Holding On To Hope

Holding On To Hope

The tiny foot path was dusty. There was a hot wind blowing my hair across my face as sand pelted my skin.

The day was going to be a long one, taking us from one village to another looking at places for new wells. We had a basic idea of where we were going but things change quickly on these adventures into the desert.

A little girl skipped ahead of me, her dad and my husband leading the way.

Small burrs attached to the bottom of my skirt from the brown, dry plants poking through the sand. We continued on, resting in the heat with warm Cokes, talking about the possibilities in the villages around us.

I sat sweating with my warm Coke, my scratchy skirt and my dirty feet, thinking about this incredible journey and the great amount of time, effort, tears and prayer that it took to get us to that moment. With a deep breath, I thought, “This is one of those moments.” 

The moments we work for, raise money for, and pray for in our journey overseas.

Moments to connect, help and encourage through practical, healthy, life-changing ways.

Moments that equip a local church to reach their community or give a pastor an opportunity to engage with families who need help. Moments of pilgrimage.

By definition, a pilgrimage is a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place.

That particular village by itself wasn’t sacred. But the moment was sacred. The moment was heavy with purpose and meaning. It was one of the reasons why we are here, why we take the journey from our passport countries to places across the world.

In the life of a worker overseas, there are many such moments of pilgrimage. Strung together in a longer space of time, these moments connect to a much larger, much longer pilgrimage of faith.

We spend months interviewing, choosing an organization, and preparing to become overseas workers.

We work long hours to connect with supporters and raise funds. The paperwork of moving piles high on our desk, applications for VISAs testing our patience. The receipts of traveling cover our cars and overflow our suitcases.

We prayerfully sort our belongings, sell our homes, pack up plastic bins, say goodbye and move overseasA move that feels like jumping blind off a cliff into the unknown days ahead.

We spend months and years learning language. Then, we spend more months and years still trying to learn language. Then, possibly, we add in another language or two.

We learn about culture, about people groups, about nations, about politics and history. We find ourselves relearning and rediscovering and rethinking everything we thought we knew about those things.

We join teams of people we don’t know and quickly find out the incredible challenges, joys and stress of all that entails. 

We realize how much time is spent just trying to live in another country. Discovering new processes for paying bills, fixing things that break {and things break a lot}, driving, schooling, shopping, cleaning… the learning curve for life overseas is a journey of its own.

This is all part of the pilgrimage before a moment of ministry even takes place.

In the Velvet Ashes community, we are all on different parts of the journey. We are all in various seasons of a bigger pilgrimage in life and work overseas. Some of us are in the beginning moments while others have years of stories and experiences.

Yet, the encouragement that leads us to keep going is the same regardless of where we find ourselves along the way.

Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Hebrews 10 goes on to say in verses 35-36, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

I read those verses and thought of the moments of pilgrimage, the moments that fill our journey overseas.

All of the moments we encounter are not things we set out to do. We can’t possibly know at the beginning how much work it takes to get to that first sacred moment. It’s easy to get discouraged in the long processes, the never-ending red tape, and the exhausting little things that add up to make just one day in another country.

But Hebrews reminds us that we must hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. We must hang on tightly to the gospel we preach, believe and have given our lives to share.

Culture shock, discouragement, failure, frustration or exhaustion… don’t throw away your confidence that He who called you is faithful. You will receive what He has promised.

I don’t know what that will look like for each of you.

Those who are moving back to your passport country, those who are about to leave home for the first time, those who are praying about committing to another term or thinking about changing countries or organizations. Wherever you find yourself in the bigger pilgrimage, hold unswervingly to the hope you profess.

The sacred moments, however small, will happen. One day, you’ll look back on your journey of pilgrimage remembering and giving thanks for all He has done.

Where can you see these sacred moments in your life today? 

As we start a new year, how can you watch for sacred moments in your pilgrimage?

Do you have a pilgrimage story to share?


  1. keri January 6, 2020

    This is a beautiful reminder today, Jenilee. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Monica F January 12, 2020

    Reread this today, as I look ahead to the year 2020- full of hope and anticipation. A good reminder of the pilgrimage we are on and the Hope we can hold onto. Thank you!

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