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El Camino

El Camino de Santiago (“The Way of Saint James”) is an ancient pilgrimage dating back to the 9th century. A shepherd was believed to have found the remains of Saint James in a nearby field, so a local bishop ordered a cathedral to be built on the site. Twelve hundred years since that day, thousands of people have journeyed to the sacred church in Santiago de Compostela (Spain) from various starting points across southern Europe. Although most pilgrims today travel the Camino for reasons other than a religious pilgrimage, many find the trek to be a deeply spiritual experience.

Camino

By Melissa Crutchfield, a former staff member of Agape in Italy.

Photo by Jorge Luis Ojeda Flota on Unsplash

Lost, confused, and desperate to find meaning in life, a middle-aged Spanish man named Antonio* set out on the Camino in search of direction. “If God exists,” he thought, “perhaps I can find him on the Camino.” 

 

After three long weeks of walking, Antonio experienced something unusual as he began the day’s trek. While he walked, the words “I am the way, the truth, and the life” materialized in his mind. What could this mean? Could this somehow be what he had been searching for all along? 

 

Soon after, Antonio stumbled into a tiny village called Ligonde. As he passed the cottages along the roadside, a small plaque resting against the stone wall of a hostel caught his eye. He was in awe. The same words he had been reflecting upon were written on the plaque! He rushed toward the entrance of the hostel, found a volunteer, and urgently requested to know the meaning of the phrase. As the conversation progressed, Antonio learned for the first time that the true camino, the true way, is not a direction, but rather a person: Jesus. 

 

Over the last 20 years, countless stories like Antonio’s have unfolded at La Fuente del Peregrino, a hostel owned by Agape. More than 900,000 pilgrims have stopped by La Fuente for a short rest from their journey. Volunteers from across the world have served these guests by offering overnight shelter, a warm meal, and meaningful spiritual conversations. The location of the hostel is about three days’ walk from Santiago in the final stretch of the Camino. When pilgrims reach La Fuente, they are often in an exhausted, yet hopeful state.

 

The staff of Agape have seen that when people trek the Camino, spiritual questions surface readily. Something profound occurs in a person’s soul when he or she steps away from the realities of life to create space to engage in silence, solitude, and stillness. A sense of clarity and perspective about life often surfaces.

 

La Fuente offers something unique from the other hundreds of hostels along the length of the Camino. The staff and volunteers provide a place for sojourners to bring their questions and process their journeys. Volunteers gather around the dinner table with the pilgrims and engage in thoughtful, intentional conversations. The Jesus Film is also shown every afternoon to allow travellers to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus’ life. La Fuente, meaning “the source,” is a place where people not only learn about Jesus, but also experience the very essence of God through the love the workers show them. Many leave feeling refreshed, re-centered, and spiritually awakened to the reality of a God who loves them.

 

One pilgrim described their experience at La Fuente: “What a wonderful evening that truly captured the spirit of the Camino. Thus far on my walk, I have focused on the body and mind experience. My stay at La Fuente has now been instrumental in beginning my spiritual journey.”

 

This year, Agape celebrates the 20-year anniversary of La Fuente del Peregrino and the many ways God has used the staff at this quaint hostel to introduce people to the way, the truth, and the life found in a relationship with Jesus. As the Camino grows in popularity bringing more and more pilgrims to journey across northern Spain, La Fuente will continue to be a source for people to process their spiritual experiences along the way. Join us in asking God to continue to impact lives through the La Fuente!

 

*Name has been changed for the purposes of this article. 

Discover more of La Fuente del Peregrino in this video.

About the author: Melissa Crutchfield was part of an Agape "Summer Spotlight" team that aimed to highlight how God is at work in Europe. Melissa served as a staff member of Cru in Bologna, Italy, Fort Worth, Texas and also Denver, Colorado. She recently completed a master’s in counselling. She enjoys the outdoors, playing guitar, photography and connecting with people. Melissa also shares more of her writing here

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