A place of rest... and salvation

News Stories (1).pngThursday 16 May 2024 10:32

Six years ago, the Aldanas and the Webbs arrived in the Basque Country, Spain with the hope of planting a church, when the mayor made a quick remark about the possibility of a small guest house for Camino pilgrims. Fast forward to 2024, and you find a small church plant and a fully furnished guest house with space for 12, having welcomed its first pilgrims.

Casa Camino Antiguo

Karina and Mauricio Aldana and Carolynn and James Webb serve in the town of Zalla, which lies on the Camino Olvidado, a route of the Camino de Santiago. Every year, thousands of people embark on this historic pilgrimage. The reasons for each pilgrim’s travels are as many as there are pilgrims. Many are searching for something greater than themselves. Some are grieving. Others are hoping for renewal. It is not a tourist destination, but a journey with serious purpose and often deep spiritual motivation.

At the Casa Camino Antiguo, these pilgrims are able to find rest, a clean shower and the warmth of Christian hospitality. Because of the nature of the pilgrimage, conversations can quickly move in the direction of the gospel. You don’t need to ask more than, “Why are you on this journey?” to get a glimpse into their life and be able to share a bit of truth.

“They are offering you this conversation, and you take that offer,” said Carolynn Webb. “But they will retract that offer if you touch a hard spot. You need to be sensitive to where a person is when they arrive and where they are going, to learn to minister to someone where they are at, without making them a project…We are extending this love to people we may not see again.”

But the ministry of Casa Camino Antiguo doesn’t end when the pilgrims continue on their way. The hostel serves as a bridge to the local community as well. Many in the community don’t know much about the Camino, and like most places in Europe, are skeptical about church. The hostel serves in both ways. As the town sees the benefit of the guesthouse, by encouraging pilgrims to support local businesses, for example, they will hopefully begin to see the church as a blessing to their community too.

The church plant of about 25 people, adults and children, meets in the guesthouse as well. The desire is for the guesthouse to become an integral part of the church, not a side project, in order to show the love of Jesus in practical ways to travelers and locals alike. 

As keeping with Camino tradition, pilgrims only give a donation for their accommodation. These donations go towards the costs of maintenance, utilities and rent. But hopefully, in two years the Casa Camino Antiguo will own the building outright, and they are trusting God to provide. 

The peak season on the Camino Olvidado is from March to October. The Aldanas and Webbs would love to see the guesthouse frequented by ECMers in the off season either for personal getaways or as a place for retreats for youth groups or churches.

Pray for each pilgrim, that their journey would lead them to the love of Christ. Pray for the church to grow in their faith and unity. Pray that the guesthouse would be a blessing for the community, and for the relationship between the church and the local authorities. And pray that this project would be able to raise all of the funds necessary to purchase the building by the end of 2026.

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