This is our last day of ministry during this trip, and we are featured at the Sunday morning service here in Casoria. We have come to teach two new songs in Italian (led by Luke Lewis and Cate Morris), share two feature songs (Cate and Brandon Bee), and try to enfold as much as possible onto their worship team. I will be sharing the message with Pastor Douglas interpreting. As a nice touch, the men of our team will be handing out roses to all the Moms in the room for Mother’s Day.
After espresso’ing up (see Fun Fact 2 in the last blog), we check out of the hotel and make it to church. As I make some last minute changes to my sermon, I sit and listen to our American team rehearse worship with the Italians. I can’t take my eyes off of the sight. I am suddenly impressed by the thought that we will all be singing Italian in heaven, the language is so beautiful when sung. And it will be a lot like this too, people of different cultures and generations and heritages coming together as one voice. The moments of worship before our worship are very sweet. Before the service, I approach Cate and ask her to play me a song. She privately sings me one of the worship songs from her album, and I close my eyes and quiet my heart. And now I think I am ready.
The Casoria church is a little more reserved, having more Baptistic sensibilities than that of the Torraccia church, which is pentecostal. But their worship and fellowship is no less heartfelt. They respond warmly to our presence. The entire team does a great job of leading them in worship and connecting with them personally, and I suddenly feel at once proud of them, and humbled to lead them.
My message that morning was on living the life of a worshipper (as opposed to simply worshipping on Sunday). I shamelessly use Mother’s Day as the crux of my sermon illustrations and even show a photo of the family in my introduction. They eat it up of course, because to be Italian is to be family. There was some fun controversy that came up when I mentioned a custom in our household: Debbie always cooks dinner, and I always clean the kitchen. And we do it because we have learned that these are ways we demonstrate love to one another. That brought out a number of spontaneous comments from the women in the congregation, and Pastor Douglas made a big deal out of making sure that he approves my sermons prior to delivering them in the future. I can only imagine that many of the church husbands and wives will be having that discussion this evening. I am pleased though that it is so well received, and also pleased that I was able to honor Debbie in my message, and honor God as a result.
At the conclusion of the service, our men handed out roses to the Moms. This is a bigger deal than one might think. For a culture with a 35% unemployment rate, roses are an extreme luxury. Add to that the inner-city vibe, and, as Pastor Douglas explained to me, “this might be the only rose some of these women ever receive.”
At the conclusion of the service, I turn to young Jonathan Kvamme and remark knowingly, “Lead with your left cheek.” Suddenly they are upon us, these Italian brothers and sisters in Christ, thanking us and saying their goodbyes with the double cheek kiss. I say goodbye to maybe three dozen people before retiring to the safety of my seat. Then I say a quick thank you prayer for God’s anointing this morning. And it is indeed a special morning.
Not much time to hang out, so we have lunch upstairs and then we are spirited away to the trains. With our premium tickets, we are assured passage on the fast train to Rome, bypassing the rail strike. Pastor Valerio picks us up in Rome, and takes us to another late dinner al fresco.
Patio lights throw a soft glow on a food-filled table. The slightly cool night air smells faintly of some unnamed flower. The big dipper appears right above us on a cloudless night sky. There is quiet conversation and music playing in the background. It is another perfect night in Italy. We reminisce about the trip and say some more goodbyes. Tonight we sleep, if we can. Tomorrow we fly back home.
I am a little melancholy from having to say goodbye to everyone, but in my soul, I am ready to go home. I am so very tired. But it is a good tired.
Fun Facts: (1) My friend Erv emailed me to tell me I must order the Frutti de Bosco (fruit of the forest) flavored gelato. He was right. It is amazing. Erv is always right about food. (2) You might have probably noticed a lack of Bob in the last blog. That’s because he left a day earlier, missing the Sunday morning service in Naples. He had to get his grandson back due to school and other commitments. (3) The possibility is very good now that Brandon Bee and others may participate in the Casoria Church’s outreach in September. We hope that these bonds that are forged now will linger into the future. (4) We stay the night at Crista E La Risposta, and there is some controversy over the fact that Brandon and Jonathan have to share a little bed, while Rick and Steph Dupea have separate twin beds. Just another sign that the group has “bonded” together.
Photos: Some of our team gathers for prayer before the Sunday Casoria Service (top photo). Steph Dupea (far left) and Cate Morris (tallest and blondest!) join the Casoria vocal team (second photo). Worshiping together in Naples (third photo). Beware of Doug! Preaching at the Casoria church with Pastor Douglas interpreting (fourth photo). Our last night together at the going away party (fifth photo). Luke Lewis and Alessandro Mungai talk with young friends during our last night together (last photo).