On Saturday, August 16 and 23, I finally visited the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Florence. It was a bit of a journey just to travel from the center of Florence and reach the outskirts where the church is at. Days before, I emailed the church and let them know that I was a student abroad. The youth pastor of the church contacted me right away and gave me directions. I appreciated the help, but because of the language barrier and the fact that I did not know how the bus system works, I got lost trying to find this church.
On Sabbath morning, I walked to the train station where I was supposed to meet bus number 14. It took me a long time just to figure out which bus stop to wait at. To make a long story short, I got on the bus. The youth pastor told me where to get off, but he did not tell me how to get from the stop to the church. I ended up asking a local where the street was located. He did not speak any English, and I only know basic Italian phrases. I showed him the directions the youth pastor wrote down for me and he ended up walking me to the church. After thanking him (saying “Grazie” of course!) I walked up to the church.
I have been told that up to 300 people attend the church. I learned that this month was an exception. August is the month where Italians take time off and go on vacation. The church had maybe 60-70 people the day I visited and there were no young people. The youth pastor who gave me directions was not in church that day as well. The woman who translated the sermon for me on my first Sabbath told me that more young people show up during the school year mostly because the Adventist university is right next to the church in Florence. The next week (today), there were 15 youth.
Both Sabbaths the translator only told me bits and pieces of the sermon. On the first Sabbath, the woman had an upper intermediate level of English. She did a good job over all, but she was very apologetic for not telling me the sermon word-for-word. The second weekend, I had a young man the same age as me translate the sermon. He was more fluent, but he occasionally got distracted and whispered to his girlfriend who sat on the other side of him. When that happened, I would jester by pointing to my ear that I needed a translation. I really need to learn Italian.
To be honest, I didn’t go to church to listen to a profound sermon. I don’t know the language. I really felt the need to meet other Adventists. I wanted to find a home away from home. Did I find these last two weekends? I can’t answer that. I can say that the people from the Dominican Republic who live in Italy now appeared genuinely happy to see me again the second week. A woman in her late 20s named Agnes smiled and greeted me even though her English and my Italian were weak. She enjoyed gesturing with me, which made my day. There was also an older gentleman from Serbia who was happy to see me again.
I will also admit that I found refuge in Native English speakers, but they are only passing through. The first weekend, there was a girl from Canada in her early thirties. Today I met a couple from Australia who gave me a lift back to the center of Florence so I wouldn’t have to take the bus. The Canadian woman and the Australian couple were only visiting and traveling. I believe God knows that if they stay here permanently, then I won’t have a chance to really know the others.
And who knows, I might be situated in another city. Right now I really hope Rome works out (there are a number of language schools that are looking for English teachers right now), but since I’m talking about church, I will say that I’m leaving my future in God’s hands. He knows where I am supposed to find my home away from home. It would be lovely to stay in Florence as well if it’s possible.
God bless and keep me in your prayers!