A Place Full of Love

Posted by Joel Lunetta on 24-Oct-2018 in Italy

"Everything okay? Do you need the boss?" He said.

The waiter wasn't exactly understanding my obvious attempt at flattery. I knew my Italian wasn't the best, but something else was going on here.

"No, no, I meant you are the boss!"

It was my best attempt at lunging for my verbally fumbled ball.

"Okay Okay..." He kept speaking.

What followed after the "okays" were several words I couldn't exactly make out. Ettore (Hector) was giving me a run for my Italian language money.

I knew that this was going to be an adventure but, boy, I didn't fully prepare myself. I figured I'd give it one more desperate attempt.

"You are the best man! You're the boss." I said in Italian.

Ettore immediately displayed the most concerned look on his face. The look that a waiter gives when a customer has a complaint or needs something...only we didn't.

"Just a minute. I'll tell him." Ettore spoke with full confidence. I sat stunned.

Luckily, I had Mallory and my sister Jessica there to console me. What could I have said wrong? Before I knew it, Ettore made another appearance.

With a confident, robust cringe from his left brow, Ettore bee lined his way back to our table.

"Everything's okay. All is in it's place!" He cheerily spoke.

I paused--stunned.

"...allora, buona cena!" (So, have a good dinner!) He finished.


Me, Gabriele, Ettore, and Mal 


As the picture gives away, the restaurant that we went to employs young men and women who have Down syndrome.

What we found so beautiful about the night is that each worker is given their own freedom to be...them.

Ettore, as we could tell, is very professional and loves to handle business.

Eduardo loves to dance and sprung gleefully to make us coffee.

Emanuele helps cook from time to time...



Gabriele...well...he's the ladies man.

We joked a bit in Italian with each young man who was working, but then the real blessing came. Gabriele overheard our speaking English and snuck in closer during the conversation.

"Hi." He said with a gigantic smile and the sweetest wave.

"You...you speak English?" Jess said back with a smile that almost matched Gabriele's. (Hi and yeah are two dead giveaway's that someone knows more than just your basic English)

"Yes. I speak 4 languages. Spanish, Italian, English, and some German." He smiled again.

He proved it...thus ending any complaining we might do in the future about learning Italian...ever...

I won't lie to you. I was a little jealous that night.

Not only did he show me up by speaking so many languages but he also...

...asked Mallory out.

When she let him down politely by saying I was her husband he immediately let us know that he is taken as well. Great save.


Mallory, Gabriele & Jess


God has a funny way of filling the voids we may have in life. No, this isn't my blood family and this isn't Jonathan (my brother who has Down syndrome himself). However, this is the best reminder of him that I could ever ask for.

October just so happens to be Down Syndrome Awareness month.

It truly blesses my heart this month to know that a place like "La Locanda Dei Girasoli" exists. What's even greater is that a few famous singers and actors know about this incredible place too. Andrew Garfield came to visit them for a day and Alessandra Amoroso (an Italian singer) frequents there often. I sit back and wonder what God may be planning through all of this...

Another couple, the Paulys, who are close to being on the field with us have a sister who has Down syndrome. Crystal who is also on her way over has worked in music therapy for people with mental disabilities. Our team has one giant heart for these very special souls. I leave you with the quote that was on the wall of the restaurant.

"A day without a smile is a day lost."

I've learned many valuable lessons from talking to people who have Down syndrome. Despite geographical distance, age, and upbringing--there is always one common theme: love. I know we are all different. We are all special. None of that matters. I love you. It reminds me of how Christ lived his ministry. Of how Christ loves. It continues to challenge me to do the same for others. Whether they are love-full or love-starving.



Prayer Requests:

  • Please pray with us for or more places like this to open. There is a strong need across Europe to take care of people with disabilities.
  • Also pray for ministry opportunities to open surrounding this community here in Rome



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