Searching for The Way: DNA partners in Spain open a hospitality home for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago

In 2016, more than 277,000 people from all over the world walked at least 100 km to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain where the body of James the Apostle, the son of Zebedee, is believed to be buried. This pilgrimage is called El Camino de Santiago–The Way of St. James–and recently has seen a resurgence in popularity even though it has been traveled for well over 1,000 years.

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The Camino de Santiago is a network of routes from every major city in Europe to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Our DNA Local Network key contact in Spain just opened a hostel along the route from Portugal.

Many pilgrims walk 700 km or more, most for religious and cultural reasons, on this journey of learning that takes them through dozens of small towns along the way.

Many walking The Way are searching for something and are especially open to discussions about God while on this journey. Alfonso Cherene, the DNA Local Network key contact in Spain, hopes he can help them find the One who calls himself the Way, the Truth and the Life.

In 2016, Alfonso and his wife, Debee (right), moved to Vilanova de Arousa to open a hospitality home called Hope House on the route north from Portugal, traveled by about 18 percent of all pilgrims. Alfonso has worked with YWAM for many years, most recently as the national director in Spain, and this new venture offers unique opportunities to share the Good News with people from all over the world. They invite individuals, families and teams to come volunteer with them–“to do the walk and to be Jesus’ channel on the Camino to others,” Alfonso says. They regularly have volunteers rotating in and out.

“Some of [the pilgrims] have broken down in tears, touched by the love as they step in their rooms and find their beds made with special details of welcome,” Alfonso and Debee say. “We believe hospitality is God’s heavenly language of welcoming us as we are, even to some stinky, tired, frazzled pilgrims–right?”

    

Pilgrims gather around the dinner table each night for good food and conversation.

 

Alfonso and Debee host dozens of people from all over the world in their Hope House each month.

    
In addition to hosting pilgrims in their Hope House, Alfonso ventures out for long walks beside the pilgrims. The couple is thankful for “God’s wonderful wisdom and counsel as we minister to those who have sought our counsel,” say Alfonso and Debee.

In front of the chapel stand the village patriarch, Jose (front left), Alfonso (right), other village elders, and volunteer team members from the Hope House.

Just last week, Alfonso struck up relationships with neighbors and elders of the village immediately before theirs on the road to Santiago. He and the current team of volunteers visited a small church in the village, and the congregation was so excited about their work that they gave them keys to the chapel. The next day, the team returned to share with pilgrims at the chapel some fresh oranges, brochures about their Hope House, and stamps for their pilgrim passports.

Every pilgrim carries a special passport, collecting stamps in villages along the way to prove he walked the route. Officials in the destination city of Santiago de Compostela review these passports before issuing customized certificates (“compostelas”) to the pilgrims. In these photos at the chapel, Alfonso gives up on the very worn-out stamp (left), employing instead the village patriarch’s walking stick to get the job done (right).

   
Since last week, the Hope House has received a handful of guest pilgrims who learned about the House while visiting this chapel. The team was able to share the gospel with the pilgrims, who asked questions. One team member even spoke in German to a German pilgrim. The team plans to meet new pilgrims at the chapel every day–this is “favor from the Lord,” says Alfonso, who asks for prayer for this strategic ministry.

To connect with Alfonso and Debee, email viaiberia@gmail.com.

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