John Robinson, 8:00 Service

So before I start, the academy award for sleeping at any place at anytime goes toooooooooo, me John Robinson. I would like to thank my competitors that made me push myself this hard, like blank, blank, Jordan, blank, blank, blank.

But seriously, I enjoyed this trip. I loved that I got to learn more about my friends, meeting new people while walking to each destination, and seeing the new scenery. Every day, I tested myself by talking to someone in our group that I haven’t really talked to as much or try to learn something new about my friends.

Before we started this trip, I knew that there was not a strong connection in our group even though we have been together for so long. Out of the 9 days that we were together, it really brought us together a lot more than in the past 2 years. These 9 days were different because this trip forced us talk to each other, not saying that is a bad thing, but it filled in the gaps in the group.

When we arrived in Spain I was dead, not because of the walking, because I stayed up the whole flight from the US to Spain. To the people that say it’s easy to fall asleep on a plan, try saying that when there is about 50 movies just asking to be watched. It came back to bite me, because I was stuck on a uncomfortable position on a bus for 6 hours, while almost everyone was sing “Despacito” and talking about their favorite vines.

One thing that I’ll never forget is the day that we arrived in Santiago and started to head to the cathedral, because the chaperones had this great idea of walking us to the cathedral blindfolded. Obvious we couldn’t see anything, but we heard everything that was happening around us. I swear that we were walking in a street or next to the street because I heard a car honk right next to me. Do you know how scary that was!? Plus, we only knew what way we were going, was the person in front of us. Everyone would have one hand on the person’s shoulder that was in front of them and someone behind them would have their hand on your shoulder. If you let go of the person in front of you, you’d be moving your hands frantically in front of you just to find that person in front of you, by the way, that was your responsibility to hold on to.

When I went on this trip, I wanted to talk to people in our group that I haven’t really talked to as much or learn something new about my friends that I haven’t already known about them. While doing this, I really get to see everyone’s true colors, not their tan lines, but their personalities. I realized that the people who I considered to be similar to me, ended up to be the total opposite me. But, I don’t consider that to be a bad thing, this gives me more of a chance to connect with them by creating new conversations and activities that we have never had before. This trip has added a new feature to me that I’ll never forget.

 

Jordan Runice, 9:00 Service

Spain was a pretty wild ride.

Despite having grown up with this amazing group of kids, before the trip it sometimes seemed like we had nothing in common and I wasn’t there enough to know them well.  Other times, It felt like they were some of the only people I could relate to and I was there all the time.  These days, seeing everyone in the pilgrimage group is always the highlight of my week, and it’s like we’d never spent time apart.

I think that’s by far the best way that Spain changed us.  The experience of growing physically and mentally, and watching others you care about do the same alongside you, I think is truly one of the best things you can do for yourself.

To allow an experience to change you is the only way to truly live in it.

The Camino de Santiago was in no way a leisurely, sightseeing way to tour a the Spanish countryside, but honestly, there is no other way I would have wanted to do it.

Our longest day was an 18 mile hike.  It was hot, it was dusty.  Personally I had a fair bit of foot trouble.  It was in many ways the worst day, and in many ways, it was the best.

Each day there came a point, a little past the middle, where everyone hit sort of a mental wall in how far we’d come, and how far we still had to go.  The next stage was almost complete delirium.  The best day for this was the 18 mile one.  I remember there being a lot of steep hills to walk up and down.  Everybody was hot and gross and tired.

I think that every person in the group had a breaking point on one of the days and this is where mine came in.  As we reached the final downhill of the walk, (I’d been hiking in sandals for maybe four hours at this point) we reached a creek.  There were so many people swimming in it.  It was so hot outside, there was a lot of dust stuck to me.  I remember looking down at what I thought was a crazy tan line from my sandals and rubbing at it, only to discover that it was actually just dirt, all over myself.  Anyway, just about everyone was in the water and I found out I wasn’t supposed to swim because my foot would most likely get infected.  It looked so cold and there was grass in my hair and a bug had flown in my eye maybe an hour earlier and I was pretty done, and I sort of just lost it.

The thing I learned from this is that sometimes it just takes one last thing on top of all the other little things to make someone hit their point.  Once you hit your low point, even though it doesn’t seem like it, it’s always uphill from there.  The things that make it go back uphill, are mental resilience, and the people around you.

Being mentally resilient after you hit your low spot is so important because it humbles you, and allows you to appreciate how much better things will get after it.  It also reminds you to take a step back and look at the situation you are in.  How beautiful is life?

The people around you are the ones who help pick you back up, whether you consider yourself an extravert or an introvert, positive energy can always be passed from person to person.  So I’m just lucky that I had the best ones around.  Throughout the trip, when people would get to their worst times, it was amazing to watch the love that everyone had for each other and how hard everybody worked to make sure others bounced back.  It’s because of this that everybody got back up again.

