Dear friend who has followed my journey,
The picture looking back on the path I’ve gone on symbolizes for me the feelings/thoughts I have now that I finished forty days of pilgrimage. It’s a picture of the Nitchie Valley west of Bergen — a stretch of road leading west to the Red Deer River. I walked this road on the beginning of day 40.
I might have written more about these thoughts sooner but typing on my i-phone while walking is not the way I can express my inner feeling very well. Here at home on the keyboard of the computer I can express myself more clearly. So, here as I reflect and look back, I want to share with you some of the deeper things that have come to mind as I listened to the Holy Spirit speaking to me during the longer moments of the pilgrimage.
steps, kilometers, logistics, health, and pains
The easiest things to talk about are the most often asked questions like how did your body hold up? Did the BC smoke bother you? Did you camp on the way? Did you carry all your supplies? How far did you walk? How many steps did you take? What kind of shoes did you wear?
Answers to the above:
After Walking for about ten days all the little bothersome aches and pains like blisters and ingrown toe nails and a minor hip joint pain went away. No, the smoke in the air didn’t seem to bother my breathing, but the visibility of the beautiful mountains was obscured. I camped in my tent about ten times. Otherwise, I was hosted by kind people on the way (more to be said about this later). I only carried enough food, water, extra clothes, first aid kit, bear spray etc. for the day. The rest of the many things I had along were in the truck which I was able to move along with me by catching rides to my truck — sometimes prearranged rides and sometimes hitch hiking. I could walk the average of about 16.5 kms per day without any ill effect on my body – anywhere! Total distance walked during the 40 days (according to my iPhone pedometer) was 662.27 kms. I recorded 1,043,435 steps during that time. I wore my very comfortable crocks for most of the days. On four days which had the threat of rain, I wore some low rubbers. The crocks are now thin but still usable!
When the day got hot, windy, cold (not much), long, or boring I was sustained by the many prayers which you prayed on my behalf. Thanks! A scripture verse given to me by SR of Lethbridge was a huge sustaining factor: Ps. 28:7 The Lord is my strength and shield, my heart trusts in Him and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy and with my song I praise Him.
Another huge sustaining force was the visits on the way. Richard Baerg visited. My wife came for a week end. Plett walked with me for a day, My son, Matthew and family (all seven of them) came for a week end and Andrew Baerg walked the last 10 or so kilometers with me. Thanks all!
The song “We Praise Thee O God” has a line which says: “Revive us again, fill each heart with Thy love, may each soul be rekindled with fire from above…” was one of many songs which I sang over and over again. I prayed for personal renewal of my faith. He is answering!
The admonitions of The book of Revelation became relevant and real as I prayed for the church, especially the churches I had visited in Southern Alberta. God spoke to me through hard words like this: “For you say I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes that you may see.” (Rev. 3: 17,18) I realize that I am a part of that blindness. In the process of prayer and contemplation the burden seemed so huge and my role and assignments overwhelming. If God calls He will also enable. I rest in that truth.
camp as a servant of the church
Something that became clearer to me as I was walking and praying for the camp ministry is that camp should exist to serve the church not the church to serve camp. I know it can be a mutually beneficial arrangement, but we need to get the order straight. I know these thoughts need more filling in but this is not the place and time to do that. However, I sure would like this thought to be a conversation starter as we move forward from here.
Since this walk was to be a prayer walk, I disciplined myself to many times of prayer as I was walking. There came a time about half way, that it seemed I was running out of ‘steam’ to pray. So, a thought came to mind: why don’t I make every step into a prayer. That helped and even the will to pray returned. Also, It was very helpful to have the slips of papers onto which many people, including camp staff, had written their prayer requests.
