“ we learnt that people, from all over the world, are searching for meaning; willing to trudge hundreds of kilometres to find it...”
Every summer, we send 24-7 Mission teams across Europe to pray, serve, and share Jesus with the world in all kinds of places; from national festivals in Iceland to refugee camps in France.
This summer, for the very first time, a team travelled to Northern Spain to serve travellers on the Camino de Santiago - an ancient pilgrim route. Emily was part of the team and shares some of her experience:
The Camino de Santiago - The Way of St James - is steeped in tradition, covered in prayer, and trodden by thousands across the centuries.
This 780km journey, once forgotten, has experienced a revival over the last 30 years. Now, thousands tread the paths that once only hard-core, dedicated Catholic pilgrims would trek; following its iconic yellow sign posts for all kinds of reasons, searching for all kinds of answers.
In June this year, a 24-7 team joined them; a mishmash of nations, ages, and life experience, brought together on this journey.
Near the end of the camino lies Ligonde - a quiet, Galician farming village that became our base. At its centre sits an unassuming stone house. Barely noticeable on a Sunday, during the week it experiences a transformation, its doors flung open to welcome the steady stream of pilgrims. A plaque on the wall announces it as “La Fuente del Peregrino” - the pilgrim fountain.
A literal fountain greets thirsty travellers as they arrive. But much more than just a water stop, it is an oasis on the dusty path - a hostel, café and place of rest.
As a team, we had the joy of providing for basic physical needs - ice on a hurting knee; a hammock to rest in; a bed for the night - and also for that most basic of human needs; the search for meaning.
Hearing stories, praying, we forced ourselves out of comfort zones; to be bold, asking for God’s lead as we spent our days talking to the pilgrims, always wanting to point them to Jesus, the real fountain – fuente- for the soul.
And we learnt that boldness paid. At times it was terrifying; to turn a casual conversation into an offer of prayer, into a cry to God; but the richness of God's mercy, power and goodness met us.
Instead of falling flat on our faces, people most often said yes. We got to send people away hoping they had seen a glimpse of the kingdom in Ligonde.
We learnt, saw and tasted that God is there; and that when we call upon him, whether in Ligonde or elsewhere, he answers. We learnt that people, from all over the world, are searching for meaning; willing to trudge hundreds of kilometres to find it.
It was hard. We had days where it felt like God wasn't there. We got sick. We got tired. We did laundry, cleaned toilets and washed dishes. With four nations on a team of eight we had to work hard to be vulnerable; to be patient and to understand each other's quirks. But the prize was worth it; real, honest, community, so far removed from most of our 'normal' realities - so vibrant, so full of joy, and so satisfying.
“Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession”
The nations are presently in turmoil; economically, politically and spiritually. But in Ligonde, the nations come to La Fuente in gritty, sweaty, tired human form, in all of their richness and realness. With stories, with history, with hurting feet, and unanswered questions.
There, God is taking the nations on a journey, making them a raw, beautiful, real human community. As we stepped out He gave us the opportunity to be part of it. And now, as we return to our corners of the globe, we will be seeking to pursue that community and boldness in our hometowns.
There is hope for the nations.
Photo credits: Aitor De La Camera