Agés - Burgos (Saturday) 24km
A group of seven of us were walking together today. Cloudy and drizzly rain. We got to just outside of Viaval. We had just climbed a big hill. Going down the hill was really bumpy. A guy came down the hill on a bicycle, bumping and bouncing all over the place. We called out to him, “Is it bumpy?”, joking around with him. He laughed and said it was and yelled out “Buen Camino!” Buen Camino is the greeting along the Camino… it is kind of like Aloha in Hawaii. It means hello and it means good luck and it means have a great day, and we also use it for goodbye. He passes us and keeps going down the hill, till he stops at the bottom and talks to two of our group. He stopped in front of Chris and Melony. I could see him talking and waving his hands and trying to communicate (he’s not North American). He was speaking German, and Chris happens to speak a little German!
Then Chris and Melony turned to talk to Taylor, gave her the paper, and from a distance, it looks like Taylor just won the lottery. She is looking at the paper and she is so excited. Her face is amazing!
When I get down to the others, she shows me the paper and it has her name on it. Written in English, it says that her passport, credit cards, money… everything… are in a town that we had passed through. There is a number for a Spanish cell phone on the note. So Taylor calls the number and a Spanish-speaking lady answers the phone. She can’t understand or talk to the woman, so I take the phone to help translate. The woman asks where we are and we actually have no idea - we are on the Camino in the middle of nowhere. The woman asks me to describe our surroundings. Then she says, “Are you near Viaval?” I said, “Yes, I think so. I think that is the town that we see. We can probably be there in about ten minutes, walking.” So she says to go there and she will drive to that town to meet us.
We had to backtrack a bit and go down to the town. We found a park in town and sat down to wait. In just a few minutes, a woman drives up, jumps out of a van, and hands Taylor her document bag. Everything is in it… passport, Camino credentials, driver’s license, money, credit cards, everything. She had left it in a bathroom when we stopped in town several miles back. A girl from Holland had picked it up, wrote the note in English for Taylor, gave it to a woman in a bakery, who gave it to a German man on a bicycle who was riding the Camino. So, when this guy rode by on his bike, he was looking for someone who might be North Americans. He asked Chris, in German, “Are you North Americans?” And that is how he began to talk to Chris about trying to find a North American girl named Taylor and give her a very important note.
I am amazed that this happened the day after I blogged about my devotional on The Good Samaritan and my question about “How far would you go to help someone else?” A woman from Holland went out of her way to help. A woman in a bakery carried it on. A German man went out of his way to try to find the North Americans and give them a note - a note he couldn’t even read or understand. And a Spanish woman went out of her way to drive several miles to another village and bring it all together and return the bag. A lot of people when out of their way. A lot of people were the Good Samaritan embodied on that day. And the right people speaking the right languages were all in the right places... amazing God thing!
Belorado - Ages 27.4km
Only 512km left to go till Santiago de Compostelo...
Today was a great day.
First of all, a friend offered to help Laurie and Sarah meet me in Burgos for a couple of days. They will come up on the train tomorrow and meet me when I get off the trail, then we will spend a good day of rest together on Sunday before I hit it again Monday morning. Looking forward to seeing them and being together for a little bit.
Secondly, we arrived in the town of Ages where we were able to eat a real home cooked meal in a 400 year old house! We had a great time of fellowship.
Tonight we spent some time as a group praying for Chris. She is sick and went ahead by bus - she is resting and awaiting our arrival in Burgos. We expect her to be ready to go in a few days to join us in the journey.
I was reflecting on the journey so far. When asked about who is your neighbor, Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan. The Samaritan helped a man that he did not know. I have been impressed with the openness of pilgrims to help each other. They help people that they don't even know, or have known only for a few hours. I have seen people push Edie in his wheelchair. I have seen others offer water, food and other necessities to fellow pilgrims. I personally have had other pilgrims doctor and wrap my feet.
The thing that I focused on this morning was what the Samaritan did after he left the guy with the innkeeper. He said that any debt that was owed for the care of the man he would come back and take care of. I was wondering and questioning myself - how far I would go to help someone else? Would I walk back to get someone's backpack if they left it? (Would I walk back if I left my own backpack? I'm pretty wiped out right now, so I don't know.) What if someone was hurt? What would I do? How far would you go? Do you go the extra mile for those you know? What about for those you don't know?
