My eyes slowly began to open as I finally heard the flight attendant announce, “Thank you for flying with us. We have now reached our destination, La CourÃ±a, Spain…” My stomach was filled with butterflies because I knew this would be a trip of a life time. I had the opportunity to travel to Spain July 2008 my church. My youth pastor was setting up a program for students who believed that God may be calling them to serve as a missionary. The idea was to go and shadow a Christian missionary for two weeks to see how their life really is. I was immediately interested in this opportunity, because missions was something that I believe God has been calling me to be involved with. The missionary I stayed with, Sarah Marshall, was a fantastic host. She was able to show me so many things.
Part of being a missionary is serving God and others. As a small example of this a few times during the week Sarah and I went down to her church to serve cookies and coffee to those attending a class. We also volunteered to work in the children’s program. Part of my time there was also spent learning the culture. It was so difficult trying to learn the cultural differences. In Spain instead of shaking hands with each other to greet one another they give each other a kiss on each check. It took time for me to get used to having people so close to my face so often. One of the customs that I rapidly adapted to was the Spanish siesta. It their custom to take an afternoon nap after lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed my siesta each day.
The big event of my trip was backpacking along the Camino de Santiago. This is a trail that leads to to a breath taking cathedral in Santiago where& St. James’ bones are buried. Many pilgrims travel this lengthy trail from all over Europe. I endured a hike of 42 kilometers (about 25 miles) over two days. The second day the group I was with split up in the morning to spend some time connecting with other pilgrims on the trail. Unknowingly, I took a wrong turn from the trail onto the narrow highway. As I continued to walk, for what seemed like forever, I had a sinking feeling that I was lost and began to panic. I had a million thoughts racing through my head as I tried to figure out how to find the others. I calmed myself down by thinking that whatever happened God would keep me safe. Eventually, I found the sign that pointed to the trail. I was so relieved to know I was on the right track again. Four kilometers later I found the group I never expected to split from. This is one experience that taught me that things don’t always go how you expect them to when you travel.
La Coruna, Spain was the trip of a life time. I not only gained a more realistic view of missionary life, but I learned some important things about traveling. I was shown the importance of culture. Many countries have special customs and as a visitor it is important to honor these customs that may seem out of the ordinary. Expect the unexpected was a phrase that stuck with me after my lengthy journey on the Camino. All my experiences in Spain will be one of the stepping stones of life that I will always treasure deep in my heart.
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