April 1986, A Pilgrimage Begun 

     For12 months in 1984-85, Karen and Terry Whitehill, members of Temple Baptist Church, Portland, Ore., toured Europe on a 11,OOO-mile bike trip. Now they are back in Europe again, this time on a yearlong walk from Paris to Jerusalem.  Along the way Karen will be informing STANDARD readers of their progress, including blisters, new friends, and sites of religious significance.

The Eifell TowerTour St. Jacques

     It was cool and overcast as we set out from our small hotel in the heart of Paris on a weekday morning in late April. We walked quickly through the busy streets, dodging women wielding long baguettes and businessmen carrying briefcases.  A shared anticipation made us hurry on.  My husband Terry and I were already thousands of miles and several hours of flying time away from our home in Portland, Ore.   But our journey was yet to begin.  
    I scanned the skyline ahead of us.  There it was, rising out of the jumble of stores and businesses and traffic in the center of Paris-the Tour St. Jacques.  It's an old structure, a tower dating back to the Middle Ages.  It's the lone remnant of a vast church called St. Jacques de la Boucherie (St. James of the Butcher Shops).  Today the meat markets that gave the church its colorful name are gone. In fact, there's no sign of the church at all-just a solitary tower ruled by a statue of St. James the Greater and a handful of gargoyles.  

Half a Million a Year 

    The Tower and the small park surrounding it are easy to overlook.  Yet it was that tower that brought Terry and me to Paris-and before us, it brought hundreds of thousands more.  
    What brought farmers and herds- men, shopkeepers and millers, priests and princes to the heart of Paris to gather at the Tour St. Jacques each spring?  They came to begin a pilgrimage. 
    From this spot in the core of Paris, Christians from France, England, Scandinavia and the countries of the Rhine would set out each year on a thousand-mile walk.  Their goal was Santiago de Compostela in the north-west corner of Spain and the great cathedral built above the legendary tomb of the apostle James
    As many as half a million people a year traveled to Santiago de Compostela during the height of the pilgrimage in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.  And the Spanish city soon outpaced its sister cities in Rome and Jerusalem in the number of pilgrims it brought in.  The route was lined with great churches, monasteries and shrines.  Charitable institutions along the way provided pilgrims with their bed and bread. " 






The Sign of the Scallop Shell

Cathedral of Notre Dame     Terry and I shrugged out of our heavy backpacks, piled high with sleeping bags and tent, and we leaned them at the tower base. The scallop shells we had hung from our pack frames rattled in the morning air .These would be our emblems on the road toScallop Shells Santiago. These would be our pilgrim's badge for the scallop shell is the sign of the c, and the route is marked with the shell all along the way.  
    I stopped a man who was hurrying off to work, and he smiled and snapped our picture as we stood beside the tower that marked our journey's start.  We bowed our heads together and prayed quietly, asking God's presence and protection in the coming months.  Then we began to walk.  We turned south through the city, covering the few blocks to the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
    We had visited the church the night before, and we'd sat in the cool semidarkness and listened to the chanting of an evening mass.  The pilgrims who left from the Tour St. Jacques attended a mass as their last act before departure, and they brought along their walking staffs to have them blessed by the priests.
    We had no staffs to lean on as we made our way through Paris that morning, but we knew we had the prayers of our church family back in Portland to support us on our pilgrimage.
    Paris' traffic roared around us as we continued on past Notre Dame. We were headed for Etampes, then on to Orleans and the Loire River.  We walked along a street that has run through Paris for centuries, a street called the Rue St. Jacques.

Not Too Many Pilgrims Lately

    I followed Terry on the crowded sidewalks, past bakeries and vegetable shops, and I wondered how many pairs of pilgrims' feet had trod this path before me. Other pedestrians stared at us with unmasked curiosity. Apparently, there haven't been many pilgrims this way of late, I thought.
    What was it that had brought two Baptists from the West Coast of the United States all the way to France to devote a year to tracing a 4000 mile pilgrimage---first to Santiago de Compostela, then to Rome and, finally, to Jerusalem? What made a 31-year-old engineer and a 28-year old journalist say goodbye to their families and friends, give up their apartment, forsake the financial security of steady jobs and set off on a yearlong walk?
    I knew as we drew away from Paris that day that these were questions we would be asked many times in the corning months. I prayed that we would have the right answers to give.

That Question Again

    Eight days out of Paris, with 100 miles behind us, tender feet beneath us, sunburned faces and weary legs, we were being asked those Questions once again.Blisters on a Whitehill Foot  Our inquisitors were two young French women we had met that morning on a long-distance footpath beside the Loire River west of Orleans.  They were traveling our way that day, so we decided to join them and talk.
    The Temporary Home of the Whitehill's for One Year.Their English was good (luckily, since our French is not), and they were fascinated by the story of our pilgrimage, amazed that we planned to devote an entire year to walking to Santiago, Rome and Jerusalem, three of the most revered cities of Roman Catholic pilgrimage.
    Aline was a short, dark-haired teacher of 33, and Sylvie was a soft- spoken computer analyst of 27.  They had been to Santiago de Compostela the year before, following the route through Spain for one month.  They were eager to tell us about their trip.
    We walked together and savored the sun and the early spring blooms, pointing out boats on the river and calves in the fields. They told us about their journey in Spain, and described the ceremony we hope to attend in Santiago this year on July 25~the Feast Day of St. James.
    But they were French and Roman Catholics. It was natural that they should go to Santiago on a pilgrimage.  For us, it was different, and they didn't understand.  "You are Protestant, and you are American, Aline said, shaking her head.  Why do you go on a Catholic pilgrimage?"
    I looked at Terry, and he smiled and shrugged.  There was that question again.

First of All ChristiansLunch after visiting Orleans

Walking on a French Rural Road     How could we explain? We had agreed together to dedicate ourselves to a year of being set apart, a year of Bible study and prayer, a year of memorizing Scripture and meditating on it as we walked. It was to be a year of trusting God to provide for our safety and our needs, a year of exploring our Christian heritage.  How could I say all that?
    We are very close to God as we walk, I explained to our new friends. We pray and read the Bible and we talk. We want to be pilgrims, to understand how the pilgrims felt. We want to learn more about the Catholic Church and about Christian history.
    "James is important to us, not because he is a Catholic saint, but because he is a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Aline nodded and smiled. "I see," she said.  You are like me. I am a Christian first.  Then I am a Catholic.
    We smiled happily. We said. First we are Christians. Then we are Protestants."
    1 think we have not met many pilgrims like you," Sylvie said, "and not many Americans either.




Lunch Stop in Beaugency

    We continued on together along the riverbank, watching the current tug at trees and grass, and we talked of many things.  We agreed to stop for lunch in the riverside town of Beaugency.
    As we left the river to enter the city core, we climbed through cobbled streets.  Our first stop was at Beaugency's cathedral, a Romanesque church datingView from the Inside Out back to the twelfth century.  We pushed through the door and stepped into the cool silence within.
    The four of us stood at the back of the church and admired the nave together.  Though not as large as the cathedrals in Paris or Orleans, Beaugency's cathedral has a simple grace -stout stone pillars and a chancel lit by stained glass.  Sylvie read from her Michelin Green Guide in French. Terry read from our English edition.
    Aline was deep in conversation with a dark-robed priest.  I listened in.  She was telling him about our pilgrimage-Santiago, Rome, Jerusalem.  He nodded excitedly, repeating the phrases after her in amazement.
    They turned to us, and the priest took Terry's hand in his.
    "You are pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela?" he asked.  We nodded, smiling. You will walk the entire way?"  We nodded again. And you are Americans? "Yes," we said.
    His eyes were damp. "You are the first American pilgrims I have ever seen in my church.  Come, I will show you where the pilgrims pray."
    We talked together for a few minutes more.  Then it was time for the priest to leave.  He touched Terry's arm once more as he walked away. "Have a good journey," he said, then added simply, "You will pray for us?"
    "Yes," we answered.
    And I will pray for you.

 Answer to Prayer Comes in Unusual Packages Sometimes

    We reveled in May sunshine and lovely scenery as we followed the meandering Loire River west toward Tours, the second major stop on the pilgrim route from Paris. Our feet still hadn't adjusted to the hardship of life on the road, and we were anticipating a much-needed day off when we limped into Tours on an overcast Monday afternoon.
     The medieval pilgrims would have turned their steps immediately toward the great basilica built for St. Martin in the eleventh century , but we didn't have the luxury our predecessors had of knowing that a pilgrim hospice awaited.  So we began our visit with a search for a campground.  An hour later, we were comfortably settled in at a riverside site.  We shared a lunch of bread and cheese, then zipped up our tent and set out to visit the churches of Tours.
     Terry led the way through the city streets, relying on a map in our guidebook.  I followed behind, eyeing postcard racks and bakery windows and avoiding flying mopeds.
     Our first stop was the Cathedral of St. Gatien, a Gothic church with an interior lit by rays streaming through beautiful stained glass. From St. Gatien, we wound our way toward the Basilica of St. Martin and the tomb that once drew pilgrims by the thousands.

 Half a Coat Is Better Than None

St. Martin was a Roman soldier who became a great Christian bishop.  According to legend, while still a soldier, Martin saw a beggar shivering in the cold. He drew out his sword and cut his cloak in half, and gave one half to the shivering man.  Roman soldiers were forbidden by law to return from their duty with anything less than half their belongings.  So Martin gave all that he could.
      That night in a dream he saw Jesus Christ wearing the coat that he had given to the beggar. The Roman soldier became a dedicated Christian. Soon he was the bishop of Tours, responsible for the evangelization of much of the Loire Valley.
       When Martin died, his body was buried at Tours and a massive basilica erected on the spot. Pilgrims bound for Santiago de Compostela halted at Tours to pray.
      Today only two stout towers remain. Ravaged by war and handed a death warrant by urban renewal projects, the massive church is no more.  But a modern basilica has been erected in its place, and its crypt holds St. "Martin's tomb.
      We opened the door and went inside. All was silent in the church. Incense permeated the air .We padded down the steps to the darkened crypt, and then sat staring at the ornate altar above Martin's grave.
      I tried to imagine the awe that medieval Christians must have felt as they listened to the chanting of a mass in such a place. I watched as an elderly woman lit a long white candle and placed it in a rack beside the tomb, and I bowed my head as she knelt and prayed.
    Yes, it was an inspiring spot for me to visit-but not because St. Martin's bones were encased in stone inside that crypt. I knew the real Martin was enjoying the fellowship of his Lord that afternoon.  The importance of the basilica could be found in the man's life rather than in his death. Martin ' s example in giving of himself to help his brother was the lesson I prayed that I could take with me when I left.

 So This Is How a Pilgrim Feels
    Terry and I spent that day and the next exploring Tours. Then we abandoned the Loire River and turned south toward Poitiers, walking through gently rolling farmland, past fields green with young barley.
    The scenery was lovely, but the day was long. With painful blisters on my toes, a sore arch and an aching knee, I was feeling miserable.  Terry limped along on tender feet, studying his map for the best way to get us to Ste. Maure and our lodgings for the night.  It was after six when we finally climbed the last hill before the city. There before us, rising out of the fields, the tower of the church stood like a sentinel.
    I let out a weary sigh. I knew what it was to be a pilgrim at that moment, to be exhausted and beaten to the point of tears, to be hungry and discouraged and ready to quit. And I knew what it was to feel the joy that the sight of a church tower could bring.  It was a reminder of my faith.  It was a promise of rest.
  From Ste. Maure, we continued on, bound for Poitiers.
    We decided to take the weekend off in Poitiers, and we left our hotel room early on Sunday morning to wander the sunlit streets.  We stopped to examine the fourth-century baptistry , the oldest Christian building in France.  The music of a morning mass beckoned us into the church named for Ste. Radegonde, a sixth-century queen of France.
      We claimed seats in the back, and sat and shivered in the cold sanctuary while the beauty of the building warmed our hearts. The worshipers around us whispered the service in their singsong French. A tall, gray- haired priest led them from the altar .
      I let the foreign phrases wash over me, and my gaze wandered to the carved stone figures on the wall above my head. One impish fellow scowled at me and stuck out his tongue-my penalty for forgetting to listen to the sermon, no doubt. The Romanesque stone carvings in this part of France are often called "sermons in stone," and their themes come straight from the pages of the Bible-the rewards of the



 virtuous, the punishments of the wicked, the majesty of Christ. They were our sermons that morning too, and we worshiped silently in our own tongue.

Dark Skies and Tender Feet

We set out from Poitiers on a dazzling Monday morning, our packs heavy with the extra food we carried for the one day when most of France's storekeepers close up shop. A brown baguette poked out of the top of Terry's pack. A hunk of cheese and two red tomatoes nestled against my back. Our steps were light after our day of rest.
    We found a campground in Lusignan and pitched our tent beside the river. We slept restlessly while the church bells rang out the hour all night long. The rain came just after midnight.
The next morning the skies were gray and bleak. We had walked too far the day before. We were weary and our feet were sore. Our spirits matched the skies.     The morning was a numbing trudge through fields of grass. Terry's feet were tender, my body was spent. We walked in silence, listening to our thoughts.
    We ate lunch on a gravel side road, spreading my jacket on the ground so we would have a place to sit.
    The afternoon dragged on. We practiced the Scripture verses we'd been memorizing, reciting them aloud to curious cows. We fell into silence again, pushing on toward St. Vincent la Chatre, a town plucked off the map as our goal for the day. It was nearly five by the time we reached the small community, really just a handful of farms and houses scattered around a run-down church.

Too Tired to Look For a Place to Sleep

We headed for the small stone church and stripped off our packs to go inside.  The darkness enveloped us.  We sank wearily onto wooden chairs and stared at ancient walls.  The day had robbed us of enthusiasm.  We knew we needed to find a spot to sleep, but we didn't have the energy to look. I took off my shoes and assessed my burning feet. Terry closed his eyes and prayed.
    When we emerged from the church a few minutes later, a woman working in the garden next door called out a greeting and smiled.  We walked over to the fence to talk.  She had close-cropped gray hair beneath a weathered felt beret.  She was stocky and short, with slightly bowed legs that showed beneath a faded cotton smock.  She was a farmer's wife, and hard-working. Was she also an answer to our prayers?
    I began to talk, summoning my broken French to tell her about our pilgrimage to Santiago, pointing to the scallop shells on our packs.  Yes, she knew of the pilgrimage.  She had a friend in the next town who had gone to Santiago on horseback.
    She was friendly and receptive.  I decided to take the plunge.  "Can we sleep beside the church?"   She hesitated only as long as it took her to understand. Then, oui, she said, and flew into action.  She showed us where we could get water, pointed out the public toilets nearby, and showed us where to put our tent.
    I left Terry to set the tent up in the long grass beside the church while I followed our Good Samaritan across the street to her house.  She led me to a sink and ran hot water into it, motioning that we were free to come and use it.  She took me into her kitchen and showed me a large stove.  Her pantomime told me that we could cook our dinner there.
    A fire crackled fiercely in an open fireplace.  Above it on the wall was a wooden cross.  The woman touched my arm and pointed to the cross.  Then she smiled and put her hand against her heart.  I nodded and smiled back, murmuring heartfelt thank you's for her kindness.  She put four eggs in a paper sack and gave them to me before I left.  Did we need any milk, she wondered, motioning toward the cows out back.
    I called out a final thank you and an au revoir as I turned back toward Terry and the tent.  Suddenly the day didn't seem so bleak.  We had a place to sleep. We had a new friend. And we had a God who answers prayers in every language and in every land.

Crossing the Pyrenees: Wind and Rain and Misery

    During the final  weeks of May we walked south and west to the pilgrimage cities of Saintes, Blaye and Bordeaux.  We took two days off in the sprawling port of Bordeaux, visiting its churches and wandering its streets.  Then it was time to make the final push toward Spain.  For four exhausting days we trudged south, traveling through a part of France known as the Landes,  It's a lonely expanse of pine trees and sand, and towns are far apart.  We walked long days-22 miles, 25 miles, 20 miles, 20 miles again. We slept in church yards in between.
    Our days were filled with ruler straight roads, trees and ferns and sun.   The roadsides cheered us with daisies and buttercups, I watched the lines of pines and thought a pilgrim's thoughts:  What will we eat tonight?  Where will we sleep?  When will the miles ever pass?
    We pushed on toward Dax and the edge of the forest, trying to quiet our complaining muscles and entertain our minds.  Neither one was an easy task.  We practiced the Scripture verses we'd been memorizing, reciting them out loud.  We took turns praying for family and friends.  We sang all the choruses we could remember.  We counted the strides in a kilometer-1208 for Terry, more than 1300 for me.  No wonder we had blisters on our blisters,
    We slept one night in St. Palais, and the next morning set out for a crossroads known as Gibralter.  It is here in the foothills of the Pyrenees that three of the four major pilgrim routes to Santiago merge into one.  In the heyday of the Santiago pilgrimage during the Middle Ages, this was where pilgrims from a host of nations finally met.

Not a Very Good Start

    It was an exciting moment for us.  A surly farm dog was the only one we had to share it with. We lingered at the small monument that marks the joining of the ways, ignoring the barking while we took some photographs.  Then we struck out up the single pathway to the south, watching as the shoulders of the Pyrenees pushed into the clouds.  The narrow road climbed steeply, past fields of scrub and rock.
    Three Dutch pilgrims had told us about a woman in St. Jean named Madame Debril.  She is the official hostess for the scores of Pilgrims who begin their treks here, and she was the one we needed to see to get our first pilgrim's stamp.
    It's traditional for those who follow the way of St. James in Spain to request .stamps in all the major stops along the route, to certify that they have completed the pilgrimage faith- fully.  When a pilgrim arrives at Santiago with his collection of stamps, he is given a certificate called a .'Compostela."  It is his trophy of the pilgrimage.
    We found her house easily. It was marked with a scallop shell. I knocked on the door and waited, then knocked again.  Slowly the door swung open, and a middle-aged woman in a cotton bathrobe squinted at us from a dark hallway.  She had topsy-turvy gray hair, and she looked as though we'd roused her from her bed. Not a good start.

Watch Out for Georges

I smiled politely.  "We are pilgrims,"  I said, in very inadequate French.  I made a stamping motion with my hand.  She nodded and waved us in "Hollanders?" she grunted, rather grumpily. "Americans,'. Terry said. Her interest was aroused at once. She hadn't seen many American pilgrims. She motioned us into chairs.
    Madame Debril sat behind a large desk littered with scraps of paper, pens and books.  A scallop shell balanced precariously on an edge.  We began to tell her about our trip, how we hope to combine the three great Christian pilgrimages of the Middle Ages into a yearlong journey to Santiago, Rome and Jerusalem. She listened attentively. scribbling notes in a large folder she called her .'golden book.'.
    Then we sat back and listened as she talked about the pilgrimage to Santiago, trying to absorb the wealth of knowledge she possessed.  She talked of the churches and cities along the route with tenderness, as though she were speaking of beloved friends.  After 90 minutes, we finally said goodby, but we promised to return for a photograph that afternoon when she was dressed.
    We met another pilgrim that day in the house of Madame Debril.  His name was Georges, and he was a 63-year-old purchasing agent from Belgium.  Georges had left his wife and family at home to pursue a dream of making the pilgrimage to Santiago. Although he planned to cover part of the route by bus, he would cross the Pyrenees on foot.
    We could tell he was nervous about the trek. We promised to watch for him the next day as we made our own journey through the mountains.

Follow the Yellow-Splashed Road

We ate breakfast at 7 the next morning and by 8 were tramping into the hills on a narrow asphalt road.  Yellow splashes of paint marked the way.  These were the indicators Madame Debril had said to look for .
     The first two hours of walking were lovely.  Clouds wisped across the emerald hills, dragging behind the wind like the tails of unseen kites.  White sheep speckled the fields below.   At 11 a.m. we reached the clouds, and soon we were hiking through heavy mist.  A chilly wind rushed across the hillsides, and soon the mist became a rain.  We thought about Georges, wondering if he were somewhere ahead.  An hour later, we spotted him.  He was on the next ridge, a small dark form moving in the fog.
    He waved at us.  We waved back and hurried to catch him.  He seemed glad to see us.  "We've been thinking about you," Terry told him. "We were hoping we would find you."
    We added gloves and raincoats to our layers of clothes. Then the three
of us continued up the hill.  It had been five hours since we'd eaten, but it was too cold to stop.  Georges walked beside us, his staff tapping the trail with every other step.  We talked about our families and our homes.  We talked about the pilgrimage.

Spain Was No Improvement

The weather worsened as we went on, and an icy wind threw rain against our faces and pushed us back the way we'd come.  We reached a forested ridge top and a wire fence.  Georges studied his map through dripping spectacles.  "That's Spain on the other side," he said. "We're at the top."  We had hoped the clouds would vanish when we crossed the ridge, but, if anything, it was colder and wetter in Spain.
    Somewhere on a rocky ridge top we lost our way.  The yellow paint had vanished.  We chose a wrong road in the fog.  Terry noticed our error first, but not until we'd descended half a mile. We turned around and climbed again.
    Georges had been doing great until that moment.  But the unexpected exertion at the end of an exhausting afternoon began to take its toll.  He was breathing hard and his face was flushed.  His eyes looked worried.
    "1 must stop and rest," he said. We stood beside him, offering encouragement. He studied his compass and his map. "Are you sure this is right?"  he asked Terry. "I cannot keep my bearings in this weather."   Terry assured him we were on the correct route again.
    We climbed some more.  The mud was at our ankles.  Our clothes were drenched.  We were weak from hunger and fatigue.  Georges was breathing hard again. I suggested another rest. "1 must be careful," he said, smiling an apology.  "I have a wife and five children, you see."
    We continued on, with 18 miles behind us since breakfast.  The terrain leveled at last.  There, below us in the clouds, we could just make out the small church at Ibaneta.  This was the sight that thousands of pilgrims before us had prayed for-the legendary pass of Roncesvalles.  Georges was smiling again.

Never Alone

    We started down.  The descent was steep and jarring, painful on tender knees and cold feet.  We reached the church at last, and stripped off our packs and went inside. Georges bowed his head over a small devotional book.  Terry and I whispered silent prayers of thanks.  We devoured a few handfuls of peanuts, then we lifted our packs again.
    We had one mile left to go.  We walked three abreast, congratulating each other on our crossing of the Pyrenees, talking of the beds and food we would find at the monastery where we planned to spend the night.
    "Will you call your wife to tell her you made it safely?" I asked Georges.  "Yes, she will be anxious," he said.  He could hardly keep the elation from his voice.
    "I'm glad we were with you," Terry said.  "It's not good to be by yourself in this weather."  "Yes, , , Georges said. "I told my wife not to worry before I left.  I told her that I would never be alone on my pilgrimage.  And you see, I had you to walk with."
    I squeezed Terry's hand, and we exchanged happy looks.  It had been a miserable day of wind and rain and cold.  We had seen little more than clouds and fog.  We were exhausted and hungry.  But the joy we felt at sharing our crossing of the mountains with a fellow pilgrim was not a joy that depended on circumstances.  It was the joy that only the Lord can give, the joy of never being alone.

I Thankful Pilgrims, Groaning Stomachs, Happy Hearts

    We woke to our first morning in Spain at the Monastery of Roncesvalles on June 5. It had been a restless night. Our muscles twitched from our 18-mile hike across the Pyrenees.  The room turned cold when the fire died out at 3, and the sound of the rain against our window was the backdrop to our dreams.  The monastery at the pass of Roncesvalles has been giving refuge to wet and weary Santiago pilgrims for a thousand years, and I felt a thrill of excitement when I realized we had become a part of such a long traditioneven if my body ached.
    Terry straightened up our room while I loaded up the backpacks, then we went out into the softly falling rain. We stopped at the small hotel beside the monastery to say goodby to Georges, the Belgian pilgrim who had shared our hike across the pass, leaving him to rest at Roncesvalles another day.  Then we set out through a cold and steady drizzle, bound for Pamplona, 25 miles away.  We were hoping that, once we escaped the shadow of the Pyrenees, the weather would improve.
    Dark clouds and a chilly wind welcomed us to Pamplona, and we climbed beside ancient ramparts to enter the city at the pilgrims' gate.  Pamplona was Spain as I had pictured it-narrow streets swarming with cars and people, canaries trilling from wrought-iron balconies, laundry flapping between the buildings overhead, countless tiny shops with windows crammed with bread and sausages.

West with the Yellow Arrows

From Pamplona, our route swung west at last.  Our six-week journey from Paris had taken us mostly south. Now we turned our faces toward Santiago de Compostela, 400 miles ahead.  The weather improved markedly as we left the Pyrenees, and we traced a well-marked route through fields and towns, walking on small roads and worn footpaths. The ancient pilgrim way in Spain is marked with bright yellow arrows from the border all the way to Santiago, and we followed the yellow splashes faithfully, thankful for the guidance they provided.
    We slept that night in a pilgrims refuge--a monastery that has been beside the Calle Mayor for centuries . The next morning we moved on, adding our footsteps to the echoes of Spain's history , crossing the Arga River on a bridge built for Santiago pilgrims 800 years before.  A few days later, we were walking in the footsteps of the pilgrims again, following stone pathways creased by centuries of wooden wagon wheels. The yellow arrows directed our steps

A Lesson from a Lamb

We were eating a cold dinner of fruit and yogurt, too tired and too hot to cook, when a shepherd led his flock homeward past our tent.  I reached for my camera to capture the moment, and the shepherd paused at our door, curious about our presence in the field.  We told him we were walking to Santiago.  He nodded and smiled.  He had a small burlap sack over his shoulder, and he gestured toward it, offering to show us what was inside.  We nodded that we'd like to see his treasure.  He overturned it gently on the grass.  A newborn lamb tumbled out before us.  It struggled to stand on fragile legs.  "When was it born?" I asked. "This very hour,"  the shepherd said, and the wonder in his eyes matched ours.
    Oh, but there were nights that were difficult as well-nights when we were homesick, tired and discouraged. Sometimes it was a small occurrence that marred the day, a disgruntled shopkeeper, a careless word, an
argument.  Other times it was something at home that tugged at our hearts, a birthday we were missing, a holiday, a Sunday service at our church.  I turned to my journal at those times, recording my thoughts.  "Why am I so dull tonight?  " I wrote one evening.  "It was an easy day, and we walked the 800th mile of our trip.  I'm a little homesick, a little weary.  I'm ruffled inside, and I'm not sure where to find my peace.  Lord, fold me into Your bag and carry me, a trembling lamb who cannot walk alone."

Two New Companions

The next morning, we set out for Villafranca del Bierzo under blue skies.  The main road was nasty with cars and trucks, but our yellow arrows took us on farming tracks through fields and small villages.  We stopped to gather lunch supplies in Carcabelos, and we spotted two men with backpacks sitting at an outdoor cafe. They called out greetings as we passed, and we paused to talk.
    Heinz and Wolfram were pilgrims from northern Germany.  Heinz was 49, a trim-looking nuclear engineer with a quick smile and sparkling blue eyes.  Wolfram was 60, tall and distinguished and a bit reserved.  They were just finishing their drinks, and Heinz suggested that we walk together that afternoon.  We agreed at once. and we set out happily, talking as we went,
    The scenery was lovely-rolling hills, leafy vineyards. apple orchards and distant purple mountains. We passed along hillsides overwhelmed with vines.  Heinz told us about their journey from Roncesvalles and we told them about our walk from Paris, explaining our plans to continue on to Rome and Jerusalem from Santiago.  Heinz asked us what our motivation was for such a pilgrimage.  I smiled and whispered a thank you prayer as Terry told him about the spiritual
goals that were the basis for our trip.  The sun grew fierce as the afternoon wore on, and Wolfram began to falter on the hills.  We paused in the shade of a chestnut tree while he caught his breath.  "My heart is not so good, "  he said to Terry as he wiped the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief.  Heinz shook his head and frowned.  His eyes were worried.  "This journey is too hard for him," he said quietly to me. "He is not in good health."
    We continued on, winding through vineyards on overgrown paths, pausing to wait for Wolfram on the hills.  We arrived in Villafranca at last. It was almost 3, and Terry and I were famished.  We said goodby to Heinz and Wolfram on the edge of town, leaving them to search for a hotel while we hunted for a quiet spot to pitch our tent.

Passage Through the Portal of Pardon

    We devoured our lunch in the shade of the stout little twelfth-century church dedicated to St. James, sitting on the steps in front of the most famous feature-an ancient doorway covered with carvings.  That doorway is called the,"Portal of Pardon."   The story behind that portal seemed particularly real to me that day, and Terry and I talked about it as we ate, thinking of our walk with Heinz and Wolfram.  Beyond Villafranca, the pilgrim way to Santiago becomes very difficult, with one high pass and several deep river valleys.  The medieval pilgrims who made the journey were greatly comforted when they arrived at this church portal in Villafranca, for the portal had great significance.  Any pilgrim who was too weak to continue on to Santiago from Villafranca and there were lots of them, as the many pilgrim graves along the route give evidence-had only to reach the Portal of Pardon at the church, and his pilgrimage was complete.  If his illness worsened, he would die peacefully in Villafranca, believing he had accomplished the spiritual task he had begun.
    The next morning, Wolfram was still too weak to walk, and we set off for the ridge top city of El Cebreiro with Heinz alone, while  Wolfram made the journey by bus.  Our day of walking was filled with fine scenery and much talk, and we followed a river valley gradually upward, then turned steeply uphill to reach the ridgetop.  Heinz listened as Terry and I practiced the 70 Scripture verses we'd learned, smiling as we gasped for breath between sentences.
  Wolfram was waiting for us at El Cebreiro's church, and he was rested and alert.  His bus trip had gone well, he said, and he was feeling a little stronger with the day off.  The four of us shared a supper of soup and bread and eggs in the hotel dining room that night, and we agreed to go at our own speeds the following day and to meet at the Monastery of Samos the next night.  Some other travelers had told us that the monastery provided fine lodgings for pilgrims, and we convinced Heinz and Wolfram that they should stay there with us.
    Our friends started early the next morning, and they were ahead of us the entire day.  It was after 5 by the time Terry and I dragged into Samos, parched and weary from a 20-rnile walk.  Heinz and Wolfram were waiting for us, and a short, dark-haired monk in a long black robe led us to our rooms.

International Friendship over A Communal Meal

    Another pilgrim arrived as we unpacked--a silver-haired French cyclist.  Terry and I had shopped for supper with guests in mind, and we invited everyone to join us for a communal meal.  Terry stirred a pot of chicken soup, spiced with onion and green pepper.  I set out cheese and a massive loaf of thick-crusted Spanish bread.  The French cyclist offered a bag of peaches, and Wolfram unveiled a Swiss chocolate bar for our dessert.  Heinz made the most important contribution; he translated a constant flow of English, French, and German as we ate and talked.
    The monk came in again at 8, and he beamed as he saw us sitting around our wooden table with the remains of our feast spread before us. We were sipping coffee, laughing and telling pilgrims' stories in three languages.  The monk had another in tow-a bearded Spaniard who had walked from Madrid.  Terry grabbed another chair and offered the footsore traveler a seat.  We asked the monk to join us too, but he was off to evening prayers.  I could tell by the sparkle in his eyes that he approved highly of this international potluck of pilgrims.
    We went off to our room at last, with groaning stomachs and happy hearts.  We fell asleep whispering praises for the joy the Lord had given us that night. What did it matter that we were a collection of different people beneath that roof- two American Protestants, two German Catholics, an aging Frenchman,
a young Spaniard and a monk?  For one brief moment, our common pilgrimage through life had brought us all together-to share, to laugh, to care  and our differences simply hadn't mattered.  Each one of us was a part of God's creation, and each one of us had felt His joy that night.

 Joy in Santiago: Worship, Friends, Respite

    It was hot, stifling hot, and we were walking along the shoulder of a busy main road.  Trucks rumbled past, choking us with their hot exhaust.  Cars sped by. flinging gravel.  We'd come almost 20 miles that day, and I was weary and fed up.  Terry paused ahead of me, studying his map.  "I think we can turn off here,"  he said. "That's Mount Joy on the left."
   We swung away from the road and entered a small village.  Suddenly, the bustle and noise of modem Spain was behind us.  We were walking past ancient houses built of piled stones.  A donkey stared at us from beneath a shaded porch.  Chickens sprinted across the dusty road.  We climbed steadily, sweating in the hot July sun.
   "This is it," I thought to myself.  "This is the moment we've been working toward for the past 11 weeks."  I tried to imagine what the medieval pilgrims must have felt as they scrambled up this hill.  Mon joie the French called it-my joy.  Most of them would have been running by then, racing for the summit.  For it was from the crest that they would get their initial glimpse of the cathedral towers of Santiago de Compostela.  The first pilgrim in each group who spotted the cathedral would cry out in a voice filled with elation.
  We walked together, hand in hand. and we emerged on an open mound of rocks and sagebrush. The sun was in our faces as we stared toward the west. "My joy," Terry shouted.  "There it is!" I followed the line of his outstretched arm.  Yes, I could just make out the three dark towers above the buildings of the city.
"Thank You, Lord," I whispered.  "Thank You for 1100 miles. Thank You for our joy."

Only Three or Four Miles to Go

   We pitched our tent on the crest of the hill that night.  We slept peacefully with the towers of the cathedral at our door.  We woke as the sun rose above the horizon, glowing golden on the land behind us, the Spanish countryside that had absorbed our footsteps for the past five weeks.
   No need to hurry. We knew the distance left to travel was three or four miles at the most.  As we lingered over breakfast, we thought of our pilgrim friends-Heinz and Wolfram from Germany, Georges from Belgium, the three Dutch men we'd met at the French border.  We reminisced about the places we'd seen, the people who'd shown us kindness, the ways the Lord had blessed us.
   It was after nine when we finally took down the tent and strapped on our packs.  I picked up my walking stick.  We shared a hug.  Then we turned our faces toward the city, singing songs of praise as we went.

Destination Reached

The main road swallowed us.  The trucks showered us with grit. Soon, we were in the city's grip.  We reached the spot where the pilgrims' gate once stood. I stopped to take a photograph.
A tall, blond man joined us as we journeyed on, his skin and his shoes well-worn.  "I bet he's a pilgrim," I whispered to Terry.  Sure enough, he was.  We talked together in piecemeal Spanish, as he didn't know English and we were lost when he spoke Flemish.  He had walked from Belgium-four months.
    He shortened his long stride so we could keep up with him.  He had been in Santiago for three days, so he was familiar with the city.  Our new friend led us through the twisted streets.  He didn't even ask us where we were headed.  A pilgrim could have but one destination.
    We came upon the cathedral suddenly.  It sprang from the buildings around it as if it had been a child playing hide-and-seek.
    We stared up the massive towers with delighted grins. Our blond-haired guide gestured toward the entrance.
    We climbed a long flight of stairs to reach the cathedral's west portal.  Just inside the outer doors, the Romanesque carvings that make the church so famous were spread before us.  There was the statue of St. James that every pilgrim longed to see.  There was the image of the Lord above him-Christ in majesty.  And there below was the intricately sculptured tree of Jesse, a mass of twisted roots sprung from lifeless granite.

A Happy Reunion

We walked to the 800-year-old carving and bowed our heads.  We pressed our fingers into the roots .  There were five worn indentations in the stone-the marks left by millions of reverent hands.  We closed our eyes and whispered our thanks for a safe journey.
   When we looked up again, there was our German friend Heinz smiling at us. Wolfram was just outside the door. They had made it too!
   We exchanged handshakes and congratulations.  Heinz led us back to the cathedral sacristy to claim our "Compostela"--the official document of the Santiago pilgrimage.  A smiling priest recorded our journey in his logbook and added his congratulations.  It was a happy moment.
   Heinz and Wolfram had arrived in the city the day before, and were catching a train for home that afternoon.  They told us how happy they were to have found us again before they left. I tried to express to them how much their friendship meant to us.  We decided to walk to a nearby cafe and share a final hour together before they caught their train.
    Our talk was of Santiago and the pilgrimage, of ancient roads and thousand-year-old churches, of the people we'd passed along the way. I talked about the three Hollanders we'd met in early June and of our hopes to find them in Santiago.  Heinz spoke of a French pilgrim who had become a special friend, and Wolfram told us about a couple from Switzerland he'd spoken with one afternoon.
     "What do you really think?"  Heinz asked us as we sat at our table and sampled tortillas and deep-fried peppers.  "Do you really believe the body of St. James is here in Santiago? "   I smiled and shrugged.  Wolfram shook his head.  "I think it doesn't really matter,"  Terry said.  "I think it is the faith of a thousand years of pilgrims that makes this city what it is.  It is the people who come and believe in miracles that make this a holy place. "
     I put my arms around Heinz and Wolfram before they left.  Terry shook their hands.  Our eyes were damp with emotion.  There were promises to write, hopes expressed that we would meet again.  They were leaving on a train for home.  We were walking on toward Rome.  We were on separate journeys.  We lived very different lives.  But briefly we had shared a few miles of a common pilgrimage--and that is what makes Santiago what it is.

 A Bittersweet Time

We stayed in Santiago 15 days, resting our bodies and restoring our energy.  We explored the city and its vast cathedral.  We spent long afternoons in the campground on the edge
of town, lying in the sun beside our tent.  We telephoned our families, savored the bundle of letters we picked up at the post office, wrote postcards to our friends.  It was a much-needed time of quietness.
    Other pilgrims came and went.  We said goodbye to the Belgian man who'd met us on our first day.  We had a happy reunion with our three Dutch friends the night before they left.  We found a young French couple that we'd shared an afternoon walk with.  We got to know three Spanish pilgrims, ate our meals with them, attended an evening mass.  One of them gave me his sombrero to wear to Rome for him.

 We were on separate journeys.  We lived very different lives.  But briefly we had shared a few miles of a common pilgrimage. 

   It was a bittersweet time for us, full of reunions and farewells. Our friends were going home. We were going on.

The Day We Had Been Waiting For

Finally, July 25 arrived. This was the day we were waiting for, the Feast of St. James, the biggest day in Santiago's year.  The city was packed with pilgrims and tourists.  We rose at dawn and walked to the cathedral along still-silent streets.  The morning mass would be flooded with people.  We wanted to be sure to get a spot.  This was the most solemn service of the entire festival, the one the medieval pilgrims would have come for.
     By 10 a.m. the cathedral was packed.  We were squeezed into our pew by a solid wall of bodies.  There was no place to move. It was hot, and the air was heavy with suspense.  The mass began at 10:30. The service was long, full of ceremony and ritual.  We watched as representatives of the Spanish government, the military and the highest levels of the church went through their motions.  There was pageantry, color and tradition.  But there were also television cameras, photographers and too many distractions. I couldn't worship with so much going on.
     I closed my eyes and prayed silently, praising God for all He had brought us through.  I thought of our new friends, many of them already gone back to homes and jobs. I looked up at Terry and squeezed his hand.  I smiled at the French couple beside us, bicycle pilgrims we'd met at the campground that week. They had become good friends.
     "Yes, it's good to be in this place," I thought, "good to praise God for His enduring love."
     The next morning, Terry and I took down our tent.  We loaded our packs.  I put the Spanish pilgrim's sombrero on my head.  A neighboring camper snapped our photograph with the cathedral towers behind us.  Our faces were bathed in the morning sunturned east, toward Rome, toward Jerusalem.  We huddled together and whispered prayers of dedication and praise, remembering the chilly morning three months earlier when we'd started out in Paris.
    The Bible passage we'd been memorizing that week echoed in my head. I whispered it as we walked: , , As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.  But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children's children."

Cold Shower or Hot-God Gives and Gives

The first leg of their pilgrimage to ]erusalem completed, Karen and Terry Whitehill now head for Rome.

"Don't go to Bilbao!"  How many times did we hear those words as we made our way east from Santiago de Compostela, walking along the winding Spanish coast?
   We heard it first from two German bicyclists before we left Santiago's campground in July.  We heard it a few weeks later from Luis and Laura, a Spanish couple in Oviedo. "You don't want to go to Bilbao," they told us.  "It's just a big city-nothing but factories."  And in Santander, we heard it again.  This time our self-appointed advisor was a precocious 11-year-old named Gregorio. "Don't go to Bilbao," he told us. "It's dangerous-lots of Basque terrorists."
   So what were we doing walking directly toward that city on a sultry Friday morning in late August? That's what I asked myself as a solid line of cars moved past within four feet of 
my knees.
    Bilbao just happened to be one of the cities we'd plucked off our map when planning our pilgrimage in April.  It was one of the spots where our families and friends were sending letters.  We'd told them we'd pick them up at Bilbao ' s post office.  Those letters were precious-our first ones in a month. But we had to face Bilbao to get them.

Response to Uncertainty: Prayer

In many ways, Bilbao was a small picture of our pilgrimage.  As I walked that day, I thought of all the joys we'd shared in the four months since we'd begun our journey in Paris.  Oh, there had been some suffering-pain, fear, homesickness.  But I was glad we'd come.  "Don't go to Europe," our worried friends had told us.  "It's full of terrorists.  It's too dangerous."  But we had prayed and planned and committed ourselves to a goal, and we knew that God would be with us.  I knew He was with us as we walked toward Bilbao too. 
    Terry began to fret as the sun got low.  "I don't know where we're going to camp tonight," he said.  "There's nothing but factories. But I think we'd better stop soon. If we go much farther, we'll be into the city, and I don't want to have to look for a hotel room after dark."
    Our plan had been to get as close to Bilbao as possible on Friday night, then walk in early on Saturday to claim our mail.  We were hoping the streets would be relatively quiet that way.  All we wanted to do was to get our letters and get out.
    The sun dropped into a flaming red haze.  I felt the first raindrops from the clouds that had been following us all afternoon.  It was almost dark, and we still didn't have a place to sleep.  We'd learned what to do in such situations.  We were praying as we hurried on.

Warm Stew in the Darkness

Ten minutes later, I spotted a church on a steep hill above the harbor.  "How about up there?" I called to Terry .  "Looks good," Terry said. "Let's give it a try."  We started up the hill.  A few minutes later, we were at the church.  It was run-down and deserted.  "1 like it,"  I said.
    We put up our tent beneath the church's porch, tucking it into the corner so we'd be less visible.  We ate a cold dinner of canned vegetables and potato chips. We were glad to see the darkness come. It meant our presence had gone undetected.  Or so we thought.
    We were sipping coffee by flashlight beam when we heard footsteps.  "Oh, great. Visitors,"  I moaned.  Automatically, I began to pray, asking God's protection, asking that we wouldn't have to move again. It was a prayer I'd whispered a hundred times since Paris. Terry unzipped the door and looked out.
    A man was walking toward us.  He was short and stooped, with a heavy sweater, baggy workpants, floppy slippers.  We couldn't see his face in the darkness.  "Good evening," Terry said.  "We are pilgrims.  We are Americans."  He summoned the Spanish phrases we'd been practicing.  The man nodded and murmured replies.  We told him we'd been to Santiago and that we were walking to Rome.  He seemed to understand.
   Were we warm enough? he wanted to know. We showed our sleeping bags.  Did we have food?  We pointed to our packs.  Did we need anything -bread, water, milk?  We shook our heads.  He mumbled something and shuffled off. I had a feeling he'd be back.
   Five minutes later, he was at our door again.  He had a dish in his hands, a heavy earthenware bowl that was warm when I took it from him.  Terry turned the flashlight into it.  It was filled with a thick vegetable stew.  We murmured appreciatively as we sampled it. He smiled and shrugged and said goodnight.  Then he walked off into the darkness. "Welcome to Bilbao," I whispered to Terry as we lay down to sleep. ".Thank You, Lord." he added.

Mail for Dessert       

Our walk into Bilbao the next morning was effortless.  The streets were silent.  The post office yielded our treasure trove of letters without a problem.  We were eating a picnic lunch on the hillside outside the city by two that afternoon-and when our sandwiches were finished, we had letters from our families for dessert. Maybe Bilbao is big, dirty, full of industry , and a little dangerous. But one man's kindness had given us encouragement. And our prayers for protection had been answered once again.
    A few days later, we were in the Spanish countryside once more, making our way toward the French border and a fond farewell to Spain.
    It had been four days since we'd had showers, and I was feeling grimy.  There was no prospect of a campground for several days.  I desperately needed a place to wash.  "It's a sunny, warm afternoon, Lord, , , I whispered.  "Please help us find a fountain where we can wash.  I don't care how cold the water is."
    Sure enough, that afternoon Terry spotted a small spring tumbling out of a pipe set back in a field beside the road.  The sun was hot.  The water wasn't.  "Perfect," I whispered.  "Thank You, Lord."  We doused our heads, shampooed and scrubbed, not caring about the curious looks we got.  When our heads were clean, we filled our water bottles and hiked on to a patch of trees.  We hid ourselves from the road and took shivering showers in the pine needles.
 "God is so good," I said to Terry as we snuggled in our sleeping bags that night.  "He provided us with that spring today just when we needed it.  An we had to do was ask. ' ,

 Marvelous Spanish Hospitality

    The next day, we walked more than 20 miles through steep hill country and hot sun.  We limped into a small village at 7 p.m. I was exhausted and hungry.  We stopped at a little grocery store to gather dinner and breakfast supplies before we camped.  Drenched with sweat, our showers seemed like days in the past.
    "You go in and shop," Terry said, "I'll keep an eye on our packs."  His voice was weary.  I knew he was wondering where we'd sleep that night.  I knew he'd be praying while I shopped.  I gathered our food, and Terry joined me as the woman rang up our bill.  She'd seen our packs, and she was curious.
    A man behind us in line spoke English; he joined in as translator . The woman spoke to him.  He turned to us with a smile.  "Do you want a bath?" he said.  I hesitated, not sure I'd understood.  "She wants to know if you want a bath,"  he repeated.  "Yes-please," Terry answered with a grin.
    The woman turned the till over to her husband and led us upstairs to the family's living quarters.  Ten minutes later we emerged, washed and scrubbed and marveling at Spanish hospitality.  The woman appeared from the direction of the kitchen.  "Would you like something to eat?" she asked.
More Than We Asked For

    Our dinner with the family was a jumble of clanging dishes, piecemeal Spanish, and lots of hand motions.  The 17-year-old daughter wanted to hear about America.  The father wanted to talk about our journey.  The mother liked to discuss politics.  By the time we finished eating, it was dark outside.
    "We must go," I said. "Thank you so much.  We have to find a place to pitch our tent.   The woman spoke to her husband. He nodded. "We have an extra bedroom. You can sleep here tonight."
    It was after eleven by the time we crawled wearily into bed.  Our stomachs were full, our bodies were clean, our dirty socks were revolving in the washing machine.  And our hearts were singing with thanks.  "I'm so amazed by God's goodness," I whispered to Terry . ''He just gives and gives-even when we're not asking for anything more than a safe spot to put up our tent."
    Terry shifted on the mattress with a contented sigh. "Well," he said into the darkness, "I've got to admit -you prayed for a cold shower all day yesterday; I asked Him for a hot one today. Thank You, Lord," he whispered.
From the Pyrenees to a Soccer Field: God is Present

    As summer faded into fall, our walk was a succession of mountaintops and valleys, heights of joy and blessing interspersed with depths of weariness and discouragement.  We had been on the road for 19 weeks when September came.  We had almost 2000 miles of walking behind us.  With those miles we gained a wealth of happy experiences and new friendships.
    Our memorization of Bible passages had blossomed into a harvest of 140 verses-selections from Psalms, Ephesians. James, Matthew and 2 Corinthians.  As the days of our pilgrimage passed, we saw over and over again that God is faithful to the promises in His Word. Psalm 139, in particular, was to gain special meaning for us in the next two months.

Celebrating at the Summit

    The first weekend in September marked our sixth wedding anniversary, and we celebrated at the crest of the Pyrenees.  We had climbed all day from Jaca, Spain, making the long ascent to Somport Pass and the gate- way into France. It was late afternoon when we reached the summit, and
the jagged faces of the mountains spread before us in all their magnificence.
  That night, Terry pitched our tent on a mound behind the border station, setting it right on the imaginary line between Spain and France. I felt a touch of sadness, knowing I was leaving a country and a people I had grown to love.  But I was excited to be moving on, eager to find the roads that would lead us toward Rome and Jerusalem.
We slept with a canopy of glowing stars above us and the beauty of God's earth around us, with our feet in France and our hearts in Spain.
"If I go up to the heavens, You are there," our Psalm told us (139:8).  We had much to be thankful for that night.

Autumn's Charm, a Pilgrim's Pain 

    We spent the rest of September making our way across southern France. We walked long, hard days, visiting cathedrals and monasteries, sleeping in fields and campgrounds.  The weather was warm and dry , and the countryside was lovely with the charms of autumn.

"1 was excited to be moving on, eager to find the roads that would lead us toward Rome and Jerusalem."

    Near Montpellier, we watched delightedly as the vineyards came alive with the grape harvest. Near Aries, the apple orchards sang with the voices of the pickers.  Near Aix en-Provence, the silver branches of the olive trees glistened in the sun.  We sampled the sweet fruit of wild figs.  We filled our pockets with nuts from roadside almond trees and cracked open our bounty with heavy rocks.
    But sometimes the days of walking ended in weariness and homesickness.  Sometimes the final miles of the afternoon seemed like they would never pass. Sometimes I didn't know if I could face another day of walking when the morning sun came knocking at our tent.
    September 29 was a day like that.  I poured out my heartache by candlelight while Terry cooked our dinner on the stove. "I'm tired tonight," I wrote in my journal. .'I'm sick and tired of being a pilgrim. I'm tired of fearing for my life on narrow roads.  I'm tired of being stared at. I'm tired of pain.  And I'm tired of not having a home."
    "If I make my bed in the depths, You are there," God's Word promised me as I blew out the candle and crawled into my sleeping bag that night.  "If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there  Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast" (Ps. 139:8-10).

Pushing Toward Milan

    With each day in October, winter was getting a little closer.  Darkness came too early, and light came too late.  We crossed the border into Italy on October 15.  That night, the darkness nearly caught us before we had a place to sleep.  It was to be a recurring problem in the next few weeks.
  We left the busy Italian coast road and turned north into the solitude of the Maritime Alps, starting our long push toward Milan and Padua and Venice before the southerly sprint to Rome.  The days were cool and foggy.  The vineyards were bare and the trees were golden.  The smell of roasted chestnuts wafted through the streets of the small Italian cities we walked through.
    Milan lured us northward with the promise of its spectacular Gothic cathedral, and we walked until dark each night in our eagerness to reach the city.  There were no campgrounds to offer us refuge or hot showers, and most of the villages we passed through bad no hotels. We tucked our tent behind stands of unharvested 
corn or asked farmers if we could camp beside their barns.


Field Lodging

One sunny Friday morning we woke to a vista of new snow on the shoulders of the Alps.  I shivered when I saw the frost on the ground beside our tent. Perhaps it was the hint of winter that made us walk too far that day.  We covered 25 miles, and we were still walking when darkness fell.  We pushed on toward the nearest town.  We had no water, and without water, we would have no dinner soup.
   We reached the outskirts of Bereguardo a little after 6 p.m., praying as we hurried in. "Lord, please let us get off the road and find a place to camp," I asked. Before we'd gone another block, I spotted our answer on the left.  It was the town soccer field-fenced and silent and very dark. Perfect.
    I left Terry to put up the tent beside an empty clubhouse while I walked the short distance into town to buy our breakfast and fill our water bottles. We put on the rainfly before we crawled in, even though the sky was bright with stars.  We hoped it would act as a shield to keep our candlelight from betraying our presence in the darkness.
    Terry was just starting to cook our dinner when we heard a noise nearby.  Someone was in the clubhouse. A light came on inside, spilling out the window and illuminating our tent.  "Oh no," I said. "Now what?"
    Terry zipped down our door and peered outside.  A man appeared on the clubhouse porch.  He stood there, staring at the tent.  For the next few minutes, we exhausted our supply of Italian trying to explain our presence.  He smiled and nodded, whistling appreciatively when we told him we were walking to Rome. Finally, Terry
made an imploring gesture with his hand. "May we stay?" it said. The man smiled and shrugged. Apparently, it was fine with him.

Humor and Hospitality

We went back to our cooking, breathing sighs of gratitude.  Our soup hadn't reached a boil before the first soccer player walked by, his cleats clicking on the pavement as he passed our tent.  A steady stream of athletes began arriving as we ate our dinner, and we eavesdropped as the first man explained our presence time and time again. He seemed to be the coach, and if it was okay with him for us to be there, then it was okay with them.  Still, I was squirming a bit.
   Terry was just assuring me that there couldn't possibly be a soccer match that late at night when the floodlights above the field popped on. Suddenly we were drenched in light  I moaned. Terry started laughing.
     'This could be an interesting night," he whispered.  "At least we'll be assured of front row seats."   I shook
my head.  Somehow, his humor escaped me at that moment.
    As it turned out, we'd only camped in the middle of a practice session. Although our tent did get in the way of an errant soccer ball or two, no
one in the local soccer club seemed to mind our presence.  In fact, the coach invited us into the clubhouse for snacks and conversation when the workout was finished.  And he offered to leave us a key so we could sleep inside if it got too cold.

"The Night Will Shine"

   We fell asleep that night a long time after the floodlights dimmed.  As we whispered our thank you's into the darkness, the words of Psalm 139:11-12, seemed particularly appropriate.  "If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You."
   "The Lord is so good," Terry said as he pulled our sleeping bag tight around us. "He's so good." 

Lord, Have Mercy on Us Poor Pilgrims

    "Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt" (Psalm 123:3).   Words from the Scripture passage we were memorizing echoed through my mind as I followed Terry along the rain-drenched shoulder of ss 309, Italy's main Adriatic coast road.
    It was the middle of November and the weather was cold and wet.  We were walking on a truck-filled road, two days south of Venice, bound for Ravenna and a sixth-century church that holds some of the finest Byzantine mosaics in the world.
    Every trailer truck that roared past us threw up a drenching spray of mist.  The water dripped off my rain hat and dribbled down the back of my neck.  My feet squeezed streams of water out the sides of my tennis shoes with every step.  "What are we doing out in this?" I wondered.  The truck drivers wondered too, beeping their horns as loud salutes as they drove by.  Some flicked their headlights to capture our attention, then grinned from behind their steering wheels as if to say, "The two of you must be crazy to be out walking today."   I tried to smile back at them, but it was difficult. I, too, wondered a bit about our sanity.
    The teenagers in their speeding cars weren't as kind. They peered out their windows, pointed and laughed.  "Look at those two idiots walking in the rain,"  I imagined them saying.
    I stared out at the fields and kept on going.  "Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt.  We have endured much ridicule from the
proud, much contempt from the arrogant."  I recited the verses to the falling rain.

"Why Am I Doing This?"

    Our foot pilgrimage was becoming more and more difficult for us.  Being a pilgrim had been exciting in the spring.  Flowers colored the roadsides and the promise of the future lightened each step.  And being a pilgrim had been rewarding in the summer .  The days were long and the nights were warm.  Progress was steady and goals came easily.
    But being a pilgrim when fall was turning into winter was not easy.  The days were harsh taskmasters and the long, cold nights came too quickly.
    It was almost December and we were still 500 miles from Rome.  I was tired and cold and wet.  Another truck driver blasted his horn.  Another icy trickle ran between my shoulder blades. "Why am I doing this?" I asked myself again.
    I thought of the friends we'd made in the 2000 miles we'd walked since Paris: the French girls, Sylvie and Aline, and Heinz and Wolfram and Georges, who were fellow pilgrims.  I thought of the Spanish couple in Oviedo and the family in Pamplona, and of Angelo and Pina, an Italian couple we'd just met.  I'd promised them postcards when we got to Rome, them and 30 others like them.  They were rooting for us to make it.
    I thought of friends in Portland, of the Bible study group that prayed for us each Tuesday night, of the people who wrote faithfully. keeping us up-to-date on life at home .
    I thought of our families, too.  They were praying for us, supporting us, pulling for us.  They shared in each joy, in each accomplishment.  We were doing this for all of them.

