We Arrive in Naples: The Gospel Comes to Italy


We’re here! … in Naples, enjoying lovely Mediterranean temperatures, hearing the music of spoken Italian drifting from the courtyard below our window,

1 Forum Hotel room balcony view

View from our room’s balcony: Hotel Forum in Naples

and anticipating a wonderful two weeks touring with Jeff Weima on a study tour exploring the impact of the gospel on historic Italy (http://www.jeffweima.com).

Jet-lag is a real thing for us all, but we look forward to living into this time zone more easily tomorrow, many of us having followed the instruction NOT to take a nap this afternoon, no matter how strongly our eyes drooped and our bodies sagged.

To forestall sleep, an afternoon walk was in order! Hotel Forum is a short distance from the historic ruins of Pompeii on one side and the Shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary of Pompeii (a Baroque cathedral in process from 1876 until 1925) on the other. 4b The pontifical shrine of the blessed virgin of the rosary of Pompei.jpgTrue to its design, it is very ornamental, but welcoming with cool and varied marble throughout.

4a Shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary of Pompei

Gerry enjoyed the marble floors, pillars and veneers.

The park square next to the cathedral is filled with memorials and works of art. We discovered a memorial to September 11, gifted to Naples from the New York Port Authority to commemorate the many lives lost on that awful day. To discover why this piece of the World Trade Center is right here, some research was in order. Here’s what we learned:  Pompeii is the only city in Italy that has received an authentic fragment from the World Trade Center from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The 6-meter tall piece of steel is inserted in a block of lava stone from Vesuvius, and symbolizes the solid bonds of brotherhood between the U.S. and Italian people. 3 Momento to September 11.jpg

Our afternoon closed with an aMAZing four-course dinner at our hotel, after which we all, needing sleep and respite, retired. Tomorrow we tour the Amalfi Coast, supposedly the most beautiful drive in the world. We’ll keep you posted ….

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… and, we’re off!

Cabin with moose calves

Tomorrow night, Gerry and I leave our comfortable Moose River cabin for six weeks of adventure, first “outside” (meaning the Lower 48, those continental states that are not AK or HI) then across the Atlantic.

First, we will be traveling to Florida to meet up with a World Renew outreach team sponsored by Shawnee Park CRC, our home church while we lived in MI. With a second team from Ontario, Canada, we will be doing restoration and renovation for some folks whose homes were damaged in floods this past year. Our accommodations will be in a hurricane shelter where there will be plenty of space and beds, but not a bunch of creature comforts. Our team leader says we will be able to experience, to a degree, what folks who need to leave their homes and seek shelter during extreme weather experience.

Second, we look forward to a week on Holden Beach, NC, with dear friends. When Gerry sang in a gospel quartet while we attended Trinity Pres in Anchorage, he developed deep friendships with his singing buddies, relationships that have stood the test of time and distance separation. This year will mark thirteen years of gathering at the Sand Castle for bridge, puzzles, day trips, wonderful meals, some singing and grand fellowship.

Finally, we will join Jeff Weima and other tour members for “The Gospel Comes to Italy”, a learning trip through Italian sites touched by the ministries of Paul, Peter, and Mark. We look forward to gaining much insight and information — Jeff is a master teacher.

Our return to AK in late April will be just in time to see our poppies bloom. Summer in Alaska is our favorite time, so we will be glad to be home.poppies

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In the Mean Time …

1 Museum of Natural HistoryThis morning’s visit to the Museum of Natural History to view their collection of gems and minerals can be labeled a success.  Gerry (me, too) really enjoyed the displays

Gerry inspecting a mineral specimen; rainbow gemstones

Gerry inspecting a mineral specimen; rainbow gemstones

even though the English school children were there in full force, making the exhibits very crowded.  Having free access to these national treasures is a real boon for British educators.

