Sunday, August 15, 2010

Leaving Isola

It was an early start out of the mountains. Our first group rose at 5:30 am, the second group at 6:30, and mine, thankfully, at 9, for a departure at 11:00. We were beyond groggy—between the heat and lack of sleep, and with end-of-outreach exhaustion and emotion. But off we went, group by group, with goodbyes and hugs, email and Facebook addresses exchanged, gifts given, cards written, photos taken—the OMArtslink L’Aquila team officially disbanded.

Saying goodbye too to the Gran Sasso, that towering mountain that had so inspired us, that we had nicknamed “Alejandro” for some bizarre reason, our Italian “Mount Sinai.”

I made my descent out of the mountains with Marco and Dellis. We passed L’Aquila one final time, seeing the damage from the road, the valley it sat in, and wondering about the future. The further we got from the region, the higher the temps rose, until finally we were in Rome’s furnace again, and dripping with sweat. First stop: Dellis’s hotel, near the Termini station. Then onto Nettuno, my destination, to see friends. But let me back up….

Two days earlier, I didn’t know how I was getting to Nettuno, but imagined it would be a disagreeable schlep with luggage through Rome’s train and bus stations. But God is soooo merciful!!!

On the ride back from the Teramo outreach, driving with Marco and Meri, we talked about what each one of us would be doing after the outreach. When I mentioned I would stay on a few days and visit friends in Nettuno, Marco smiled, “Oh, I have friends in Nettuno!” Would it surprise you to know they were the same friends?!

We had a good laugh, shook our heads, and Marco immediately pulled out his cell phone. He called them to announce, “I’m coming to Nettuno!” and passed the phone to me. “Hey, Chris! I’m in the car with Marco! I have a ride!”

And so here we were, in the car heading south out of Rome towards Anzio, after dropping off Dellis, and getting some pizza and coffee. Of course, nothing is straightforward in Italy, so the trek south included a stop at a hospital to visit someone in Marco’s family who had just had a surgery, and running smack into rush hour.

A few grueling hours later, melted and exhausted, we arrived at our friends, and collapsed into their welcoming arms. It was 7 hours since we had left Isola. Marco stayed a day and left, but not before I heard more of his story. I’m deeply grateful that God provided these last gifts of transportation and testimony, which I’ll share more later.

In the meantime, the R & R begins, and the decanting of the many stories and experiences still circulating in my head…to be continued!

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