Camino de Santiago

(The way of Saint James)

Pastor Don, the Senior Pastor at O'Fallon First, is currently on spiritual renewal leave for six weeks. He has chosen to spend this time hiking the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage that people have been walking for over 1000 years. There are many different Camino routes across Europe that all lead to  Santiago de Compostela which legend says is the burial place of the Apostle James. Pastor Don has chosen to hike the Camino Frances which starts in France and is in Northern  Spain. Learn more about this route HERE.

The easiest way for Pastor Don to share parts of his journey has been through social media. For those who are not connected to social media, we have set up this page for the duration of his trip.

Please pray for Pastor Don as he walks, his family as they wait, and the church as we wonder about the great works that God is doing through this ministry.  ¡Buen Camino! 

On the Way!

Pastor Don left by train early on Wednesday, September 15. From there he went to O'Hare, Copenhagen, Paris then finally arrived at his step off point in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port where he stayed for a couple of days to get his bearings and get over jet lag a bit. While having dinner in St. Jean Pastor Don was seated between two couples, one from Greece and a local couple. The only English anyone knew was "Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan" yet therogh the wonders of technology and a few broken Spanish words they shared their stories. ¡Buen Camino!

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Day 1

Pastor Don's first day of the Camino he walked from France over the Pyrenees Mountains and into Spain. The hike was over 20 miles with several elevation changes causing wobbly legs and exhaustion. Day one is down, only 33 more to go!  ¡Buen Camino!
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Day 2

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Day 3

Day 4

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Day 5

Pastor Don posted these pictures on his 5th day of the Camino. The first picture is of the outer wall of old Pamplona and the second photo is on the streets of Pamplona. The next two pictures were taken in a chapel in Zubiri. The picture with the art installation is on a mountain overlooking Pamplona. The last pictures are from in and around Puente la Reina. ¡Buen Camino!
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Day 6

Pastor Don pressed on again a little past his goal for the day with some encouraging signs along the way.  Along his route many of the places to stay have been full when he arrived. On this day he ended up at the Palacio de Sansol which is an old castle that has been converted into an albergue (a hostel for pilgrams). He happened to walk in just as a bed had become available. You can see some wonderful pictures of the albergue on their website HERE. God provides.
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Day 9

Today Pastor Don posted a video while he was walking with a reflection of the journey.
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Day 10

We are not promised an easy journey, but we are promised that God is with us on every step of our travels.
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Day 11

 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8
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Day 12

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Day 14

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Day 15

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Day 16

So, yesterday I stopped in Vallalcazar de Serga, drinking a Cafe Leche when Elena asked if she could sit with me, "sure," I said. We've seen each other off-and-on from the start of the journey in Saint-Jean, and come to find out she's from St. Petersburg, Russia. We were having a nice chat (as much as we could with the language barrier), and I just had this urge to say hello to the people behind me (in part because they were speaking English).
"Where are you from," I asked.
"From America," she said, "the northeast, and the midwest."
"Oh really," I said. "Where in the midwest? I'm from Illinois," I said.
"Southern Illinois," he said. "You probably wouldn't know."
GUESS WHERE!
"I live in O'Fallon," he said!!
"I know EXACTLY where that is, because I happen to be the Senior Pastor at O'Fallon First UMC.
"The one across from OTHS?" He said.
"Yep!"
I was blown away!!!
Dave Johnson is recently retired from the Air Force, and he and his wife moved back to O'Fallon after serving there. He and his friend, Fran, served in the AF together. They've biked across the entire US, and now they're hiking the Camino together!
The magic of the Camino!!!

Day 17

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Day  18

Day 20

Day 21

Day 22


"It was a dark and stormy night..." morning, actually, as I start my 23nd day of hiking the Camino. I have journeyed over 537K (333 miles) across Spain on my way to Santiago. Today I'm headed to Ponferrada, with a stop this morning at Cruz de Ferro (a humble, but deeply symbolic stop on the Camino that is the highest elevation of the journey). There I will leave a stone I've carried with me from the start of my journey. Yesterday was a beautiful ascent into the mountains again. (Click on image to view)

Day 23

I sat down this morning on the mountainside and quickly wrote these words after experiencing the overwhelming sights these pictures contain (which do not adequately reflect what I saw). I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
"Words cannot contain what my eyes can barely perceive, except by the sight of my heart from the depths of my soul, and then I see... I see what God speaks of beauty and love through creation, and throughout eternity!"
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Day 24

I've been asked about where I sleep, eat, etc. Here's a quick description of my day:
1)Get up around 5:30 or 6am.
2) Pack up (usually in the dark, because other pilgrims are still sleeping)
3) Stretch and finishing getting ready to hit the trail by 6:45 or 7am.
4) Stop for coffee and breakfast about 9 or 9:30 after getting in 5 or 6 miles (or when a town comes along). I try to always get at least 5 miles in before my first stop.
5) Hike 18 to 22 miles a day (I've had a few 24 mile days, and a couple 15 mile days).
6) Find an "Albergue" (Spanish for "hostel"), which is an inexpensive (from "reasonable donation" to 15 Euro a night) place to stay that sometimes offers a "pilgrim's meal" for 10-15 Euro, and where I can shower and do laundry. There are different kinds of hostels. "Municipal" hostels are run by volunteers (usually former pilgrims who come from all over the world and volunteer for 15 days to a month at a time); "private" hostels, owned and operated by local residents as a business. Some offer only the basics: bed and shower, others offer everything: bed, shower, dinner, breakfast.
Some towns have a couple Albergues, others have several. Some you can make reservations for, others you just show up. There have been a couple of times I've had to move on to the next town, because there was "no room at the inn."
7) Take a shower! After a long day, a nice hot shower is the best. (You don't always get the "hot" part, though).
😎 Do my laundry, usually by hand, then air-dry, but some hostels have had washers and dryers that you can pay to use. You want to do laundry right away so the clothes have time to dry.
9) Get something to eat (finally!). If the hostel doesn't offer a meal, they may have a public kitchen you can use to fix something you buy at the "supermarcado." Or, you can buy a meal at a local bar/restaurant. They don't usually start serving dinner until 7:30 or 8pm.
10) Crash! by 9:30 or 10 to start over again tomorrow.
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Day 25

Day  26

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Day 26

Day 27

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Day 29

Day 31

Day 32