Why are you doing the Camino? This question can have many different answers, including for fun, faith, superstition, love, truth, friends or running away from family or personal issues.
Ricardo, an OM worker in Spain, asked Susan, an American hiker, this question as they journeyed through one of the many days on the trail. It is a question that many people ask each other as they flock to France and Spain to complete the trek. Susan shared that she came to find clarity and answers to deep questions as she processed her marital and family issues throughout the hike. Ricardo was not fazed by her answer as he had met many others like her in previous years who came to the pilgrimage for similar reasons.
Over six days, Ricardo and his team hiked and shared the gospel with Susan. Though she said a relationship with Jesus was not something she wanted, the team was glad they were able to plant a seed of truth. “On this hike, it is so easy to share the gospel and meet so many people who are open to listening but just not interested in knowing Jesus and that’s OK,” shared Ricardo. “You also meet some who prefer to hike alone and others who are not only open to listening but open to believing in Jesus Christ.”
On a previous Camino outreach, the team met a young guy from Barcelona, Spain, who went on the pilgrimage as a fun activity and to escape family issues he had at home. Throughout the trek, he opened up to Ricardo and shared the many heavy things on his heart. In the end, the young man chose to put his faith in Jesus, found a church in his town and continues to keep in contact with Ricardo.
What it takes for the journey
El Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James, is one of the oldest and most popular ancient routes in Europe. Every year, more than 250,000 people from all over the world hike the trail. In 2014, Trevor, the previous leader of OM’s work in Spain, saw El Camino de Santiago as an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus. That same year, he took five people from his church and walked 115km from Ferrol to Santiago de Compostela.
Since 2018, OM in Spain has offered an El Camino de Santiago outreach to believers who desire to walk and talk about Jesus with other trekkers. “The goal was always to share the gospel with those coming to the pilgrimage. You find so many different kinds of people on this trek, from very religious people, nature lovers looking for a fun trip, soul seekers trying to find answers to their problems and even some who come looking for friendship on the journey. Since the trek is historically religious, asking fellow trekkers why they are doing the Camino is a very common and normal question,” Ricardo explained. The outreach team walks 120km from Triacastela to Santiago de Compostela. This journey takes six days, during which they share the Word of God with pilgrims from all over the world.
Each day, the team begins trekking at 07:00 and finishes for the day by 14:00 or 15:00. After a short rest, the team has dinner and then begins a time of worship and devotions at their hostel for the night. “We create a friendly environment to just invite other trekkers to worship with us and talk about God. We want to create a space where they can ask all their questions and share their doubts about God,” said Ricardo.
For past participants who joined Ricardo on the outreach, sharing the gospel was always the easiest part of the trip. Most participants struggle with either accommodation or keeping up with the daily trekking and the summer Spanish heat. “We usually keep the outreach team to a maximum of 12 people, and we stay in different hostels along the journey, which can have anything from 12 to 25 people per room. Lack of personal space in these accommodations is usually the hardest for people,” Ricardo said.
What it takes to share
While the lead-in question to share the gospel has always been: ‘Why are you doing the Camino?’ Ricardo recounts times when the team was asked a different question. A woman from Japan met the OM outreach team at a hostel. “She was looking for a space where she could spend the night but couldn’t find a room because the hostels are usually filled very quickly,” Ricardo shared. Realising she wouldn’t find a room at such short notice, the OM team offered her a space on the floor of their room. “She was so surprised by the offer; she asked, ‘Why did you offer me a space?’” Ricardo recalled. This gave Ricardo and his team an opportunity to share about the love of Christ that compels them to love others. By the end of the trek, after hearing more about Jesus and what it means to believe, the Japanese woman chose to put her faith in Jesus.
On another trekking occasion, the outreach team met a woman from Italy who, after a couple of days on the trek, not only became sick but also lost her money. Once again, the outreach team invited her into their space to stay with them and provided for her meals. After days of trekking and talking together, the woman professed faith in Jesus and now faithfully serves in a church in her home country.
Despite the physical challenges of completing the six-day trek, Ricardo has seen many participants on the outreach leave with joy from the experience. From young adults to retirees, Ricardo welcomes believers of any age who are capable of days of trekking and willing to share the gospel with others to join him on El Camino de Santiago to share the truth of Jesus. “There is a place for everyone willing to trek and share the gospel for six days,” said Ricardo.
El Camino de Santiago outreach will be held again summer of 2023, July 14th – 23rd. Pray for Ricardo and the new group of participants as they prepare for the trek. Pray for good conversations, new friendships and new believers to join the family of God.