I specifically remember a moment before the trip when Shane had said, “either we all get there or nobody does.”  Originally I had misunderstood his statement and had seen it as a pressure, like when a coach tells you that if you don’t score now, you’ll let your whole team down, or something like that.  However the true meaning of Shane’s statement became more and more clear to me as the trip went on.  What he’d meant had been that if someone falls behind, everyone will be there to support them until they can get themselves back up (whether literally, or figuratively) and nobody would make the end of the journey before anyone else.

Being there with a collection of different people, in a beautiful place, and letting it teach you.  Letting it teach you about yourself, about other people, about the way to live your life.

Personally this helped me to grow mentally because it applies to almost every hard thing a person can do.  Whether it’s the school year, or a sports season, or an all-nighter before a test, you will always hit a low point and you will come back from it.  The important part is that you do it, that you get back up, and that you take time to appreciate the journey to the top.

Toward the end of the trip I think was when it most hit me how much I’d miss it.  Not particularly getting up before the sun, or having a half-piece of toast with some crazy strong coffee to get me through to lunch, or the unfortunate freestyle raps along the way, but being there, with everyone I love.

I was on a crazy high point, and I miss it every day.

(Thank you)

 

Sally Carlson, 10:00 Forum

Friendship is something I learned on this trip, more than anything else. Opening up myself to others, and letting others into my life. Seeing the beauty of people’s souls, and the life they bring to our group, and the amazing things every single person brings to the table. Developing friendships with everyone we met along the way, the Australian woman who had a lot to say about California, the Spanish farmer who gave me walking stick in honor of his father who passed away, the group of 75 school kids who LOVED the Americans. Friendship can be found in anyone, but I’m glad I was able to make that connection with our group especially, because it’s a bond no one can ever break.

On the first day as many of us will tell you we were all super crabby on the bus ride to Sarria where we would stay in our first Albergue, we were all very very tired. At our first stop we met a group of 75 Spanish teenagers all our age and they were so excited to talk to us and they were really friendly, we talked to them for a while and that definitely brought our spirits up. It was really cool to be able to meet them and just hangout with them. Later that night after we settled into our Albuerge we all went out for a pizza dinner and then went to the Mercado, and to celebrate Flynn’s birthday that night, Lindsey, Gabe, Gabe, and Brendan brought him a Trolls cake and we sang to him that night and we were all together again and everyone was so happy and it was a great way to start the trip.

I think being able to be vulnerable around one another on this trip was really important . On the first day of hiking it was so hot, let me tell you SO hot, and me being me totally overheated, I was really struggling, I felt sick and could barely even stand up. I really wanted to keep going because I was not about to stop on the first day, so I sat with Sarah and Emily as they were splashing freezing cold water on my face to cool down, and no one was sure if I should keep going but I really wanted to. So I cried and begged and then waited it out a little longer only to find out everyone in our group had taken a small portion of my bag so that it would be lighter, and knowing that they did that for me only made me love them so much more, and that’s what friends are for.

Soon after at a different Albergue, we met a huge group of Spanish students who were also backpacking the Camino, they were all so nice and so excited to talk to us. Me Flynn, Lindsey and a few others were sitting in a circle listening to Flynn play his ukulele as we often did. A girl from the other group and a few of her friends challenged us to a “ukulele contest”, so we obliged and went to join them and Flynn and her started playing back and forth while more and more people were joining the circle to witness this truly magical moment. Soon we started to sing songs with them and laugh with them, it was like we’d known them for years. I was a stranger in this country, we all were and we had created this incredible bond just by singing and right then and there as we sang the theme song to SpongeBob, I made so many new friends and we were all together in this place doing things we would never experience in the same way again, the way I felt in that moment was a way I’ll feel for the rest of my life, knowing I’ll always have so many friends by my side.

While walking we carried along a flag with all the names of people we had met and who we had developed friendships with, and I think that goes to show how easy it is to open up to people, cause if you were to see the flag there are LOTS of names on it, just being friendly to people and talking to them you can build something and learn so much. So we met this woman one day, and she was from Australia, I struck up a conversation with me and she told me about Australia and she explained to me her hatred of California, she soon ended up recognizing me as the girl who was crying a couple days ago… Yep, that was me. We ended up seeing her a couple times throughout the rest of the trip at different Albergues. She was the total coolest and I just loved talking to her and again, we were both strangers on this crazy trail and just starting a conversation, you can make awesome friendships with anyone.

Finally the plane ride back was soooo hard, saying goodbye to Spain was really difficult, but it was hard to think about when we almost missed our flight out of Santiago. Next we made it to the Madrid airport where we waited for a bit while Flynn sang to us and we reminisced out time in Spain. Then we had the 8 hour plane ride back to the States where we ended in Chicago for a lovely 6 hour layover. Soon we were back in Minneapolis saying goodbye to each other, and before I knew it, the trip was over, and I was sad to say goodbye. But I wouldn’t change a single thing about any of that trip, it was the best experience I could’ve asked for, with the best people.