IWM signNot a success was our plan to visit the Imperial War Museum; we arrived after lunch only to find an unwelcome sign.  In the mean time, saddened but resilient, we decided on a Thames River cruise all the way to Greenwich (known best for Greenwich Mean Time).  It was a lovely day with sunshine and warm temps, so cruising down the river was very pleasant and restful.

Once in Greenwich, we thoroughly enjoyed the sights that accompany the stately buildings of England’s royalty’s residences at Greenwich.  King Henry VII and Queen Mary II had a large complex built for seamen (It eventually served as an academy for the Royal Navy.), complete with a chapel, a pensioner’s hall, and a queen’s house all located together on acres and acres of park, now a nationally registered site.  A school of music and dance utilizes some of the buildings currently and we had the treat of listening to an adjudicated master singing class in the chapel while we wandered the nave.

4 Greenwich's Painted HallThe Painted Hall houses the largest ceiling painting in England and kept us awed for an hour, mostly because large rectangular mirrors on wheels were provided throughout the hall which you could move to whatever spot you chose and view the ceiling paintings w/o craning your neck.  Ingenious!









We also visited a Maritime Museum,

Gerry with the biggest ship-in-a-bottle in the world; the sails of said ship have vividly-designed sails.

Gerry with the biggest ship-in-a-bottle in the world; the sails of said ship have vividly colorful designs.

the Cutty Sark (the last of the swift clipper ships that plied trade from the Orient to the West),5e Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory built on the Prime Meridian.

The white line marks the Prime Meridian, Zero Longitude.

The white line marks the Prime Meridian, Zero Longitude.

We were too late to actually stand with one leg in both time worlds, but we can say we were there.








Our serendipitous visit to Greenwich made Evensong at Westminster Abbey impossible, but we did tour the heart of London at night, giving us a totally different view of things than a daytime visit.

Parliament Park at night

Tomorrow is Travel-Home Day.  London has been great (The weather was unseasonably sunny.) and we are glad to have visited, but it is time to be home.

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A full day’s short report …

The British Museum and “Billy Elliot” – only two events, but making for a full day.

2 The Britsh MuseumWhile Gerry wrapped up at APPEX this morning, I headed off to the museum.  We made plans to meet at the information kiosk in the early afternoon, so following the self-led tour described in Rick Steves’ book, I wandered solo through Egyptian and Assyrian history:  saw the actual Rosetta Stone, learned more about the veneration of cats in ancient Egypt    [ : ) ], and was almost crushed by English school groups in the Mummy Room – it seems elementary and middle school students are intrigued by mummies.

A mid-morning docent-led tour through the religious history of England

This Fourth Century mosaic from an English church is some of the earliest Christian art in England.

This Fourth Century Christ mosaic is some of the earliest Christian art in England.

and an early afternoon gallery lecture on the Roman mosaics of Carthage provided variety and interest.  I actually “took tea” (with a raisin scone with butter and jam – nice!) and found it remarkably rejuvenating.

Greek history and the Elgin marbles had to wait for Gerry’s arrival; we wanted to actually see the antiquities we’d only heard about while in Greece in January.  The final docent tour of the day led us through some Assyrian palace reliefs depicting lots of lion hunting and slave conquering.  As both of us were beginning to flag, a stately tour of the English Exhibition Hall was just the antidote; the library-like surroundings and tasteful displays were just what we needed.

After a simple Thai noodle dinner, 6 Victoria Palace theatrewe claimed our seats in the Victoria Palace Theatre for “Billy Elliot”.  We enjoyed the energy, movement and pathos of the musical and are very glad we went.

Tomorrow, our last day in London, is set aside for Gerry’s choices:  the Natural History Museum’s gem and mineral display and the English War Museum.  We’re aiming for Evensong at Westminster Abbey to round out the day.

