By Olivia Myers

Christ Before Me, in a Land not My Own

Sal de tu tierra, el Apóstol te espera.

Leave your country, the Apostle is waiting for you. These words are printed on the cover of the pilgrim’s stamp book, which certified my completion of the Camino Santiago, a pilgrimage ending on the north-Atlantic coast of Spain. It was Holy Week, 2022, and I joined InterVarsity staff and some others at our start in Lugo; from there we walked 100 kilometers to the terminus of the pilgrimage, Santiago de Compostela. Almost a year later, I reflect on our walk with the Lord, and my time abroad in Germany as a whole, as a nourishing memory of God’s providence.

Being from foggy, mild central California, my study abroad year in Germany was the first time that I experienced all four seasons. During the long, slate-gray winter months between Munich’s tall, slate-gray buildings, my body hibernated and my mind and heart took on the concrete’s color. By April I was desperate to flee Munich, and craved a long walk with my backpack, prayers and new friends.

Jesus, as he so sweetly does, provided deeply. Walking past centuries-old oaks in bloom and beneath the stories-tall waving fronds of eucalyptus plantations, my senses were washed with a fresh awareness of the world. Observations of little details—the rain-swollen lichen on a cobbled wall—sparked conversations with my fellow peregrinos, as well as with myself and God, and maybe with some trees and the wind, too. The Lord gave me the simple yet complex sensory experience of moving my body and backpack along old Spanish roads, and asked me to be present. I can say that I gladly took Jesus up on this opportunity for deep fellowship and spiritual embodiment.

My journal entry for the 9th of April, 2022, captures the refreshment I felt:
Wow, today was a walk! 16 miles or so, tortilla for breakfast, tortilla for dinner, and now us ladies are groaning and creaking and laughing with our tender fresh bodies. So much wealth of spirit & knowledge & desire to share with one another. Lichen and Korea[n] natural farming and stories! And time to sleep. It is so enriching to be around people spitting the Gospel & encouraging one another in the Lord.
Once in Santiago de Compostela, I reflected with the group that the Lord told me some of those hard truths that I knew were coming and had been avoiding, but for the most part, He shepherded me with his trademark tenderness. While on the Camino, the walking and weather tingled my skin, calloused my heels and rejuvenated my muscles. The Spirit flooded my heart with fresh wisdom (imparted by bipedal, mineral, winged and rooted beings alike) and our good Lord encouraged me with the words He knew I needed to return to the city and finish my year abroad with gusto.

The Lord is our provider in every situation if we ask Him, and I intimately discovered this while wandering. A good hard climb up a hill does wonders to cleanse my body, mind and spirit so that I arrive ready to receive the Lord’s sweet presence. He is always waiting for us, in green pastures, but sometimes I must leave my familiar routine and the comforts with which I too often distract myself. These experiences are like manna, providing nourishing memories of God’s goodness along the trails we’ve trod. Some have been straight and smooth while some crooked, dark and stoney—all worth it.

This is why the pilgrims, long before the Camino was partly paved, said to one another: Leave your country, the Apostle is waiting for you.