Friday, 9 May 2014

Psalm 84:5 reads: 'Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage'. These words are soft to my ears for I know it to be true. And I mean this in a much broader sense than you might imagine.

In this modern day and age is it possible to pack your bags to embark on a pilgrimage that will take you to a land far away and afford you the gift of walking in meditation for hours on end, evaluating your existence and your relationship with your Creator?

Well, if your mind is really set on it and you are able to put some money aside and take time out of your everyday life, there are a number of pilgrimage routes that you can walk and I guarantee you your life will never be the same. I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain for the first time in 2012.

I had spent 35 days on the road and covered a distance of roughly 800 kilometers. I had my share of aches and pains, blisters and despondence, but as I entered the square in front of the beautiful old Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, my heart was ready to burst.

I had discovered the blessing of pilgrimage. I learnt how to open my heart and ears and I discovered that the Lord guides and speaks to us, loud and clear. All we need to do is to listen. Being away from my 'normal' life and having the gift of just walking, day after day, with only having to decide where I''ll stay and making sure I find a meal, afforded me the time to clear my mind and focus on my relationship with God.

It's also easier to become aware of the needs of your fellow travellers when you're all in the same boat. Compassion is almost inescapable, pain is shared and how incredible the feeling when you see the Lord at work when you are able to share a message or a thought that eases someones hurt. That is my experience of pilgrimage. It humbles me, it strengthens my compassion for others and it makes me evaluate the different elements of my life.

In researching the meaning of the word pilgrimage and what motivates people to become pilgrims, I came across thoughts that truly resonates with me. I'll share some of it with you.

Motivation: A religiously motivated pilgrimage is taken by an individual who has the desire to meet/experience God and somehow be changed by the experience.

Final destination: One has to be careful not to focus on a particular place to be the END of your pilgrimage. It is incorrect to confine God to one place and to make only such a place holy. Every time we leave our homes to go to church, we are actually on a pilgrimage! The Greek word 'paroikia' is the root of the English word 'parish', meaning a congregation of pilgrims.

Food for thought indeed!

So here I am, one week away from departing from my home to start another pilgrimage. This time I will be walking with a very special group of people. Almost eight hundred of them to be precise. They will travel with me in my heart and hopefully the hearts of others will be touched by our walk. I will be walking for the people who call The Ark City of Refuge home. I invite you to join me on this journey by visiting their website and learning more about this incredible place.

A place where people have ended up because life has battered them and their pilgrimage takes on a very different route than the ideal one described above. The Ark provides shelter, structure and food to anything up to 800 people, 365 days a year. These people have to be fed every single day and even though they have many wonderful donors who assist them, the need is huge and right now they are finding it very difficult to put food on all those plates.

My commitment is thus to help raise awareness that will lead to funds being generated so that their kitchen can continue to function. I will document my walk here as I have Internet access and should you wish to donate to them, you can do so by following the links at the top of this page. I will be attempting to walk a distance of 1000km (the route in Spain known as the Via de la Plata) and donations can be based on an amount per kilometer or it can just be as little or as much as can be afforded. Every little bit helps towards making a change!

This afternoon AT 15:25 I will be chatting about my walk and The Ark on Radio Tygerberg (104FM). Hopefully people who listen will be inspired to come on board, I know that God is at work here and I know that with his blessing, the help that they need will be provided!

This evening my sister-in-law and I will be staying with the people at the Ark and I am looking forward to worshipping with them and sharing photos and stories of my previous walks. What an adventure!

I will post pictures of our evening in the days to come and thank you so much for taking the time to read our story. We look forward to sharing the journey with you and I personally can't wait to meet more of the special people who call The Ark home.

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