ebook: Pasta, pizza, and Pinocchio: Questions and answers about the Church of the Nazarene in Italy (part 4)

Missions in Italy

3. Fiats, Florence, and furloughs

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

Is Fiat really an Italian car? Somebody told me they were made in Russia.
Fiat is a major Italian car manufacturer. It dominates the Italian market even more than General Motors dominates the American automobile market. Its 127 car was the largest-selling car model in all of Europe for several years. Fiat has sold complete factories to other countries, including Spain and the former Soviet Union. Cars made in these countries, however, are not marketed under the Fiat label.

Interestingly enough, Fiat also owns La Stampa, one of the world's most influential newspapers, as well as one of Italy's professional soccer teams, Juventus.
What does Fiat mean in Italian?
It's simply the first letters of the factory's name, like GE for General Electric or GM for General Motors. The letters stand for Fabbrica Italiana Automobilistica di Torino (Italian Automobile Factory of Turin). While it was originally in all caps (FIAT), it is now officially just "Fiat." Apart from its use as a brand name by Italians, fiat is a bona-fide word in English where it means "sanction" or "decree," but in Italian, "fiat" is meaningless apart from it being an acronym.

The main Fiat factories are located in Turin and many of the Nazarenes in that city work for Fiat.
Isn't Italy famous for its traffic jams?
Even with smaller cars, those old cities built for traffic on foot and horseback can get jammed up. And it has been said that inside every Italian is an ancient charioteer trying to get out. To outsiders, Italians seem to drive with unparalleled ferocity, with no quarter given or expected. That seems to include pedestrians.
Will you take the car you're now using on home assignment back to Italy with you?
No. For several reasons: First, it's an eight-year-old Chevrolet with over 100,000 miles on it. Finding parts for it and a mechanic to work on it in Italy would be a major problem. Secondly, it consumes too much gasoline for Italy. Third, it's too big to maneuver well in the older central parts of many of Italy's cities. Driving and parking in urban areas would be major problems.
What kind of car do you drive?
We had a Fiat minivan during our first term. The Longs have a Volkswagen bus and the Lovetts have an Opel which the Fullers owned before them.

Because of the high gasoline prices (a gallon costs about four times what it does in the U.S.), we do ride the train a lot. Buses are also used ... and I have both a bicycle and a motorcycle that I use to get around in Florence.
Is Florence on the sea?
No. But it is cut in half by a river, the Arno. This river runs westward about 50 miles to Pisa. Therem it flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Trivia note: The river's four-letter name -- Arno -- is sometimes used in crossword puzzles.
Is Florence the city with all the canals?
No. Venice is the Italian city that has 160 little canals instead of streets. The sidewalks of this "most glamorous city in the world" (according to writer Kate Simon) use 400 arched footbridges to cross the canals.

We do not yet have a church in that island city that served as the setting for one of Shakespeare's plays, "The Merchant of Venice."
Didn't Florence have a big flood several decades ago?
Yes, a disastrous flood in 1966 destroyed or at least damaged many of Florence's art treasures as well as homes and belongings.

Several Nazarene families were caught in that flood. One elderly member of the church was forced up on her rooftop by the rising waters. There, in that cold November weather, this elderly believer had to wait for three days before being rescued.
How big is the Church of the Nazarene in Florence?
It runs about 45 in Sunday morning attendance with a building capacity of about 100. While it's never had more than 45 members since its inception in a living room in 1948, the Florence congregation has been a productive one. From its ranks have come four pastors, a district superintendent, and the man who headed up the Billy Graham organization's Italian film ministry.
Are the church services in English or Italian?
It's practically an all-Italian church. One German-French family and an English lady who married an Italian make up the "foreign section." So, all church services are conducted exclusively in the Italian language.
For how long are you home?
The standard term of service is four years in Italy, followed by a year of home assignment (or furlough as it used to be called).
What changes did you notice in the U.S. on your return home?
The affluence of the U.S. really hit us hard. Nearly every little church now has six microphone outlets on the platform and a giant sound control panel in the back with 57 knobs on it!

People are talking about entertainment stars and sports heroes I've never heard of.

Even the names of the cars have changed. Recently, in one city, someone was pointing out their house to me. "It's the one over there with the aspen in front," she said.

"Hmmmm. I really can't tell the trees apart too well in the winter," I replied. Then I heard a snicker. I turned around and she laughingly told me hers was the house with the Dodge Aspen in front.
Who makes up your deputation schedule? Does the department tell you where to go?
A missionary can make up his slate of services any way he chooses. He can set it up totally on his own. Or he can let the Department of World Mission office do it for him ... or any combination of the two. The Department has a full-time person who helps missionaries with their scheduling. Missionaries never go anywhere unless they are first invited. The initiative always lies with the local church or district in scheduling a missionary speaker.
Don't missionaries on home assignment ever get any time off?
A missionary's speaking schedule will never be any fuller than he himself allows it to be. Most missionaries on home assignment will have at least two weeks off at Christmas and New Year because there's very little demand for missionary speakers during that time of the year. There will also be other times throughout the year when they will block off time to be with their families and to rest.
Aren't your travel expenses on home assignment paid by the general church?
No. These come out of deputation offerings given by local churches where we hold services. Whatever is left after the travel funds are deducted goes into an equipment fund for our work on the field.
Doesn't the general church furnish you with a car to use on home assignment?
No, it doesn't. Transportation is always one of the major problems facing a missionary coming home on furlough. (The other one is housing.) To ask the General Board to furnish automobiles for missionaries on home assignment would mean that funds would have to be diverted from other global outreach programs. . . . [ continue reading ]

    -- Howard Culbertson,

  Page:   ←Prev    |    Introduction  |   1.  The Leaning Tower, the Lira, and  Women's Lib  |    2. Italian, Illegal Drugs,&n bsp;and Insulated  Buildings  |   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→ 

The military, missionaries, and the Mafia

arrow pointing rightDoes the Mafia give you any trouble? . . . Do we need more missionaries in Italy? . . Does the church face any restrictions from the Italian government? . . . . [ more ]

More on Italy for you

You might also like these

  • 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 Nazarene finance world evangelism
  • Jonah, the reluctant missionary
  • Other books and article
  • 10/40 Window explanation and map
  • Seeking God's will?
  • rip Mission trip fundraising
  • Resources for Nazarene Missions International