Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Aprilia Convegno

On October 27-29, the Aprilia congregation held a convegno (convention, similar to a youth rally, in this instance) for young people. Aprilia is a town about the same size as Columbia, and is about an hours' drive south of Rome. All of us AI workers, and Robbie, the director of the Harding University study abroad program here in Florence, piled into our 80-something model Volkswagon van on Friday afternoon...

Not far from Rome, we were driving along when we passed a bright red van with white letters down the side. "Hey, I think that was the Vicenza group!" someone called out. We slowed waaay down, trying to get the van to pass us so we could see if it really was them. Finally, they did, and sure enough, it was the Vicenza group. They recognized us and waved (our van isn't marked, but most of the other church groups know it well enough--they've prayed at past convegnos that we'll actually make it home in that thing...:) ). We honked and waved, and we passed each other a few times and then they followed us all the way through Rome.

We made it into Aprilia pretty late. Kelly, Anna, and I stayed with a couple from the church, Roberto and Rosa, and their daughter Cristina. The next morning, we all met at the church at ten. The theme of the weekend was a song, "La Vita di un Mediano," by a popular Italian singer, Ligabue. The title means the life of a mediano, which is a soccer player who plays a certain position. (You know how little I know about sports; don't ask me what exactly a mediano does!) The point was to compare us as church members to a team. We all play different positions, but we all have to do our part for the church to do well. Robbie was the main speaker, and then several of the young people gave short talks about the church as a community. Later, we had discussions about being active in the church. As we were all getting ready to leave that night, some of the members from Aprilia began to sing, and several of us joined in. We sat around and sang for quite awhile. Although I'm no star singer, I love to sing and I enjoy singing together with other Christians. It reminded me of the many times when my friends and I would sit around with a song book and sing for hours when we were teenagers.

The Aprilia congregation has a large group of young people, and they did a great job organizing the weekend. I believe we would all agree that the best part of the weekend was meeting so many people from various places around Italy, and for those who have been here longer, seeing old friends from past convegnos. Since the Christians here are such a minority, they appreciate each other and their time together all the more. There were several people who came all the way from Catania in Sicily in the south and from as far north as Vicenza. I don't know the exact count, but there were probably 50-60 of us.

Overall, it was a good experience for my first convegno, although there were frustrating moments when I had a hard time understanding the discussion with my still-limited Italian. I am looking forward to the next convegno, when hopefully I will speak more Italian and be able to get to know all of the people I met.

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