Introductions to Bologna
When I first arrived, everything went fine. A brother picked me up from the airport, and brought me to his house where I met his family. From there, we spent a few hours resting and getting cleaned up. Then we had the meeting that night, so I got my first few glimpses of the Kingdom Hall. I'll tell you more about that later. Moving on. After meeting, they brought me to what would become my new home for three months.
It turns out that I never told my bank that I was leaving the country. That was a very bad idea, everyone. Don't neglect to do that. Why? Because if you don't tell your bank that you're leaving America, then there is a chance that they will shut your card down the moment that you try to make a withdraw, and then you'll not be able to withdraw any money. Without the ability to withdraw some money, you become dependent on many, many things and people. In the end, we figured it out and I have my money now. *whew*
|Joseph Pantano and Kimmy|
The other brothers that had planned to go on the trip with me showed up the next day. Zech (who was here for 3 months from before), Cooper, Mica, and Stetson. We moved the apartment room around to suit our likes. Now there are 5 guys sleeping in a room. Two beds are put together to make enough room for 3 guys, and the other two have their own bed. Then we have a kitchen and a bathroom, with a very cold shower. The water is cold, then warm, then frigid, then blazing, then warm, then cold, then blazing, then frigid, etc etc. Getting the idea? Moving on. There are many need greaters coming and going, and a family that has moved here from the states to serve in the English congregation. You might hear more about them later, like the Pantanos.
|Bologna English Congregation|
The Kingdom Hall is comprised of two levels, and 9 congregations. I forget all of the languages, but they include English (obviously), Chinese, Tagolog, Italian (no surprise), and French. Our territory is the English field. Service is comprised of moving through the city looking for Africans. The hall is nice, with tile and a wonderfully painted background for the speaker. They have some features I've never seen before, like a screen telling you the name of the talk, the song, what the study is, etc etc. Like, "Bearing Thorough Witness, Chapter 8, par 8-14" or whatever it is. The seats have tables that fold up and stow away. They have a front gate where a brother can buzz you in when you hit the button. Very nice. The congregation has about 38 publishers, with over 100 studies(!), all Africans. The fields are white, brothers and sisters, the fields are white.
As I mentioned, going around for the field is wonderfully interesting. We focus on Africans due to the huge influx Italy has been experiencing. You see, many Africans left their countries to seek work for their families and such, and headed for Libya. Due to the war, they were then forced to flee from Libya. When the Libyan Army captured them, however, they sent them away on boats towards Italy (with horrid conditions on board). Since Libya would not bomb and attack Italy, it was a way of using war refugees as a weapon of sorts. Italy could thus not refuse war refugees, and established camps to care for their needs. This is what brought us to Italy, to help preach to these new ones. The Bethel in Rome works very hard to keep up to date on the status of these ones in order to provide what is needed to preach.
I was on a few studies so far, so I've had a chance to hear a number of different stories of the ones that have come to Italy. One man, named Kindness, told me his story. I'll recount it to the best of my ability, so I apologize if it isn't 100% factual. From my understanding, it is, but whatever. He (the man Kindness) was put on a boat and sent towards Italy because he wasn't allowed to be in Libya anymore. The boat hit something right off the coast of Italy, and the people on board fell into the sea as the boat began to sink. Kindness fell into the sea. I believe he said he prayed to God to save him, and that he was sorry he abandoned Him. After a long, hard life of loss and tragedy, he began to feel like God never cared. Now, though, at this desperate time, he reached out to him one last time. A rescue crew ended up finding him and saving him. From the many Nigerians that were mercilessly cramed into the boat, there were less than 30 survivors. Then he was brought to Italy, where he was put into a Refugee Camp in Bologna, where he was found by Oscar, a brother in our congregation. Kindness was raised as a witness by his parents, but left the Truth when his father died. His reasoning was that since there was so much suffering around the world, God couldn't possibly care about Humans. Now, though, through studying the bible with Jehovah's Orginization, he knows more about Jehovah than he ever did. I almost started crying as he told me his story, because he mentioned how his mother would beg him to come back so he could be with his father again, and so that she could have her family back, whole. A little while after he began his study again, he became so excited and happy about what he was learning, he started telling everyone else in the camp what he was learning. Then, he decided that even though he didn't meet the qualifications to be baptized just yet, he considered himself a brother. So finally, he called his mother and told him that he was a witness again, and that he would get to be with his whole family in paradise. His mother, he said, was "very, very happy." I cried hearing it, but I think he was too busy speaking to see. Thankfully.
When these ones leave their families to try to work and earn money for them, they go to Libya, where no one wants them. They are driven out of Libya, forced by threat of death to go to Italy, where once again no one wants them. They have lost everything, family, friends, culture, homes, their whole lives. Forced to live in a country where everyone nearly hates them, where they don't want to be away from family, and many times they have no idea if their families are alive or dead. Now imagine with me, if you can, how you would feel living like that? You have lost everything you've ever known through a dramatic, emotionally distressing, and painful time period.
Then someone approaches you in the city where you're a stranger, an outcast. They show you interest, smiling and laughing with you. These people ask about your home, flooding you with memories of your dear ones. They are interested in learning about you, and helping you to learn about a God who does indeed see your pain, and eagerly wants to sooth the pain you've sustained. This God, they tell you, stores all of the tears you've shed through the years, and wants to give you a chance to set it all right in the near future. They call themselves Jehovah's Witnesses, and invite you to learn with them about Jehovah and the wonderful aspects of his personality and his will for Earth. They show the same love that you see in Jehovah's personality, and you feel cared for, for the first time in years. You go to their place of worship, and are invited and welcomed as family. Finally, you've found a place you belong.
This is the territory that we experience here in Bolonga, Italy. A people broken from hardships, depressed from losing everything they've had, and lost without any hope, but with a deep respect and love for the Bible.
*Whew* That was a fingertip full! I better go for now, but rest assured, friends. As soon as I learn more, I'll tell you what I can.
Thank you for your patience, and for reading. Until my next post, take care!