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The Most Important Street in Britain

During the off-season, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace happens less frequently; today was one of the lucky days, so off I went, hopefully early enough to have a good viewpoint.  I scored a spot on the Victoria Memorial where I had a wide-angle view of everything, but not a close-up of anything.  Rick Steves mentions if you want to see every other tourist visiting London right now, this is the place to go, so I certainly was NOT alone.1 The crowd gathers (640x362)

There was lots of marching here and there, shouting commands, striding about, and making official and ceremonial moves during the 45-minute exercise – it was all kinds of cool.  My most favorite part was the brass band that played the relieving guards on board as well as played the relieved guards off; they were VERY good,2b The band plays a concert (640x362) even playing the theme song from the latest James Bond movie and the known Louis Armstrong tune “What a Wonderful World” as a mini-concert in the middle of the proceedings.   Yay for memorable music!

5 Nelson atop Trafalger Square tower (362x640)Once the new guards were installed, I walked The Mall right into the heart of London past St James’ Palace (where William stays when he’s in town) and St. James’ Park, under the Admiralty Arch, and right into Trafalgar Square.  Lord Nelson, 170 feet high, looks over the city, memorializing his defeat of the Spanish in Britain’s greatest naval victory.

Touring the National Gallery, with art spanning more than 700 years (1200 – 1900), was interesting and educational.  It’s simply amazing to see original works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, and many others; noting layers of paint and actual brush strokes proves they are real, but it’s hard to believe that I’m seeing works they created hundreds of years ago.

Walking Whitehall (the most important street in Britain) took the rest of the afternoon.  Dignitaries shuttle between ministries of treasury, finance and security, looking important in limos and snazzy suits.  Important peopleThe Horse Guard polices access to Buckingham Palace and Bobbies restrict entrance to #10 Downing Street while protesters gather and stage rather loud demonstrations from a safe distance.

Further on, Whitehall’s name changes to Parliament Street.  The noted and very famous houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben cluster around Parliament Square, giving the area an air of pageantry and history.8c Houses of Parliament (640x362)  The Thames, so important to and ever-present in London, is a short walk from the government buildings; I crossed it twice, once on Westminster Bridge (with a view of London Eye, the HUMONGOUS Ferris wheel built10 The London Eye across the Thames (640x362) in 2000 to celebrate the millennium), then again on the Jubilee Pedestrian Bridge.  The sun was shining brightly today, so I actually ended up with sun-burned cheeks!

Gerry’s presentation went really well today; several folks visited the Doyon exhibit after hearing him speak, so the talk served its purpose exactly.  Jim Mery, Doyon’s chief executive here at the conference, is collecting contact info on several good prospects; Gerry and his colleagues are encouraged.

The APPEX conference finishes by 2 p.m. tomorrow, so Gerry and I are making plans to do some touristing together – yippee! 

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On the South Bank

London Bridge is fall…  no, wait — the actual London Bridge is in Arizona somewhere, replaced now with a very sleek and modern span across the skyline,

Modern London Bridge, from afar and close-up.

Modern London Bridge, from afar and close-up.

so although the history associated with the bridge is interesting and full of drama, it means little if the bridge it’s all about it nowhere to be seen – sigh ….

My plan, after touring the City of London side of the Thames yesterday, was to cross London Bridge and explore the South Bank, known as the “wrong side of the tracks” dating as far back as Roman days (red light district, industrial wasteland, home of prostitutes and pick-pockets).  Today this area has been revamped and is a treasury of pubs, inns, and historic sights.  Rick Steves’ “one-hour walk” turned into a whole day of wandering for me filled with intrigue, instruction and investigation.