 

 

Davis Everson Rose, 11:00 Service

Today I am here before you to speak about my experience walking the Camino de Santiago, that time-honored path that has been so influential for the lives of so many Christian pilgrims before me and will surely be so for so many to follow. Yet this experience is so totally and completely different from anything I have ever before experienced that it is quite difficult for me to describe it to you. However, I believe that it is important to convey the magnitude of that difference to you, precisely because it is so great. I also owe all of you some evidence that your investment in us and our Pilgrimage was worthwhile. So in this way I shall begin:

The trip itself was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had. Although every mile, every step, was a battle between the will to persevere and the desire to rest, to stop, to collapse on the spot and walk no further, the end result was far, far more that the sum of its parts and in a way that made the challenge of walking 118 km in five days not only bearable, but enjoyable and unforgettable. The memories and friends I made on the Camino will be with me for a lifetime, and the spiritual journey I made will be meaningful for years to come. As we transition from pilgrims to Confirmands, our shared experience on the Camino gives us new insights into both the nature of spirituality and into each other. I am extremely glad I went on the Pilgrimage and will treasure the experience for the rest of my life. Yet these words do not do the Camino justice. For those of you who have never done something so physically and mentally challenging as the Pilgrimage, it is hard to describe how the confluence of all the emotions, feelings, and thoughts that crossed my mind during the trip interacted to form a cohesive whole. And in some ways, they didn’t. The modern world tells us that we have one indivisible, cohesive self that interprets the world around us, but an experience so monumental as the Pilgrimage shows the fallacy of that idea. For the many, many sensations that my experiencing self absorbed during those five days could never have all been combined into a single, consistent story by my narrative self. My narrative self tried, for sure, but the end result, which is the beginning and end of what I can recount today, is not nearly a complete account of those days. Those days were exhausting, they were exhilarating, they were transformative, they were revealing, and they were rewarding, but they were also so, so much more. And that “so much more” is, primarily, how all those sensations interacted to form so many new, higher order perceptions. Think of this: a mere 100 different sensations can interact to create nearly 5,000 different second order interactions between two sensations. And there were so many more than 100 sensations during the five days of the Pilgrimage. So that’s why I am not really here to speak about the literal Camino. I am here to speak about the Camino of life, and how we all experience life, both together and apart. So if you take one thing from what I have said, take this: life is more that what we express in language. Meaningful experiences are not meaningful for how you describe them, but for your experience. Experiences and memories mean so much more than possessions, and no amount of keepsakes can equal the whole of any experience. Often, a shared experience is a bond so much more nuanced that anyone could possibly put into words, and that is a good and joyful thing. So go forth from here, and seek out new things. Try them, because for all you know, they might become new pastimes, and the downside is rarely as great as you think it is. But, most of all, enjoy life! As far as we know, among all the planets orbiting all the stars in all the galaxies in all the universe, Earth and its life are unique, so revel in that. Observe it, and be amazed by it, and enjoy it, because it’s worthwhile to do so. Everyone experiences the Camino of life differently, but those who enjoy it fare so much better than those who don’t.

So I thank you, for supporting me, and all of us, on our journeys, but more importantly, for this community, which I am proud to be a part of

 

 

Oscar McFadden, 11:00 Service

Before I went on the Camino, I didn’t understand the point of going to church and Didn’t plan on attending confirmation after the pilgrimage. I didn’t see myself in a church after college. However I still wanted to do the pilgrimage because it felt like to would be a great way to meet new people and also to challenge myself.

When I was on the pilgrimage, I had a great time hanging out with other people and connecting, but even though getting to know all these great people was an experience, anyone can tell you that, but the story I have is my own. I had a great time with other people, but one element of the trip where I was able to learn a lot about myself was the moment of silence.  The moment of silence was actually an hour-long quiet period or meditation.

Here is an example. There was one day about midway through where I was not on my game. After scouring the hostel for 30 minutes, I couldn’t find my wallet and money for food. I had about $100 worth of American dollars and euros in my wallet. If you can Imagine how stressful it is to lose that much money at my age, then try to imagine something else: having an hour long “moment of silence” to think about it. One of my talents is being able to blow things way out of proportion when I’m by myself. I started by thinking of the ramifications of losing that money.  But after a while, I moved on to deeper questions, like why does anything matter? What’s the purpose of life? Could I use religion in my life?  I realized I had a lot of questions. Thankfully, though, I had some great people on the trip with me to cheer me up. Funny enough, later I realized I put my money in my brother’s bag.

When I got home, I continued to ponder those questions and did some research on the meaning of life and talked to a few people about what they thought about religion and purpose. I learned that religion is not about rules and literal facts, but how to live your life and get something out of it.

A few weeks ago, I’m having a very bad day. I’m feeling lonely, and I’m feeling down. I’m trying to listen to Alright by one of my favorite musical artists, Kendrick Lamar. It’s not going alright, though. I’m on my 4th play-through of the song today, and I’m still not cheering up. But that’s when I remember a quote from him that changed how I have thought about the question of purpose ever since: “When are we gonna understand we were put on earth to love.” At that point, I knew whatever happened to me, I would be alright.

I know I don’t have all the answers, but I’m on the right path. I have some problems, but now I have some  answers too. I think I’m ready to take the next step in my relationship with god.