Border Pilgrimage Report

HEARTBEAT’s second Border Pilgrimage cohort has recently returned from a seven-day journey through El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Ten of us traveled to the borderlands with the intention of learning more about the regional community, increasing our understanding of the migrant experience, and reaching out with volunteer work. We prayed. We listened. We witnessed. We worked. And we walked away determined to deepen our engagement as advocates and activists. Leading up to the journey, each pilgrim also made a commitment to raise money to provide respite supplies for migrants who are in the care of the Annunciation House. Thanks to the generosity of many, we delivered a check for over $6,000. The pilgrimage was a meaningful experience, one that showed pain and suffering, but also beauty and resilience of the border community.

“When you go home, we want you to take part of the borderlands home with you in your heart,” said my co-leader Ilka Vega when we first started planning the pilgrimage. Ilka was born in El Paso and raised in Cd. Juárez and is the Community Engagement Specialist at Hope Border Institute, an organization that works to deepen solidarity and transform the region. They provide pivotal research and witness – advocating for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and conducting thorough reporting and media outreach. With the intention of expanding understanding of the migrant experience within the context of historical and current events, each member of our group was required to study Hope Border Institute’s most recent report that documents their observation at the border.

Ilka tells the story of the families, friends, and communities separated by the border wall.

True to the HEARTBEAT pilgrimage model, our days on pilgrimage in the borderland began with Morning Prayer. We followed the text in John Philip Newell’s Praying for the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace. Each day was also marked by a theme that would provide focus for our intentions and learning. Site visits in Cd. Juárez and El Paso packed our mornings and afternoons. Members of the group took turns sharing about their migration story (whether from country to country, state to state, or neighborhood to neighborhood) and how their family came to inhabit their current home. We learned about each other’s unique approach to spirituality and how this aspect of ourselves provides grounding for our engagement and activism. It was also normal for us to find time to observe silence, rest after long days of activity, and to journal. In the evening there were guided small group conversations to help internalize the experience and a meditation in the form of a “review of the day”, a practice originally introduced to us by Ali Newell.

On the first day of our pilgrimage, Ilka took our group to the border wall in Anapra, near Sun Valley, New Mexico. This is the area where rogue American militia members were recently unlawfully detaining migrants at gunpoint. We parked our van a few yards away from the wall with Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) vehicles stationed nearby. Our group formed a circle and Ilka told us about the construction of the wall and how it not only prevented the natural migration of people, but also the migration of animals. We discussed how moving to a new place is a fundamental necessity of life. I now think of the t-shirt that I brought home from Hope Border Institute that reads, “TODOS SOMOS MIGRANTES”, we are all migrants. Ilka spoke of the families and friends who had been separated by the wall’s construction. She reiterated a noteworthy lament of many people along the border: we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us. The pilgrims in our group took a few minutes to walk in prayer and silence for a few moments. The wall towered above and cast a long shadow. For those of us who traveled from the north and were unfamiliar with such a malicious sight, the wall’s menacing presence would stay with us for a long time.

Border wall dividing the Anapra neighborhood and Sun Valley, New Mexico

Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico

During the next two days on the pilgrimage we visited sites across the border in Juárez. We met the organizers at La Promesa, an organization that promotes the arts and culture as a strategy of recovery and organizing for community life. We heard about how their neighborhood had been decimated by violence. La Promesa was originally a safe haven for women who were frequent targets of attack. Eventually they expanded to meet the needs of young people in the neighborhood, empowering them to paint murals that now blanket multiple buildings and walls in the neighborhood. Members at La Promesa also facilitate a T-shirt design business where creating, printing and selling provide critical income.  We were inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of these leaders.

Mural painted by youth from the La Promesa Community Center.

Each experience built on the last and enhanced our understanding of the region’s story. And since a HEARTBEAT pilgrimage is more than a tour, we soon found ourselves even closer to the heart of our trip. El Buen Pastor, is a migrant shelter in the notoriously marginalized Juárez neighborhood of Anapra. It is a community that was hit hard by violence from drug cartels and is now scrambling to meet the needs of migrants. With original capacity for around 20 people, at one point El Buen Pastor hosted over 200 migrants. Most of them are waiting their turn in court to claim asylum. All of them work at the shelter during their stay. The husband and wife pastoral team of El Buen Pastor did not set out to open a shelter for migrants and we were inspired to learn that they had simply responded to the needs of those who continued to show up at their door. Providing a safe place for people to eat, sleep, and bath while they prepare for the next leg of their journey is a massive undertaking. Our cohort divided into groups that cleaned bathrooms, helped prepare a new building for remodeling (which would eventually expand space to increase capacity), and met with people staying at the shelter.

