But I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more;
Just to be the one who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door.
Never would I have guessed that this song would bring tears to my eyes. But, three weeks ago, that's exactly what happened.
* * * * * * * * *
By Thursday morning, we had this whole camp gig down pat. We also had the whole hostel gig down pat, which was rather ironic: it was time to leave. There was a period of three or four days where the rooms were unavailable to us, so it had been arranged that we'd stay in the homes of the JV missionaries for a time and then return to the hostel.
Thus, my Thursday morning tea took the slightest turn. "May I have it in a paper cup? To take with me?" Once again, our hostess understood, and my tea was ready to go. Along with our assorted 50 lb. bags and suitcases. By 7:20 a.m. (We were very thankful for our brawny young men who eagerly shuttled our bags down the flights of stairs and into the awaiting van.)
Once at the church, we began as usual. Our combined team shared in morning devotions, and when the campers arrived, each team member fell confidently into their various roles, whether describing a game, leading an activity, or displaying song motions.
Our camp song, "Reign Forever," was a partner song with choreography, which everyone learned. By the end of the week we had those moves down (although I never could manage to make my twirling grapevine land in the right place). We also knew who to partner with in order to achieve a successful trust fall. This was important, for obvious reasons.
But for me, it was "500 Miles" that caused a lump to form in my throat. I hadn't heard this version of the song -- "We Have This Hope," it was called -- but I sure did know the tune. As soon as Johnny started to lead us that first day, we caught each other's eye. This song had a history. Years of images flashed through my mind in an instant. I pictured dancing in the living room with my sister. I pictured the many theatrical performances we coaxed our brother into joining. (Some of which included signed contracts; we just couldn't risk his fatigue or boredom, inevitable at age 8.)
We never could have imagined that, one day, he would be standing on a stage in a country called Slovenia, strumming that recognizable beat, teaching it to a crew of students and leaders, with a heart that beat wildly for Jesus. I was proud of him. Tears filled my eyes, and I was in awe of the way God faithfully -- and often unexpectedly -- lavishes the sweetest grace upon grace.
And I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the one who walks a thousand miles
To stand firm in my Lord.
It's a riotous, fun song. (And not really a tear-jerker at all, I suppose, unless one happens to be terribly sentimental. Like some people I know.) But the message is one we hoped to introduce to the campers that week: it is worth it all to stand firm in the Lord. And it's a message I've proudly watched my brother, sister-in-law, and niece live in their home in Celje: it is worth it all to stand firm in the Lord.
Jamie and Johnny both had opportunities to share this message throughout the week. Our late afternoon program included a session in which they introduced the Bible, King David and, ultimately, King Jesus. The talks were followed by discussion groups, which were entirely conducted in Slovene, the heart language of the students.
We all came to camp with our own heart languages that week. It was an honor and privilege for Jamie and me to lead a group of young adults who learned more and more to listen to that language, to understand more and more what it means to walk a thousand miles for our Lord. Sometimes the miles are swift and beautiful, traversing lush meadows and fragrant forests. Other times those miles are dusty, uphill miles, filled with ruts and boulders. But, with our Lord, they are all good, good miles with breathtaking vistas and marvelous landscapes we never would have encountered on our own.
Thursday evening, in our various missionary homes, we had opportunity to share more of this heart language with one another. It was a blessing to be welcomed into their homes, to talk about the deep things, the things that matter. The week of English camp may have been winding down, but we knew our hearts were still on the path of life-long loving and learning. A thousand miles stretched before us, our Savior beckoning, our Savior welcoming. And we wanted to be counted among those who would walk 500 miles, and 500 more.