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The Hike

It was just after nine in the morning and the sun was finally coming out from behind the clouds. The weather was cool, but I was warm with excitement, wondering what hidden beauty was waiting for me to discover as I began my hike through the vineyards. My thoughts wandered.

It was one year since I began a relationship with a group of Persian ladies. Our first meeting had been on a cool day, like this one. It was our first discipleship class, and I was unsure what to expect. Then, as now, I had been excited, anticipating experiences yet to come. 

I hiked on. Now the path took me straight up to an elevation that overlooked the Rhine River. It was a tough climb. At the top, I looked out over a little village in the valley below, with its neatly manicured vines planted in perfect rows. The stunning beauty of the scenery around me took my breath away. It was worth the climb.

That first joyful encounter with the Persian ladies had been followed by a tough climb as well. It was a struggle to communicate in a mix of German and Farsi, and a struggle to open up to each other. It took time. But as the months passed, we reached a summit where we were sharing our lives with each other and experiencing God’s presence—a breathtaking view.

Wait, where did the road go? I paused. Then I saw a rough forest path. Following that, I found myself at a crossroads: the path to my right heading downhill back to the village, and the path to my left leading uphill into some fields. I turned left.

There had been many such crossroads while leading the discipleship group, and many difficult decisions. I had to decide where to go when we could no longer meet in the church building. I had to decide whether to cancel our meetings when attendance dropped. Yet I had pressed forward, moving to a different room and holding the class despite fewer numbers. That decision had borne sweet fruit. Our smaller group had allowed for deeper, more intimate conversations, and a new level of trust. 

My calves felt tight as the path led to another steep, uphill climb. At the top I stopped, seeing a faint trail ahead, winding through an apple orchard with fruit, ripe and fragrant with promise. Again, it was so worth the climb. I passed through the orchard and continued walking toward a little forest, then stopped abruptly. A dead end? There was only one road in sight, leading back down into the village where my car was parked. I rebelled; I did not want to go home yet! I looked around for some sort of information board, but there was nothing. There had to be a continuation of this trail! Frustrated, but determined to press on, I aimed for a narrow footpath through a field in front of me. One hundred meters later, I saw the sign, Rhine Hiking Trail. Relieved, I followed a series of blue signs that continued to lead me through rocky territory and then down a precipice along the hills. Onward.

After several months, the discipleship group reached a point when no one came. I was very upset and disappointed, and I could not accept that it had come to an end. After weeks of doubts and questions and prayers, God opened a new way. I followed his signs. First two, then three, and then four ladies started coming back to our weekly meetings. We were not done yet!

My feet hurt. The descent on rocky ground was not easy and my muscles were already aching. Then suddenly I slipped, grabbed at some grass and ended up on my hands and feet, crawling to reach a plateau. It was not far, but the path was dangerous. Finally, I hit level ground and stood up, panting. Then I spotted the bench—the invitation was irresistible. Limping over, I sat down, exhausted. After eating some food, I closed my eyes. I knew there were still miles to go, but within minutes, I was fast asleep. 

The last few weeks of our Persian discipleship group have been intense. We faced real life issues together, challenging us in our relationship with Jesus and each other. Eventually, I realized that I had done all that I could, and that God was calling me into a time of rest. I fell into his arms, assured that he would finish what he had started. 

When I woke from my nap, I felt refreshed and hoisted my pack onto my back for the last few kilometers. The finish line was in sight. The last few kilometers down to the parking lot went quickly, and it was with relief that I collapsed into the comfortable seat of my car. What   a hike! I thought about the climb, the muscle cramps, the frustration and the blisters. But I knew I would soon be looking for the next trail to tackle! In fact, I could hardly wait. 

Our discipleship group has just completed the last lesson in our course. We have reviewed what we learned, how we grew and what helped us in our personal life. And now we are asking, “What next?” 

And so, the hike continues.

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