Santo Domingo - Belorado 22.7km
Today was a good day. Good weather. Just now starting to rain a bit at 9pm, but it was good all day. In comparison to yesterday… Yesterday it rained hard all day. I walked with my head down all day, just watching my feet through my hood. I just had this small window of sight through my hood. I could just see my feet and a step or two of ground ahead of me. It made me think of Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. I was thinking about how God only shows you the next step in front of you, just giving you enough window that you can see the next step and go forward. Made me remember Frank telling us about the lamps and showing us how they hung from a cord and only lit the next step in the path in front of the person’s feet. That’s all I could see in the rain. I couldn’t focus on anything else, just the next step that I could see through the opening in my hood. I couldn’t focus on what was ahead or on the scenery or on the rain, just the next step or two in the path and keep moving forward.
It was a time of introspection and being by myself and being in His presences. There wasn’t any interaction with other pilgrims during this time, just the rain and reflection on Him. Just water and mud and the little piece of the road that I could see.
I have more to share about today, but it’s almost lights out and I need to get situated in my bed. I’ll share more tomorrow.
I've been thinking about the verse from Isaiah 52.7. It says 'How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” '
Right now I don't feel that my feet are anything close to beautiful. In fact very few people on this trip have feet that are close to pretty. Everyone is hobbling around with bruised feet, large blisters, bloody cuts and abrasions. They all have band aids. Many are walking without boots - walking in their sandals or flip flops.
I wonder what the feet of the people in Isaiah's time looked like. They walked on many roads like the ones I am walking on. It was an ancient Roman road - portions of the original road still remain. The Camino follows this Roman road for awhile. It is rough and bumpy and not at all smooth. Their feet had to have been like tough leather.
I think the true beauty of those feet is that they were the way in which the good news of Jesus was carried by these earlier pilgrims. Many of the pilgrims that I now share the road with know nothing of the good news of Jesus. I have met people that are searching. They have looked at other religions, many of them are former Catholics that are disenchanted with the church. Others are people that think the answers are in philosophy, crystals, Buddha, etc. I even met a guy who makes all of his decisions by consulting a pendulum that he carries with him. I have been able to share some with them , but many of them are just not yet ready to hear. I keep running into them from time to time. Maybe down the road they will be open.
Took a full day of rest in Logroño. I found a place to buy a second walking pole and I mailed 7lbs. home from my backpack… the equivalent of a newborn baby. So my pack is lighter now. I tried to really rest and do nothing, but it was so hard. My mind and my body just kept thinking that I needed to keep moving. But I did stay put and do some resting. My knee still hurts, but my blisters healed quite a bit. I’m becoming an expert at self-piercing… I “sew” a needle and thread through the blister, then leave the thread in as a wick. It drains the blister but doesn’t remove the top layer and they heal pretty fast that way. The tricks of the Camino.
We walked from Logroño to Najera today – about 30km. Some of the group got separated during the day due to varying walking speeds and such. The ones that ended up walking alone for a while found that the time they spent separated and alone was disturbing and hard. When we talked in group last night, we decided to work harder at staying closer together. Long periods alone are tough. It is a lot easier to stick together. It is easier to get through a long day when you’ve got someone with you. When you’re alone for a long time, it’s lonely and hard. (The day that I walked 30km with the guy from Switzerland felt like nothing – it went so fast because we talked the whole time.)
Stayed in another big, full albergue last night. Ninety beds, two bathrooms. This time I was NOT one of the ones who was lucky enough to get a shower. The albergue hosts had a little impromptu concert last night in the front room of the place. They played several typical Spanish music pieces. They really had quite a little party going in there.
