Part One: The Dilemma
It was a misty evening in early December when we first put foot to pavement in Genoa, Italy. Luminous in the fog & fading sunlight,the city rose before us; tiers upon tiers of palazzos & piazzas, winding streets & whiskered old men, just waiting to call us 'bella' and rain down unwanted kisses on our cheeks. (I didn't find out that last part until too late.) We'd booked into the local youth hostel, which sat on the uttermost tier of the city. We had just enough money to stay there until we were expected in Ljubljana, roughly 3 weeks later, where we were going to be working with a new church, teaching evangelism and prayer. We didn't know quite what we were supposed to do in Italia for 3 weeks, the five of us, except travel through it before reaching Slovenia sometime right after the New Year. We ascended the crowded hills, our bus actually scraping paint off its sides as it navigated the narrow city streets; walls looming. A few hours later we found ourselves pacing in the courtyard, shoulders hunched against the wind that blew in off the Ligurian Sea. The youth hostel, we discovered, was closing for the Christmas holiday just 5 short days hence. ("Buon Natale! Now get out!") We couldn't afford to stay anywhere else, so we paced, trying to figure out what to do. We prayed. And prayed. Over the next couple of days we kept praying, walking around Genoa's innumerable circuitous streets and alleys and asking God what we should do. I seem to recall a brief side-trip to il palazzo di Christopher Columbus, where I filched a rose from his garden and said, fist in the air, "That's for the Indians, man!"
There was a definite bite in the December air, so we sought out all the public indoor meeting places we could find, in order to pray. It ended up being libraries mostly; I recommend seeing a city primarily through its libraries. I will never forget the quiet rooms and black & white checked floors in the library in the neighboring village of Portifino, which couldn't be more Italian if it had Isabella Rossellini riding by on a Vespa, jaunty red scarf fluttering, bottles of vino askew. These prayer times seemed to set the stage for our entire time in Italy, although we little knew what we needed to learn before we could be led by the voice of God. We sat on rocks looking out on the Mediterranean and looked south to Israel.