El Buen Pastor Migrant Shelter in Ciudad Juárez

Hueco Tanks

Halfway through our time together in the borderland we observed a sort of Sabbath by visiting a protected place, now a state park called Hueco Tanks. This visit provided an opportunity to acknowledge the first peoples to inhabit and migrate through the land, long before the borders of “Mexico” and “The United States”. A little weary from our travel and work, our group sought rest in this place that has long been a sanctuary to moving people moving through the region. “Hueco” (whey-coe), a Spanish word meaning hollow referred to the depressions in the rock that hold rainwater, historically providing a valuable resource for travelers making their way through the region. Pictographs in the caves possibly date back to as far as 6,000 BCE and the Kiowa, Mescalero Apache, Comanche, Tigua and the people of Isleta del Norte Pueblo consider the area to be sacred.

Pilgrimage walk in Hueco Tanks State Park

As we walked the land, we did our best to do so with reverence and respect. We took time to wander on our own in silence and listen the surrounding landscape. There were numerous birds, cactus flowers, striking rock formations, and expansive views. When the sun reached its height we sheltered in a cave for prayer, reflection, and story sharing. If Hueco Tanks provided timeless sustenance and strength for the traveler’s journey, it seemed to swell the hearts of those of us who came to more deeply connect with people who now find themselves practicing migration. We had encountered a thin place and the convergence of the land’s story and our pilgrimage intention struck a deep chord within us all. 

El Paso, Texas, United States

“Your claims do not apply to requirements for seeking asylum and I am therefor ordering your deportation,” the judge told a 19-year old who had just finished explaining his reason for traveling to the United States. He was from a rural town in Guatemala where the MS-13 gang tried to recruit him. His neighbor had already been murdered and fearing for his life he made the decision to leave, rather than join the gang. Our cohort spent two days observing court proceedings. We spent time at the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas and the courts for the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). Migrants who had been apprehended by CPB appeared there to plead their case and learn their fate. Most were very young – in their late teens and early twenties. In the federal court they were shackled around the wrist and ankles. Chains wrapped their waists. All wore orange, green or blue jump suits with bright orange rubber shoes. We observed the judge setting bonds ranging from $2,000-$4,000 – an unspeakable amount for those who had just spent everything in an effort to make the journey. The defendants testified paying their coyote (someone who smuggles people across the U.S.-Mexico border for hire) between $1,300-$8,500. As we sat at the back of the courtroom, tears filled the eyes of some of the members of our group. Others seethed with anger as we witnessed a system that fails the most vulnerable while prisons and detention centers make a profit.

Border pilgrims explore and enjoy the plaza in Ciudad Juárez

As a young and well-built officer escorted us out of the EOIR compound, he asked what our group had been doing. One of the older women in our group told him we had spent two days in Juárez to learn about the city. He scoffed, “Do you know how dangerous it is there?” The pilgrim asked if he had ever been into the neighboring border town. “No,” he said, “I’ll never go to Juárez.” The contrast in assumptions and experience was striking and unsettling.

While debriefing with the Hope Border Institute team, the Deputy Director Marisa Limón Garza helped us understand an additional layer of tension in the region. “Finding employment in security and law enforcement is one of the few pathways to the middle class in El Paso,“ she told us. Federally funded contracts for private prisons have created a system that provides immense financial incentive for increasing the incarceration of migrants. The superfluous and extreme militarization of our border through ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) and CPB provides a rare opportunity for individuals to have stable employment. What we witnessed was a tremendous misappropriation of resources that pits people against people through a dysfunctional system. “The U.S. Immigration system is not broken,” a panelist remarked during a roundtable discussion at an event we attended. “It is doing exactly what it was designed to do.”

Graphic courtesy of The Guardian

From then on, we would continue to witness migrant people’s experience on the Texas side of the border. The Annunciation House network had partnered with the Catholic Diocese of El Paso to set up a temporary shelter in response to the influx of people released by ICE. During the Border Pilgrimage we spent an afternoon and evening preparing the dinner meal for about 90 people, serving food, and speaking with those staying on site. “In every journey there is beauty and there is bitterness,” one man told us towards the end of the meal. Some of us joined a pick-up game of soccer after our shared meal, finding a common language in the dance of working together to move a ball across a small field and into a goal. It was an evening that seemed to stretch on and on. The connections we made were strengthened through the tears, laughter and stories shared. It was another oasis – a thin place for those who paid attention.