Immediately below London Bridge is Southwark Cathedral, a lovely restful place where (supposedly) Shakespeare prayed and his brother rang the bells, where Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee stained glass window is installed, and where countless noteworthy folks are entombed.  Just for Lent, an artist has created what I found to be a very cool, meaningful woolen yarn falls draping the High Altar:Yarn falls

Nearby the cathedral, in the attic of a neighborhood church (reached by climbing the steep and circuitous bell tower spiral staircase), is the Old Operating Museum and Herb Garret, a place where, before anesthesia and without antiseptics, surgeries were performed.  This particular place was created to care for women and was where Florence Nightengale started her nursing school.  In addition to the operating theatre,7f Operating theatre much of the attic was set aside for the development and storage of herbal remedies.  I was struck by how the ingredients of and effects attributed to individual herbal potions sound very much like the language used to describe contemporary essential oils’ benefits:Herbal medicine

Leaving the attic hospital after spending much more time there than I ever thought I would, I enjoyed an open-air market set up directly under London Bridge.9b Borough Market stall  Fresh meats, vegetables, fruit and nuts shared space with all sorts of ethnic food stalls; it was a wonderfully aromatic place.

I was growing a bit weary, so stopped in the Anchor Pub,12 The Anchor pub an establishment dating back some 800 years, where according to legend, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Samuel Johnson all had a pint or two.  I had just a half-pint in one of many rooms in the warren-like place;12 Clink bar in the Anchor pub the bartender allowed me to taste a couple of options before I chose a light lager.  Having regained some energy, I followed the Thames-side walkway past the site of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, past the new Globe Theatre14 New Globe Theatre (with the first thatched roof allowed in the city since the Great Fire of 1666), across the Milennium pedestrian bridge

Note St. Paul's Cathedral directly ahead.

Note St. Paul’s Cathedral directly ahead.

and eventually into the Tate Gallery of Modern Art.  Discovering six original Picassos and Monet’s “Water Lilies” was the highlight of my visit, after which is was definitely time to return to the hotel.

Gerry and his Doyon colleagues talked to LOTS of folks about AKn oil exploration at the conference today, so came away feeling rather encouraged.  Finding a partner would be a remarkable success, so we can hope for that outcome.  We all went out for dinner together at a snazzy Italian place; dessertGerry and I shared double chocolate tort a la mode for dessert — what a great way to end the day!

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Strolling down the Strand

Jet-lag is a mysterious thing; there are all sorts of remedies for getting over the time differential quickly and for lessening its impact, but nothing beats a nice long sleep, which we enjoyed last night – such a long sleep that Gerry and I awoke just four short minutes before he was to meet his colleagues this morning!  There definitely was some scurrying around to get him out the door swiftly.

My morning was much more leisurely.  After showering, I located a local grocery store Waitrose and wandered the aisles finding fruit, cheese, bread …. and DR. PEPPER!  We have a small frig in our room where we can store these goodies for our convenient use.  I made a small lunch with some of my purchases, then headed for the Strand, a busy London boulevard steeped in history.  Rick Steves’ guidebook was my companion as I wandered down the street (which changed names at least three times, from “The Strand” to “Fleet Street” to “Ludgate Hill”).

Favorite stop #1:  St. Clement Danes’ Church, one of 50-some churches Christopher Wren built way back in the 16th Century; many were destroyed over the years, but 23 still exist in original and restored states.  This one was heavily blitzed in WWII and when it was restored, it was designated as a memorial and remembrance for the Royal Air Force.  Books of Remembrance line the walls with the names of all those airmen who died in the war; one book is dedicated to the Americans who fell:1 St Clement Danes' American Book of Remembrance - airforce (640x362)








Favorite stop #2:  Twining’s Tea Shop.4 Twinings Tea Shop 2 (352x640)

The shop exists in its original 1706 spot and dimensions; it is VERY narrow, but loooonnng with its interior sides filled with all sorts of tea.  A small jar of tea leaves by each flavor can be opened and sniffed, which was fun for me to do.  At least five kinds of tea are available for tasting at the back of the shop; I chose jasmine tea and enjoyed its fruity refreshing flavor.








