I walked into the dorm room from my morning shower and he was cooking something on a camp stove on the windowsill. Curious, I asked him, “how long have you been traveling?” From his worn hiking pack and sun kissed face I could tell that he had spent time outdoors. “Since last Saturday, we’ve been hiking for about a week,” he said in a smooth Italian accent. It was like he was touching the words gently, almost glossing over them with a song on the tip of his tongue. Much different than the lady that gave us a tour of the catacombs beneath the Church of St Agnes in Agony. Her English was like a roller coaster, an exaggerated movie Italian accent.
“How about you?” my tall hiking roommate asked.
“I’ve been travelling about 4 months, since January,” trying to hide a sheepish grin.
“Ooh, wow,” was the response, visibly impressed with the length of my journey. Respect was established, a bond shared.
I met this man on my free travel to Assisi. He was only one of many people that we met along the journey. One of many people we will likely never see again.
As we sit here in the airport in Rome awaiting the plane back, we are filled with excitement and anxiety. Home is within sight, friends and family within reach. But how will we answer the questions? How do we begin to share this with the people who love us and long to hear our stories? What stories are even worth sharing? And of course the strict security, passport control, and jet lag aren’t helping either. But we are going home. If it still feels like home remains to be seen.
This last week we finished up our journey with Paul in Rome. Linford talked about how Paul had spent his whole life proclaiming Jesus, the Lord of the all, and now he was going to meet the emperor, the lord of the known earth, ruler of the largest and most powerful empire in history. We also talked about how the center of the Empire eventually became the center of the Church, and all the good and bad that came from that.
We had two days to explore the city on our own with a checklist of sites we were supposed to see including the Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museum housing the Sistine Chapel, the Parthenon, and about 10 other churches and famous landmarks. Then our group scattered for four days of free travel, with groups going to Florence, Venice, and Cinque Terre before meeting back in Rome to fly out.
It’s been a wild ride!
Jacob Landis and Berto Wingfield