Border pilgrims get ready to serve a meal to migrants at the Catholic Diocese of El Paso

Organizing for Change

While we were in El Paso we learned that another child had died while in CPB/ICE custody. According to reports, 16 year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez crossed the border near El Paso with a hired coyote. He died in a hospital on April 30. At the writing of this article six migrant children have died during President Trump’s tenure. I thought of my two children back home and wondered how the parents must be grieving at this loss of life. Hope Border Institute’s Executive Director Dylan Runner explained that the increase in deaths is a direct result of the Administration’s policy that has placed increased pressure on migrants. After extending the border wall, families now must travel into dangerously rugged and desolate landscape for an opportunity to cross. Increased wait times in processing centers adds to the risk of illness while in custody.

16 year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez from Guatemala

I was reminded of a scripture from the Book of James that I have known since childhood, “Faith without works is dead.” Our Border Pilgrimage cohort assembled because of our shared resonance with the vision of Celtic Spirituality and a desire to more effectively resist the injustice facing those migrating to the United States. I’ll never forget John Philip Newell recounting the story of his first meeting with the late George MacLeod on the Isle of Iona as they discussed the dangers and injustice of nuclear proliferation. “Newell, what are we going to do about this?” he asked. Having witnessed the systems of oppression and exploitation of migrants as they make their way north, we put that same question to our cohort.

During our last evening together, we conducted an ‘organizing workshop’. We spent time in prayer and reflected on our journey. Next, we identified meaningful, emotional, and significant moments from our experience. We looked for themes and moved to align those moments with personal core values. Each pilgrim spent time writing about what they wanted to accomplish upon their return home. Some wanted to give presentations to increase awareness. Others wanted to join activist groups. We set realistic goals and deadlines for continued advocacy and action. Finally, we divided into three teams where we could provide ongoing support, community, and accountability for our commitments.

Border Pilgrimage group crosses the Paso del Norte Bridge from Juárez into El Paso

On the final morning of our pilgrimage each of us had our feet anointed with oil, marking the sign of a Celtic cross with a final prayer:

May your feet be blessed
May you have strength for the journey
May you remember the journey of the migrant, the refugee, and the asylum seeker.

The road ahead is long. For some more than others, and in different ways. Ilka relayed a saying that has stuck with me whenever I think of the tall steel beams of the border wall, “the wound is where the healing comes.”

Ben is the Executive Director of HEARTBEAT and has been leading pilgrimage and other spiritually oriented trips for over a decade. He is certified in spiritual accompaniment (also known as spiritual direction). As residents of Portland, OR since 2014, Ben and his family challenge themselves to live sustainably through their energy efficient tiny house and thriving vegetable garden. Ben comes from an evangelical Christian background but now like many of his generation, finds himself deeply committed to spiritual practice without formal religious membership.

The Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage

Program and Scholarship Application Available Now!
September 5 – 9, 2019 | Northern Oregon Coast, USA

DatesSeptember 5 - 9, 2019
LocationNorthern Oregon Coast, USA
Scholarship AwardUp to $425.00
Application DeadlineJuly 19, 2019

The Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage: Recovering the Sacred is a spiritual and intercultural learning experience drawing from indigenous wisdom through Celtic Christian and Native American spirituality. Through the ancient spiritual practice of pilgrimage, we seek to recover our inherent and sacred connection to all living things. We will explore our unique, generative, and creative response to the dominant and violent forces of our time. Guided spiritual practices will invite each pilgrim towards restoration of harmony and right relation with self, Creator, neighbor, and the planet.

This pilgrimage route follows the Pacific Coast Trail in Northern Oregon, and traverses approximately 35 miles of seaside foothills, sand dunes, coastal rainforest and expansive beaches. Beginning with the rising of the sun in the morning, our group will walk 10-15 miles each day by way of trail, beach, and brief roadside walking.

Pedagogy and Program 

Periods of walking in silence, facilitated conversations, storytelling, reflection, observance of nature, and prayer will support the embodiment of the pilgrimage experience. Participants will be required to read Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by John Philip Newell and Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change by Sherri Mitchel as a primer for our learning. Morning prayer and intentions will start each day before settling into rhythms of silence, sharing our stories, and group dialogue. Our intention is to learn from each other, the surrounding natural landscape, and the required readings. This will be our basis for exploring our unique and communal call to participate in meaningful action towards healing and transformation in the world.

