What Pilgrimage Does To The Heart
Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
Psalm 84:6 NIV
In 1999, not long after we opened our Christian cafe and outreach center (An Tobar Nua) in Galway, Ireland, we met Shawn Small. He was bringing teams of people to western Ireland on pilgrimage. Having planted our lives and hearts in Ireland, we were intrigued with his approach. It differed from the usual mission trips (or mission vacations as we called them) where the participants seemed more interested with the sites they saw rather than the people they came to serve. We understood that pilgrimage was an experience on an entirely different level.
A pilgrim recognizes the importance of the journey rather than the amount of time spent in a location. A pilgrim recognizes that walking alongside the people they serve and sharing their hearts may accomplish more than any project they finish. A pilgrim travels with a sense of wonder and notices that diversity is delightful. They are ever-listening to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. They are prepared to do what He wants to do and how He wants them to speak to the needs and emptiness they may encounter in any culture.
A pilgrim looks for the less beaten path and seeks out the heartbeat of the nation where the locals live. They immerse themselves in the unfamiliar and are open to being taught. They ask, “what can I learn from the people I meet? What is God trying to say to me through what I see and experience? How can I be available for interaction, where I listen more and talk less? How can I make Christ’s love known?”
Through this journey, a pilgrim finds the Holy Spirit has given them a love beyond reason for people they have only just met. They find they can share the love of Christ, who lives in them, in a natural, relational way. They find themselves changed. This is what Wonder Voyage brings to pilgrimage. If you do not leave having met someone unforgettable or with a heart for the country you traveled to, you haven’t truly journeyed as a pilgrim.
Susan and her husband, Kelly, started a café ministry in Galway, Ireland in 1996, called An Tobar Nua. Over a cup of coffee and through various ministries both in the café and in the nation’s schools, they seek to proclaim the Great News of Christ. She sees herself as a determined pilgrim on the road with Christ, certain that she hasn’t arrived, but confident that the Lord is taking her to His purposed destiny. Her eyes have been opened to His goodness and she wants to share that truth with others.