ebook: Pasta, pizza, and Pinocchio: Questions and answers about missionary service in Italy (part 3)

Missions in Italy

2. Italian language, illegal drugs and insulated buildings

In this ebook, Pasta, pizza and Pinocchio, Howard Culbertson answers questions he has been asked about missionary work in Italy. Originally published by what is now called The Foundry for the Nazarene Missions International mission book series, this book carried ISBN number 0-8341-0612-4. Some material has been updated for this ebook edition.

Where is it that they speak Latin? Isn't that in Italy?
It was. Latin, originally spoken in and near Rome, was extended with Roman rule over much of ancient Europe. But with the breakup of the Roman Empire, Latin disintegrated into a dozen or so languages. These languages -- Italian, Spanish, and French are the best known of them -- are today called "romance languages." Actually, romantic would be a better term.

For a period of almost 1,000 years -- from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the Renaissance -- Latin did continue to be spoken and written as the common language of educated men. It was also the official language of the Roman Catholic church. Because of its long period of use by the educated, Latin has been called "the mother and nurse of modern European literature."

In Italy today there are over a dozen regional dialects and languages used in addition to Italian. All of our church services are, however, conducted in Italian. It is the official, universal language of Italy today.
Can you give us an example of some Italian?
Here's John 3:16: "Iddio ha tanto amato il mondo, che ha dato il suo unigenito Figliuolo, affinche chiunque crede in lui non perisca ma abbia vita eterna."
How would the Italians say "hello" and "goodbye"?
One little word will say both things among close friends: ciao (pronounced "chow"). Evangelical Christians in Italy will often greet each other by saying "pace (peace). In more formal settings "hello" is boon giorno (good morning) and "good-bye" is arrivederci. (Remember the classic song, "Arrivederci, Roma"?)
Was it hard to learn Italian?
Italian is supposedly one of the easier languages in the world for English-speaking persons to learn. However, we usually do it so badly that Italians have become convinced that theirs is a hard language for Americans.

Language learning always takes a long time and involves a million mistakes. It helps in language learning to follow Paul's admonition to the Romans to "not think more highly of yourself than ye ought." You're going to make mistakes and people are going to laugh about them. How you react will determine if they're laughing at or with you.
Do your children speak Italian?
Yes. Almost better than they do English!
How do the Italians feel about the United States?
They can pretty well be divided into two groups: those that love the U.S. and those that have little use for it.

There are Italians who see the United States as such a paradise that if they were given the choice between going to heaven and going to the U.S., some of them might choose the U.S. On the other hand, it isn't unusual to run into anti-American feeling. Some of this is due to jealousy over America's wealth and political and military power. Some of it grows out of past ill-treatment of Italian immigrants to this country (lynchings, house burnings, unfair trials, and racial slurs occurred at the beginning of the 20th century). But whatever caused it and whatever keeps it alive, that resentment is there.

And I confess that at times I have cried out in prayer, asking that the Lord would somehow hide my American-ness behind His Cross so that people would see only Him. There are so many who would be blinded by "Americanness." I want them to see me just as a man, a sinner saved by grace who wants to share that with them.

Not infrequently we find ourselves being looked on with contempt by Italians who say, "You rich American, what do you know about life? Why don't you go back home and preach there? You've got enough problems in your own country."
Is illegal drug use a problem in Italy?
It is a new problem which has begun to surface only in the late 1970s. In the Italian culture there is great respect for one's elders. Young people are expected to submit their behavior to the scrutiny of older men and women of their clan. They even continue to live at home under this strong parental control until they marry. The strong peer pressure which has caused the drug culture to flourish in the United States is much, much less of a factor in Italian life.
What kind of medical care is available?
Good. It does, however, vary in many ways from standard medical care available in the U.S. Children, for instance, are not vaccinated against whooping cough, measles, or mumps. Young girls are not vaccinated against rubella until after puberty. And less preventive dental care and prenatal care is available in Italy than is provided in the U.S.

One surprising fact to Americans about Italian hospitals is the large numbers of visitors permitted in to see patients. During visiting hours, the wards will be crowded with people, all chattering away, some of whom may even have brought food for the patients. With family and friend relationships being as important as they are to the Italian, however, the presence of these visitors is therapy for Italians in a way it would not be for Americans.

Since our daughter Rachele was born in Florence, we do have some personal experience with Italian hospitals and patient care.
We don't have any medical missionary work in Italy, do we?
No. Most of the population is covered by a government medical insurance program. The ratio of doctors and hospital beds to population runs about that of the U.S. Life expectancy in Italy equals that of the U.S.A. So we have felt it wise to pour our missionary resources into ministries in Italy other than medical care.
What is the weather like in Italy?
It's a very temperate climate without the extremes experienced by most of the U.S. Although Rome is as far north as New York City, it gets snow only about once every seven years and the temperature is rarely below freezing in the winter. The Mediterranean Sea, which surrounds Italy, apparently acts as kind of a reservoir of warmth during the winter.

