I had a great day today covering about 25km. Didier asked me to help him on the uphill section of the walk. It rose over 1200 meters over a 10km span. I was using my poles attached to his chair to help push him when Peter, my friend from Holland ( I met him on the first day - shared a room with him) saw us. We talked for a while, and then he went on his way. After a bit, he then walked back down the hill with tears in his eyes. He said he could 'put off his sorrows for the day to help someone else with their's'. He helped me push Didier to the summit. This summit area is an area which has the iron cross (see photo). This is the special place of tradition on the Camino where people carry and leave a rock or other artifact that resents a problem that they want to leave and no longer carry with them. So pilgrims who know of this place will bring something from their lives and carry it in their pack for the hundreds of kilometers they have hiked to this point (like literally carrying the weight of the problem), then leave the thing here as a symbol of leaving that problem behind.
The thing that impressed me here was the number of rocks that have piled up over the years. It stuck me that so many people have problems which they need to leave them behind. It was a reminder and a symbol of all the 'baggage' and stories of the people who are walking the Camino. We all have stories.
Today's section was probably the most beautiful that we have seen so far. It was really tough climbing up and back down in one day. It hit about 80+ degrees today and is supposed to be hotter tomorrow. I hope everyone stays hydrated and we are enable to complete another 30km section tomorrow without problems.
Hey Gang - Laurie here. Billy sent me these audio clips and asked me to type them up for you and post to the blog. Thing is, I just can't do it... the audio is so rich and for me to type up the words would deprive you of actually getting to HEAR the Camino. So I explained this to Billy and asked if I could post the audio straight to the blog. As he shares about the struggles and the human-ness of the past couple of days, also be listening to The Camino... the feet, the surroundings, the passers by. I just think the audio paints a really rich picture of what it is to daily walk and think and reflect on events each day. Enjoy!
Click below to hear Billy's account of the past couple of days (there is a Part 1 and a Part 2 - hear them both for the full story)...
Tonight's post is actually a couple of video clips that I took today. They can stand on their own. I'll post a written blog tomorrow.
Right now, I'm off to hear a cello concert in a cathedral -- so before you think we are just jaunting around Spain doing cool things like going to concerts, let me explain that there is this guy walking the Camino WITH HIS CELLO! He has been at it for the whole time we have been at it! He plays concerts at night in the cathedrals along the way. What an awesome way to share your gift! I'll try to send some video of that another time. But for now, enjoy a couple of glimpses of the Camino as it was today...
We arrived in Leon in mid-afternoon. Leon is really a beautiful city with interesting archictecture and a great 13th century Gothic cathedral. Upon arriving, the A&M students had an overwhelming desire to eat at McDonald's. Some of them gorged themselves on nuggets and burgers. I think they were at a point in which they just needed some comfort food.
I've been thinking about Didier's pilgrimage as it relates to healing. As I have said before he has a lot of faith. I, however, have not been able to determine what his faith is in. Is it in the doing of the Camino and earning his healing, or is it in his faith in the place of Santiago, or us it in his faith in God? There are many stories surrounding healing and the Camino.
I have also been thinking about some of the stories of healing in the Bible. There are stories of Christ healing people not because they requested the healing, but because their father or other people intervened on their behalf and He healed them because of their faith and intervention. The story that really sticks out is the story of the paraplegic who's friends take him to Jesus to be healed. In Mark 2 the man's friends not only take the man to Jesus but they also drop him through the ceiling while Jesus is teaching in this home. The thing that sticks out to me in verse 5 where it says "When Jesus saw their faith" he healed him.
What does that mean in this circumstance? I believe in a Living and powerful God. I believe that He has done and continues to do miracles. I also believe that many in the North American culture think (subconsciously) our God to be small, therefore we expect small miracles, and that He does provide them as only small miracles since that is all that we expect of Him or can handle . I believe that God meets us where we are. If it will bring us closer to Him and bring Him glory, He will do what is necessary for His purposes.
