For the past 25 days Norma Jean and I have been traveling through the Mediterranean as we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. We embarked in Athens and disembarked in Rome. Along the way we’ve enjoyed delicious food, seen ancient archeological sites dating back to Bible times and marveled at the beauty of God’s creation. As you can imagine there have been many highlights on such a venture.
Fortunately, the flat we rented was within walking distance, about 800 meters, from their meeting place. We arrived to a warm welcome by a sweet sister, Rosa Mezza, who spoke English and has lived for a period of time in the states. As people arrived, who spoke only Italian we were greeted with nods, smiles and a friendly “Buongiorno”!
Their local preacher, Stefano Corazza, was away working with David Thomley in Northern Italy. But Marco di Martino, the preacher from a church in the suburbs of Rome, Ciampino, which meets in the evening, very passionately preached and taught the Bible class.
Marco greeted us in English, but apologized that his English was “not so good,” (although I thought it was very good), and could not translate his sermon for us. However, he gave us a quick overview in English as he began the lesson from the book of Ruth. With the aid of his powerpoint we were able to follow along.
Although in Italian, several of the songs had familiar tunes that we easily recognized and could softly sing in English and make melody in our hearts. The communion service reminded us of our kinship in Christ with these brothers and sisters as we ate the bread and drank the wine.
After the service, we met others who spoke English, including Clelia Barbardoro who had ties to the United States. Of course, we had several mutual friends including David Thomley who has frequently visited Italy and engaged in a wonderful work of teaching, preaching and equipping the brethren.
From the meeting house 15 of us walked to a nearby restaurant where we were treated to a wonderful Italian meal. This may have been my first 3 hour lunch. While the food was delicious, the fellowship we enjoyed was even better. As the lunch grew longer, the laughter and the animated conversations grew louder, joyous friendship and warm fellowship filled our hearts.
Norma Jean remarked when we returned to our flat how amazing it was that we could be 6000 miles from home, attend worship where a different language was spoken, but feel such a closeness and comradeship with these brethren.
Indeed we were reminded of what it means to be “one in Christ” regardless of ethnicity, national origin, or the language spoken. There is a bond that binds us together. We share a mutual faith. Enjoy the same spiritual blessings. Experience a common love. And live in different parts of the world all embracing the “one hope.”
We leave Rome tomorrow and head back to the states with many precious memories, but none greater than worshiping with the brethren in Rome. Indeed, as we sang at the end of the service “Marciamo per Sion.” Yes, we are all marching on to Zion!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman