A few years ago, Tink and I took a Footsteps of the Apostle Paul cruise on the Mediterranean Sea that traveled around the Italian coast and visited Greece and Turkey.
I had been invited to speak on the 10-day cruise by Educational Opportunities Tours which specializes in faith-based travel. While we were excited, neither of us had ever taken a cruise so we were a little uncertain about that. Particularly Tink.
We loved it.
We loved everything from sleeping in the same bed for ten days to seeing the gorgeous coastlines as we sailed, to standing in the places where Paul had stood to preach at Mars Hills and Ephesus.
A bonus to that trip was meeting a man young enough to be our son who touched my heart so much that I think of him often.
“I miss Sylvestri,” I will say to Tink from time to time. Tink rolls his eyes comically because he’s heard that lament so often.
With all the sickness in Italy, I have prayed for Sylvestri and, as Easter approaches, he is particularly on my mind.
Some might call it a twist of fate or a piece of luck. I call it “divinely orchestrated”.” Our 11-hour flight had landed in Rome after which we lugged our baggage to the cab site. We were spending the night in Rome before boarding the ship the next day, then returning to Rome for two additional days.
A small cab pulled up and we were directed to it. The tall, slim, attractive driver with curly black hair jumped out and began loading our luggage. It quickly became evident that he could speak little English so I showed him the name of the hotel.
“Yes! I take,” he replied in a heavy Italian accent.
We took to him quickly. By the time, we arrived at our hotel 40 minutes later, Tink had asked him if he would bring us to the ship the next morning. The port was an hour away. He agreed and we made the appointed time.
On the Rondarosa, we have trouble getting some workers to keep their word so we worried that he would act like some Americans we know.
He did not. He arrived on time and drove us to the ship.
Somewhere along the way, he and Tink decided that we would communicate in Spanish since Sylvestri was not good at English. This was comical as they tried to talk between English, Spanish, and Italian.
Tink asked him if he would pick us up at the port when we returned from the cruise. Again, I worried we would be stranded but when we arrived, there stood sweet Sylvestri, taller than the others, waving happily to us. On the drive back to our Rome hotel, Tink asked Sylvestri if he would drive us around Rome the next day and show us the sights.
Our day with Sylvestri was lovely. We learned he was in his 30s, he lived with his parents, and “I hope marry.”
This Easter, I am thinking of the places he took us that day: the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains where pieces of the chains that held the disciple are encased in glass in the altar; the arena where the Christians were killed for sport as decreed by Nero; the Vatican and the cellar where Paul stood in sewage and wrote Second Timothy.
Rome is a remarkable place to see and witness where Christianity and secular histories collide. It was meaningful to share it with sweet Sylvestri who wanted to buy us coffee then blushed when he realized he had left his wallet in the car.
He drove us to the airport the next day. I was sad as he and Tink shook hands then I hugged him farewell. Downcast, I watched as his tail lights faded out of sight.
I miss Sylvestri. I hope he is healthy for Easter.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter. Her column runs weekly.