So where does that leave me and Didier and this pilgrimage of healing for him?
I don't know if God will heal Didier. I do have the faith that He can heal him. I will, in the meantime, be praying for Didier's faith in God and his salvation and then his healing. I will be there to intercede on his behalf, to have faith in a miraculous God, and to carry my friend's mat (or wheelchair) to the feet of Jesus.
Today was a short walk. We only went about 18km. The group as a whole is doing well. A couple of the students went ahead by bus to rest and recover from hurt knees and feet.
Didier walked with me again today. The area was flat, so he was able to cover ground a lot quicker than I could. He has an advantage on flat areas and downhill! We still have a communication issue. I really have no way to communicate with him except to share simple ideas and concepts. We will get there, eventually. We can't communicate easily, but we do have a bond. He was very excited to find a Gideon's Bible in French in our room tonight. Another window into this man's soul...
We continue on to Leon tomorrow. It will be another short day.
Hopefully I will have more to share tomorrow.
I walked half the day with Didier. He had to stay on the highway because the regular trail was too rough. We walked most of the time in silence, just thinking. We separated in a town where I was supposed to meet the Aggie group. It turns out that I somehow passed them by accident there, and I stayed ahead the entire day. I was an hour and a half ahead of the group.
That is kind of ironic since I wanted to blog on hurrying on the Camino. I have heard quite a few stories of people who are literally running down the Camino. Eve, my friend from Switzerland, told me about a guy that started the Camino in Geneva when he did. The guy was averaging about 40km per day. Eve heard from him the other day - the guy had to stop in Leon with a torn muscle. He won't be able to finish this time... maybe not until September.
We met another guy from South Carolina that was doing about the same route. When we tried to talk with him on the Camino, he literally turned around backwards as he passed us, talking without ever changing his pace.
Then there is the banker that walks a full segment every day, and at the end of the day he pulls out his laptop and works into the evening.
Of course, there are those people that their goal every day is to be the first to arrive in the albergue so they can get the choice rooms or bunks, showers, and laundry facilities. You never see them or talk to them, either on the Camino or in the albergue.
Today I met a couple from Alamo, Texas. I was talking with them when the husband suddenly said, "Well, we ain't gettin' it done here." And off they went. I guess that is a matter of opinion, since I think the thing to "get done" is building relationships.
The great things that I have seen happen here on the Camino have all been related to the journey, not where you get at the end of the day. It all boils down to relationships - both between people and with God. People that are not living in the moment or who are focused on the end place and time miss out on so much that they could experience every day. I know this happens to me sometimes, both on and off the Camino, and it takes a conscious effort to a avoid this. Intentionality. It takes being intentional about slowing down and focusing on relationship. At times on this journey I feel that I am doing well with this, but I also sometimes find myself not focused on people or places but on getting the weight off my back, getting off my feet, and getting into a shower. I think that is when exhaustion kicks in and I need to rest and refuel. I am trying to change this and be aware - stay focused and intentional and relational - but I know it will take time. The Camino is a process and a transformation and a relationship.
I got up really late this morning. I had coughed less during the night, but am still sick and my abdomen hurts from the coughing. I made the decision not to walk the 27km, so I went to find a taxi or bus to catch a ride to the next staging point. The first pilgrim I met in the street was a lady from Canada. I asked her how she was and she said that the only pilgrims left in town were "the sick, the lame, and the lazy". She said that she was among the lame - she had hurt her ankle and was taking the bus to Terradillos de los Templarios (where I was heading). She showed me where to buy tickets for the bus, so I did. Afterwards, I contemplated her statement and wondered if I really fit in the sick category or the lazy category. As the day progressed, I realized it was best that I did not walk and that there was a plan.