Friends and Places: Not Enough 

Sometimes, though, on an awful day like this one, even all those people weren't enough.   We were enduring more than they would ever understand.
    And sometimes the dream of seeing Rome and Jerusalem wasn't enough either.  We could be to Rome by train in half a day, and a plane could have us in Jerusalem soon after.  But we were walking.  It would take us months.
    No, it wasn't the new friends we'd made or the old ones who supported us that kept us going.  It wasn't the places we were seeing, either.  As I sloshed along the rainy Adriatic coast that afternoon,  I would have preferred a warm living room in Portland, Ore., to anyplace in the world.
    Terry's voice broke into my thoughts.  "How are you doing?" he asked.  His seven-month pilgrim's beard scattered raindrops as he talked.  "I'm okay," I mumbled.
    We escaped the main road about 4 p.m. "It'll be dark in an hour," I thought. "Same old question-where do we sleep tonight?"
    It was too miserable for us to camp.  The only hotel we'd seen all afternoon was out of our price range.  We decided to ask for help from a priest in the town we were walking to.  All we wanted was a dry floor to spread our sleeping bags on.

Dirty, Needy, and Offended

    We made our way to the village church and stepped inside. We leaned our packs in a corner, sat in a pew and bowed our heads. "Have mercy on us. O Lord,'. was the prayer on both our hearts.
    Terry looked up as the priest walked past, hurrying from one duty to another.  Terry stood and called out softly.  The priest stopped and studied us, a bit impatiently.  I was squirming.  After walking 20 miles in the rain, I knew we were a sorry- looking pair of pilgrims.  The priest was about 35, and he was dressed in the brown robe of the Franciscans.  He didn't speak English, so we made our request in Italian.
 "We're walking to Rome," Terry said,  "We're on a pilgrimage.  We need a place to sleep.  Can you help us ?"   The priest reacted unexpectedly.  Perhaps he was busy or perhaps he'd had a bad day.  He was angry with us.  "Where am I supposed to put you?" he snapped.  "What do you expect me to do?"   His voice was filled with contempt.  It was obvious he didn't want to deal with us.
    I knew I looked poor and dirty and humble.  I could see he was a busy man.  But I was deeply offended by his attitude.  Terry was angry. too.
He turned to me.  "Let's go,'. he said. "We'll find a place to camp."
    Then the priest caught himself, as if a light clicked on in his head.  He didn't want our problems, but we'd
asked for help.  He couldn't ignore his Christian duty. He couldn't turn us away.  Calling us back, he began asking about our pilgrimage.  He thought a moment, then gestured for us to follow him.  We trailed along behind, our dripping rain hats in our hands.
    The priest led us to a small school building near the church.  He brought us into a classroom, checked the heater, showed us the bathrooms and the lights.  Our enthusiasm for the room won him over at last.  He smiled and shook our hands before he left.

Because He Shows Us His Mercy
    We cooked dinner, laid our sleeping bags on .the floor, read, and sipped coffee as the evening passed. And we sat and talked about what God had taught us that day as pilgrims.  We'd had a lesson in humility. We'd seen what it's like to be laughed at for being different, to be scorned for being needy. It hurts.  And we'd realized how much we had left to learn about being. "poor in spirit."   Our anger at the treatment we'd received was proof of that.
    Despite the day of terrible weather , despite the weariness I felt that night, I was thankful for the things we'd learned that day-lessons our pilgrimage had given us.
    "As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master. ..so our eyes look to the Lord our God. till He
shows us His mercy" (Psalm 123:2).  Sometimes God's mercy can be found in a sunny day; sometimes it shines in a rainy one.  But it always comes.  We only have to keep looking.
    I knew as I fell asleep that night why we kept on walking, why we looked forward to the days of our pilgrimage with eagerness and joy-- despite the blisters, despite the pain, despite the rain.  Each day we walk, we look to God.  Each day we learn to know Him better. Each day He shows us His mercy.

A Feast of Reconciliation

    When I walked across the hall to the bathroom the next morning, a plump plastic bag was sitting beside our door.  "Good Morning" was written on a slip of paper on top of the bag.  Underneath the note, there were half a dozen carefully wrapped packages-sliced ham, Parmesan cheese, fresh rolls, apples, a jar of mushrooms and sprigs of parsley.  It was a feast for our bodies and our hearts.
    We went to the church office to say goodbye to the priest before we left that morning.  We thanked him for the shelter and the food.  He shrugged and waved his hand.  We turned to go, ducking through the doorway with our bulky packs, and he smiled warmly as I paused and said, "We'll write you in a month--when we get to Rome."

Celebration in Rome 
    Karen and Terry Whitehill are on a 4000-mile pilgrimage from Paris to Jerusalem.  They arrive in Rome after walking more that 3000 miles.

    We crawled out of our tent just as the sun was climbing above the horizon on the morning of December 12.  The frost clung in icy slivers to the grass, and our breathing left puffs of fog as we took down our "house" and lifted our packs to our shoulders. It was 7:30 a.m. , an early start for us. We were eager to put some miles behind us before afternoon.  We had an appointment in Rome that day-an appointment at St. Peter's Cathedral.
    I thought back over the past three weeks as I walked that morning.  We had explored Venice and Ravenna, then we'd crossed Italy's central spine of mountains and ventured into the hilly heartland of Tuscany.  We' d savored sunny days and starry nights, vineyards and olive groves.  Three thousand miles had come and gone, and we praised God each evening for another day of progress.
    But Rome was still ahead of us.  The second major goal of our pilgrimage was only 15 miles away.  Traffic was miserable as we neared the city.  I hugged the narrow shoulder and watched the cars warily, whispering prayers with each passing hour .

Road of Triumph

  We swung away from the busy road at 2 p.m.  Rome was just ahead, but we needed to rest and eat before we continued in.  We found a hillside park and Rome and the Tiber River- with the dome of St. Peter's Bacilica in the background. leaned our packs against an olive tree.  Then we sat beneath its branches and gazed out at a city of three million, a city of churches and ruins and apartment buildings, a city that played a major role in Christian history, a city we'd walked 3000 miles to see.
    We ate our lunch of bread and cheese, hardly tasting the food, feasting our eyes instead.  Terry pointed out the landmarks: St. Peter's dome, and the Forum. Our hearts rejoiced as we savored the sweetness of the afternoon.  Finally, it was time to go on.  We lifted our packs and started down the hill.  The city swallowed us.  Terry kept a close eye on his map.
    We followed a street called the Road of Triumph.  It seemed like an appropriate entry route for two rejoicing pilgrims.  I thought of the Psalm we'd been memorizing that week.  "When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.  Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy" (Ps. 126: 1-2).
    Terry led the way unerringly toward St. Peter's Square, and we burst into
the sunlit plaza and gazed in awe at the vast church that dominates it.  St. Peter's is the largest cathedral in Europe, and it's built above the (supposed) tomb of the apostle Peter, the "rock" on which Jesus said He would build His church.  We left the plaza to enter through the cathedral's doors, and we praised God for His blessing as we walked in.
    A golden ladder of sunlight was suspended across the front of the sanctuary . The ceiling and pillars gleamed with gold.  We walked to the altar above Peter's tomb. A handful of worshipers were kneeling at the railing-nuns, tourists, other pilgrims giving thanks.  We chose a nearby bench and bowed our heads together as we sat. Our whispered praises trembled in the silence.

The Journey's Bounty

    We turned away from St. Peter's Cathedral to face the task of finding lodgings in the city.  A small hotel half a mile away provided us with an affordable room. We settled in happily.  Christmas was 13 days away.  We planned to celebrate it in Rome, and we were looking forward to spending the next two weeks falling in love with the city.
    We spent Friday night relaxing; Saturday passed with assorted errands.  I had decided to wait until
 Sunday night to call my parents, even though I was eager to let them know of our arrival in Rome.  That way, I figured, they'd be able to share their excitement with everyone at church on Sunday morning.
I was anxious to make the call.  My father had been having health problems all summer, and my mother's last letter had sounded very concerned.  He was seeing a neurosurgeon, she wrote. I knew I needed to check on him.
    Saturday night I sat up until midnight writing postcards to our friends.
  What a collection of addresses we had-England, France, Belgium, Holland. West Germany, Spain, Italy.  Each name was a happy memory .I didn't mind writing the 30 postcards.  Those people were the bounty of our trip. Those friendships were evidence of God's blessings.
    'Then it was said among the nations. 'The Lord has done great things for them.'   The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy" (Ps. 126: 2-3).  Our Psalm was a picture of our pilgrimage.

...Emergency in Portland

Shattered Joy

Sunday at 5 p.m. I called home, and our joy was turned to grief.  My mother fought to control her voice.  My father had had a brain scan that week, she told us.  He had a large tumor behind his left ear.  There would be surgery as soon as possible.  
I wept as I poured my sorrow into the pages of' my journal after the call.
, , Like a crystal goblet shattering, the delicate structure of our journey has exploded into fragments," I wrote, "My phone call home to share our joy was turned to an out flowing of sadness.  My dad is having brain surgery . Oh Lord, everything has fallen into pieces, and my mind is torn by all the fragments."
    And so Terry and I were faced with a decision.  My family was in trouble.  My father was seriously ill; my mother and sisters desperately needed support. They wouldn't ask me to come home.  They knew how much our journey meant to us.
    Yet we both knew I should be with them, even as our hearts yearned to complete the final portion of our pilrimage. Jerusalem was ahead of us -the city of David, the city of our Savior's death and resurrection.  God had brought us so far in eight months.  Was this to be the end?

Letting Go: A Journey In-Between 

    Throughout the hours of tears and prayers and struggling, we prayed for guidance.  We begged for wisdom.  We talked.  We prayed again.  Our Psalm spoke the prayer in our hearts, "Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev" (Ps. 126:4).
    Finally we reached a decision.  I would fly to Portland to be with my parents through the surgery.  Terry would take a train to the home of a family friend in Germany and wait for my return.  We couldn't bear the expense of two emergency plane tickets.  So we decided to trust the Lord to bring us back together.  If He led us to go on, I'd fly back and we'd walk out of Rome in January.  If He led us to something else, we'd accept that.  And we'd praise Him for the eight months we'd had.
     Terry walked me to the airport bus on Tuesday morning.  It was the beginning of a 22-hour trip.  I flew from Rome to New York City, seeking consolation in my journal as I traveled across the Atlantic.
    "After a day of tears and turmoil, we went to the travel agent last night and bought my ticket to Portland," I wrote.  "This afternoon I sit inside a massive plane that carries me across the ocean.  Terry is back in Rome, so far away from me that I tremble at the thought of it.  And I'm somewhere in between-in between my family and my husband, in between life as it is and life as I wanted it to be, in between suffering and joy.
    "Still, I feel a peace that began when we bought the ticket yesterday," I continued.  "I've let go of what I wanted. I've let go of my plans, of my security, of my dreams.  It's all in God's hands now, and that is where it must be.  Oh Lord, take care of those I love."

