Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bari Christmas with friends

We were able to get away for a couple days at Christmas and enjoy some fellowship with some missionaries from Bari and Montenegro. Many of our friends here in Sicily had family activities planned, so we decided to be with our missionary "family" and renew some friendships as well. We enjoyed a sumptuous meal with some of the church folks on Christmas eve. We had a main dish with rice, potatoes, and mussels, followed by some lamb and assorted grilled meats, and salad, which included carrots only found in that region. They were purple and yellow and sweeter than the orange ones. We also had fried carcofi (artichokes) which were delicious and a russian salad in the shape of a fish (a type of potato salad). That night included many stories swapped, games played, and a toast at midnight to celebrate Christmas.
Christmas day was relaxed, with gifts exchanged with our host family, their kids were very patient while the adults got ready and had a light breakfast and coffee. Then we joined the other family who was hosting our friends from Montenegro for lunch. Lasagna and vegetables were on the menu followed by a mountain of cookies, baked by one of the kids home for school vacation. There was a puzzle that was keeping everyone occupied at one point or another, and more games. We also got to call family from the States and wish them a "Merry Christmas".
Friday was a day to relaxe, and we had a devotional and time of singing and sharing of prayer concerns. It was such an encouragement to be with those that have been serving in the culture longer and hear how they handle different situations. Later that evening we watched a movie and snacked for dinner on popcorn, roasted chestnuts and fruit. (Being underfed was not a problem.) We were refreshed, by the fellowship, and appreciated being "family" with our own so far away.
Coming back on Saturday we were invited for pizza and games at a friend's house. We enjoyed catching up with friends we hadn't seen in a while as well as those who had finished Christmas with their families. We played the Italian version of Scattergories and my score was one of the highest. Pretty good for someone who doesn't speak Italian very well yet.
(Photos include: friends of my husband's, the russian salad, cute little boy, and our host family at the Christmas eve dinner.)

Youth Christmas Party

Tuesday, December 23, was our Christmas party for the youth group. We had a buffet with all sorts of yummy finger foods, and for dessert we had cheesecake in honor of one of the leader's birthday. The highlight of the party was the "Mean Santa" gift exchange. The Italians had never done anything quite like that, so we weren't sure how it would work. Everyone brings a small wrapped gift and you play a game to determine who gets what gift. The basic concept requires that each person gets a number and you go in sequence, with the first person opening a gift and the second person having the option to either open a new gift or steal the gift from the first person. Things can get interesting, depending on the gift, which can only be stolen 4 times before it is out of play. Some of the things that showed up during the exchange included: a pink manicure set (which was opened by one of the guys), candles, candy, toe socks, and cologne. Several really unique items also showed up. Someone brought 2 little goldfish in a tiny aquarium and a small cannister of food, that was a popular one to steal. There was also a stick of partially used deodorant, and my personal favorite, the gift my husband got -- a package of feminine products. Overall the evening was a great success, everyone had a good time, and the "Mean Santa" exchange went over very well.
(The pictures include: "Mean Santa", birthday cake, the goldfish, goofing around, and serving cheesecake and dessert)

Youth Christmas service

We enjoyed the opportunity to help the youth with their part in the Christmas service at Palermo. Shawn was involved in the music and with the lighting for the mime. I made many cups of coffee for practices and did the video of the service. The group had countless hours of practice in order to do their very best on the evening of December 21. The service began with Christmas carols by the regular worship team and several songs by the sunday school kids, followed by a short meditation from the head pastor. Then we were up, beginning with a praise and worship set, then a mime set to the song "Everything" by Lifehouse, and finally a girl's chorus. The musician worked so hard, and they even did "Walk by Faith" in English. The music was a blessing to those that attended. The mime was something that was also powerful, showing what Jesus can do in a person's life. Several of the youth leaders shared and an invitation was given for those that wanted to make Christ the Lord of their life. Finishing out the night, the girl's chorus had an upbeat rendition of "I Will Follow Him". After the program Christmas cakes and snacks were served and the youth had sandwiches for dinner, later on.
(The pictures are from, fellowshipping after the service, and the musicians)

Presepe photos

Here are a few more pictures from the "Presepe" display.
Photos: etched glass madonna and child, modern rendition, scene with small lights, ceramic plate, and glazed ceramic scene

Presepe (Manger scenes)

One of the things that they do in Italy around Christmas is have manger scene contests. Local artists ranging from school kids to adults create manger scenes called "Presepe". They encompass all different types of materials including everything from mother of pearl to newsprint to wrought iron. Each one is unique and often displays local scenery or Sicilian life. Many have small lights and moving parts, and are very intricate in detail. We were able to visit a display in Trabia, a nearby town, and also one at a local church that is only open during Christmas. We took pictures of some of our favorites.
(Photos include: Clay water jar scene, African inspired, painting with a local bridge in the background, metal work madonna and child, and a blacksmith's scene.

Christmas Service at Termini

December 21, we had our Christmas service in Termini. The morning service was filled with Christmas carols, and Scripture reading about the birth of Christ. We enjoyed the fellowship with our church family and the connection before everyone scattered during the week to different Christmas activities with family and friends. Our church was decorated with lights and handmade bows as well as "stelle di natale" or what we know as poinsettias.

Monday night we had the opportunity to have dinner with the pastor and his wife and exchange gifts. We left very stuffed, as always. Sicilian hospitality is amazing, you will never leave hungry.

Christmas Party

We had our Christmas party at Termini on December 24. We invited the kid's parents, church family and a group of disabled youth that one of the ladies in our church works with. We had a great time. The kids sang several Christmas songs ending with the English version of "Jingle Bells". I had to sing the verse with Shawn, while the kids came in on the chorus and belted out a resounding "Hey" at the appropriate place in the song. Our pastor, gave a short devotion on the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating Christ's birth, and then we played games. We had small door prizes to give out and played bingo. The kids mobbed Shawn, who was calling out the numbers, to try to fill in their cards. They also got small toys as gifts. Afterward, there were pandoro and panettone cakes, snacks, and drinks. Everyone had a good time and we had many there that would not normally come to an Evangelical church. At the end of the night, to those that wanted them, we gave out calendars with Scripture verses on them and Bibles. We were tired, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
(The pictures are from the bingo game. I am not sure how to upload video. Guess I will have to get my husband's help on that.)