Wednesday, May 20, 2009


When we first discussed coming to Italy, I hoped I would have the chance to attend an Italian wedding.  I never thought we would have to attend an Italian funeral.  After a long battle with cancer, a dear lady in our church went home to be with Jesus.  As a church, we had prayed for her for months as she battled the effects of her illness; we asked for healing and a miracle, but God chose to ultimately heal her by taking her home.  It was an honor to know her and see the people her life and testimony to God’s faithfulness had touched.  We got the news of her passing after returning from traveling for the past week and a half.  Funerals here in Sicily are very different than in the US; the viewing (or wake) is actually held at the family home not a funeral home.  The body of the person is laid out in the salon of the house for friends and relatives to come and pay their respects and stay to make sure the family is not alone during this time.   We stayed for about 4 hours and when we left there were mainly family members remaining.  It was difficult since normally they hold the wake one night and the burial the next day.  However, Termini was celebrating its Patron saint, so the burial was moved to the day after.   The funeral service was also held at the house rather than the church.  Our pastor conducted the service and Shawn provided the music.  It was hard for both of them, but God gave grace to handle the responsibility.   My heart just ached for the family as they said their good-byes.   Her husband had been her primary caregiver and was overcome with emotion, lack of sleep, and heat exhaustion.   After the service, the funeral employees, came to seal the coffin and take it to the cemetery.  Close to 200 people made the walk from the house to the cemetery behind the hearse.  There was a short Scripture reading before she was laid in the family tomb.  It was a difficult moment for everyone.  DSC04705   We rest in the hope of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, but there is still a void left in the hearts of those who knew her. 

Campofelice di Roccella


Shawn and I are on the hunt for the best beach to frequent thDSC04397is summer.  Cefalu where we went for primo Maggio is about 35 minutes away, so we decided to look for something a little closer.  We found a rock and sand beach at Campofelice di Roccella.  It was not very crowded and we found castle ruins and 2 WWII bunkers.  The castle has a tower remaining and a lot of wall sections left.  We opted not to climb to the top of the tower because it was so hot.  We walked back through some villas, including the villa that was attached to one of the bunkers.  There was a stairwell and tunnel that went down into the bunker DSC04425from the house. It was an interesting afternoon and we came home a little sunburned, but we definitely enjoyed exploring new places. The pictures include: the villa and bunker, tower and ruins jutting out into the sea, aqueduct, and looking down the beach at the mountain near Termini.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Primo Maggio (May 1)


May first is a holiday here in Italy and we celebrated by going with the youth to Cefalu, a beach town  about a half hour from where we live.  We had a gathering of several youth groups within a two hour distance or so.  We began the day with music and a group session, followed by a sack lunch, and then it was off to the beach for a few hours.  It was too chilly to swim, but that didn’t stop a couple DSC04356of hearty souls from going into the water anyway.  Everyone else played  DSC04353  DSC04372 DSC04374 DSC04383 DSC04386 games or sat around and talked, soaking up the sun.  We had a gorgeous day.  We left the beach for a short small group discussion session, then everyone had to make the drive home.  (Which took a little longer than normal, due to the holiday traffic.)   (Photos include: opening session, the group, the 2 swimmers, us, setting up a game on the beach, Cefalu view left and right, and the swimmers after photo.)

Monday, May 4, 2009


Montelepre literallDSC04293y means mountain of the hares.  We went there to participate in a leaders retreat for CEMI held at the Castello Giuliano April 24-25.  The retreat was a time of spiritual refreshmentDSC04295, refocus, and renewing friendships.  The speakers were Swiss missionaries from Cefalu’  and they had 3 teaching sessions focused on encouragment.  We also enjoyed the mealtimes, with excellent food and fellowship. There was an interesting background to the hotel that we stayed at.                 It was run by the descendents of Salvatore Giuliano, Sicily’s “Robin Hood”.   Just after the allies freedDSC04298 Sicily and Italy from German domination in WWII, there were DSC04297many restrictions on farming and most of the food grown here was being sent to mainland Italy.  The farmers were upset, and had great difficulty feeding their own families with these restrictions.    Salvatore was driven to become a rebel against the carbinieri who were restricting their family’s food supply.  There was a movement for Sicily to become an independent state.  Turiddu (Salvatore)  became a colonel in the movement for an independent Sicily.  Unfortunately, due to the wrangling of politicians it did not come to pass.  However, it did get autonomy from Italy, but there weDSC04300DSC04314

