“We have an opening on the Portugal trip,” to which I responded without really thinking, “I’ll go.”
Building relationships is the main purpose of these Bridges trips, but this one was to also engage Portuguese laity and clergy in the area of leadership.
Early in the trip, I was asked to preach at a small church whose pastor spoke no English, and beside “Bon Dia” (Good Morning), I spoke no Portuguese. Another pastor, Jose’ Manuel Cerqueira, was assigned to join us and translate for me. I learned that my translator was an accomplished musician on the piano and organ, that he pastored a church, led a choir in another, and taught two courses a week on church history at the university.
In an effort to connect with him I told him the next day that I played the violin. His eyes lit up, and he said, “I must tell you this: I have an Italian violin made in 1701!” My eyes lit up! I asked him if it would be possible for me to see it. He quickly agreed to bring it the next day.
The next morning, Jose’ brought his 314 year old violin for me to see. I was very surprised that it was in excellent condition and playable. As I was examining it, awed to be holding this old violin, Jose’ asked me if I wanted to play it. “Yes, of course!” We went into the sanctuary, where after tuning it, Jose’ sat at the piano, and I put the violin to my chin. Together we played Ode to Joy (Beethoven - Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee). Yes, what a joy it was to hear music resonate from this old violin and to feel the finger board and wonder how many fingers and chins had rested on this violin over 314 years!
Then Jose’ handed me a handwritten piece of music and asked, “May we play this together?” I was sight-reading, but we managed and it was delightful. It was then he told me “I wrote this piece for you last night.” It was entitled, A Violin Strangely Warmed, a Tribute to the Life of John Wesley.
He then handed me the music and said, “This is for you.” I was stunned and overwhelmed. It had been special enough to have the joy and privilege to play an instrument with such history, but for someone to sacrifice their night creating a piece that taps into the deep roots of my cherished Methodist heritage, just for me, warmed my heart deeply. I was also stunned by his ability to complete a composition in one night! I was blessed by our time together, the opportunity to play a remarkable violin, and to have a piece of music no one else has, composed only for me!
I went to Portugal with the hopes of being some help to fellow Methodists who are seeking to be fruitful, vital, and instrumental in reaching others in Portugal with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Yet I was the one who received a gift and blessing in a way that I could never have imagined. Truly a new bridge has been built – I have an extraordinary friend in Jose’. It goes to show, you never know what can happen when you say, “Here I am; send me.” So don’t think about it. Just say, “I’ll Go.” And by faith, go!
Rev. David Naglee is District Superintendent of the Rome-Carrollton District. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.