Happy Resurrection Day!

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The mountains near Biella

Yesterday we were promised sun, and in the morning we got some very lovely sunlight.  Miriam hung out laundry on the balcony to take advantage of the sunlight.  But suddenly just after noon it began to rain and then to hail.  But the usual conditions for hail weren’t here.  It was too cold for hail, yet it hailed.  And the ice was far too big to be sleet.  It hailed on the fresh laundry, and continued to do so for almost an hour.  As we say in Texas: “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”  The rain stopped soon after the hail stopped, and all was again calm.

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The white spots you see on the upper part of the black jacket are hail.

Late in the afternoon Lino and Clara went to meet a couple of Romanian truckers who had just arrived from Romania.  I didn’t know why they went, but I guessed it was because they’re fellow Romanian ex-pats with news from home.  I was wrong.  These truckers had brought three large suitcases full of smoked meats, cheeses, cakes, pickled peppers, and homemade wine from their family in Romania.  They told me that every few weeks the suitcases go to Romania, full of goodies from Italy, and return filled with goodies from Romania—back and forth like that.  This time they arrived just in time for Easter.

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Most of what you see here came today from Romania

Upon arrival of the suitcases, there was a whirlwind of excited activity in the kitchen.  They packaged-up some things to go into the fridge and some into the freezer.  But there were also frequent pauses to slice off a taste of this and a taste of that: a generous sampling for me, and a blessed taste of home for them.  Some tastes I recognized from my visits to Romania, though I couldn’t name them.  Their joy was contagious.

Today we will celebrate Resurrection Day at Pastor Fabio’s church.  And tomorrow there will be a BBQ at Pastor Fabio’s house (which is really Nina’s house).  I have been to these BBQ’s before, and they are lots of fun[1].

[1] See BBQ Becomes Ministry.

So Happy Resurrection Day to you and your family!  God is good!

[1] See BBQ Becomes Ministry.

First Stop Mongrando

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Panorama of the Salvation Army Camp in the Pellice Valley

Pastor Fabio, arranged for me to stay with Miriam and Lino[1] near his home in Biella.  Biella is in the foothills of the Italian Alps.  Miriam and Lino live in Mongrando, near Biella.  I hadn’t seen them since the birth of their second child, so I was thrilled that I would see them again.  But first Deborah and I had some last things to take to missionaries.

The day started early.  I got up around four, had my coffee and Bible time.  Then I began packing up the very last of my things.  I wrote several last minute instructions for Nina, who was in charge of the final cleaning of the house.  The landlady’s real estate agent had been very specific about how some things needed to be left.

Then we packed Deborah’s van—to the ceiling.  I hadn’t realized that so much stuff had still been in the house, empty as it was this past week.  The van was packed and ready to go before eight.  I said my last goodbyes to the custodians, who had been so kind and helpful to me over the years.  They promised to collect any mail that came for me in the next month or so.

And with that, I closed the house, locked the door for the last time, and slid the key under the door for Nina to give to the real estate agent when she finished her work on Saturday.

We drove to our first destination: the Pellice Valley, near the border of France, and in the foothills of the western Italian Alps.  It was an overcast day—perfect for driving, but it made the mountains invisible to us until we were right up to them.  Snow remained on the tops of most of the mountains, and as the van grumbled its way up the valley, we saw the last remnants of snow in the valley.

We delivered our things for a missionary and a missionary family—none of whom were there.  Their colleague accepted the things on their behalf, helping us to carry things to the room where they would be stored until their new owners arrive.  He offered us coffee and we got to know each other a bit.

But since Deborah had to drive to clear across northern Italy, hoping to reach her destination before the B & B owner gave up on her, we made speedy apologies and departed.  As we approached my destination, I realized that we were going to arrive about lunch time.  I didn’t want to arrive hungry, so I suggested a last lunch together.  Deborah found us a great place with a fixed-price lunch menu.  Even though it was still early for lunch in Italy (about noon), the place was packed.  We were seated upstairs in the overflow area and people continued to pour in.  We soon found out why.  The food is really cheap, really good, and the portions are enormous.  Like hummingbirds the wait staff buzzed into our area, flitting to the tables with plates and drink orders, and buzzing out again for more.