I arrived at the albergue in time to have some lunch and take a siesta for some added rest. About 4 o'clock, I received a message that some of the Aggie group did not have places to stay in this town and would have to go on another 3km. Albergues are starting to fill up fast as more and more people begin the Camino at various points. While I was talking with the group, Didier (the French guy in the wheelchair) is going down the road yelling "Santiago!" and when he sees us sitting outside he yells "Gig'em Aggies!" He did not yet have a place to stay for the night and asked the lady at the desk for help. There are only two albergues in this town and they were both full. She told him that he was going to have to go an additional 3km to the next town. The lady at the desk admitted that she had one space in a bunk bed available, but no bottom bunks and so he could not stay. I had booked a single private room for tonight because of my cough, so I asked if we could move the mattress from the bunk bed to my room and place him in there. She said yes, but that decision was up to me as I had reserved and paid for the single room. She went back and forth with me for a while, not sure that I was serious. When I insisted, she began to cry. She said that there are good people on the Camino. Later I asked her what I owed for the extra bed and she said, "nothing, that God would provide." All throughout the evening, she went out of her way to help us and she would often walk by drying her eyes and dabbing her tears.
The same lady from Canada that had helped me earlier in the day helped me talk to Didier (she speaks French). I found out that Didier wanted to quit earlier in the pilgrimage, but the A&M students had been an encouragement to him to continue with their attitude and energy. I shared with him that he was an inspiration to us as well. He asked if I was the group's priest. I just laughed and explained that I am a missionary in Spain and that I had graduated from the same university - Texas A&M. He was good with that. He is French Catholic. I hope to talk more with him as our relationship grows and we have more Canadians around to help translate. I really want to ask him more about his faith and go deeper in that conversation.
Guess that a day of rest can be fruitful as well. Maybe I was not in the lazy category?
Click below to listen to my post for the last two days...
This post was made today by Steve, one of the Texas A&M students. It is about Didier, the man in the wheelchair that I posted about earlier on The Camino. He's still keeping the pace! Two of the students walked with him all day today.
Didier is a Frenchman that our group has consistently bumped into along the way. Before we explain why this man is so interesting, it is important to understand the joy that he lives with. Didier always has a smile and goes in for a "pound-it" followed by a fist explosion. His genuine happiness is apparent to all who have met him. This wonderful man speaks no Spanish or English, so conversing often proves to be difficult. However, after lots of pointing and hand gestures he can generally explain what he needs or would like to say.
Didier is a handicapped man confined to a wheelchair trekking the Camino de Santiago. I (Steve) was fortunate enough to catch Didier on the trail with a woman who spoke both English and French. After conversing with Didier and his walking companion for the day, I learned that this 47 year old was born without function of his legs. His legs have never been able to support his own body weight. Didier is wheeling through the Camino and hopes that with his arrival to Santiago, God will give him a miracle and that he will be able to use his legs to walk.
He has kept our pace since we departed St. Jean Pied de Port, and has now completed 250 miles of the Camino. Didier explained to me through his translator that no mountains or rain or anything will stop him from reaching Santiago. He teared up when I mentioned to him that our entire group will be praying from his healing. He said this while caked in mud and after speeding 25 miles per hour down a steep hill, during a hailstorm.
Didier is by far the most dedicated peregrino, apparent from the callouses and blisters on his hands from gripping the wheels all day. The incredible part of Didiers story and presence on the Camino is his faith. Faith in God to not only get him to Santiago, but also for a miraculous healing. He is also faithful and dependent on others. He needs the help of strangers who may not speak a word of French to push him up a hill or help him into a supermarket.
Didier is faithful that God will provide for his needs and continues to be joyful despite his vulnerability and handicap. He is a wonderful example of living his faith. Not only does he walk with God, but he depends on God to push him along the way. He is by far the most inspirational and incredible person on the trail. Please keep Didier in your prayers and share his inspirational story. We would love to witness a miracle and see Didier's first steps in Santiago.
We are all praying for Didier and we ask that you please join us in keeping Didier in your prayers. It truly is beautiful to witness the joy with which Didier lives his life and if anyone deserved a miracle, it's him.
