By Guest Blogger Ruth Syre, MSN, RN-BC
Faith Community Nurse

 This piece was originally written as an online devotion for the church I belong to and serve as a Faith Community Nurse: Winter Park Presbyterian, Wilmington, NC. We began sharing online devotions early on in the pandemic, as we were forced to find alternative ways to be church and stay connected. May these words provide hope and encouragement for you on your journey!

Pilgrimage: a journey to a sacred place. That’s what my daughter and I had planned for this year. We were making arrangements to travel to Spain to trek a portion of the Camino de Santiago. The Way of St. James crosses parts of Portugal, Spain and France. Legend is that St. James, the brother of Jesus, travelled this route, spreading the Gospel. While primarily a catholic focus, thousands of pilgrims travel sections of it, each seeking their own encounter with God. We have planned this for several years. I had read the guidebooks, watched the videos, consulted a travel agent, started looking at gear. Then the pandemic happened.

Instead of travelling to Spain, my daughter ended up spending quarantine with me, here in Wilmington. She was doing volunteer non-profit work, rebuilding homes in Puerto Rico with All Hands and Hearts, when the organization announced a hurried evacuation due to rising fears of the virus. We were both extremely concerned about what she might face returning to Boston, and decided it was safer to shelter here. I picked her up at the airport on March 17. She flew home to Boston on June 11.

We have had our Pilgrimage. In these weeks of sheltering in place, we were able to connect on a deeper level. We were able to see God’s hand at work in surprising ways. We supported each other through the varied levels of stress related to all that is going on in the world. We had Pilgrimage moments. Home became a sacred place.

I admit it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns! We are, after all, mother and daughter, and there are some points prone to friction. But we were very respectful of each other, recognizing these are extraordinary circumstances. Claiming this as our alternate pilgrimage gave this time more meaning and purpose.

The Tuesday morning Bible Study group is exploring Exodus. While we half-jokingly admit to feeling exiled from our normal lives, and maybe even enduring a plague, we know that we cannot compare our circumstances to those of the Israelites in Egypt. The Israelites had faith in the God of their ancestors. They trusted Moses, and Moses trusted God. Even when the path ahead is unknown, God is there, making a way for Pilgrimage to happen.

Remember these words from Jeremiah 29: 11-14 (NRSV)

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”

Have you ever been on a Pilgrimage? Where is your sacred place? May our eyes and hearts be opened to see where God is, and where God is leading us to sacred places…every day.

“Have You Seen Jesus my Lord?”