Sow in Tears, Reap with Joy

   After a long wait in New York, I flew on to Seattle. Another hour and I was in the air again. The plane was dark as we rumbled toward Portland. It was midnight and home was only 20 minutes away. I was exhausted, frightened, sad-and I needed to be strong.
    I knew Terry was praying for me.  I could feel his supplications, like strong hands lifting me into God's presence. The lessons of our pilgrimage were with me, too-eight months of relying on God's faithfulness, His power, and His love. I prayed for my family and Terry in the darkness.
    Then I claimed the promise in Psalm 126 as the plane bounced lightly on the runway and shuddered to a stop.  "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him" (Ps. 126:5-6).

Sojourn in 'The
Valley of the Shadow'

    In Rome after walking over 3000 miles -Karen received word that her father had to have brain surgery, and she made an emergency trip back to Portland, Ore. , to be with her family.  The following, is a diary of those days at home.

    I sat at an empty table in my parents' kitchen on the second Saturday in January.   The clock ticked toward midnight as my mother slept in another room. Everything seemed so familiar.  At first it had seemed foreign when I'd arrived in Portland 26 days earlier.
    I thought back to that night, remembering the fear and uncertainty I'd felt. Then I leafed through the pages of my journal, reliving the four weeks I'd spent with my family-our sojourn in "the valley of the shadow."

December 17

My mom and my sister Sue were waiting when I got off the plane.  There were no tears-only hugs and smiles; it wasn't too traumatic, Sue's husband and their three kids were waiting when we got home.
    My dad woke up enough for me to say hello to him, He seems very weak, very limited by his body.  His mind is still there, though. I hope he knows how much I love him.
    It's going to be a tough week.  I don't know what's in store.  All I can do is watch and pray.

December 18

  My dad was pretty lucid today, I'm afraid he's beginning to think about the brain surgery.  It must be terribly frightening, to know your body has turned on you, to feel your senses
slipping away.  Oh, how I want to instill a desire for life in him.

December 19

I'm weary tonight, weary and lonesome for Terry.  How many days has it been now?  How many more to go?  Too many.  Please keep him safe, Lord. Please bring us back together.

December 20

Tonight before he went to bed my dad got down on his knees on the floor beside his pillow, and my heart murmured with the memory of all the times I've seen him pray.  Oh Lord, please heal him.

December 22

  We were up at 5 a.m., preparing for the trip to the hospital.  The streets were dark and the rain fell steadily as we drove.  My dad was quiet.  So were my mom and I.  There wasn't much to say.
    We got him checked in, then waited two and a half hours for the angiogram to begin.  It broke my heart to watch my mom whisper "I love you" and to see my dad close his eyes and say "1 love you, too," before they took him away.
    Then at 2 p.m. the neurosurgeon appeared to drop the bomb that blew up the day: he wants to postpone surgery for 15 days.  We listened grimly as he gave the reasons. It was devastating to all of us.  My dad couldn't hear the doctor's words, but he could see our faces.  I wanted to put my fist through a wall.
    My mom and I went home soon afterwards.  I had my mom sitting down in her chair with tea and soup and Christmas cards before she broke down.  We wept together, holding each other and letting the tears flow.  It's the fIrst time I can remember her really crying since the news of her mother's death. But that was a
quiet suffering.  This was anguished.  I tried to comfort her . Thank you, Lord, that I was there.

December 24

It's an odd Christmas Eve.  There's a lot of sadness in our celebration this year, a lot of pain and uncertainty.  But perhaps the promise of Christmas is more
needed this year, too.  We need the hope that Jesus brings.
    I'll never forget the images I have from this time, the glimpse of my mom and dad through the bathroom door, my mom holding the mirror while my dad sits and shaves.  There is so much beauty in their relationship right now, so much love.  They are one body, and one part is ministering to the other.  There is such tenderness and love on my mother's part, such patience on my father's.
    It's not a merry Christmas.  There's too much pain for that.  But we have much to be thankful for, and we have the joy of knowing Christ is in us.

December 25

  Life isn't predictable these days.  The brain surgery seemed imminent when I was in Rome, then it became a matter of days.  Next the doctor ordered a two-week wait, and suddenly it's days again.  All that's certain is that nothing is.
  Our Christmas day became a surreal scene of ambulance attendants, a stretcher. a rainy drive to the hospital.  My dad was slipping away from us.  There were
tests and talks and agonizing hours of waiting.  It looks like the surgery could be early next week.  Why does sickness have to be so horrible?

December 28

    Psalm 91 is the promise I want to claim tonight.  The surgery is set for tomorrow afternoon, I hurt for my parents, My dad has been through so much suffering in the last six months, and my mom has suffered with him.   It hurts to see her fear.
    What do we do in times like these?  How do we pray?  How do we trust?  We believe.  We believe.  We rest in the shadow of His wings.

December 29-30

It was a long morning of waiting, the beginning of a longer day.  Finally, they came to take my dad to the operating room.  My mom and I walked beside him. He didn't seem to know what was happening.  My mom whispered an "I love you," and he summoned the energy to whisper back.  I kissed him and promised
 we'd be waiting.
    "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1: 7,
KJV). I found this verse in dad's Bible last night.  I turned to it as the ninth hour of surgery melted into the tenth, and Paul's words shouted hope into the despairing silence of the waiting room.
    Finally, at 2:15 a.m., the doctor came out.  My dad came through!  The news was cause for great rejoicing.  We watched them push him into intensive care, then waited 90 minutes before they let us see him.  We turned for home at 5 a.m., crushed with weariness but murmuring praises to the Lord for answered prayer.

December 31

What a draining time this has been.  I'm emotionally exhausted.  And the decision I have to make this week exhausts me even more.  What am I to do, Lord? I want to go back to Terry and our pilgrimage, yet when I see my dad wrapped in bandages and hooked up to tubes and machines, I can't bear the thought of leaving him.  And when I see my mother at the end of her strength, weeping from her burden, my heart nearly breaks. What am I to do?
    Fifteen minutes left in this year as I write.  I don't like beginning the new one apart from Terry.  The past year was full of discovery and growth.   The corning year is unknown.  I'm weary tonight.  I need to pray.

January 4

    Well, the doctor came to talk to us yesterday afternoon. I hated the pain I saw in my parents' faces when he gave us the news.  He wants to do another surgery : he didn't get enough of the tumor the first time.  My dad was crushed. His face sagged with sudden weariness.  My mom stood beside him and rubbed his shoulders.
    How do we pray, Lord? What do we say? I want to whisper, "Why, why?"   We hold onto each other, encouraging each other, drawing on our faith.  We ask for a miracle.  We ask for God's tenderness.  We ask for His comfort for our burdened hearts.

January 7

    My dad fought another battle today.  And all over the city, the state, the country, there were Christians fighting with him.  There were five churches in Portland praying for him, and there were friends and relatives all over the United States.  Terry was praying too, in Europe.  And my dad made it through another six and a half hours of brain surgery .
   I praise God that my father is still with us.  I praise God that the tears in my mother's eyes tonight were tears of weariness, not tears of grief.  Our family rejoices.  We have our father, our grandfather, our husband.  Our friends rejoice. George Obinger made it through.

"He Will Deliver Us"

    A verse I found in a missionary letter in our church bulletin a few weeks ago has become the theme our hearts are singing.  "He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us.  On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many" (2 Cor. 1:10-11).
    I know there are battles still ahead.  The doctor said the tumor isn't beaten.  My father has a long recovery ahead.  There will be many trials to face.  My mother has a long fight too.  She goes through every struggle with him.
    But for tonight, it's enough to praise God-for answered prayer, for His love, for life.  It's enough to know that the surgeries are behind us. It's enough to hold my mom and tell her dad will soon be home again.  It's enough to be able to telephone Terry across the ocean and say, "I love you. I'm coming back.  We're walking to Jerusalem." 

Walking Where Paul Walked: Friendship in a Muslim Land

    Karen and Terry Whitehill are on a 4000-mile pilgrimage, walking from Paris to Jerusalem.  Reunited after Karen's trip back to the U.S. because of a family emergency, Karen and Terry leave Rome and arrive in Turkey.
A Windmill on the Island of Rhodes
Looking over the Ancient Harbor at Lindos    
We walked out of Rome, glad to be on our way again, eager to explore the roads that would lead us toward Jerusalem.   Our first days of walking brought new blisters, tired muscles and chilly nights.   We hurried north toward Ancona and a ferry to Greece -and toward warmer weather .
     What a change a 30-hour ferry ride can make.  It was delightfully warm in Patras when we landed.  The snow along the roadsides in Italy was banished to the mountaintops in Greece.  Instead of the bare vineyards we'd trudged past in Italy, bright citrus groves and blossoming almond trees lined our way as we walked east toward Corinth and Athens. The heralds of spring were all around us. giving new enthusiasm to our winter-weary spirits.
     From Athens we sailed for the island of Rhodes, and our excitement increased as we drew closer to Israel.  We chose Rhodes as a stopping place for two reasons: one, because it has an ancient harbor at Lindos where the apostle Paul landed on his final journey to Jerusalem, and two, because it was our access point for entry into Turkey.
     We spent five days walking on the island, visiting Lindos ' s harbor and savoring the warm weather.  Then we climbed aboard a boat for Turkey.
 the land where Paul had taken the gospel message in the early days of Christianity.

Reaching Asian Soil 

We shared our ferry ride with Doug, a 6O-year-old American business man who was traveling alone.  We'd met him at a cafe in I View of Ephesus From the Top of the TheaterView of the Theater at Ephesus Rhodes the night before, and Terry and he had struck up a friendship.  We were glad for the opportunity to tell him about our pilgrimage and to express our love for the Lord as we
made the three-hour
crossing.  As we talked, I wondered how many shipboard friendships the apostle Paul had made in his countless journeys on the very sea we were sailing that afternoon.
    Our first steps on Asian soil gave me a thrill of excitement.  This was the "Anatolia" of the New Testament, where some of the earliest Christian churches had begun to shake the Roman world to its foundations.  We planned to walk from Marmaris, on Turkey's Mediterranean coast, to Ephesus, about 160 miles northwest on the shore of the Aegean Sea.
    Ephesus was a city of 250,000 during Paul's time, and it's famous for its ruined Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  For Terry and me the city was important as the site of the Ephesian church, where John wrote his Gospel and Paul spent two years witnessing to the Gentiles.
    But Turkey is a bastion of Christian faith no longer. Today it's a
Muslim nation with one of the lowest percentages of professing Christians
of any country in the world.  I was a little nervous about spending three weeks in a country where a "Christian pilgrimage" would have no meaning to the people we encountered along the way.

