This post by Lizzy Brady, our Pilgrim in Residence for the month of August. Each Wednesday this month, Lizzy is sharing about her search for Life on the pilgrim roads of Europe. Learn more about Lizzy and read the rest of the posts in this series here. -Lacy
After finishing our last midsummer retreat in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Liz and I flew back to Bergen, Norway, to join the other Wheaton College staff at Intermission Hostel…
It was 3:30 in the morning, and I was becoming increasingly convinced that a 13- mile hike through the night was better in theory than in practice. We were hiking the Vidden trail, following cairns on the plateau between Mt. Fløyen and Mt. Ulriken, the highest point in Bergen, Norway.
I hiked slowly that night, stepping carefully on a trek suspended between the moon and traces of the midnight sun. It was exhausting, perhaps more exhausting than we all thought it would be, as each step felt a little heavier than the last. We eventually planted ourselves on a hill in anticipation of the full sunrise, pouring coffee from thermoses and slicing banana bread as we waited. When the sun started to rise that morning, we silently sat in the magnificence of it all. And suddenly every heavy step through the night was worth it, as we watched the sun slowly illuminate the mountains, the lakes, and us.
We returned to our tiny hostel at the foot of Mt. Fløyen at around 8:30am, only to hear that some uninvited, nocturnal guests had just as exhilarating of a night as we did. Bed bugs are quite possibly the most dreadful thing that could happen to a hostel with only one 39-bed dorm.
The next 48 hours were a chaotic scramble. We shut down the hostel, sending our guests (and maybe a few bed bugs…) to another hostel in Bergen. In two days we disassembled and threw away all thirty-nine beds and mattresses, hired an exterminator, and then purchased and reassembled all new beds. Every piece of linen was washed and dried in high heat, every couch vacuumed many times over, and every pillow sent to an off-site freezing facility. (This post is really just a public service announcement to respect your hostel staff.)
By the end of the second day, there were six Americans at a tiny hostel in Norway assembling Ikea bunk beds like a well-oiled machine; thank goodness for the simplicity of Scandinavian design and the ingenuity of Henry Ford’s assembly line.
After a whirlwind of a couple days, we reopened Intermission Hostel. The new beds quickly filled up with trekkers, travelers, and long-distance cyclists from all over the globe. Almost every inch of our garden was occupied with tents, hiking gear, and clothes strung out to dry. New friends were cooking elbow-to-elbow in our kitchen, sharing travel highlights and mishaps over homemade meals and Norwegian waffles. Liz and I even led a “whimsical pilgrimage” up Mt. Fløyen one morning (the only guest that accepted the invitation was a Canadian in a kilt so we were still in good company). It was wonderful.
The weeks after the bed bug debacle brought some of the most magnificent glimpses of community and hope I’ve seen (and I don’t say that lightly). Our tiny hostel at the foot of Mt. Fløyen felt like home: a place of belonging, hospitality, and love. Those life-giving moments were worth every heavy step in the middle of the night, every infested, wooden bunk bed we disassembled.
I will carry those magnificent glimpses of the Kingdom of God as stones of remembrance into the gap between what is and what ought to be. We weren’t created to be independent entities—I’m convinced of it. It is that beauty and hope that will continue to pull these weary feet of mine towards the brilliance of a sunrise, the radical interdependence of community, and hospitality for the sojourner.
When have you found unexpected community in your own journey? What are your Life-giving experiences of hospitality? Leave your response to the questions or the post in the comments.