“Now that’s cool” stop — The Old Bank of England pub – a modern-day pub installed in a lavish late-Victorian interior:

6 19th C bank building, modern-day pub (640x362)

“It IS spring somewhere!” stop:  Off the main drag, reached by following one of the many narrow lanes that shoot off the street (Samuel Johnson:  “Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must … survey the innumerable little lanes and courts.”  I read this on a plaque, then did what it said.), I discovered a touch-of-spring garden.9 Spring comes to the Inns of Court (640x362)  With the Royal Courts of London on one end of this street and Old Bailey off to the side, the Inns of Court provide a get-away for the lawyers that serve the legal system.  There are apartments, fountains, and greenery with lawyerly-looking folks striding about the sidewalks.

A “Now is that really the truth?” stop:  St. Bride’s Church,12b St. Bride's Church - artsy (362x640) Wren’s tallest with a 226-foot stacked steeple, is supposedly the inspiration for the modern-day wedding cake.  A Fleet Street baker, gazing out his shop window at St. Bride’s Church, was inspired to make the first multi-layered cake ever.  Hmmmm–  Of greater interest to me were St. Bride’s (The church is dedicated to St. Bridgit – or Bride – of Kildare; the name has nothing to do with the fact that bridal cakes look like the church’s steeple.) crypts.

WWII blitz bombs excavated St. Bride’s so deeply that layers of earlier history were suddenly accessible, layers from as far back as the Roman occupation.  Artifacts from throughout history, from the structures that were built in this spot (almost always associated with some sort of church), are displayed in chronological order.



The most humorous was this newspaper clipping from 1830 detailing the case of one George Gunn, who was arrested for snoring in church:

12d St. Bride's Church crypt news - Don't snore in church (362x640)

My goal for the day was to reach St. Paul’s Cathedral, which I did just before 5 p.m., just in time for Evensong.  Sitting right below Sir Christopher Wren’s splendid dome, listening to the reverberating choral voices, soaking in the aesthetic, and speaking the words to the Apostles’ Creed with others from around the world was a great way to end the day.


Gerry spent his day doing Doyon things; he says my day sounded much more interesting than his, but I know talking geology all day is something he enjoys and at which he is quite good.  The APPEX conference actually begins tomorrow and he’ll be giving a professional talk on Wednesday.

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A long and winding road ….

We have had a series of delayed — and thus, missed — flights, so our 7+-hour trip to London turned into a 18-hour marathon.  Whatever could go wrong did:  our flight out of GR was late leaving, so we missed our plane out of Chicago to London’s Heathrow airport;Manchester #2 we were re-booked into Manchester, but that flight was delayed as well, so we missed our connection from Manchester to London; getting out of Manchester proved challenging, so we spent our Sunday morning in the Manchester airport, eventually leaving for Heathrow after 2 p.m.  Gerry summed it up succinctly:  “This was an awful trip!”

We are counting our blessings in the fact that we did not check any baggage; had we done so, it is unlikely the bags would’ve followed us on our strange long and winding road.

When we did land at Heathrow (3:30 p.m. locally, six hours later than GR’s 9:30 a.m.), we still had about an hour subway ride to Islington Borough where the Business Design Convention Center (with our Hilton Hotel right next door) is located.

You can see Gerry in night profile as he walks toward the Business Centre.

You can see Gerry in night profile as he walks toward the Business Centre.

Gerry will be conventioning at the business center over the next four days, so we are blessed with its proximity to our hotel.

Our home for this week is petite but comfortable.Hilton_Islington_room  We look forward to springy weather; it was 19 degrees Centigrade (66 F) when we arrived and the forecast is for continued sunny days and warm temps.  The deciduous trees are all a-bud and folks were outdoors in the sun wherever we went today.  This is a nice change from our GR winter, to be sure.

In a brief walk around the area while looking for a good spot for dinner (We ended up at “One and One” restaurant where a Thai food buffet is the specialty;One and One buffet we enjoyed about three cups of Jasmine tea each.), we encountered dozens of different languages, races, and nationalities.  The voices of the street sounded so musical.  : )

oyster cardGerry has made contact with his colleagues here,  so he’s on the way to being all professional.  I purchased an “oyster card” for public transportation, so I can go wherever I want for the next 7 days by simply swiping said card across the bus/underground/train readers.  We’ll see how far afield I go …

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Anticipating an adventure ….

