This is the back room of Pilgrim House:
You can tell it needs some work. And even though we can’t wait until this room is filled with people, color, and life, there’s a certain peace there these days.
It’s quiet and still, and the old photos on the wall (its previous renter was a photographer) remind us of its history and possibilities…
…because one day not so long ago, this place was full of activity and purpose – and soon it will be again.
I joined our architects in meeting with the city surveyor today to find out the status of our paperwork. It was discouraging news. We submitted our building project back in August, and the surveyor hasn’t touched it yet. She’s still reviewing projects that were submitted in July, and then she’ll review the ones submitted in August.
She estimated it would take another month before she could tell us something. Meanwhile, we’re paying rent on the locale and we can’t sign a contract with the contractors yet, since we need to have the building permits in hand before renovations can start.
So – we wait, at least for another month. We remind ourselves to honor the process, fight against frustration, and try to face the wait with cheerful hearts (I had to repeat this sequence of words about a hundred times today). The paperwork process is now totally out of our control, which in a funny way gives us a lot of peace.
While I was at the meeting, Nate was writing a note to our teammates. It was a good note, not only applicable to this journey that we’ve been on, but also to so many things in life, that I wanted to share part of it here.
“The song ‘House of God, Forever’, by Jon Foreman, popped up on my iPad.
In listening to this I was reminded of the fact that the Lord truly is our shepherd. To each one of us individually, and collectively to us as a group (yep, I just planted the image that each one of us is a sheep in a flock). I sometimes forget it myself, but every step on this journey has been one into unknown territory. Every new day, every new task, every facet of our lives here has been one step after another into uncharted territory. It’s still true for Faith and me after six years, and it’s still true for each of you at your point in your journey. And this psalm, this song, is true of all of us.
A few lines that stick out to me today:
‘I won’t be wanting.’
‘He makes me rest in fields of green, by quiet streams.’
‘I will not fear, cause you are with me. You’re always with me.’
‘Surely goodness will follow me,
In the house of God.
My prayer for you all today is that you recognize how you are following Him into the unknown. And how good He is in guiding us. The way is new, it might be rocky, muddy, or simply frightening. But he’s there ahead of us. With him we won’t be wanting, he’ll lead us to rest. We can put fear aside remembering he is with us. His goodness follows us wherever we go.”
So, at the end of the day today, we know two things: first, we need to face the reality that our building permits aren’t coming for at least another month. Second, the Lord guides us and goes ahead of us. Even though we don’t know exactly how this story unfolds, he does. And because of that, we don’t need to pine away. Though we don’t have building permits yet, though we haven’t opened up Pilgrim House yet, though we can’t welcome in pilgrims and sit with them on the sofas yet, it’s all the same: we won’t be wanting. We don’t need to be afraid of the uncertainty and the unknown. We can rest in the waiting, because we have a good Shepherd who will lead us on when it’s time to go. When you put it that way, my heart actually is cheerful.
“Be prepared. It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to produce spectacular results.” – Entrepreneur Magazine
This quote has been our life these days. We are in the middle of so much unspectacular preparation, and have been for so long, that it’s mind-boggling. We just celebrated our sixth anniversary living in Spain. Sixth! When we first moved here, our anniversaries were celebratory – “Hey, we’ve been here two years! We know Spanish so much better now than we used to!”
These days each anniversary is a quiet affair as we think, “GAH! it’s been 6 years and we’re not open yet! What have we been doing this whole time!”
If you had told us back in 2007 that in 2013 we still wouldn’t have anything open yet, we wouldn’t have believed you. We were so arrogant back then. When people asked how long it would take to open a pilgrims’ ministry, we said, “Oh, probably two or three years.” Ha! If we had known how difficult bureaucracy was going to be in Spain, how long it would take to master the culture and work within its nuances, and how many thousand pieces of paperwork it would take to get to this point where we’re almost about to get ready to open the Pilgrim House Welcome Center, I don’t know if we would’ve started down this road.
These days, Nate and I have been struggling with discouragement and impatience. We signed the contract on our storefront four months ago – the first step toward putting together a project with the architects – and we’ve been paying rent on it for the past two months (the first two months were free) while waiting for city hall to issue building permits. Most Spaniards might not even wait for building permits to start renovations, but since we want to do everything legally, we’ve been waiting. It’s sorely tempting to just say, “Forget being legal,” and just do what the Spaniards do and take our chances on being discovered and getting fined.
