The First Sunday I attended the Waldensian Church here in Bobbio, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a service in French—another evidence of the depth of the French roots in this community. Not many were in attendance, and the heat from the little wood stove just about cooked us, but no complaints. With our Siberian introduction to the village, a little toasty fellowship was more than welcome.
In time, as we attended week after week, we tried to decode the Italian, saw the tiny congregation grow as folks returned from points south after the winter, and then the service moved over to the temple (the Waldensian word for the building, the 'church' being the people). We spotted some familiar faces in the growing crowd: the woman from the café we frequent after the service. A woman who met with one of our staff at the library reading club. And then Jane, who I’ll tell you about in a minute.
To our astonishment, and rather early on, we were invited to conduct a service one Sunday. Hard to believe that in Europe, and in a remote location, foreigners would be accepted so easily and given not only an invitation to contribute, but to actually facilitate the entire service. Unprecedented in my 20 years in Europe (nor do I see this happen in the States)!
Last Sunday was our Sunday. We prepared with music, Scriptures, and a choreographed movement of the Our Father in French (my role). A photography slide show played in the background, and a visual arts piece was created while our cook, Elia, gave a short sermon in Italian.
We spotted Jane in the crowd. We first met Jane on the evening we hosted local musicians—her husband was a member of the brass band. They own and run the local trattoria, where you can eat gobs of food for dirt cheap. Some of our students struck up a friendship with Jane, and most of us have begun going over for a meal now and then (when we need a break from the din of the dining room!).
Jane has been deeply touched by both the students, their music and their art. Our Asian/Asian descent students especially seem to have captured her heart.
Although she didn’t know we were to conduct the service last Sunday, and although Jane never attends church, last Sunday she felt an urge to go, and was surprised to find us! When we sang "Amazing Grace," Jane was deeply moved—“My mother used to sing that to me…” she told us later at lunch.
For that Sunday, after our morning cappuccino at Silvano’s, we ALL showed up at Jane’s for lunch—or as many of us as could squeeze in. After our usual pasta/bread carb overload, we gave Jane a standing ovation and hugs, bringing her to tears.
I’m not sure what Jane is thinking, but I know she is being loved on and affirmed by many of our students, who are planning going-away gifts and now going almost daily to visit her. She knows them by name, and the One who knows her by name is surely on the move…