Pilgrims will practice together what it means to be a beloved community, making specific agreements about our group norms and way of being together. Differences among group members, whether in ideology, religion, ethnicity, or race will be honored and seen as opportunities for growing in awareness and understanding. Together we will journey towards healing, connection, wonder, and a clear sense of calling.

Required Reading 

Participants will be required to read the following as a primer for our learning.

  • Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by John Philip Newell
  • Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change by Sherri Mitchel

Trip Leaders

The NW Coastal Pilgrimage is led by Ben Lindwall and Stephanie Escher.

Ben is the Executive Director of HEARTBEAT and has been leading pilgrimage and other spiritually oriented trips for over a decade. He is certified in spiritual accompaniment (also known as spiritual direction). As residents of Portland, OR since 2014, Ben and his family challenge themselves to live sustainably through their energy efficient tiny house and thriving vegetable garden. Ben comes from an evangelical Christian background but now like many of his generation, finds himself deeply committed to spiritual practice without formal religious membership.

Stephanie is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and a United Methodist Pastor in the Minneapolis, MN area.  Stephanie has been co-leading the Oregon Coastal pilgrimage since 2017 as well as collaborating on the development of pilgrimages that engage contemporary challenges such as the US Mexico border crisis and the eminent domain plight of Native Americans. She is a former pilgrim from Heartbeat’s 2015 Camino Peace Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Physical Expectations, Training, and Terrain

Pilgrims are required to train with a loaded pack and must be prepared to walk up to 20 miles on any given day. The first day (15 miles) involves walking on firm, flat sand during low tide. The second day (12 miles) includes a major 1000 ft climb up and over Tillamook Head on forested state park trails (pilgrims must be able to walk on uneven, rocky and sometimes muddy ground) with a steep ascent and descent. The third and final full day (8 miles) of walking returns to the beach below picturesque seaside bluffs during low tide. The route consists of approximately 60% beach walking, 35% forested trails, and 5% roadside walking.

The trip leaders will work to find a pace that works for everyone, usually a fairly brisk walk. The element of a physical challenge and willingness to push through discomfort is an intentional aspect of the pilgrimage and we believe this can be an important tool in the transformation process. Sharing such an experience with others and offering or receiving support along the way is a formative opportunity. If pain or discomforts arise, each pilgrim will be personally responsible for expressing their needs and judging their ability to continue.

While usually sunny this time of year, the possibility always exists for high winds, cool air, and rain. Our group will be expected to walk rain or shine unless dangerous conditions are present. Trekking poles are highly recommended and appropriate heavy-duty waterproof rain gear must be packed.

A few other details to keep in mind:

  • At certain times restrooms will not be available and there may be minimal coverage for privacy.
  • A couple stream crossings will be necessary.
  • Group time will be spent sitting in a circle, sometimes on the ground for up to one hour.
  • Each participant should also be prepared to carry up to 2 lbs of food and/or other gear needed for the whole group.
  • A support van will be driven from each night’s lodging location to the next so pilgrims will only carry in their daypacks the items they need for the day.

Cost and Application Process 

There is a $10 application fee, and you must be at least 18 years of age for the entirety of the event to be considered. Those who wish to apply must complete the online application and have a mentor, teacher, or spiritual leader complete an online reference form by July 10, 2019. 

Please have medical history information available for filling out the application to help us ensure that selected participants are physically and mentally able to complete this pilgrimage. Please be aware that the co-leaders of this trip practice spiritual accompaniment, have experience leading walking trips, and are certified in First Aid but are not medical or mental health professionals. There is space for 12 participants and applicants will be notified of their status by July 18. All selected participants will be required to provide proof of insurance and emergency contact information and sign Heartbeat’s Release and Indemnification Waiver, purchase travel insurance (if not included in current policy).

The cost of this pilgrimage is $475 and scholarship funds are available for those with limited income. The registration fee covers meals, lodging, transportation from Portland to the coast (and back), guided walking, and program.

Scholarships are available and successful scholarship applicants will receive a $425 scholarship towards the overall costs and are required to pay a $50 registration fee.

