If you have spent even a small amount of time studying the basics of church history, you know that the twelve apostles covered a rather expansive amount of ground following the initial wave of persecution in 62 AD. Before the last of the apostles (John) died in AD 100, the Gospel had been spread through most of the Roman Empire and even beyond into the outlying people groups. The routes taken were numerous and the miles walked incredible. Paul, by himself, covered hundreds of miles during his three primary missionary journeys. Thomas was confirmed to have gone as far as India and rumored to have preached in China. While the lines between what is confirmed and what is rumored tend to blur when looking into the apostles’ journeys, today we have the opportunity to walk some of the paths that our forerunners traveled and experience glimpses of the annointings they carried.
As we all already know, it starts in Jerusalem. If you only make one religious themed trip in your lifetime, make Israel, and more specifically Jerusalem, your destination. The apostles were some of the greatest men of God to ever live, but nothing beats walking where Jesus walked, standing where He preached, and praying where He prayed. Like any pilgrimage, it’s an experience you cannot describe, but it is more real than anything you’ve ever experienced. After you’ve explored Jerusalem, a great next step is to follow one of the routes that Paul took up through Eurasia, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to traveling a uniquely beautiful area of the world, you will encounter awe-inspiring Cathedrals, exquisite cultures, and numerous historical sites that will provide contextual learning opportunities concerning the early church.
The next option, and probably the easiest to follow, is El Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St. James. For those unfamiliar with this route, it is actually the most popular pilgrimage in all of Europe. Almost 300,000 travelers embark on some portion of El Camino’s astounding 500 miles of well-marked path. Unlike a piecemeal adventure along the northern border of the Mediterranean, this route is easy to follow and offers a unique social, and subsequently spiritual, experience. The journey ends in the historic town of Santiago de Compostela and the tomb of St. James. The route’s accessibility and ease of travel, particularly on the more frequented 100 mile home-stretch, has resulted in travelers from every age group, religion, and ethnicity finding their way here. For those looking to spread God’s love and the Good News, this route is a fantastic ministry opportunity. Most travelers come with open minds, looking to broaden their understandings and tap into the spiritual world, and you will have no problem connecting with them on a deeper level than you will experience elsewhere. And for those simply looking to grow inwardly, taking El Camino to Santiago is a safe bet.
The paths are many, although often hard to find. While we should never focus on the past at the expense of the present, it is my personal opinion that we should always be looking to tap into the rich things that have been passed down to us by those who ran the race well. If we want history to remember our faith, it might just help us to walk the paths of those whose faith history already remembers.
Tiffany Olson loves all things spiritual and travel. She works at a small web firm where her primary duty is to help inform that public on a wide range of interesting topics including all of the wonders found along the way from El Camino to Santiago.