Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Orvieto, side trip extraordinaire

Alas, I had just finished writing a wonderful (I thought) blog on the rest of Sunday and Monday. As I was proofreading, the electricity cut off. I lost the entire thing. I had saved it, but it was not published, so it has disappeared into cyberspace. I shall try to rewrite, but you know it is never as fresh the 2nd time around. Perhaps you will be spared some verbiage. (At least we know that the power quits in Europe, too.)

I wrote last on Palm Sunday, but the day had not ended. Despite the precious time worshipping in the Anglican church in English in the morning, the Lord saved the best for later on.

A bit of background: on our 2nd day here, Bell and I took several detours among the market stalls in the narrow streets in Firenze. We tried on hats, gloves, scarves, all manner of apparel to keep warm, as well as examining journals and other goodies. At one hat stall, the friendly owner asked us where we were from. On this trip I have decided to answer Mozambique to that frequently asked question. It keeps things interesting. I know we carry the powerful navy passport, but I don't feel like I belong to any one place down here: too many locations have a claim on my heart.

Well, the shop assistant just happened to be a Brazilian pastor tent-making and church planting here in Firenze. What Christian in his right mind could possibly believe in coincidences in this world, I ask you? Pastor Davson invited us to his church on Sunday night. They meet at 8:30 p.m. because they are a working class church. In a tourist town, everyone works on Sundays, and this is closing time.

We arrived on time, but few others did. We sang choruses for a while as the folks drifted in. Pastor asked me to share our testimony and work in Mozambique. He said I was the first missionary they had to speak to them. It was great to see their interest and animation for the sharing of the gospel in Africa. (They use Africa as the ultimate in missions work, I discovered.) I shared our work with Muslims and church leadership as aspects of cross cultural communication, sharing also the experience of our Brazilian colleagues. They applauded when I sat down, how humbling. I know my Portuguese is very Mozambican, but they did understand and were generous in their comments. Hopefully I was able to help them see that they are missionaries here in Firenze and the value of their light in this very dark place. The blessing prayer that they prayed over us before we left was like a warm blanket on a cold night--and it was a cold night. We practically floated back across the river home. It was as if the Lord cracked open a window for us to get a glimpse into another of the many rooms in the Kingdom here on earth. There are so many brothers and sisters waiting to unite with us all when Jesus comes again, it gives me goose bumps.

Monday Bell and I rose early and went on a spectacular side trip to Orvieto. I recommend you google this city name and find out about it. My first draft had many details about the underground cave, the magnificent duomo (cathedral) which has the most brilliant and jewel-like facade of any in all of Europe. It was breathtaking. We also saw Lucca's frescoes (in the Brizio Chapel) of the apocalypse, the last judgement, the damned and the saved. Folks are only allowed in for 25 minutes. Perhaps they are afraid of the lasting impact of seeing such vivid and frightening images of the world to come. (They need to read Jonathan Edwards, methinks.)

We climbed the Tower of Moro, the tallest clock tower in the region. We were there when it chimed at 3:45--very loudly, literally made me jump. We hiked down to the Etruscan necropolis. They let you wander in the excavations because all the goods and bodies have been taken away to museums. It was fascinating to see how even in ancient times, the timeless way they used to memorialize the dead. We saw the carved names over the tops of the doorways (it is like a small city).

Then we went back up to the city, which is built on a volcanic mass, not the volcano, and constructed mostly of the yellow-brown tuffa rock and mortared with lava ash. The caves under the city were most fascinating: everyone digs under their houses to make cellars for storing wine, etc. The ones on the edge of the cliffs also dug pigeon houses for the birds to fly in and out. The tour was full of interesting details and we heard about the various groups of people who had lived there over centuries. Our guide, Federica, kept telling us the population was small when she meant that they were short. We chuckled at that.

The engineering highlight was St Patrick's well, ordered dug by a pope who didn't want to be under attack in the city without an internal water supply. It is very deep and has two circular stairways on the edge: two helixes parallel to each other. One for ascending, the other for descending. The donkeys used to carry the water up and they needed a way for traffic in both directions. Bell and I climbed down, for a price, and puffed our way back up. She commented that she was only 14 and was puffing, she wondered how old people (like me) could make such a climb. Despite the depth of the well, the stairways had windows at 90 degree intervals, so it was not dark.

We ended our day with pizza margarida at an open air cafe before taking the cable car down. (Oh, we came up on it, too, very cute, the cables are on the ground, not in the air, so it doesn't sway.)

It was late when we got home, but overall, it was a great day. The trip from here is 2.5 hours one way, so you see we spent quite some time on the train as well.

Thanks for stopping in. Tomorrow, hopefully, we will go to Pisa, so you should be hearing from us the day after. Meanwhile, thanks for your prayers. We appreciate you so much.

1 comment:

Vicki a.k.a. Jarm said...

Meeting other Christians world wide has always been a treat for me as well...we are not alone. That was certainly a highlight.
What a colorful city Orvieto is! I just checked it out on google. The paintings and architecture are beautiful.