Travel Stipend

If you would be traveling to Portland, OR for this pilgrimage and would need additional funds to cover travel expenses, you may also apply for a travel stipend of up to $500.00. We ask scholarship recipients to consider raising their own funds through their network to cover the travel expenses, but where this is not possible, you are welcome to apply. Only recipients of a program scholarship will be considered for the travel stipend, and you must apply for a travel stipend at the same time as submitting your scholarship application. You can apply for a travel stipend by clicking here.

Additional Costs 

  • Books (see required reading)
  • Necessary gear to complete packing list (see below)
  • Travel insurance
  • Travel to/from Portland, OR (if necessary and/or see above for Travel Stipend)

Meals and Lodging

All meals will be planned by trip staff and prepared by group members. We are happy to accommodate conventional, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diet. Every effort will be made to use locally sourced and organic ingredients. 

The first and last night of the trip will be spent in state park yurts. These are semi-rustic accommodations with bunk bed mattresses (pillow and linens required), electricity, and heat. The second night will be spent at a hostel in Seaside, OR, where bunkrooms with bedding/linens are provided (we have blocked out rooms for our group only). The third night will be spent at a church in Cannon Beach (pillow, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad required). Showers, bathrooms, and a kitchen are available at all locations.


Accepted applicants will meet at the Leaven Community Center in Portland, OR, on Thursday, September 5th at 10:00 am where lunch will be provided. After introductions and orientation, the group will be transported by passenger van to Ft. Steven’s State Park on the coast. Our walk will conclude near Arch Cape, OR, and we will shuttle to Nehalem Bay State Park for our final overnight and group gathering. The group will return to Portland by 11:00 am on Monday, September 9th. 

DAY 1          Meet in Portland, van shuttle to the coast, overnight at Ft Steven’s State Park

DAY 2          Walk to Seaside, overnight at Seaside International Hostel – MILES: 15

DAY 3          Walk to Cannon Beach, overnight at Community Church – MILES: 12

DAY 4          Walk to Arch Cape, shuttle to Nehalem Bay State Park– MILES: 8

DAY 5          Return to Portland, OR

Tentative Daily Schedule 

6:00               Prayer/meditation
6:30               Breakfast
7:15               Depart for morning walk
9:30               Morning break: snack, prayer, and story sharing
10:15             Walk
12:30             Lunch break
1:00               Walk
3:00               Afternoon break: snack, prayer, and story sharing
3:45               Walk
5:00               Arrive at lodging/free time
6:30               Dinner
7:15               Group time
9:30               Light out

Packing list

*Please be mindful that the packing list includes what you will be wearing (for instance, you will wear one pair of socks and pack two – three total).

  • Socks (3) light wool for hiking
  • Sock liner (3) prevents blisters (optional)
  • Underwear (2) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Comfortable sports bra (2)
  • Shorts (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Pants (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Shirts (2) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Long sleeve shirt (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Lightweight hiking shoes
  • Light sandal
  • Rain jacket
  • Hat
  • Moleskin (or other blister treatment)
  • earplugs
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Toothbrush
  • Laundry detergent
  • Toothpaste (small tube)
  • Soap (small all purpose bar for body and hair, if possible)
  • Water bottle (at least 900ml/32oz)
  • 5 clothespins
  • Plastic plate, fork, and spoon
  • Hiking towel (small quick dry)
  • Toiletries
  • Medication
  • Backpack
  • Pillow
  • Journal
  • Pen or pencil
  • Camera phone and waterproof container
  • Sleeping bag and mat (note: these items will be dropped at a specific site and will note be carried in backpack)
  • Feminine Urinary Device (like this one at REI)

Cancellation policy

Registration fees are nonrefundable unless another participant is able to fill a cancellation.

The Iona Pilgrimage Scholarship

Birds over Iona’s shores

Application Deadline: May 25, 2019

LocationSt. Columba Hotel
Iona, Scotland
DatesSeptember 14 - 21, 2019
Scholarship AwardAward Amount: $1,240.00
Travel Stipend (up to $500) also available
Application DeadlineMay 25, 2019
Application Fee$10.00

Program Information

Each day on Iona begins and ends with the rhythm of prayer and meditation together. In the mornings John Philip Newell teaches on Celtic themes of Earth and Soul as sacred and invites us into the holy work of contemplation and action as the basis for transformation in our lives and world. The afternoons are given to hiking, conversation, and rest, and the early evenings to further reflection and meditative chanting in the 11-century Chapel of St Oran. On one of the days we walk the nine-mile island pilgrimage route (see below for important information) together to pray for the journey of our lives and world. For more information on this pilgrimage week, please click here.