DSC04332re still a lot of restrictions on the Sicilians.  He eventually died at the hands of the Mafia, although the carbinieri took DSC04325credit for it.  He is still regarded as a hero for trying to help form an independent state and help the poor in the area of Montelepre.  (At one point they even campaigned to become the 49th state in the US.)  The story is told in a book written by his nephew, with interviews from his sister and other famDSC04316ily members.   The story was behind the area and hotel was very interesting and unique.  We definitely enjoyed our time there, fellowshipping with other local leaders and several missionary couples from Bari.  At one point during some free time we went to a small shop to get some freshly made ricotta and mozzarella. After tasting the real stuff, the supermarket stuff is nowhere close.  (Shawn and I had a friend teach us how to make cannoli filling with the ricotta and chocolate chips. Yummy!)  We also had the chance to host some friends from the conference so they could get an earlier start on their 9-10 hour drive home.  We walked to a park that evening to allow their kids time to get rid of their excess energy and enjoy the fresh air.  We had a busy weekend, but enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones.  (Photos include: My husband playing the guitar, our speaker, the inside of the dining area, views of the area, brothers, our morning meditation speaker, the garden area, and me under a flowering bush.)  DSC04327

Sunday, May 3, 2009


 DSC04259 DSC04260  DSC04262  DSC04279 I know one thing, church league volleyball would never work here.   The participants would never survive.  We took the Palermo youth to play volleyball at a sporting complex not too far from the church.  There was definitely a competitive spirit, but also much laughter and enjoyment.  Our (Shawn and I) volleyball skills were pretty rusty, but we made valiant attempts anyway. We split into 3 different teams that rotated each match. One of the other leaders and I also rotated spots, since each team had an extra player. Shawn also provided some comic relief, in the form of running across the court shirtless,  after a little encouragement from some of the guys.  All in all we had a good time and everyone enjoyed the outing.  We had some that played really well, some that played for fun, and some that just liked to argue with the referee. 


DSC04217The Monday after Easter is know as Pasquetta or “little Easter”.  Everyone DSC04223takes the day off work for picnics or barbecues in the country.   We were invited to join one of the other youth leaders and his fiancĂ©e to visit his family in Agrigento on the southern coast of Sicily.   The drive took about an hour and a half with a quick stop for fuel, I mean coffee. (We did get fuel for the car as well.)  We arrived at the house just in time for Shawn and our friend to help with the grilling.  It kept rDSC04224aining off and on so the grilling was a little tricky.  The golf umbrellas covering the different grill stations helped some.  What a feast it waDSC04228s, there were 4 types of meat, sausage, lamb, chicken, and pork.  They also cooked artichokes by burying them in the hot coals.  Inside several of the women, including the hostess, were fixing baked goods typical of the area, a bread with sausage and olive bits inside.   Finally, everything was ready for the 30 plus people that were there.  We sat down to a huge lunch with the grilled meat, homemade bread, artichokes, salad, aDSC04229nd finishing off with fruit.  (Neither of us were hungry for dinner when we got home that night.)  It reminded me so much of dinners at my grandparents (dad’s parents) where all the family and friends from church would picDSC04233nic or grill out and fellowship around the table. In a way it made me a little homesick since both my grandparents are gone now.   During the afternoon we took it easy since lunch definitely needed time to settle, some napped, while others listened to the piano and violin.  One of the ladies there was a hair dresser and she cut the hair of one of the little girls who didn’t like to brush it.  The mother of the girl wasn’t too sure about the idea, but they were both happy in the end.  Some also took the opportunity tDSC04251o grab a snooze, while others just sat around and talked. Several hours after lunch, the coffee and dessert came out.  There were 4 types of cake and numerous variations of cookies.  The coffee helped revive everyone and the rest of the afternoon was spent playing carDSC04252d games and chatting, which also reminded me of home.  His family was very welcoming to a couple of people they had never met and we were so blessed by the fellowship that day.   The language was different, but we could not have felt more at home.  Their house was full of love, laughter, and gracious hospitality and we were honored to be included.        DSC04253 DSC04254