Summertime temperatures, on the other hand, rarely climb above 90 degrees Farenheit. The winters tend to be wet and the summers dry. In summer, much of the peninsula receives so little rainfall that crops must be irrigated.
How do the Italians heat their homes?
Most of them live in apartments with a central hot water heating system fueled by oil or natural gas. Because of high fuel costs these systems are usually controlled by clocks and not by thermostats. The system will be on mornings from six to eight o'clock and evenings from three o'clock until nine. Many homes don't even have heat. And neither do some of our church buildings. Everybody wears a lot of sweaters ... and even wool underwear.
Is the energy crisis being felt in Italy?
Yes. There's always been an energy shortage since Italy has few natural resources. The Italians are traditionally conservation minded. Air conditioning is not very widely used. Very few people take a car to work. Houses rarely are heated above 62 degrees Farenheit in the winter.

Per capita energy consumption in Italy is only one-fourth that of the U.S. That means that for every four kilowatts of electricity you use, the Italian family can get by on one. For every four cubic feet of natural gas or for every four gallons of gasoline your family burns, the Italian family will get by using only one.
Do they use insulation in their buildings?
Much of the construction is old (up to 600 years) -- masonry buildings which do not have any insulation. However, the government has embarked on a program to encourage construction of energy-efficient buildings. High fuel prices have also encouraged people to start insulating well.

Part of the recent work we did on the Florence church and parsonage included making that building more energy efficient and less costly to use. Eight to ten inches of fiberglass insulation was put in the ceilings where there was none. Some double-glazed windows were put in. Weather-stripping was installed on all windows and doors (there had been none previously). Much of the building had never been caulked, so we used a score of tubes of caulking to seal out the cold air. The insulation on pipes carrying the hot water for heating was doubled.
Has the apartment boom hit Italy?
I think it originated there. Almost all housing for hundreds of years in Italy has been apartment-style. Even the farmers prefer to live in apartments in little villages and go out to their farms every day. Italian homes tend to be smaller than American ones. A recent U.S. Census report said that the average American home has five rooms. The average Italian home has three.
I don't suppose they do much house moving then in Italy, do they?
I doubt that a single house mover exists anywhere in Italy. All of the construction is masonry with wood being used only for ceiling joists and perhaps roof beams. Most new buildings use very little structural wood. Roofs are all baked clay tile. The homes you see being moved around in the U.S. are of wood construction; to move Italy's masonry buildings would require such massive equipment that it wouldn't be cost effective.
Are they building a lot of shopping centers in Italy?
The shopping center concept did not catch on on in Italy the way it did in the U.S. One covered mall does exist in Naples and another in Milan. But both of these were built a hundred years ago and contain a limited number of smaller shops. Most shops in Italy are small ones on the first floor of apartment buildings. Large department stores are far less common in Italy as they are in the USA. Most everyone shops in their own neighborhoods within walking distance of their own home or at a central open-air market.
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  Page:   ←Prev    |    Introduction  |    1. The Leaning Tower, the Lira,  and Women's Lib  |    3. Fiats, Florence, and Furloughs   |   4. The Military,   Missionaries, and the Mafia  |    5. Marco Polo and Ronald  McDonald  |   6. The  Cerratos,\ Alabaster Churches, and Work Crews    |    7. Communism,  Catholicism, and the Charismatics  |    8. Sincerity, Self-support, and  Sowing the Seed  |    9. Books, Broadcasting, and the Bible College   |   10. Culture Shock  and Carpeting  |    11. A Word from My Heart  |   Next→ 

Fiats, Florence and furloughs

arrow pointing
rightIsn't Italy famous for its traffic jams? . . . Is Florence the city with all the canals?. . . Aren't your travel expenses on home assignment (deputation) paid by the general church? . . . . [ more ]

    -- Howard Culbertson,

Material on Italy:    Alfredo Del Rosso, an Italian mastered by a vision     Building St. Peter's by selling indulgences     Reflections: Christ and Mussolini     CIA plot?     Little baby Jesus     Open doors in Italy     Rookie Notebook: Our first nine months as missionaries inItaly

ebooks:     God's Bulgarian tapestry   Mr. Missionary, I have a question    The Kingdom strikes back: Signs of the Messiah at work in Haiti     Paul McGrady, Mr. Evangelism     Our balanced attack: How Nazarenes finance world evangelism     Jonah, the reluctant missionary     Other books and article

10/40 Window explanation and map    Seeking God's will?    Mission trip fundraising    Nazarene Missions International resources