not technically a “mission trip.”  It was simply a place on the top of our bucket list for travel.  Although this one was a “vacation,” we still tried to embed within it many aspects of ministry, learning from the history we experienced there, so much Christian history in this country.  But walking, boy did we do a lot of walking!

The experience started on a couple of odd notes.  First, we had a connecting flight in Paris, with only 45 minutes between landing and the flight to Naples taking off.  It had rained and made our takeoff from the U.S. late.  We ended up with only 30 minutes to get off the plane in Paris, catch the bus to the new building we needed, then go through customs before finding our gate.  When we arrived in customs there was a line and we knew we were sunk.  But once at the desk a lady asked us our flight and said once through to follow her and run!  We did, dragging our luggage behind us, our best OJ Simpson impersonation (if you remember the old commercials).  We made it!  Then, once in Naples we found our host who led us to a bus station that was running late.  Once the bus arrived a crowd had gathered, clamoring to get on, offering bribes to the driver who yelled, as they yelled, all in Italian.  Our host said, “Fight your way to the front and tell him who you are, we have seats reserved.”  What?!  But we followed her orders, somehow making it through the crowd, got his attention, delivered the message.  It worked!  We sat down, still watching the yelling going on, wondering how this trip would play out.
Things got better, fortunately, but always interesting.  In Sorrento our hotel was about a quarter of a mile from the downtown area, the walkway a single file ordeal with traffic buzzing by inches away, and Italian Vespa’s weaving in and out of traffic in spaces almost too narrow to walk through.  “Are these people nuts,” I asked our host, “do you have accidents every 15 minutes?”  No, she assured me, this is normal, and they have few accidents, people learn to drive this way from a young age.

Our host Maria in Sorrento provided a tour the first day, including the oldest Catholic church in town.  She told us about the Presepe Nativity Scenes people create at Christmas, elaborate miniature scenes made of paper Mache or other materials, but often incorporating local buildings to make it appear the Christ-child was born here, to make it more personal.  Later in Rome we explored the art in the museum next to the Sistine Chapel, and throughout the city, learning that this art was used to communicate the gospel in a time when few read the Bible due to illiteracy.  We visited St Paul’s Cathedral, seeing the relics of his bones and chains that once held him (supposedly).  We walked in catacombs, seeing the crevices where many Christians were buried, and a 2nd century wall painting of Peter and Paul.  In Venice we stood in front of St Mark’s Basilica and learned that the Venetian’s had taken Mark’s remains after sacking Alexandria, Egypt, and brought him here to be buried in this church.  They hid his body in a container of pork, knowing Muslims would not examine it if stopped.  The scene is painted on the front of the church building, showing men recoiling from the smell as they get close to the container!

We walked in St Peter’s Square, saw the paintings and sculptures of Michelangelo (including his famous “David” in Florence), we attended a rare protestant church on Sunday just across the Ponte San’ Angelo in Rome.  While in Florence we spent part of a day in San Gimignano, a Tuscan hilltop village, surrounded by vineyards, famous for its towers.  Italy lived up to the hype!  In all of it, we gained a great appreciation for a place and history that came alive as we walked.  Walking, that’s our theme in this series.  You see things and experience things while walking that you don’t with other modes of travel.  May we honor the Lord as we walk.  We keep walking.  You too!
Cross Point: “The following night the Lord stood by Paul and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (Acts 23:11).  
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