(Note: This post was written on Thursday, October 4) There is no way to fully express the experience called Venice, even though we were only there for about 44 hours. Old, water, elegant, boats, Italian yet filled with people from everywhere, more water, big (much bigger than I expected) and busy, all sorts of boats, historic, did I mention water(?), too much to see in a lifetime, boats that I have never seen before….and water.


Much of what we saw and enjoyed, you can read about in travel books and hear from others. It’s all true. We didn’t have time for the major museums or to explore the classic art in the innumerable churches, and we decided to skip the gondola ride. But every narrow alley, every canal is a treat. Our hotel was on a skinny long island called Lido (Beach), which is a ten minute walk from a beautiful public beach on the Adriatic Sea, and a short vaporetto (water bus) ride to the center of the city.

The highlight of our time happened in the Ghetto. In the middle ages throughout Europe, Jewish people had to live in designated neighborhoods called ghettos, where in some cases they were locked in at night. The word ghetto originated in Venice. Currently, there are a few remaining synagogues and other Jewish establishments still there, though there are only a few Jewish people left in the city. There is also a Jewish museum, which we did see. I will let Robin take it from here:

We were walking through the main square of the getto, and I saw a group of teens, so I listened and a teacher was speaking English. One of the students read a paper on the history of Venice, and another read one on the history of the ghetto. And then another teacher began talking, to “fill in the gaps” about the ghetto and the Jewish people. It was so respectful, honouring, and moving that I was in tears. The group moved on, but I decided that I wanted to find that teacher to thank him (if I could possibly do so without breaking down).

Alan and I found him nearby, and I tried to tell him how much I appreciated what he said. At first when I told him we were Jewish people from Canada, he was worried that somehow he had caused offense. He was very sweet and humble, but we made him understand that far from being offended, we really, really appreciated what he said, which really blessed him to hear.

We can’t say we were surprised to learn that the teacher was a believer. He was leading a group of students from an American school in London, England. I don’t know if I can convey the impact of this unusual encounter, but it has to do with hearing words of honor and respect in the midst of a place that symbolizes great shame. So many yearn to hear such words spoken to them. Our people need to hear such words from men like this teacher.

This ancient scroll was on display in the Jewish museum in the Ghetto square:


This morning we traveled by train to Trieste which is located at the north, eastern corner of Italy, where it borders Slovenia, and where we were picked up by car for the drive to Ljubljana to start the final leg of this journey. Details to follow.

Blessings to the Nations

According to the Torah, the raison d’être of the Jewish people is that we would be a blessing to the nations (see Genesis 12:3). It is overwhelming to me (in a good way) that Robin and I could be in Italy and have to opportunity to be a blessing in a multi-nation congregation. The congregation in which we served yesterday (Sunday) itself is an interesting example of how one nation can bless another. One could say that it has its roots going all the way back to 1492, when Christopher Columbus (an Italian!) began his search for a new route to the Far East. One of his stops on his first voyage was the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which today is home to both Haiti, where are daughter Sarah is being a blessing, and the Dominican Republic. The Italian congregation that invited us here is called “Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano” and has its roots in the Dominican Republic! There are several people from that country who are part of this congregation currently, including the pastor’s wife. From time to time leaders and others from the Dominican republic come to visit.

Something I stressed when I spoke there yesterday was how one people group being a blessing to another people group not only goes back to God’s promise to Abraham, but first came to pass when Yeshua the Messiah sent out his early followers to the nations. The Gospel breaks down the barriers  between peoples and draws us together as brothers and sisters all worshipping the God of Israel (note: click on photos for larger versions).

SAMSUNGAbout 200 people attended the morning service. We sang one song in English and Italian, one song in Spanish, and the rest in Italian.

SAMSUNGThe first song was the English song “Our God”, which we knew. They may have done it for our sakes. Here is a panoramic shot of the worship team. Sorry, it’s not the clearest shot, but Robin’s new phone has this feature, and I think it is cool. The worship leader is from Brazil. Most of the songs were quite lively. After the worship time, everyone is encouraged to hug each other (lots of kissing; of the appropriate kind, of course!).

2013-09-29 10.37.17After the service we went to the pastor’s home and had a wonderful multi-course dinner. One has to remember that the pasta dish is not the main course!

2013-09-29 13.59.27Here is the pastor of the church, Aldo Cerasino, his wife Mariela, and their daughter, Rebekah:

SAMSUNGLater in the afternoon, Robin had a special session with just under 30 ladies from the church, which went very well.

Tomorrow Robin and I head off by train on our own for two nights in Venice before we go to Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Thursday.

Thanks to all who have been praying for us. Please don’t stop now! Continue to pray for our family while we are gone and for our time in Venice and Ljubljana.

Parma Bible Seminar completed


Last night (Friday), this morning, and afternoon I presented my Bible overview seminar in Parma. Translation into Italian was provided by our host Francesco Abortivi. About twenty people attended (see below) and it seemed to go very well. I really enjoyed working with Francesco, and the people were very attentive as I explained how the Gospel is deeply rooted in the Hebrew Bible. I will be speaking again at the normal Sunday service and Robin will be sharing with a group of ladies in the late afternoon.



Pizza was provided for lunch:

SAMSUNGOn the way home we stopped for our first gelato, freshly made on the premises. That’s a fresco on the wall.

2013-09-28 18.27.49



Yesterday was our first full day in Italy. The first session of my Bible seminar is this evening (Friday) and continues tomorrow morning and afternoon. I speak as well in the regular Sunday morning service. Robin’s talk is on Sunday afternoon.

We are staying with new friends in Fornovo, which is about a half hour outside of Parma. Yesterday morning we got to see a bit of Parma. This is me and Robin standing in front of  a palatial municipal building.


The ancient churches with the abundance of frescos (paintings painted on the plaster walls, the other old buildings, and narrow streets told me we are really in Italy, not to mention my first capaccino at a sidewalk cafe (the cafe pictured here with Robin doing one of her favorite things: getting to know a new friend (visiting Parma from South Africa).


Almost every street had an interesting view:


Later in the afternoon we went to Torrechiara, one of the many castles in the region. It was first built in 1464.


I will never think of “a man’s home is his castle” or “I am king of the castle” in the same way again!

While most of the castle’s room were empty, the houses within the protection of its walls are occupied:


In the evening we went to a last minute church meeting in the place where the seminar will be held. A man from Holland who recently retired after over 40 years with the organization “The Navigators”, about twenty of which were in Northern Italy, was leading a trip with several of his long-time supporters, also from Holland. At one point he was interviewing one of his Dutch companions, asking questions in Dutch and then translating both the questions and answers into Italian. Our host was sitting with us, quietly translating into English. Sitting behind us was someone else translating into Spanish for another visitor.

This particular congregation is predominately Latin American, but Italian speaking. There are people from such places as Spain, Brazil , and the Dominican Republic, some Africans , and even Italians! Both Robin and I, for a long time, have had a heart for the gathering of nations, but didn’t expect to experience it to this extent in Northern Italy.

If you are a praying person, please be praying for us as our formal teaching begins tonight.

Safe and Sound in Italy


First day in Parma, Italy. Flights went well, except for sleep. First meal? Pasta, of course – and really good.

Later we took a long walk. Ate grapes off the vine and a fresh fig off the tree. Here is a sample vista:


On the plane!


Taking off for Milan via Frankfurt in about 15 minutes.

Five days to go!


This coming Tuesday evening Robin and I begin our first ever teaching trip to Europe as we go to Parma, Italy and Ljubljana, Slovenia. Keep watching this blog as we provide updates and photos.