Sicily; Not what we saw, but how it made us feel; Mediterranean Cruise Part 6

Sicily; Not what we saw, but how it made us feel; Mediterranean Cruise Part 6

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Destination: Sicily, Italy
Date: December 2012

So happy to find church in Sicily!!
Messina, Sicily, December 2012

Going to church in a foreign country can be daunting.  However, if you’ve never done it you should give it a try.  After being out of the states for eight days our spiritual well being needed to be filled.  We happened to be in Sicily on this particular Sunday and looked online to find our churches nearest meeting house, and what time the sacrament would begin.  

Waiting for Dad to find us a taxi to church
Sicily, December 2012

When we walked off our cruise ship we were inundated by taxi drivers all willing to take us to the nearby sights in Sicily.  We knew we couldn’t hire any of those drivers since they would be set on a day long hire and not just one to take us three miles down the road.  So we continued to walk further into the city to find a willing cabby.  

Not long after Trent was able to convince two taxis to take us to our destination, Umberto Bonino Scala 1A!  When we told our driver the address of our church he quickly denied that any churches were located there.  He kept pointing to the Catholic church located in the Piazza that we were standing in and told us to go there.  Our limited Italian and his near non-existent English did not make for a very easy conversation but finally our message was understood and we were on our way.  

Bella was so excited to find a purse that fit her perfectly
Sicily, December 2012

Speaking Italian would be very helpful, especially in a place like Sicily!  Unlike so many of our other ports this was the most difficult to find anyone who spoke or even tried to understand English.  Trent became very street wise on hand signs to use when communicating our desires.  It was actually a little hilarious to the kids and I, even if Trent wasn’t as amused.  On a side note the kids and I also enjoy Trent’s attempts at Italian by sliding into Spanish which wasn’t understood either.  Then when he does find someone who speaks a little English with a very thick accent, he acquires the accent to be understood.  It kept us laughing on more than a few occasions.  We sure do love you honey!

The sign we were dying to find!
Sicily, December 2012

Finally after a twenty minute taxi ride we arrived at our address.  Like the taxi driver said there was no obvious church in the area.  It was a big industrial area with lots of businesses and warehouse space in a long strip mall type area.  Our eyes searched, and searched and I could see the smug expression on my cabbies face as he kept repeating “no churcha, no churcha”.  Finally, Colton spotted a familiar sign on the building wall with our churches name written in Italian!  We were so relieved.  

Once Trent paid our drivers they gave us their business card to indicate to give them a call when our service was done.  I think he probably paid them pretty good if they were willing to come back.  This also made me laugh since it had been so difficult to convince them to take us there in the first place!  

In church and ready to sit through all of it in Italian
Messina, Sicily, December 2012

Now to our second obstacle.  Though we found the sign the door was locked.  In our efforts to save face we didn’t want the cabbies to know there was no entrance to our church and so we lingered a little in front to take pictures as our cabbies waited to see if we would get in.  One even motioned for us to come back because there was “no churcha” there, but Trent found a series of buzzers to push and we prayed someone would answer our ring.  Finally the door clicked open and we were free from our cabbies  interrogating watch.  

So much relief was felt as we stumbled into the industrial building.  White tiled floors, white walls, and gratefully a familiar picture of Christ greeted us.  Just up a flight of stairs we were greeted by an Italian usher of the congregation.  Of course he didn’t speak a word of English, but the look of love on his face was easy to recognize.  He didn’t seem the least bit flustered that we didn’t speak any Italian, and counted all eight of us and began making his own decisions of what to do with our confused looking lot.  

Lexi playing “Do you love your neighbor?” with the kids in Primary
Sicily, December 2012

He quickly took us straight over to their primary.  This was about the only word I understood as he very loudly spoke Italian but at a calming pace.  When he opened the door there were three tiny women sitting around a small church table with three young boys.  Two of the women were Italian straight from an Al Pacino movie, and the third was a Philipino woman who had immigrated to Sicily.  