When we got back on the road again, both of us were full and fully satisfied.  The lunch place happened to be in the last of the flatland cities before the Alps.  Soon we found ourselves climbing the mountain that had been invisible to us minutes before.  The old highway wound up the hill, narrowing in places that made it difficult for cars to pass one another.  Deborah pulled as close to the unguarded edge as she dared and stopped, waiting for the oncoming car to pass around her before proceeding.  Every so often the fog lifted, giving us a terrifying and beautiful glimpse of the valley below.  After several hairpin curves we came to a tunnel.  Deborah joked that it was as if the builders of the highway had said, “OK, enough!  Let’s just tunnel through this sucker.”  Through the tunnel to the other side of the mountain we eventually came to our destination, which had confounded Google Maps.

Miriam had gone to pick up Lino from work, leaving the children in the care of her niece, Clara, who is living with them.  The house is a type that I’ve only seen in this part of Italy: three stories, each consisting of only two rooms.  Imagine taking a typical two bedroom house and stacking it up on a piece of land only an eighth of an acre in size.  In these mountains, finding a suitable piece of level land would be very challenging.  Attempting to level a piece of hillside would be futile.  Imagine trying to chip away several tons of granite.  The family room and kitchen are on the second floor[2], and the bedrooms are on the third floor.  The ground floor is a more formal living room for receiving guests.  Since the family don’t use the ground floor much, it turned out to be the ideal place to leave my suitcases.  I couldn’t imagine trying to lug them up the stairs.

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Jessica[3], Miriam and Lino’s daughter, is eight years old.  She remembers me from the visit to La Casa three years ago.  Jessica had made me an Easter card with a few phrases in English.  She ran to get her notebook and proceeded to show off some of her English.  Her English grades were all nines and tens[4].  I quizzed her on some body parts: nose, legs, and so forth.  And she counted to twenty for me.  Smart girl!  Her little brother came and snatched away the Easter card.  I think he wanted some attention.

When Miriam returned with Lino, we hugged, and reminisced about our meeting at La Casa.  I had brought my friend, Sandy, that time.  Sandy is a missionary in Romania, and we had celebrated Sandy’s birthday with all the people at La Casa.  Lino’s eyes welled-up because Sandy so reminded him of his mother.  I told them that Sandy had just had an operation, choosing to go to the hospital in her small town, rather than to the newer, nicer hospital a few hours away in Cluj.  They understood her bravery and faith in choosing a hospital closer to home[5].

Lino and Miriam invited me to go with them to a prayer vigil at church.  I said, “Vigil?  As in all night?”  They assured me that it would probably end around one.  I pleaded being too tired from the move, but also, I’m just not a night person.  I can do all night on occasion, but by eleven my pillow beckons.  Trust me, few things are so embarrassing as snorting yourself awake in the middle of a prayer meeting—I know!  So they left, taking Clara to her evening job on the way.

I emptied my pockets before changing for bed.  I felt all of my pockets a second time before realizing what was missing: the keys.  This is the first time in six years that I don’t have a pocketful of keys.

Then I settled into bed—my first night without an apartment.  I slept really well, and woke early, but not terribly so.  I am so grateful for this week to rest and enjoy the company of friends before heading out on Secret Weapon assignments.  It looks like I will have periodic rest times through the end of the year.  Being that travel and prophetic prayer are both exhausting, this is not only welcome, but probably very necessary.

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All I need today (or any day) is a little coffee and a whole lot of Jesus!

I fixed my usual a cup of caffe Americano, American coffee, and read my Bible.  I think that as long as I can have my morning Bible and prayer time, with a cup of American coffee, I’ll be fine wherever God takes me.  God is good!

[1] You may remember Miriam and Lino from Birthday Becomes Ministry, three years ago.

[2] Called first floor in Europe.

[3] The name Jessica is spelled Gessica in Italian.  Perhaps they deliberately chose the English spelling or perhaps, being Romanian, they spelled it the Romanian way, with a J.

[4] All A’s.

[5] I know missionaries who have chosen to give birth in their third world mission field, rather than return to the US to deliver.  It is bravery and faith to put your trust into doctors who might not be as well trained as the ones at home, and in facilities that might not be as modern and nice as those at home.