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Tourist vs Pilgrim

Arabic student letter


Yesterday I posted a letter from an Arab student on Facebook. It was his response to a note I wrote a number of years ago and hid in a place called the Abandon Meander in the Paria Canyon. Several guides know where it is and read it to their trail mates when they pass through the canyon. Because there have been a number of requests, I have decided to post my original letter and a photo of his translated letter here.


A Meditation for Paria Pilgrims

To My Brothers
To the ones who know me better than anyone and yet believe in me, and to the ones I have not yet met.

I wonder: Do you travel today as a tourist or a pilgrim? What does this journey mean for you? A tourist’s goal is to fulfill as many desires as possible; cover miles, see sights, and check things off their list. To them, entertainment and adventure are ends in themselves. Their eyes flash and dart but only to catch a glimpse of what’s next…which blinds their vision and deafens their ears to who’s right here and what God’s saying.

The pilgrim on the other hand, sees each journey (including the one you take this week) as part of the greater quest toward the mysterious destination called home. A pilgrimage is a way of praying with your feet. You go on a pilgrimage because you know there is something missing inside your soul, and the only way you can find it is to go to sacred places, places where God made himself known to others. In sacred places, something gets done to you that you’ve been unable to do for yourself.

You are passing through a sacred space. God has revealed himself here. God has granted courage and offered encouragement here. God has confirmed callings and bestowed wisdom here. God has poured himself into dry and thirsty souls here.

It is my prayer that you will travel the pilgrim way this week, but I must tell you, if you do not choose consciously, you will by default fall into the tourist life…even in a setting as majestic as the canyon. But take heart! The good news is that many have entered the slot a tourist and emerged at Lee’s Ferry a pilgrim.

Though I will not be slogging through the river, sharing meals, or heating water for tea and meals at camp…I will be with you.

Walk well,


I am thrilled, humbled, and intimidated by his last sentence but will attempt to respond as best as I can over the next few weeks. Please join the conversation that we may all wrestle more effectively with “how to be closer to God and know him better.”


english student letter

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