We are looking forward to a wonderful week visiting London!  Departing this Saturday (March 8), we anticipate meeting interesting people (as Gerry represents the Doyon Native Corporation at an international oil producers’ gatheringdoyon-limited-logo), seeing famous sights, and enjoying our return to a place we last visited in 1979.  Stay tuned ….

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A visit to Corinth

On Monday morning, January 20, we traveled outside of Athens for an excursion to the ancient city of Corinth, driving over the Isthmus of Corinth from mainland Greece onto the Peloponnesian Peninsula.  This isthmus has great historical significance since it was the only way for folks to go from northern Greece to the southern cities overland; it also was the place that several historical figures attempted to construct a canal so ships could avoid the long sail around the peninsula.  The present canal is four miles long and involves no sea level change, but as you can see, a huge cut through the earth was required to make a path.1 Canal across the Isthmus of Corinth  We were able to watch canal activity while eating lunch, so saw the cross-bridge descend (no drawbridge here) below the surface so a freighter could pass through:

Left to right:  bridge begins and continues descent, finally submerging; a tug pulls the freighter through the canal, which then  continues down the waterway.

Left to right: bridge begins and continues descent, finally submerging; a tug pulls the freighter through the canal, which then continues down the waterway.

the mechically-minded among us thought this was way cool : ) .

The ancient Corinthian ruins are located on the slopes of the Acrocorinth (high Corinth, a different name than other cities’ standard acropolis, since it is remarkably high and covers about ten square miles) where no contemporary city exists.  Thus, excavation has been able to move forward efficiently.  Gerry noted that the columns and building ruins (including the speaker’s platform where no doubt Paul spoke so powerfully to the Corinthians) were made from the local limestone, not from a marble that would have had to be imported:

Corinthian temple to Apollo framed by a chinaberry tree

Corinthian temple to Apollo framed by a chinaberry tree

From our Biblical reading, we know that the Corinthians worshiped many pagan gods, one being Asclepius, the god of healing/medicine.  In a museum of Corinthian artifacts, we visited a room of relics from the temple to this god; included were models of body parts that worshipers would bring with them, indicating where they needed healing.  It was quite a sight to see arms, legs, eyes, heads and other more personal models displayed: 3c Asclepius relics
















After spending a good bit of time in the Corinthian agora, site of the longest ancient stoa we saw on our entire trip, we headed up to the summit of the Acrocorinth.

First the defensive fortifications; second, we head up the slope.

First the defensive fortifications; second, we head up the slope.

It was a good hike and provided several wonderful vistas as well as a visit to a cistern high on the hill; seems there was lots of subsurface water/springs which the Romans effectively tapped for water supply to the summit and slopes.

Left to right:  Jan heads down the cistern, Kendra is at the bottom, and a view into the depths where we could hear water gurgling.

Left to right: Jan heads down the cistern, Kendra is at the bottom, and a view into the depths where we could hear water gurgling.

Once at the top, we sat on the ruins of a temple to Aphrodite and heard more from Jeff about the area in Biblical times and the challenge Paul had in aiding the new believers in this multi-god city.

A view of modern-day Corinth and the harbor(s); Jeff speaking; Gerry smiling.

A view of modern-day Corinth and the harbor(s); Jeff speaking; Gerry smiling.

Once back from the heights, we stopped at the ancient port city of Cenchraea’s breakwaters, where we imagined Paul landing and sailing away.  The day was sunny, the temps warm, and many a rock was skipped across the harbor.Cenchreae breakwater  After appreciating and enjoying our final site visit of the trip at Corinth, we boarded our bus and headed back to Athens.  We departed Athens early on Tuesday, traveled through Istanbul, and landed in Chicago at around 5:30 p.m.; many of us headed immediately to GR, arriving before midnight Tuesday, a full 24 hours of being in transit.  We are safely and happily home.

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