As of the time this post was drafted, every member of Zach’s & Rachel’s St. James Way team was blistered! It’s all part of the experience (and instead of posting any photos, I will let you experience it in person one day when you walk the St. James Way)!
The team reported that their Sunday night dinner was a hit – Abel prepared dinner for the team as well as for 3 invited Canadian pilgrims, 2 invited American pilgrims, and an additional Estonian, Italian and 2 additional American pilgrims who were welcomed, though not invited! The spirit of our team’s hospitality speaks volumes (most pilgrims don’t have cooked meals along the Camino because purchasing groceries, and cooking in a shared, hostel kitchen is too complicated and expensive)! In addition, “the nations” relaxing around dinner tables at the end of a long journey birth hours of story-telling and Truth-sharing. Is this what Heaven will be like?! The team leader reported the following from Monday:
Today we stopped at the Fuente del Peregrino (Pilgrim’s Fountain) – an albergue staffed by volunteers of Campus Crusade in a tiny hamlet. It’s a popular place with free coffee, hugs, and beds and a meal by donation. Interestingly, Abel knocked on the door of the house across the street and chatted with the people there. Then he searched out and found a mentally disabled boy who was playing near the Fuente. Abel then dug around in his backpack and pulled out a Portugal soccer jersey he had brought as a gift for the boy…This time it was the Campus Crusade volunteers who were ministered to as they watched in awe. It was such a touching moment and “classic Abel”.
Tuesday was the longest day of hiking thus far – 28.8 kilometers (18 miles)! So the team woke up early to get as many miles in before the heat of the day. The day’s walk started out easy, but ended difficult with mountainous terrain and blistering heat (no pun intended)! Two team-members accidentally walked an extra mile and a half when they missed the day’s stopping point. Too bad you can’t refund excess miles! After settling in to the day’s resting place, Abel headed to the supermercado (grocery store) to purchase ingredients for another multi-national dinner! This time the team was joined by a German, 3 Americans, and 2 Spaniards. The team witnessed a beautiful display of Abel’s character (beyond his culinary and evangelistic gifts). The team leader reported:
…Abel was well respected by each of our guests, so we asked him to say grace…in Spanish. He did, but he didn’t close his eyes to say it. Instead, he held a long, powerful conversation with God giving thanks for the many blessings of the Camino while looking firmly and steadily into the eyes of each of our guests. It was a priceless demonstration of faith and we were privileged to be a part of it.
Wednesday’s leg was “only” 12 miles: A little ironic, since it was the day that the final team-member joined the blistered-foot club! (Again, I’ll spare you photos…I have them)! I heard from Rachel today who reported how much she has benefited from meeting people from all over the world. She has met people from several countries who seem to be walking at the same pace and beginning and ending each day in the same towns. This has allowed some ongoing dialogue with several people who are in a similar stage of life as she is, including several spiritual conversations. Rachel shared about a couple who met on the Camino and have been walking for a couple months. The young lady shared that with each kilometer, she gets more and more sad approaching the final destination, because the Camino has been a means of escaping “real life”; she is dreading the return. This is one example of the kind of reasons people walk the St. James Way – escape.
The team leader summarized things this way: Many of the older peregrinos have suffered loss or are looking for something missing from their lives. Many of the younger peregrinos are on the Camino to avoid the responsibilities and pressures of the real world or they are having a last fling before entering adulthood. Our group may have similar motivations, but the main mission is on bringing Christ to this very receptive group of people. So we walk with the same aches and pains, but we are trying hard [to focus] on others, not ourselves.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned in these final days and new, challenging circumstances! Again, the team leader summarizes: …it’s our last day to spend with the many peregrinos we’ve met. Even though we’ve spend only a fairly short time with them, relationships form fast as peregrinos are very introspective and reflective as they near the end of what, for many of them, is a life changing experience.
The team will walk the final 20 kilometers today (Thursday) and arrive in Santiago. Please continue to pray for Zach, Rachel and their entire team – as they learn the lessons God has for them, and as they are salt and light for “the nations” who gather on the St. James Way! After arriving in Santiago, they will return (by bus or train) to Lisbon to fly back to the U.S.