I took Sunday off from walking. I had a great time with my 'guests', Laurie and Sarah. With some help of a friend they were able to take the train from Antequera to Burgos on Saturday and meet me here for a day off. We had a great visit, a time of rest and family time, and got to see a few sites in Burgos. The only problem with our visit was that I came down with a really bad sore throat and cough. I don't think I slept much last night from coughing and pain in my throat. As a result, I have taken it easy today as well (Monday). It was very hard to say goodbye to Laurie and Sarah this morning when I put them in a car to take them to the train station. I have really missed them and really I am not a whole person without them.
I rode in a taxi with Kris to the albergue so that we could meet up with the group. They had traveled an additional 48.7 km from Burgos to Castrojeriz over the last two days. We are staying in a campground tonight.
Kris and I had an 'interesting tour' on the way. I was talking with the taxi driver and he said that the town we were passing through was full of private underground bodegas (places to make and store wine). He asked if we wanted to stop and see one. Before we could even answer, he had made a u-turn in the middle of the highway! We stopped in front of this house. He told us to wait. He knocked on the door and asked if we could see it. The old man that lived there welcomed us in and gave us a tour of his house, his barn where he raises chickens and where he used to raise pigs, and into his wine cellar where he used to make wine. He gave us a glass from a box and talked with us about the history of his home. He even offered to sell us the adjacent property so we could dig our own bodega. When we left, the taxi driver told us that he didn't even know the homeowner before we visited. He laughed and asked if we were afraid that we were going to be locked up in the cellar. I don't think we could have pulled up in front of a house in the USA and been that welcomed. Hospitality is very important to this culture.
I hope that I feel well enough to continue my walk on Tuesday. Please pray for my cold, for my throat and cough, for my stomach troubles, and for improved health.
Hi... Laurie here... I'm hijacking Billy's blog for a second. Don't worry - I asked his permission first! I wanted to tell you about my impression of the pilgrim community.
When I arrived in Burgos on Saturday evening, Billy met Sarah and I and we hurried off to meet up with the Texas A&M group for dinner. As we were leaving the hotel, the lobby was full of pilgrims (in some of the bigger towns and at various intervals, pilgrims will choose to stay in a hotel and take a day off to rest, which is not possible in an albergue because no one can stay... you must leave each day by 8 a.m.). When we entered the lobby, almost everyone in there waved at Billy or knew him from the Camino. Lots of "Buen Camino!" was exchanged. A couple of women from Virginia were close to the door and stopped Billy to talk. He introduced Sarah and I, and the ladies immediately began pouring out their praises for Billy and for the amazing students from Texas A&M. One lady even said that she had already acquired an address to write and tell the university about how incredible the students are!
As we left the hotel, more greetings were exchanged with various pilgrims on the street. People passed and asked about each other's feet, about friends that weren't feeling well, about how someone's wife was holding up... lots of checking up on each other and caring for the community. One couple stopped to say hello, as they had heard that Sarah and I were coming for the weekend. He was German and she was French. Billy asked about her ankle and foot, and they said that they had just come from the doctor and they were going to have to leave the Camino because her foot has had too much stress and is quite swollen. They exchanged contact info with Billy and heartfelt goodbyes. Later, at dinner, the A&M students filled me in on this couple and on their story. It was really interesting how everyone knows everyone (not unlike a small town) and how this pilgrim community has formed over the past few weeks. They may not all be walking together all day every day, but they are all connected and they all seem to genuinely care about each other's well-being and journey. They even notice when they haven't seen someone in a day or two and begin to ask around.
I have to be honest in saying that it made me even MORE jealous of this Camino journey... I felt like a visitor, like an outsider just watching from the sidelines, and I felt a little sad and embarrassed that I was not in the group or joining them. So hard to keep having to say, "I'm walking next year." But at the same time, I was so intrigued by the sociology and psychology - by the way this community has formed and about the relationships that are building along the way. I can't imagine what it will look like at the end of the trail!
Three more weeks till Santiago...