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pasqua Service

Our youth group at Palermo was given the opportunity to direct the Easter service.  We had a combined service with Termini and Palermo so that we could participate.   They worked for several months preparing the music and a drama, which was written by one of the local youth leaders.  The drama was different Biblical characters that had their lives changed in some way by meeting Jesus.  It was very well written, and the drama team executed it very well.  One of the other youth leaders gave the message, on the hope of a Risen Saviour.  The children also had a short program as well.   After the service there was a newsletter available, written and produced by the teens.  In spite of a rainy day, there was rejoicing in the reason for celebrating Easter, the resurrection of Jesus.


Buona Pasqua is the greeting here iDSC04179n Italy for Easter.  Pasqua or Easter is celebrated as the end of Lent.  Lent begins after carnevale, and typically some comfort is sacrificed until Easter, about 40 days.  Usually, a typeDSC04181 of food, or smoking or the like is given up for Lent.   Easter here is somewhat commercial, but in our smaller town, not nearly as much as the US.   However, we did find all the supermercati here had chocolate eggs with surprises in them.  They range in size from a normal size egg to ones that are nearly as tall as I am.  There are even surprises for adults with jewelry or wallets in them.   There are several typical Easter desserts here, cassata, a cake topped with green and white icing and candied fruit with ricotta inside, and also columba, a cake in the shape of a dove.  I even got an egg to share with Shawn; it had a toy sword from the Narnia moviDSC04182e inside and the chocolate was delicious.  It was one of the smaller ones.  We decided not to buy the one that cost 65 euros, it was a little expensive for our budget.  Anyway we enjoyed the egg, and had the opportunity to eat cassata several times as well.  Mmmmm!!!  


The Saturday beforeDSC04106 Easter we were invited, along with the youth group to go to a friend’s land in the country for a barbecue.   It was a beautiful day, sunny and finally feeling like spring.  We caravanned in several cars up to the area of Piana degli Albanesi. The properDSC04101ty was on a peninsula out in a  large lake surrounded by hills and mountains.   The owners of the property were already there setting up the picnic tables and food.  The youth group pulled out soccer and volleyballs to take advantage of the nice weather.  Shawn and one of his friends started preparing the coals for the grill, while I went to play volleyball with the girls.   The grilling items were a little different from your normal hamburgers and hotdogs, although they do have them here.   For an appetizer there was bruschetta, grilled bread with a tomato topping.  Then came the sausage and grilled chicken filets, followed by stighioli.  What on earth is stighioli?  Well…….it is a Sicilian delicacy that the Palermitani love.DSC04109  DSC04134DSC04110

It comes wrapped around a large scallion, with lard and parsley also in the center.  We had “stighioli di capra” which loosely translated is goat intestines.  They grill it over hot coals, and then squeeze fresh lemon juice over it and sprinkle with salt while it is still hot.  I tasted my first, last, and only piece of it.  The sad part is that it smells just like spiedies (marinated meat kebabs) when it cooks.  (My dad grew up in New York state and the area he is from is known for a special marinade)  Anyway now I can at least say I tried it.   I didn’t feel quite so bad when the other American girl there didn’t care for it either.   We finished off the meal with salad and a little later after the stomach settled, a sweet.   DSC04150

We also got a chance to walk around part of the peninsula with sDSC04160ome friends to see the lake.  We needed the walk after eating all afternoon.  There were a lot of wildflowers and woods, and it looked a lot like places near our home in the States.  We decided to head back after seeing rainclouds not too far away, and we had to prepare for our Easter service with the youth the next day. 

(Photos include: the view, eating bruschetta, preparing and cooking stighioli, picking wildflowers, us, and the town near the lake)