Liras and Skullcaps

It was almost 5 p.m. by the time we said goodbye to Doug and dove into the old town of Marmaris.  We were anxious to get out of the city and find a placeTerry and a Couple of Pears to camp.  We stopped at a bakery to buy a loaf of bread for dinner and shook our heads in amazement when the storekeeper asked for 80 Turkish liras-about ten cents!
Prices weren't the only changes we saw that evening.  Marrnaris is a town of several thousand people, yet the road was unpaved in many places.  Men in knit skullcaps watched us from every doorway, calling out "hellos."  Very few women were on the streets.  Those we saw were out on shopping errands, their heads covered by bright cotton scarves .
    We climbed away from town on a road that was busy with trucks and buses.  Every driver honked and waved.  I was praying for a campspot and a bit of quietness.  It was dark by the time we found a level patch of ground among the pines.  I crawled inside the tent with a sigh. "Thank you, Lord, for familiar 
things,"  I wrote in my journal that night.
    We woke at dawn and prayed for our families. for our new friend Doug and for our days in Turkey.  We were on our way by nine.  So were the trucks and buses-fleets of them.  We had a dozen ride offers in our first three miles of walking.  The drivers smiled and shrugged when we refused.  It was all we could do to sputter out a six-syllable Turkish thank you.  How would we ever explain a Christian pilgrimage?

Turkish Hospitality

There were hills and pines and honking trucks for a few more hours , then we descended into Gokova, a fishing village set on the inland tip of a 40-mile bay.
A Turkish Lady We were hoping to make a ferry connection there, which would eliminate 30 miles of the busy road to Ephesus.Terry, the Fishing Boat and It's Crew
    "This is the kind of thing Paul must have done a lot," Terry said as he led us toward the docks.  "He was always looking for a boat to his next mission field."
    "But at least he spoke the language," I thought to myself as we approached a group of fishermen.  Terry started talking with his hands and map.  Then the oldest of the men, Sami, volunteered some English to help us out.  He'd been to Chicago and Duluth on a Korean merchant ship, he told us.  He also told us there was no chance of catching a boat ride.  Ferries didn't run in the winter, and the fishermen didn't go out that far.  We'd have to walk.
   We sat beside the harbor and considered our options.  A boat ride had sounded so appealing.  The four-mile hill outside of town looked much less pleasant. We were trying to decide whether to camp early or tackle the hill that afternoon when Sami approached us. "Will you drink some Turkish tea with us?" he asked.  We smiled and nodded .
    And so we sat beside the harbor and sipped glasses of dark, sweet tea with Sami, Genghis, Sali and Mustafa.  We told them about our walk, explaining that we were following medieval routes of pilgrimage.  We showed them photos of our families and listened while they talked about boat motors and fish.
    Tea led to an invitation to spaghetti, and soon we were eating platefuls of oily noodles from a newspaper table- cloth.  We devoured doughy hunks of bread and sampled fresh fish in oil, a contribution from a passing fisherman.
    The sun was low on the horizon when we finally rose to leave. We planned to spend the evening at a campground on the edge of town.
But then Sami called over Menderes, a young man who had just arrived. .'You can sleep at his house," he said.
    Terry and I looked at each other and smiled, "I think I like Turkey," I whispered.

"That I May Declare It Fearlessly"
    During the ten-minute walk to his house, Menderes told us about his summer work on a tourist yacht and his winter job as a fisherman.  Menderes's mother, A Locust Fatma, was waiting
for us on the porch when we arrived.  She had on a flowing white scarf, a red knit sweater and a pair of the vast cotton .'pajamas" that Turkish women wear.  She also had one of the broadest smiles I'd ever seen.
     She shook our hands enthusiastically and welcomed us inside.  Then she disappeared into the kitchen and began cooking with a vengeance.  The evening was a treasure--new sights, new tastes, new friends.
     Menderes' s sister, 21-year-old Nilufer, was eager to practice the English she'd been studying, and I was glad to have a tutor for my Turkish.  We brought out our map and our photographs, trying to explain about our trip.  I found myself wishing, as I have so many times, that we had the words to tell our new friends more about our faith in Christ.
   And so we spent our second night in Turkey in a humble farmhouse on the edge of a small village. It had outdoor plumbing, a woodstove for heat, and a fire in the kitchen for cooking.  We had very little in common with our new friends.  We had different nationalities, languages, economic levels and religions.
   Yet they had taken us in and shared their home.  And we'd become friends.  We exchanged addresses before we left, and we assured them we'd try to visit again.  Paul's request to the Ephesian church was the desire of my heart as we walked away the next morning, bound for Ephesus.
   "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. .. pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should" (Eph. 6:19-20).
    We'll be praying for Menderes, Nilufer and Fatma, for Doug, for the many friends of our pilgrimage.  And we'll be praying that we would have the words for them.

'All of a Christian's Life Is a Pilgrimage'Terry -- "Swimming" in the Dead Sea

    Looking Over the Dead SeaWhere have the months gone?   It's April 28, 1987, and April 1986 seems worlds away as I write this morning.  The day we began our walk in Paris seems like a half-forgotten dream.  All the blisters we suffered from in the spring of our pilgrimage are nothing more than a memory today.
    The rainy afternoons of fall and the long, cold nights of winter are gone.  The sun is turning our skin brown again.  A spring breeze drifts across the Judean hills and blows my hair in shadows across this page.  It's our final day in Jerusalem, and Portland is only 45 hours away.
    I glance at Terry lying in the grass beside our tent.  He's reading our battered New Testament, reviewing the treasure of verses we've learned this year .
    We began with Micah 6:8 the night we flew away from Portland. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."  Indeed, He has shown us how good it is to walk with Him.

Pain, Faithfulness, and Joy

Walking on the Road to Jerusalem
The journey has been difficult at times: homesickness, my father's ill- ness, struggles with fear and isolation.  But God has been faithful.
    Our pilgrimage has been a physical challenge, too.  The day we walked into Jerusalem was one of the hardest days of our entire trip.  In 11 hours of walking,Walking in the Old City of Jerusalem we climbed from the Dead Sea, at 1300 feet below sea level, to
the Mount of Olives, at 2700 feet above sea level.
    We walked 30 miles that day, and I was praying for strength the entire way.  I'd picked up an intestinal infection from well water we'd been given while walking through the hills of Samaria, and I wasn't sure I'd make it up the hill.  But God gave me the strength I needed, and we were standing in the shadow of St. Stephen's Gate that evening, feasting our eyes on our first look at Jerusalem.
    "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord. ' Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem" (Ps. 122:1-2).  Terry whispered the words as we walked into the city.  Our bodies ached with weariness, but our spirits soared with silent praise to God.
    Five days later, Palm Sunday, we passed through St. Stephen's Gate again, part of a procession that numbered in the thousands.  People were singing hymns and praising God in dozens of languages.  
    Terry and I shared the walk with a group of Roman Catholic nuns we'd met at a prayer meeting a few weeks earlier.  We were singing "Hosanna
to the King" and waving palm fronds with friends from Ghana, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Korea, Taiwan, Missouri, and California.  What a joyous day it was.

Waiting and Wondering: What Next?

   Two Small Boys on The Mount of Olives We explored Jerusalem in bits and pieces during the next week, visiting one or two sites a day and wandering the market streets. We phoned our families to tell them of our arrival in Jerusalem, and we had to fight back our disappointment when my mother told us we couldn't get a flight home for another 15 days. Jerusalem was packed with visitors for Passover and Easter, and all the flights had been booked for months.
     So we passed the days quietly, waiting to go home.  We sought out other Christians for fellowship. We attended Shabbat services at a Southern Baptist church, went to a Bible study with a fellowship of Messianic Jews, and attended a foot- washing ceremony with our Catholic friends.  We sat in the lovely surroundings of the Garden Tomb on Good Friday, reading the crucifixion story from the book of John and staring at a lonely hill.
    Yet, even with all the fellowship, all the atmosphere, all the spiritual invigoration of being in Jerusalem on the most joyous day of the Christian year, I woke up on Easter Sunday feeling gloomy, homesick, and directionless.  Perhaps it was the chilly wind that threw the April rain against our tent.  Perhaps it was the thought of home, of our families gathering together without us.
Terry and I had been pilgrims for a year.  We'd had a goal, a destination, a purpose.  The Lord had blessed us and brought us safely to Jerusalem.  But what was next?

Easter Company

    We'd planned to attend a sunrise service at the Garden Tomb on Easter Sunday, but the wet morning changed our minds.  We walked to the LutheranThe Old City of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock church in the Old City instead, hoping to catch an English worship service .
     My mood turned gloomier as I sat in the pew that morning.  I wanted to be home, and I had ten more days to wait.  I didn't even go forward to take communion at the end.  I just stayed in the pew and prayed.
     There was a coffee hour after the service.  The congregation milled about and talked, a mixture of Jerusalem residents and foreign tourists . Terry and I introduced ourselves to a young Swedish woman named Mona.  She had quit her job as a school- teacher to travel.  She was working on a kibbutz in the Galilee region, she told us, and she'd taken a bus to Jerusalem so she could be in the city on Easter Sunday.  We invited her to join us.
     The three of us decided to walk toward the Mount of Olives.  The rain clouds had drifted off, and the afternoon was turning sunny. Terry and I began to tell Mona about our pilgrimage, explaining our desire to dedicate a year to Bible study, Bible memorization, and exploration of our faith.
    We walked to the base of the Mount of Olives and turned to look back at Jerusalem.  The city looked magnificent, its 400- year-old walls glowing in the sun.

Sharing the Faith

"See that gateway?" I said to Mona, pointing to a pair of blocked-in arches in the eastern wall. "It's called the Beautiful Gate. The Jews have a tradition thatThe Golden Gate
The Old Jerusalem City Wall and the Golden Gate says the Messiah will come through that gate when He arrives in glory in Jerusalem." Mona studied the gate with interest.
    "It has significance to us as Christians, too,"   I continued, "because we believe that Jesus Christ will return to Jerusalem in glory and power someday."
     "And He'll come to all the earth as well," Terry added.
     Mona looked at us quizzically. "You mean you really believe that?" she asked.  "You really believe that Jesus is coming back?"
    "Yes, we do," I answered.
    "I'm not so sure," Mona said. "1 have too many questions. I wish I was as certain of what I believe as you two are."
    And so we talked away the afternoon. Mona asked us questions, and Terry and I took turns answering. She'd read the New Testament. She
was familiar with the foundations of Christianity.  She just didn't have the faith to go with the knowledge-not yet.
    We walked her to the bus stop in the afternoon.  We exchanged addresses and urged her to visit us in Oregon.  She gave us each a hug before she boarded
her bus.

A Pilgrim's Work Is Never Done

As Terry and I turned back toward our campground that evening, our hearts were joyful.  Perhaps we would have to "tarry in Jerusalem."  But we weren't sad any longer.  Our journey wasn't finished after all.  Our pilgrimage wasn't done.
    For all of a Christian's life is a pilgrimage, and the Lord has given all of us a message to proclaim along the way-in Jerusalem, in Judea, in the uttermost parts of the earth.  Jesus is alive. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is coming back again. And when He does, He'll take His people home.

    "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."                                                                                                                                         (Heb. 11:8-10).

Karen Whitehill

    Karen and Terry Whitehill are members of Temple Baptist Church, Portland, Ore.  Europe by Bike by the Whitehills has recently been published by Mountaineers, a Seattle-based outdoor lifestyle book publisher.  The paperback sells for $10.95.  The Whitehills have completed their pilgrimage and left Israel April 29 for their home in Portland.

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