Thousands of people make this pilgrimage every year for a variety of reasons, but the most common reason is spiritual. For many of these travelers, they hope to receive a sense of peace or accomplishment in completing this journey.
In Western Europe, where true spiritual renewal is rare, this historic pilgrimage is a fertile ground for the church to relationally and spiritually connect with people searching for answers.
The Encompass Refuge ministry in Porto, Portugal has taken up the call to reach these pilgrims with fellowship and Christ-centered conversation through their hostel, which is situated near the St. James Way. Not only do they host pilgrims who are taking a break from their journey, but they also engage people on the St. James Way.
So far, the ministry has seen incredible opportunities.
Just recently, a young woman from Berlin, Germany named Isabell decided to make the pilgrimage from Portugal to Spain on the St. James Way.
Isabel was a 25-year-old single mother of a little boy named Fred. With multiple setbacks and difficult family relationships, the past few years had caused much turmoil in her life. Looking for renewal, she decided to make the pilgrimage on the St. James way. She hoped this journey would bring her a new sense of purpose in life.
She began her 150-mile pilgrimage in Porto, Portugal taking along in tote her most prized possession, her son Fred! After three days of long and arduous trails, Isabell was beginning to wonder if she was able to complete the journey. As she carried her infant child who added weight to her backpack and required extra attention, the exhaustion was building in them both.
During her moment of fatigue and doubt, a fellow pilgrim who knew about the Encompass Refuge hostel nearby advised Isabell to consider taking a break there. He told her they would help her with Fred and provide lodging, so she made her way. After Isabell rang the Refuge doorbell, she was quickly greeted by a pleasant smile and a warm hug as if she were a daughter returning home. Alzira, one of the hostel staff, ushered the two weary pilgrims in.
After feeding Fred, Alzira listened to Isabell’s story.
For several days, Isabell and her little boy rested until they were strong enough to continue the journey. During their stay, Alzira had the opportunity to explain the vision of the hostel and why they do what they do. She shared the gospel and prayed with Isabell as much as she could. Thankfully, Isabel’s curiosity about Jesus and the Bible grew. So much so, one-morning Alzira saw her reading the Bible for herself.
In God’s good timing, a box of Bibles translated into German had just arrived days before Isabell came. With great joy, Isabell received the German Bible as a gift from the Refuge. She was overwhelmed with the generosity shown to her and promised Alzira that she would read the Bible and pray as she sought the answers she was looking for on the St. James Way.