A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Work/Study MIR Peace Camp at Betania IV

Francesco Balbo, with the book, 'On foot to Jerusalem'
Back in the south of France, near Aix-en-Provençe, I was invited to stay at the house of a man who had walked as a pilgrim to Rome. This man, Cyril, gave me a book when I left, called, 'A Piedi verso Gerusalemme.' He said it had inspired him, and giuded him on his own pilgrimage. By the time I had reached the Alps and crossed into Italy, I realized I would not read the book, as it was in Italian, and my Italian is restricted (even now after 6 weeks) to a few words and phrases. I left the book with the first Italian hosts I had, near Oulx.
A month later, on my last day at Betania with Movimento Internazionale della Riconciliazione, two pilgrims arrived to talk about their walk from Brescia to Jerusalem in 2003. They are Francesco and Rosanna Balbo, and I was surprised to see that it was they who had written the book.
I was even more surprised when I heard their story. They had set off on their pilgrimage with the idea that they would make the journey with total dependence on other people. They had no money, nor would they accept any. They would ask for a place to stay and food to eat every day, with the faith that they would receive it. They had no tent; no backup plan in case they were left out in the cold. People would help them. Period. And as it turned out, people did help them, every day for a year, from Italy, to Greece, through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel/Palestine.
In one photo from their journey, Francesco can be seen walking along the road in central Turkey. The road is closed to traffic because of the heavy snow. Francesco is pushing the cart they brought with them, in heavy winter clothing. When I see this photo, I am thinking, 'I would not be in the mountains in central Turkey in a snowstorm, even with my tent and my money. It would be too dangerous. What if no one took me in?' But there they are. And they found a host to take them in.
This is faith.
About ten days ago, after I'd already left the camp in this blog, I met with a friend who would accompany me for a few days. My plan had been to find a place to pitch the tent, as I had no pre-arranged host in San Bonifacio. But remembering Francesco and Rosanna, I thought, 'Today I will ask for a place to stay'.
As it turned out, my friend and I did sleep in a tent, but in the yard of a convent, under the tender care of its nuns. They gave us a nice, big breakfast before we left.
I'm still planning on walking along the southern coast of Turkey this winter, to avoid mountain snowstorms. I just haven't got the faith of Francesco and Rosanna. But I won't hesitate, in the future, to ask for accomodation when I have no pre-arranged host.
With our independence, we tend to spurn God, I think; by depending on others, we get closer to God. While I have depended on others this entire pilgrimage, but for the use of my tent (even the money I have, 5 euros per day, comes from other people), I always have a plan for when others fail me. Francesco and Rosanna have much to teach us about real faith, and about getting closer to God.
Francesco and Rosanna with MIR coordinator Luciano

Three pilgrims

Tommaso, Francesco and other members of the MIR peace camp walk with me as I head out

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