Last Saturday, I spent the day in Venice!
Now, I've spent a Saturday in Venice, FL. I've spent time in Florence, SC and even Rome, GA.
But this was the real, the original. The gondola gliding, Basilica boasting, floating city of Venice, Italy!
"Impossible!" My mind still shouts it.
But I'm telling you the truth. And the story I'm going to share with you about that "impossibility" will leave you shaking your head and possibly swiping at a stray tear.
In yesterday's post, I told you about the grueling schedule that we kept while working with the children.
International Christian Fellowship of Padova ( a city older than Rome) sponsors the camp we worked with. They are now in their sixth year of ministry to immigrant children. Mixing English classes, with games, crafts and stories about the love of Jesus.
It's an ingenious method of serving the community (eight different nationalities were there our week) while communicating the greater truth of God's love. And we felt honored to be a part of that ministry.
We gave it our all Sunday through Friday. Then on Saturday, our team was to enjoy a day off touring Venice.
With such tired bodies, we weren't prepared for the heat or the crowds. To top that off, it just happened to be a national holiday which draws unusually large crowds to Venice for the fireworks show!
The sea of humanity made Fourth of July in Disney seem tame by comparison. By the time we hit our designated spot for lunch, I wasn't sure if I could "enjoy" much more.
But how often is one in Venice, Italy?!
Actually, this was my second visit. I worked as part of another missions team right after I graduated from college. (Spring, 1979) We were to serve children in Greece for six weeks. Our team was small and the professor leading our group had been to Europe many times.
Dr. Ferrell suggested we fly into Frankfurt, Germany four days early. We rented a car and drove like wild people through Europe, "sleeping" in the car, hitting the main attractions along the way. It was a marvelous experience I've drawn from again and again.
We recently saw Dr. Ferrell at a minister's meeting. He surprised us by congratulating Frank for encouraging me to go on that trip in 1979 even though we were newly engaged.
Our GGC team directors, Dom and Molly, had planned a great restaurant near the fish market for lunch. This led us through the shopping district and brought us back around to the spot for our..................gondola ride!!
So convenient. Well planned. Perfectly timed.
Our gondolier, Giorgio, regaled us with stories as we passed the home of Marco Polo and the bachelor pad of Casanova. The gilded vessel glided silently through the canals just as it has since Giorgio's grandfather manned the helm.
My history-loving soul neared the saturation point!
We snapped a few final pictures with Giorgio, wishing him well. The gondola ride actually eased my headache. And as I strolled along, hand in hand with Frank, I thought nothing could possibly top the moment.
But our Heavenly Father delights in blessing His children with the unexpected!
Our next stop on the tour was the Piazza of San Marco. We would visit the Basilica; share a little gelato; watch the sunset; then meander back to the train station.
Imagine our disappointment when we discovered that the Basilica had closed for tours just an hour earlier! One of the members of our team (Christina) had studied architecture in college and spent an entire week on the Basilica of San Marco.
Of course, Frank did his best to work some magic with those guarding the entrance. But they weren't swayed by the Dunn Charm and we were turned away.
As we moved away from the massive doors, it happened.
I stopped dead in my tracks. A memory came flooding back. Tears immediately sprang to my eyes (even as they are now.)
During the whirlwind trip in 1979, I had stood in that exact spot. And for some reason, the beauty of the piazza, the majesty of the Basilica, the richness of the history, the power of the architecture had all blended together to wash over the young girl from Northwest Florida like a tidal wave.
I was overwhelmed with the gift God was giving to me. And in the midst of my quiet expression of gratitude, I also whispered, "Lord, please let me come back here someday with Frank. He would love this place, too."
A whispered request that I had completely forgotten.......until that moment.
But HE heard. HE never forgot!
And in this, our thirty-fifth year of marriage, I found myself standing in the middle of the Piazza San Marco. Surrounded by a scene that had not changed one little bit. Holding the hand of the man I love now more than I did in 1979. Sensing the smile of my Father in Heaven.
I wept. I'm weeping now again.
Let me tell you, dear friend. There is a God in Heaven who listens to every whispered prayer of his little ones.
Don't give up. Stay close to His heart. Continue to believe. It may take thirty-five years (or longer.) It may not look exactly like we would have scripted. But He will answer!
Hagar of the Old Testament said, "You are the God who sees...."
I can't wait to meet Hagar someday and say, "He not only sees. He also remembers!"