I’m expecting many more reports of answered prayers… please send, write or phone if you know of some. In the first few days back, I’ve already heard of a few. Here’s one good example: I prayed much about a particular request for a relationship which had gone sideways to be restored. I got to camp, inquired about the status of the situation, and was informed that repairs had been made!
thanks for hospitality
The hospitality I received on this pilgrimage was amazing. Some have asked if I lost weight while on this walk. The answer is no. The ‘blame’ does not go to those who hosted me for nights and gave me meals but there were many great meals provided by my wife who sent good food along and wonderfully hospitable hosts on the way that made weight loss a thing not to be pursued on this pilgrimage. Great meals were provided by Burkes in Coaldale, Dycks in Coaldale, Doreen in Lethbridge, Reimers in Lethbtidge, Benslers in Pincher Creek, Friesens in Pincher Creek, Kings Fold staff, Johnsons of Barrier Mountain Outfitters, all the Thiessens at Helmer Creek Ranch and at Camp when I finally arrived. Rides to starting points and back to my truck are too many to list individually, besides I would forget someone. Hitch hiking was one of the ways of transport and I thank the many who were brave enough to pick me up. I wish I could have gotten to know you better. You were/are like angels.
- squirrel lesson
I could call this lesson PLAN AHEAD. I awoke one morning to what seemed like large hail falling on my tent and truck nearby. Unlikely, I thought as I had heard no thunder and it was morning! No, the squirrels were in the tree tops harvesting the cones from near the top — throwing them to the ground so they could gather them up and ‘store’ them for winter food. I applied it most directly to what is needed for us to prepare for future generations of campers at Camp Evergreen. Among other things it means giving of our resources as plans are being made to expand the facility at Camp, so that more campers can hear the gospel and respond to God’s call on their life. Lesson? Plan now for the future!
- walking staff lesson
I was given a nicely carved staff by a young man in Coadale, near the beginning of my 40 day journey. It was very useful in balance and propulsion up hill and brakes as I went down. It was critical in keeping me upright in crossing the Red Deer River. The water was swifter and deeper than I had anticipated, and I’m certain I would have slipped and fallen without that staff.
That staff gave me at least two lessons:
- The staff can represent all the tools, gifts, and training I have. Moses was asked to throw his staff down. God also is asking me to surrender every bit of training, learning, gifting, natural talents that I have – everything – so that He can use it. I must give them up; throw them down before God so He can use them mightily in His Kingdom work.
- The staff can also represent the support I need in all of life. It was not possible to cross that river safely without that staff. Similarly we cannot navigate life successfully without Christ in charge.
- holy ground
I was on high ground near the highest spot on the Highwood Pass (over 7000 ft.) when I looked aside and saw a bush that reminded me of the burning bush that Moses saw when he was on Horeb, the Mountain of God. I stopped to consider the implications of meeting a holy God who may just have an assignment to give. Am I willing to turn aside to see and listen, or will I just walk on. Moses was 80 when he was reassigned from herding sheep to leading a nation from bondage to freedom. My prayer even now as my journey continues is: Lord, what is your assignment for me?
opportunities on the way
It was a privilege to be able to help change a flat tire tire, make two hospital runs (for others), help make firewood, help with replacing a broken window, entertain some folks with song, and pray for some of those who stopped to ask what I was about.
new wave ministry
I was entertained by the responses I got when I waved to passers by. I imagined their response to my waving as being a response to the truth of the gospel — silly I know — but it taught me some lessons. Here’s a few: 1. There’s not likely to be any response unless there’s an invitation. If my wave was enthusiastic, the response was more likely to be enthusiastic. 2. Some people are so caught up in themselves they hardly notice my wave or possibly think of my wave as stupid or silly and don’t respond at all. So it is with the gospel. 3. A few people waved at me before I waved at them. Maybe they had something good to share with me, and I need to receive their invitation, and respond. 4. although frightened a few times by a honk response, I appreciated that response, because it seemed to indicate: “I’m with you — I’m in — good for you – or, I’m sharing in your journey.”
More than once, strangers pressed money into my hand for the cause that I was walking on, some without knowing what the cause was. Although the cause was sometimes hard to define, the simple statement on the card which I freely handed out to people stated it succinctly: “A pilgrimage to pray for the needs at Camp.” There are many needs, however, looming large is the need for the facility to be expanded so we can accommodate more campers. As one person who gave said: “God will multiply this gift.” That is still a strong prayer of mine!
Blessings to you for reading this looking back report!
Thanks for following me,
Walter P. Loewen