So that’s what it’s like in our more low-spirited moments.
At the same time, it’s been amazing to watch the Lord work during these last six years. The way Pilgrim House has hit milestone after milestone (there was never any guarantee that any of the milestones would be accomplished), and the way our team of six (soon to be eight) was put together, has been faith-growing. With our team, a strong Welcome Center with lots of services offered and time spent with the pilgrims is a definite can-do. And the ways in which we’re gifted is so complementary, there is a lot of synergy when we’re meeting together and planning for the exciting future.
Another highlight in this season of preparation has been the number of pilgrims we’ve been able to connect with this summer. One of our coaches had said, “Be the welcome center before you have one,” and this summer we finally were. So many pilgrims called and emailed, said they were walking the Camino and could we answer questions before they started out, could we get together once they walked into Santiago. This high season actually felt like high season for our team in how many pilgrims we met and the great conversations we had. It’s been a supreme privilege, and it will be great when we finally open up Pilgrim House and host all these pilgrims in one place.
Terra Nova Pilgrim House: Opening Soon
However, the waiting has been hard, really hard. We do the paperwork, we meet with our architects and building foreman, we’re creating smooth administrative and financial processes, and our teammates attend Spanish classes and continue getting plugged in with the community. But sometimes it feels like we’re spinning our wheels.
I had a personal retreat earlier this week and drove to a favorite spot in La Coruña, Parque de Monte San Pedro. I was expressing my frustration to the Lord, how draining it was to wait and have hope deferred for “so” long (the melodrama!). As I was there, I noticed these paragliders (both wearing helmets and black clothes):
They were strapped into their harnesses and just standing there, waiting for the wind to come and pick up their wings so they could run off the hill and fly around. They waited a long time before the wind finally came. But when it came, they were ready – they weren’t sitting down and they weren’t messing around with their equipment. They caught the wind and started going:
And they certainly produced spectacular results:
It was a great reminder of how important preparation, and readiness, are. So on the one hand we protest, “Lord, what’s taking so long?” On the other hand, it’s so clear He’s getting our team and Pilgrim House ready. God is in this waiting, preparing us for things and situations we can’t yet see, and we need to be faithful and do the hard, tedious tasks. Though it’s not the timeline our impatience would have chosen, when we look back we’ll see that this time of preparation was foundational and refining. And when things are ripe He’ll release us to be open.
We pray that at that point, all these years of unspectacularness will pay off in spectacular, fruitful moments and results, for His glory.
As I mentioned when I posted about our son getting lost in the Stuttgart train station, our family spent a day in Geneva, Switzerland, after the conference in Germany. Although consumer products in all of Switzerland are ridiculously expensive, the scenery is gorgeous:
We walked along the Rhône river:
We headed toward the famous Jet D’Eau (French for “jet of water”), a powerful fountain which shoots water 460 feet into the air. You can kind of see it in the distance at the middle-right of this photo:
It’s one of the largest fountains in the world:
Short stop for a realistic family photo:
To get a closer look at the Jet D’Eau, some of us walked to the end of this pier:
Then we turned around to see it. It’s pretty impressive!
Water falling back down into the water:
Colorful boats and flags:
The second famous landmark we purposely saw in Geneva was the International Monument to the Reformation, more popularly known as the Reformation Wall. It was built to commemorate John Calvin’s 400th birthday and honor the city of Geneva’s significance in the Reformation.
From left to right the statues depict William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and John Knox:
There are also statues depicting other famous figures of the Protestant faith:
These are Roger Williams, Oliver Cromwell, and Stephen Bocskay:
Close to the Reformation Wall were these walkable chess and checker boards:
In the late afternoon we flew from Geneva to Madrid, from where we would drive back to Santiago the next day. With our crazy travel schedule going from Stuttgart, Germany to Santiago, Spain, we were so thankful we could have the restful, beautiful time in Geneva that we did. Au revoir!
This is our favorite salad for this season: greens, diced apples, pecans, and dried cranberries. Drizzle with an easy-to-make lemon-honey salad dressing and enjoy!