Back at my bed, I had noticed earlier in the evening that the person in the bottom bunk was pretty meticulous. All of their ziplock bags and their personal items were arranged on the bed in straight rows and all perfect. When I came back in the room, I found my bunkmate (a 60 year old Korean woman) had rearranged all of my things. She hung my towel in a different place, she rearranged my bed things, she had moved my pack, and I noticed that my pillow and sleeping bag liner were different (I pin them together so my pillow won’t fall off the top bunk at night. I started to talk to her and she commenced to cry. She hates the Camino. She hates the albergues – they are too crowded, everyone snores, people smell bad and pass gas. She has blisters. The walk is too hard. The list went on and on. I recognized her textbook culture shock, mixed with some exhaustion. She has stopped walking the Camino. She has been getting up in the mornings and taking a bus to the next town each day. She says the only reason she continues at all is… “See that woman over there (pointing). She’s Korean, too. She doesn’t speak anything but Korean. Ever since I met her, I’ve been trying to help her and translate for her. I can’t quit because then she couldn’t talk. So I keep going.” We talked some more. I asked a lot of questions about Korea. By the end of the night, she was laughing and smiling. This morning before we headed out on the Camino, she said, “Thanks for talking to me and making me laugh. I needed that. It felt good to laugh. I’m glad I met you.” I’m hoping we meet up again in another town and I can talk to her some more.
There was an incident last night. We went to a restaurant for dinner. We found a place that the menu looked okay, so we went in. The waiter met us at the door. He then proceeded to yell at the group. In Spanish, he was yelling, "How many are there in your group? " He was very animated and had an awful scowl on his face. I was the translator for the group and I told him I don't know, just a minute and I’ll count. He then yelled at me again, “How many?” I repeated, “Just a minute, I need to count.” There were 14 of us. He then moved the tables, glasses, etc. to accommodate us. By that time, everyone in the group was afraid of him. It was like the episode of the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld! The meal was okay, but we will never walk 60+ miles to go to that restaurant again!
Today was really good. I spent some time walking alone and spent some quiet time sitting by a Roman spring and bath. The water was flowing from the wall into a large pool located in a stone building.
I got to spend a lot of time with the A&M students today as well. Great kids!
When talking with a Spaniard today, he said that The Camino was great. He said he has lived in his apartment building for years and still cannot talk to his neighbors like he can with people he just met on the Camino. He said, “If you talk with your neighbors about the things you talk about with people on the Camino, they look at you like you’re an alien. You can share your life and your story with people on the Camino and they really listen and care. Interesting for a relationship that is usually less than a day old.”
While the day was good I am struggling with tired muscles and hurting feet. I think we have a rest day coming up. I really look forward to that. I have had one 'casualty'... I think my iPod is officially dead. I've had it in a bag of rice ever since the first big rain... the day that my rain jacket gave up the ghost and I had to find other rain gear. My iPod was in my chest pocket so I could listen to some uplifting music and it got wet. Still hasn't come back to life. I think it's gone. That sucks... I still have at least 27 days to go...
I hope this post made sense. I am exhausted. ~Billy
The day started out great. Less pain and more energy. I actually slept through the night. The first time on this pilgrimage.
I got to have coffee with Didier (french pronunciation) . He is the guy in the wheelchair that I mentioned in an earlier post. Really nice guy. He was excited to show me his wheelchair. It is the design used for basketball. It is made in the USA and cost $7000. He is doing the entire Camino in the chair. Someone accompanies him every day because he goes on the pilgrim trail designated for bicycles and it includes highways. Therefore, he does not have much interactions with other pilgrims. A French lady has helped for a few days and today a guy from Korea was helping him. His hope is to make it to Santiago, go to the church there in Santiago and be healed there. I would really like to have everyone pray for him. He reminds me of the people that approached Jesus with similar requests.
Today was great. I had great discussions with Spaniards, South Africans and the A&M students. Great talks!
The weather started out raining. It cleared up some, but continued to do this all day. The bad part was when I climbed a big hill. It was sunny and hot and I had taken off my jackets and pancho. At the top of the hill, we were hit with a storm - blew straight into our faces. It had strong wind, rain, and hail blowing straight at us. I would swear that the hail was blowing parallel to the ground and therefore would never touch the ground. We finally found refuge after many in the group had red legs from the pelting of the ice.
After my revelation last night that I need to be open to ask others to help me, I realized that God is in that category as well. So I thought for a while – What could I ask God for? I figured that the best thing I could ask from him would be more love. Good request, right? Well I did. I walked along and prayed. When I was finished I was very pleased with my request. I then looked up on the mountain on my left and there sat an enormous cross. I then realized he HAD given me ALL of his love. I have it.
