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Walking In The Way of St. James

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

bridge trailWhether through countryside or in cities, the Camino de Santiago is a demanding pilgrimage.Amy Wiseman's customer service job drained her, especially during the pandemic. "If there's anything that can douse your faith in humanity, it's seeing the worst in people," recalled the Grand Rapids woman.

Her own business start-up had added to her burden and kept her busy seven days a week. "I had no balance, wasn't happy in my work and was burned out," she sighed.

Then she recalled reading about the Camino de Santiago.

The "Camino" is a spiritual pilgrimage: a 500-mile, centuries-old trail through northern Spain. Along the
way are markers, shrines, statues and churches, all of which are touchstones for faithful pilgrims in the
traditionally Catholic country. It meanders through small towns, across river beds, streets, open plains,
shaded paths and hilly wilderness. The destination is a cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela,
where it is said the remains of the biblical apostle James were buried after they were carried along the

It is often called "The Way of St. James."


camThe majestic cathedral in northwestern Spain, the destination of the Camino de Santiago.Wiseman was aware of the Camino, but its lengthy time requirement was problematic. Perhaps it would be saved for her retirement years.

Meanwhile, she discovered the Christian George book Sacred Travels with tales of pilgrimages all over the world. Her spirit was drawn to the idea. "I longed for something deeper," said Wiseman, 30. An out-of-balance life sped up her Camino timeline.

So last March, after prayer and discussions with friends and family, she quit her job, closed her business and set her sights on traveling The Way. With no friends or family able to make the extensive time commitment, she ventured out alone.

New friendships, times of solitude, spiritual insight and physical challenges all had their places on the Camino trail. A fruitful discipline was keeping a handwritten journal along the way.

She held to the promise of Jeremiah 6:16. "Stand by the roads and look, ask for the ancient paths, where
the good way is, then walk in it. And find rest for your souls." (ESV)


scenic arms openAmy Wiseman celebrates her journey on the “The Way of St. James”Wiseman learned there are three stages to the Camino pilgrimage: physical, mental and spiritual. And you will know when you reach each one.

The physical challenge was most obvious: a regimen of day-long hiking over varied terrain while
adjusting to traditional Spanish diet and mealtimes.

She also did a balancing act trying to plan overnight accommodations in hostels along the way.
"One night I thought I would have to walk another 10 K to the next town," she recalled before securing a last-minute spot.

A week into her journey she injured her knee, causing pain and swelling. It forced her to take a bus over several segments of the route. That could have been guilt-inducing: a failure to walk the entire distance,as Camino purists insist.

"That (knee) changed everything about the trip, and kept me from plowing through and doing as many kilometers as I could each day," she said. "I guess it had to happen... in retrospect, every hardship is what made the trip great."

A fellow passenger reminded her – it wasn't the Walk of St James, it was the Way of St. James. It was on the bus that she met Kathrine, a Danish woman with whom Wiseman teamed the rest of the


Wiseman learned the mental lesson of flexibility. This wasn't a race. Her injury slowed her, but made her appreciate other things. A visit to a cathedral in the city of Burgos revealed inspiring, gospel-depicting art lit by sunrays through stained glass windows.

"I felt true, authentic, unfiltered wonder," she said.

And her faith in humanity returned as fellow travelers shared food, water and deep conversation. Heading into the final leg, Wiseman was fueled by the joy of the Lord. As she approached the trail-ending Santiago cathedral square, her eyes flowed with tears and she shared hugs with Kathrine and several other pilgrims.


Back in Grand Rapids, Wiseman sometimes winces at the question, "How was the walk?" "You feel a lifetime of emotions in a concentrated period of time, and you can't really explain it," she offered of her 41-day journey.

Her body recovered, but memories lingered. And the spiritual lessons remained. "I realized how much spending time with God meant to me," she said. "I find I have an easier time talking about God with people. Instead of trying to fit God into my schedule, I needed to fit my schedule into His."

(editor's note: Wiseman is committed to sharing her story and photos with church groups or in other
settings. She is planning a book on her experiences. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Author: Terry DeBoer
Terry is a journalist/feature writer for newspapers, magazines and websites, with a background in radio broadcasting. His usual beat is arts and entertainment, specializing in Christian/gospel music. A married father of two, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan Contributing Writer: West Michigan Christian News August 2011 – Present Feature writer: -Mlive.com (website and various newspapers) 1988– 2016 -Spotlight New Christian Music Magazine 1997-2008 -Church News Editor, Church Herald Magazine 2004-2009

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