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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Roman Missionaries

Photo:  Recreating when the Apostle Paul traveled to Rome
"...And after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.   And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and the three taverns, who when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage"   (Acts 28:1-16)

Photo: The beautiful Appian Way

The Apostle Paul traveled to Rome as a prisoner exercising his right as a Roman citizen to appeal a wrongful conviction.   After being shipwrecked in Malta and then spending three days in Siracusa in Sicilia, Paul landed near the Bay of Naples in what is known today as Pozzuoli.  From there he traveled northward and entered Rome on the road named "Appia".   Placed under house arrest awaiting trial, Paul was free to preach for two years in Rome.  He helped strengthen the faith of Christians already living in Rome and may have traveled to other areas as well.  Some of his most powerful letters were written while in Rome as preserved in the New Testament.    Each of the four cities mentioned in Acts 28 are located within the boundaries of the Italy Rome Mission and enjoy today the presence of faithful young missionaries who preach, as Paul did, the Gospel of Christ to whomever will listen.  

It is possible that the Apostle Peter also walked the same Via Appia as he traveled into Rome.  There is little scriptural evidence documenting Peter's activity in Rome, but Catholic tradition holds that Peter and Paul were contemporaries and that both suffered martyrdom in Rome by the hand of the Emperor Nero around the year 60 A.D..   Paul was beheaded and Peter crucified upside down according to tradition.

Photo: Modern missionaries on the ancient road leading to Rome
Approximately 560 KM (336 miles) long, Via Appia was the first of the Roman "super highways" built nearly 300 years before Christ.  Named after a Roman general, it stretched southward from Rome to the Adriatic port of Brindisi located at the heel of Italy.   It's original purpose was be able to quickly move fresh troops and supplies southward as Rome expanded it's empire.  It later became a major trade route and inspired the construction of many other roads that, like spokes of a wheel, fan outward from the hub of Rome in most every direction.   All roads led to (and from) the center of Rome.    Via Appia was masterfully engineered and is one of the few roads in the world to have endured in its nearly original state for more than 2,000 years.   Like most major Roman construction projects, it was built by slave labor (1/3 of the population were slaves).  When the gladiator slave Spartacus and his followers were defeated after a two year long revolt against the Romans in 70 B.C., more than 6,000 of them were crucified along Via Appia as a warning to all travelers, their crosses spaced evenly on both sides of the highway for miles and miles... an effective reminder of what happens to those who dared to challenge the authority of Rome.

Today, Via Appia Antica is enjoyed by walkers, joggers, cyclists, and an occasional car.   Along the peacefully quiet, tree lined cobblestoned road are beautiful fields in which are preserved many ruins of ancient Rome.  The Romans lived inside the wall for protection, but they built their summer homes and country villas outside along Via Appia.  It was also along this road that the Christians, and later many pagan Romans,  buried their dead in the catacombs that stretch for miles and miles in underground tunnels.   Further south of the city, the straight and level road is home to birds chirping amongst the quiet countryside.  It is one of our favorite places to walk and talk when we want to clear our heads and transport ourselves emotionally into another world.

The Church is gathering historical facts and photos beginning with the early days of Rome to create a video portrayal of the Gospel in Italy, particularly in Rome.  One of the videographers hired by the Church called me this week and asked me to help him film a particular scene and bring two of our missionaries.    I selected two of our native Italian missionaries (Peter and Paul were certainly not blue-eyed blonds or freckled red-heads like our current AP's).   This film, and the Temple Visitors Center in which it may be displayed, is all about Italians, not Americans.   I feel strongly that the those who live here should have a front row seat and be key participants in their story.   We left after our Zone Conference and braved rush hour traffic meeting nearly an hour later on the south side of Rome at Via Appia Antica, just as the evening sun began to set.  Sporting a rented tunic and sandals, a local returned missionary portrayed the Apostle Paul walking along Via Appia towards Rome.  Next our modern day missionaries were filmed walking in the same steps as Paul traveling towards Rome.   Closeups of the sandals will contrast with closeups of the worn shoes of today.   It will be just one of many scenes that will be used to tell the story of the growth of Christianity and particularly the Gospel in Italy.  I marvel at the impact that disciples in this country have had in spreading and preserving Christianity throughout the world.   Yes, we believe in an apostasy, but the good news is that there are more than 2 billion people in more than 200 countries who profess Christ and call themselves Christians.   We're honored to be some of the chosen modern-day missionaries serving in Rome to help increase the faith and light that exists in this marvelous country.

1 comment:

  1. You always offer a beautiful and unique look at missionary work in Italy. I have learned so much from your posts and lovely photos that has enriched our life as a family. It has given me a great appreciation for Italy. A million thank yous!