Leah posing with one of her primary teachers at church.  Could this woman be any sweeter?
Sicily, December 2012

These women quickly stood up and began hugging our children.  With no heat in the room they still wore their huge black winter coats and stood about five feet tall.  They were tiny, but so full of love.  One of the women came over to me and went on and on in Italian and then grabbed both of my cheeks with her soft little worn hands and pulled me in to kiss me.  She then ran her hands down my arms to my hands and grabbed them and spoke to me softly as if to say, “I will take care of your children, just go on to class now.”

Leah thought it was pretty cool to see a Book of Mormon in Italian
Sicily, December 2012

Right then for some reason I was so overcome with the spirit of this tiny little church.  My eyes began to pool with water and I was so touched by this woman’s full heart of love.  Though I couldn’t decipher the words she was speaking, her heart connected with mine, and I knew we were sisters in this gospel of Jesus Christ.  After a hectic and uncertain morning, and getting all six kids in the right clothes to attend church, I had felt a little frazzled and this woman had put my mind at ease.  The best part was my kids were such great troopers about all of this.  They hugged their new teachers and we were quickly ushered out the door to our class.  

Bella, Lexi and Leah posing with the Primary President
Sicily, December 2012

Since it was the fifth Sunday, and because their church has their meetings in a backwards order than we do in Texas, the adults and youth were all meeting together with the bishop.  The chapel was in the largest room of this complex, and we were lucky if it sat sixty people.  Colton, Bailey, Trent and I found seats in the back and we were ready for our class.  We didn’t understand anything that was said but the words on the whiteboard were easy enough to figure out.  The lesson was on salvation and sacrifice.  Again we didn’t understand the words but we understood the message.  

My new best friend who could only say Bella, Bella as she touched my face.
Can’t help but love her!
Sicily, December 2012

We enjoyed our Sunday School lesson, then had the best bread we’ve ever enjoyed during Sacrament meeting (it was sourdough, yum!) and soon finished three hours of simple messages of faith and dedication.  At one point during the last hour of church a little boy had to be taken out during the meeting for being a little rowdy and he was clutching his soccer ball.  The kids thought this was all so entertaining.  

All of us at church with the Elders who did a great job translating for us during Sunday School
Sicily, December 2012

We soon said our goodbyes to our new friends and wished the Elders from California and Utah good luck, and made our way out of the industrial building.  The members of the congregation had given us good advice on taking the public train back to our port so we could change before setting off on our day of fun.  The neighborhood around the church was very poor and dirty, but unbelievably right next to the water and had a beautiful view of the Mediterranean.  

Our very clean train ride back to the port after church
Sicily, December 2012

We walked down a very narrow sidewalk over to the train that happened to be starting his route at our stop.  The door to the train was wide open and so we filed on.  Trent tried motioning to the other passengers to see where we could pay but no one seemed to understand our message, or at least knew how to give us an answer.  I was ready for a free ride and wasn’t too concerned.  I figured if someone came by to collect a ticket we could just pay them, but Trent wanted to make sure we paid our fare.  Finally he got the conductors attention and waved some money at him.  He communicated a message that the ticket booth was closed today and when Trent gave him the motion if we should stay on the train or get off, he gave us the motion to stay.  So we were good!  Apparently since the ticket booths are closed on Sundays the trip was free.  

Trent and Bailey on the train
Sicily, December 2012

After almost a five hour excursion of just going to church we were ready for a late lunch, and a change of clothes.  As I thought about the events of the day I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to visit any of the major sites of Sicily.  I wanted to see more of this beautiful island than an industrial park in a dirty neighborhood, but then I began to reflect on the feeling I gained from our encounter with these lovely locals of Sicily.  The way they made me and my family feel as they welcomed us into their hearts.  They also shared with us their sweet spirits of love and gratitude for coming to visit.  At one point a sweet woman who introduced herself as Lucia Amado motioned to my face several times saying… “bella, bella”.  Then she held both of my hands and smiled so sweetly as she kissed my cheeks and said her goodbyes.  

I realize my experience in Sicily may not be very useful to those of you seeking travel knowledge, but for me Sicily was about the way I felt, and not what I saw.  I’m glad to know I have brothers and sisters in the gospel where ever I am in the world!

Have safe, happy, and life changing travels!

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