Real Life Pilgrimage
by Jeff Walser
I loved diving into the theme of Pilgrimage this past year, talking about the idea of a long sacred journey toward an important destination with stops and challenges and learnings along the way. As it turns out, a couple of weeks before the June camp, God gave me a glimpse at a part of what He had wanted to teach me and us through this year’s theme. As we gathered together that first day at camp, I shared the story of a recent business trip…
I had just finished up an extremely tiring week of travel and pretty intense meetings—I was more than anxious to head home from Toronto to Tampa. Just as I boarded my flight at Pearson International, I was more than a little bit frustrated to be informed by my United App that I would be able to get to Dulles as planned, but my connection flight to Tampa had been cancelled.
Upon arriving in Washington, DC—I quickly and anxiously tried multiple options to get home that night – each effort ended in a dead end and I soon realized my only option was to fly home in the morning…and not even to Tampa – I would have to fly to Orlando, rent a car and drive back to Tampa.
By this time, it was getting close to midnight – so I took several deep breaths, counted to ten and resigned myself to settle into a hotel for the night and catch the flight first thing in the morning. And then the icing on my big three layer traveling business cake. I discovered, due to some convention, there were no hotel rooms in or around the Dulles airport—nothing. I could feel my frustration mounting and I have to admit some resentment growing “God, what’s the point of all this? I need toget home and put this trip behind me!” I booked the only hotel available 30–35 min away. I tapped the UBER app a few times and I settled into my new reality.
I watched the little UBER car on my driver heading toward me (10, 5, 2, 1 minute away) and then it suddenly disappeared from my phone. He obviously realized where I needed to go….and decided he didn’t want to go there.
Back to the drawing board. Tap, tap and another icon was headed my direction – but then stopped dead – realizing I might have the same problem again – I called the driver to confirm that he/she would be able to complete the mission – they could not. Or would not. I looked at my watch: 12:45. More despair.
So frustrated, tired and feeling a bit angry that my trip home had turned into such a catastrophic journey – I decided I’d give UBER a final shot. Thankfully, the driver picked me up, and off we went! On our way to the hotel, we began to talk and I immediately recognized his east African accent since I had had the privilege of traveling to both Kenya and Ethiopia in my life. He was from Rwanda. We talked about his time in the States. I talked about my amazing mission trips to East Africa and how much I loved the people there. He asked me about my life here and my job and I told him that I was bi-vocational, working in business, and as a pastor in a small church plant in Tampa. As we talked, a big aha moment was dawning.
He said he couldn’t believe we were talking about these things! He was very honest about his history of following God and that he had lost his way the past couple of years. He said that God must have sent me to him that night because he had been thinking about going back to church. We had a great conversation on the importance of worship and journeying with God’s people. Our conversation, and then the short prayer we were able to share at the end of the ride, was a blessing to us both. As he pulled away, all my anxiousness and my frustration was gone. I was thankful for a renewed awareness of a key reality of the journey with God—sometimes the detour—the detour that I had been so upset with—was actually a critical part of the journey! Sometimes the detour IS the path.