Seven miles from Palermo is the eastern province town of Bagheria (pronounced Bah-gair-ia), or Baaria in Sicilian slang. The name Bagheria originates from the Phoenician term Bayharia, meaning "Bay Area" or "Land descending seaward." Another source claims it's from Arabic Bab al-Gerib, or "windy gateway." I'm from the California Bay Area, so it seemed fitting that our focus this last week would be turned to this beautiful bay area town.
A Little History
In the mid-1600s, a Sicilian prince built a villa in Bagheria and established the region as an elite vacation get-away for the rich and famous. For the next hundred years, Sicily's noble and aristocratic flocked to Bagheria, and villas began dotting the landscape. Gorgeous baroque, Roman, and neoclassic villas with poetic names like Villarosa, Aragona, San Cataldo, and Palagonia are nestled in a town outlined with newer post-war constructions. Here are a few pictures - evidence of a grand past:
|Villa Palagonia built 1715|
|Villa Inguaggiato built 1770|
|Villa Cattolica built 1736, now a museum|
Bagheria is in the part of Palermo that belongs to the other missionaries, but since they have a list of less-actives that are more appropriate for sisters to teach, well, we just had to go help out.
|Bagheria church at the end of the pedestrian only street|
The Institute teacher asked us to help with Tuesday's Institute lesson that would be held in the home of Licia La Rizza, the less-active we met with a couple weeks ago. Licia gave the spiritual thought and openly shared her desire to live closer to the Lord. Then she bore testimony on prayer and how God answers us always. The Spirit was there - powerfully.
Calling on Families
The next day, we were able to help the Anziani of Bagheria get in to see a family that hasn't seen the missionaries in who-knows-how-long, and we all bore testimony on the power of Christ to get us through any and all hard times. The Spirit, again, was very strong.
Second Time's the Charm
Then we met with the Cina family (which was fantastic since this family has refused to meet with missionaries in months). It was a great teaching opportunity in more ways than one.
Turns out, Sorella Mikesell's brother, Jordan, served his mission in Italy some four years ago, and his favorite area was Palermo. In fact, our appointment in Bagheria with the Cina family (also one of her brother's favorite families, we just found out) was on Jordan's birthday. How's that for a coincidence! It is no accident that Mikesell came to Palermo and that we have the opportunity to work in Palermo 2 area.
Pirbacco! It's Giorgio!
On the street, we found a hilarious old guy named Giorgio. When we approached him, the first thing he said was, "Pirbacco!" which is an exclamation of surprise, like wow, cool, oh my gosh, golly, jee-wiz!
The funny thing was that Anziano DiCaro had just taught Mikesell that word a couple of days before and challenged her to use it. Once we heard Giorgio say it, Mikesell exclaimed (in English), "Hey, that's my word!" Giorgio speaks English and understood what she said. We laughed and invited him to attend English Course. And he showed up!
When the lesson was over, he said, "The lesson was wonderful. No, it was fantastic! No, it was marvelous! No, it was STUPENDOUS!" He's a character, but he says he doesn't want to discuss the gospel (yet).
|Wall of Graffiti with Love sayings|
At Institute there was a little boy who wanted to be called a Princess, even though his mom tried really hard to convince him he was a Prince. He eventually conceded he was not a Princess, but was instead a Queen. For the rest of the evening, his frustrated mom gently persuaded him that he was an Emperor.
Hot Chocolate: Good to the Last Spoonful
After Institute, we all ate hot chocolate. I say ate because Italian hot chocolate is thick and delicious like pudding. Mmmmmmmm.
Ward Mission Leader, Michele Boscia, is a painter. In his family's studio, I photographed one of his pieces.
|Michele Boscia painting|
An appreciation for fine things runs in the Boscia family. The antique box (right) is from the antique store Michele Boscia's grandfather owns. The intriguing box can only be opened by sequentially moving a series of secret sliding panels until it reveals a hidden key which unlocks the small chest. We have one similar to this at home. Apparently, Sorrento (near Napoli) specializes in these boxes. I don't know the age of this one.
We are doing lots of less active work and seeing some cool results. The miracle of the week is Francesca Fernandez. She was baptized at 19 and has been inactive for 20 years. She is super sweet, quite humble, and was genuinely pleased to see us on her doorstep because she said she was surprised that her name was still on record, but happy that we found her. Her husband and four children are not members, but we see a lot of hope in this family. The Spirit was there. By the end of our visit, she specifically asked us all to come back and welcomed the idea of our bringing members to join in on her lessons.
|View of Bagheria with its vineyards and farmland|
In personal study, I have been looking for the many names and titles of Jesus and writing them down. So far I have 118. There are a lot more. Looking at my list, I notice titles that are nothing less than resplendent and imposing:
Lord of all, Son of God, Holy One, The Word, King of the Jews, The Bright and Morning Star, The Light of the world, The Everlasting Father, Alpha and Omega.
These titles stretch the boundaries of human vocabulary in an attempt to describe the indescribable - the immensity of Jehovah. Try as they might to define Him, the language is just too, well, inadequate. There simply are no words that can describe Him. Maybe that's why there are so many. No single name does Him justice.
Frankly, these are titles I find un-relatable. They may begin to express the grandeur of Christ's role in the universe, but they don't express His relationship to me personally.
That's why I like to look at the many aspects of Christ's character that play a pivotal role in my life. Just think: He is our Brother, our Redeemer, our Rock and our Salvation, our Advocate, Mediator, Savior, our Teacher, our Friend, our Healer, and God's ultimate expression of Love for us. These are characteristics I can relate to.
In Heaven, Christ is certainly all Powerful, Almighty, and Omniscient, but on Earth He was approachable, touchable, and reachable.
|The Gentle Healer by Greg Olsen|
Marry Christ's grand titles with personal characteristics and you have a Deity with muscle and heart; power and compassion. Isn't that the kind of Savior we want on our side? One who will fight our battles and heal our hearts? One who will part our formidable Red Seas and weep in our personal Gethsemanes?
In my New Testament studies, I've noticed that those who knew Christ best knew him, not by titles, but by his given name - Jesus (a common name, at that). I think that says a lot.
When he decided to reveal himself to mankind, he did so by becoming one of us. People walked with him, followed him, felt his healing touch. They invited him into their homes and placed their children at his feet.
And, as far as I can tell, there was not a single person who was ever afraid to draw near to him for fear of rejection. Oh, there were those who misunderstood him, who mocked, who envied and despised him. But not one person considered him too almighty, too celestial, or too holy to draw close to him.
I like remembering that.
When fears mount and failures try to get the best of me, I know I can call on the One who is Powerful enough to expel darkness and light my path, and Loving enough to bring comfort and fill me with peace.
That's the message I love sharing with the people of Palermo. That's the Good News we're bringing in the bay area town of Bagheria.
Sorella Ashley Nef