Here’s a question for you. If we were to park a bus outside of Bethel on a Monday morning and ask you to show up with a suitcase with enough clothes for 5 days and NOT tell you where the bus was going, would you get on the bus and take the trip?
One of our members, Cathy Williamson has been doing this EXACT thing almost every single year since 2005. In 2005 Cathy, who was living in Maryland at the time, went through a divorce and was going through a difficult period in her life when her sister-in-law suggested that she should take a mystery trip with her.
A mystery trip is exactly that: A Mystery. Cathy and her sister-in-law were instructed to show up at the bus pickup point in Southern Maryland with enough clothes for 5 days. The only thing you know for sure is that the trip will be within one day’s drive of Maryland.
So Cathy said, “Why not!” She not only went in 2005, but she’s gone nearly every year since. The trip is always the second week in June and she and her sister-in-law have gone to a number of places that she would not have traveled to otherwise. They’ve been to Maine, Savannah, Cleveland, The Finger Lakes of New York, Atlanta and Asheville, just to name a few of the places.
On these trips she’s done some amazing things she would have never done on her own, like going on a lobster boat for a day, or going to the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame or walking the glistening beaches of the Golden Isle’s off the coast of Georgia.
While seeing all of these places has been wonderful the real treasure is found in relationships she’s made along the way. Cathy was in her early 50s when she first started taking these trips and she and her sister-in-law noticed that they were the youngest people on the trip. Over the years Cathy has gotten to know many of her fellow travelers as almost everyone signs up for the trip for the following year. Cathy sees herself as a caregiver for a lot of these folks and she’s come to see that helping her fellow travelers is both her ministry and mission.
Once there was a lady who was in her 80s and she’d been battling cancer for three years. Her family was reluctant for her to go on the trip, but they figured she’d be all right because she could use her iPad to email her family daily. Unfortunately, she often had trouble connecting to the Internet and she became stressed every time she couldn’t connect. Cathy often stepped in to help this lady with her technology issues which really helped to lower this lady’s stress level.
I asked Cathy what she’s learned in the 13 years she’s taken these trips. She said, “Some of the trips have been more interesting than others. I love history and I’ve learned that there is so much to see and learn from if you just take the time to look. Also, if you don’t have any expectations about where you’re going then you can embrace whatever comes your way. These trips are really about enjoying each moment of the journey and making the most of it. But the important part is the people you’re going with and the reward is being with the others on the trip.”
That’s a good word for us. As we journey in faith, I hope our focus can be on the blessings of the journey. As Christians, our destination is secure, but what’s unknown to us are the details of our journey. Cathy’s mystery trips remind us of the unexpected blessings of embracing the unknown.
Cathy sums this up best when she said, “Part of the excitement of life is that we don’t know the path the Lord has us walking. We don’t know what unexpected direction or detours we may experience, but if we are faithful in following the Lord, without knowing all the details, He will bring us more joy, love, and opportunities to let our life shine with the love of Christ! We will see the hand of God working in and through our lives if we go through life with our eyes, heart, and spirit wide open and expectant.”
Amen! Well said, Cathy. May the Lord bless Cathy as she continues to take her mystery trips and may the Lord bless us at Bethel as we embrace the unknown in our journey of faith!