Day 4… Pamplona – Puente La Reina
There is a guy that started from St Jean Pied de Port (France) in a wheelchair. I saw him again the morning of the first rain. I’ve seen him several times now. He is a real trooper. The Aggies have been pushing him uphill when they see him on the way.
At times, I keep passing a Brazilian couple. Many times he has been at her feet, carefully removing her shoes and socks, checking her feet, massaging them, taping them and slowly replacing the shoes. Devotion and love.
I figured out what ‘talents’ are in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14). It came to life today when I realized that God's love for me is the ‘talent’ he gives me. When I pass it along to others, it comes back to me 10 fold. Pour it out.
I had a really hard day. Really hard. I went to breakfast my myself today. I wanted to have my traditional Spanish mollete (bread) with olive oil and tomatoes. That should tell you something right there… I’m missing home.
I left later than the group on purpose today. I’ve been walking at the head of the group, mostly. Today, I wanted to be at the back of the pack. I intentionally wanted to help form behind today, to help the ones who are having trouble, who are walking slower, who need help.
Except, I started having troubles with my feet. Blisters and small cuts. I had to stop and deal with them, clean them and bandage them. They continued to bother me. I spent all day dealing with wrapping my feet, keeping them dry, dealing with wounds.
By mid-afternoon, I was shot. I felt down, really empty. Physically, I am running on no sleep. These big albergues with too many people. Last night, they left the lights on all night. I’m physically spent. Spiritually worn out. Mentally shot. But I didn’t ask anyone else for help.
My devo this morning was Psalm 84:5-7. The questions from that passage for me today were, “Where will you turn to ask for help. What kind of help do you need… emotional, physical, spiritual, relational? Have you lifted your needs up to God? Have you shared your needs with others who can pray for you or help you?” When I read it, I was doing well. But as the day progressed, it became more and more timely.
I arrived at today’s stopping point (Puente La Reina) in a pretty poor frame of mind. I go to the debrief meetings with the Texas A&M group each night. We talked, and some students asked me, “what did you learn today?” All I could say was, “I don’t know. I’m still in a bad place.” All I could do was be honest about where I am right now.
At dinner, I talked with the leaders of the group and with some students. A couple of students stayed afterward to talk. It was a really good time of processing. I still don’t have answers, but it’s not as bad.
I talked to Laurie on the phone and shared with her. She shared with me some things that are going on at home that have not been great. (Read her blog) In a lot of ways, we are both learning the same lessons but in very different ways and in different places.
We both are learning that we need to reach out and learn to rely on others sometimes. We can’t do it all.
It’s a hard lesson to learn. I think it’s just beginning.
So, that’s my day today. It wasn’t very good. It wasn’t fun. But it was what it was. On to tomorrow…
Day 3 – Zubiri – Pamplona, Spain
Started out raining again today, but got much lighter and scattered as the day progressed. Probably start back up again later, though. Hard to stop to read my devotional in the rain. Going to try to find a dry place to rest and read and reflect. For now...keep walking…
I met two Argentinian priests and a Swiss Argentinian(?) along the Way today. Had a great conversation about their take on the state of the South American church. Fun meeting up with South Americans and speaking South American Spanish! They are holding mass for folks along the Camino. Neat guys.
I met up with another guy – North American. Started talking. Quickly progressed to tears. His oldest son died. He is struggling with God, with anger, with everything. Said that priests and nuns had really “pissed him off” with all their talk about leaving family and friends and the world behind and “Follow Me”. Said a missionary friend had called him from Central America to say his condolences and invite him to come spend some time serving in Central America. But, he admitted to having a string of excuses for not doing it… too involved in family, work, making extra money for the other kid’s college funds, etc. Then one of his other children said that he wanted to go to Central America with him to serve. Then a second child wanted to go, too. Then the stock market jumped up and he made enough to cover the college tuitions. So, they started serving together. Now they do short term mission work with a priest who is a missionary in Haiti. He is hiking the Camino with those two kids right now.
He asked me about my story. I told him about my walk in faith, about my own struggles. We had some really pivotal things in common in our stories as fathers. We cried together quite a bit.
God and I are having a great walk. It is hard, emotionally and physically. But it is great. I’m watering a lot of plants with tears along the route. Psalm 126:5 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.