Mitch and Jason on the Camino
Back in June, we met up with our Wheaton College classmate, Mitch, on a day when both he and we happened to be back in Wheaton. As we hadn’t seen each other since graduation, we caught up and shared about where the last 15 years had taken us. Mitch was now an assistant superintendent at a private school in Florida, and we talked about bringing over his high-school students for a service trip in Santiago at some point.
At Wheaton in June:
Over the next few months we emailed and Skyped with Mitch and his colleague, Jason, and started planning an exploratory trip where they could come and see Santiago, meet our team, and research the Camino before bringing over any students. Finally, on March 6, they arrived in Spain. A couple days later Nate drove them to Sarria, 115 km (71 miles) from Santiago, so they could begin their time on the Camino:
Photo courtesy of Jason K.
Usually pilgrims take 5 days to walk from Sarria to Santiago, but Jason and Mitch didn’t have much time and they ended up completing the 115 km in 3.5 days, walking 30+ km (18 miles) each of the first three days, and then 20 km the last half-day in order to get to the Cathedral in Santiago for the daily Pilgrims’ Mass at noon. We don’t normally recommend that anyone do it that way, but they were young, in good shape, and crazy enough to try it.
Like most pilgrims, they felt the Camino stretched them to their limit. They were brought down to the basics of life and they learned to be grateful for simple things like food, water, and shelter. And, being from Florida, they were miserable most of the time while walking through the cold and rain. But they made it, and we were all proud of their accomplishment.
Mitch and Jason in front of the Cathedral after a whirlwind 3.5-day pilgrimage:
Once they arrived in Santiago, they went to the Pilgrims’ Office to receive their official Compostelas, the certificates stating they had completed the last 100 km of the Camino:
Here they are with their Pilgrim Credentials. These are “passports” that pilgrims get stamped in hostels and cafes they stop at along the trail. Mitch has his Compostela certificate in the tube he’s holding:
After their Camino trip, we had two days to do business on the ground in Santiago. First, though, we had to do a very Spanish thing and get chocolate and churros for breakfast:
Photo courtesy of Mitch S.
It was important for Jason and Mitch to meet our team and talk about how best to prepare high schoolers to be pilgrims. On the flip side, it was also great for our team to hear about their Camino experience. They mentioned how lonely and invisible they felt when they walked in to Santiago, how unwelcome they felt. Many pilgrims echo these same sentiments, and we hope that with Pilgrim House we can start changing this.
Jason and Mitch with the Pilgrim House team:
We took them to Alameda, the park that overlooks old town Santiago:
I think the guys saw 10 minutes of sunshine the entire time they were in Spain. The rest of the time it was gray, cold, and rainy:
Mitch and I talked about how funny friendships are. Back during freshman year at Wheaton, when he and I were on brother-sister floors in Fischer dorm, we never would have imagined that 19 years later he’d be visiting Nate and me in Spain of all places, and planning to bring over students from his school, the school of which he was assistant superintendent, of all things. It’s great to see how the Lord has worked in his life. And Jason – Jason cracked us up with his stories, made us think with his insights into what he’d seen on the trail, and made us Barcelona fans groan (loudly) because of his love for Ronaldo, Mourinho, and Real Madrid. It was great to meet him, and we appreciated that both he and Mitch took the time and effort to come visit.
This past Tuesday, they packed up their bags and left. Our time was short, but we had a great time hanging out, developing a vision for how we could best partner together, and sharing this moment in Spain together.
Upward and onward, Jason and Mitch, and we’ll see you both soon.