I once read a blurb in Reader’s Digest where a woman was talking to her doctor. “I’d love to be a physician myself,” she said, “but it’s too late to start now. By the time I finish med school I’ll be 40.” Her doctor replied, “So what? You’ll be 40 anyway, so you might as well do what you want to do.” She took his advice, went to med school, and became a doctor, even though she was older than most other med students. I think about this story all the time as we try to get a Welcome Center and hostel going that will serve the pilgrims who walk the Camino.
Starting something from scratch is, at first, pretty exciting. You’ve got a calling, you’re eager to get going, and you can envision that elusive “perfect future.” Soon you realize, though, that pioneering anything kind of sucks. Many times you don’t know what your next steps are, you don’t know what questions you should even be asking, and it’s draining to go through lots of trial-and-error to discover the best ways forward. Add in the fact that business meetings here consist of five minutes of business and 45 minutes of telling stories (for better or worse, things just don’t move as quickly here), and that we’re trying to pioneer something in a new country and in a second language, and there have been several delays and the potential for many things to go wrong. Fortunately, things have been going slow enough that we haven’t made any major mistakes yet.
But I’ll be honest with you, and say that sometimes I feel discouraged that it’s taking us so long to launch a ministry here. We’ve been in Spain for almost 4 years, and we’d always thought that we would’ve had something by now. Instead, we’ve learned the language, fallen in love with the Spanish people, started a non-profit association (Nate is the president and I’m the treasurer of our board of directors), built a solid partnership with our local Spanish church, recruited four teammates who will join us in this next year, and finished the first draft of our business plan. We’ve also made the big move from La Coruña to Santiago. These things are great, really great. But we still long to open a place that will give us daily, weighty contact with the pilgrims, and it’s really hard to wait during this time of preparation and prep work.
The Lord gave me some unexpected encouragement as we drove to and from Switzerland this month. There was a highway that wound through the Basque region of Spain, and it took us through a bunch of tunnels to get through the mountains. There were so many tunnels that the kids called the area “Tunnel City.” This highway of tunnels was so new that it wasn’t on our 4-year-old GPS machine, and it made the trip much more efficient since we didn’t have to go around the mountains but we could just go under them. I kept thinking about those engineers who, years ago, looked at these mountains, undaunted, and said, “We’re going to make a road through here.” I’m sure it wasn’t easy to blast away all that mountain and construct all of those tunnels, but they did it, and here we were driving through the lot of them. They made a way through where previously there was no way.
In Switzerland, we attended a conference with other International Teams (IT) workers in Europe. Some of our colleagues are like us – they arrived in Rome and Turkey four years ago and are just starting out. Other IT colleagues arrived in cities where they were able to join existing ministries and jump in, serving refugees, prostitutes, or kids in need. But even with those existing ministries, someone had to start them way back when.
So as we return from the conference, I feel like the Lord keeps saying, “Look at these tunnels through the Basque region, and look at these thriving International Teams ministries. At some point someone had to have a vision to build these. They persevered and never lost focus, and after a while they finally saw their vision become a reality.” I feel a renewed energy to get back to work, and to keep hitting those milestones that will push the project forward.
We don’t know how the story of the Welcome Center and hostel will ultimately be written, but we do know that the Lord needs to move powerfully, open doors, and make a way. Yes, we need to be diligent and persevere. But in the end it will have to be Him who establishes the work of our hands and allows our eyes to see, once again, what He has done. We can’t wait!