Scholarship Award and Additional Costs

Award Amount: $1,240.00

This scholarship includes lodging at the St. Columba Hotel on Iona, breakfast, dinner, and program fees. Because of limited availability, applicants must be willing to share a room. If you applying with a friend or family member, please let us know on your application.

Additional cost to recipients: travel expenses to get to Iona and lunch each day. We also offer a travel stipend of up to $500.00 for those with significant financial need. Please see below for more information.

Travel Stipend

We ask scholarship recipients to consider raising their own funds through their own network to cover the travel expenses in order to attend the Iona Pilgrimage. In circumstances where this is not possible, a $500 travel stipend can be awarded to accompany the scholarship. Only recipients of a program scholarship will be considered for the travel stipend. In order to be considered for a travel stipend, you must apply at the same time as submitting the program application, completing both by the deadline of May 25, 2019.

Application Process

Please note there is a $10.00 application fee to be paid at the time your application is submitted.

To apply, please complete the online application form by clicking here and have a mentor, teacher, or advisor complete our online reference form – found by clicking here – by May 25, 2018. A Heartbeat Selection Committee will review all applications after the deadline has passed and notify all applicants of their application status within a few weeks. The funds will then be transferred directly to the St. Columba Hotel in the recipients’ name. The St. Columba Hotel has reserved spaces for successful scholarship applicants.

Please note we only consider applicants with significant financial need for scholarship awards.

2019 Camino Peace Pilgrimage

Religion is at the heart of some of the most conflicted places of violence and hatred in our world. Peace between us as nations and the healing of the earth will be served by peace and healing between us as religious traditions.

DatesJune 8 - 16, 2019
LocationCamino de Santiago, Spain
Scholarship AwardAvailable ($800 maximum)
Travel Stipend (up to $500) also available
Application DateMarch 25, 2019
April 5, 2019 (for University of Edinburgh students)


Our 2019 Camino Peace Pilgrimage, a collaboration between Heartbeat and the University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy, will consist of 14 people (intergenerational) from many religious traditions and spiritual backgrounds walking 100 miles/160 km of the ancient Spanish Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route together.

Each day will include various spiritual practices (yoga, meditation, and prayer), hearing each other’s stories, and about 10-18 mi/16-29 km of walking. There will also be short periods of time set aside for silence as we walk the Spanish countryside and northern coast. The group will eat breakfast and dinner at each hosting albergue and lunches will be in small-town marketplaces.


We are looking for people interested in the intersection of peace activism, religion and spirituality with a focus on multi-faith dialogue. Because the group will be traveling from the U.K. to Spain, a valid passport and relevant VISA are required.


June 8 – 16, 2019

We will begin in Edinburgh, Scotland with an evening meal together on June 8th at the home of John Philip and Ali Newell, flying to Spain on June 9th, then walking the Camino Del Norte for six days, from Santander to Ribadesella, and returning to Edinburgh on June 16th. Participants will need to arrange their own travel to Edinburgh for the beginning of the pilgrimage. 

General Scholarship

The maximum scholarship award available for the 2019 Camino Peace Pilgrimage is $800.00. When applying, you can select the amount of funds you would like to request. Please complete the online application and have a teacher, mentor, spiritual leader, or advisor fill out the online reference form. All fees will be invoiced through PayPal.


Successful applicants will pay the full participant fee of $950.00 (*see extra costs below). Please complete the online application and have a teacher, mentor, spiritual leader, or advisor fill out the online reference form. All fees will be invoiced through PayPal.

Scholarship for University of Edinburgh Students

Successful applicants will pay a participant fee of £100 (*see extra costs below).Please complete the online application and have a teacher, mentor, spiritual leader, or advisor fill out the online reference form. All fees will be invoiced through PayPal.

Travel Stipend

We ask scholarship recipients to consider raising their own funds through their own network to cover the travel expenses in order to attend the Camino Peace Pilgrimage. In circumstances where this is not possible, a $500 travel stipend can be awarded to accompany the scholarship. Only recipients of a program scholarship will be considered for the travel stipend. In order to be considered for a travel stipend, you must apply at the same time as submitting the program application, completing both by the deadline of March 25, 2019.

Apply for a travel stipend by clicking here.

Successful applicants will receive the following:

  • Airfare from Edinburgh, Scotland to Santander, Spain (and return)
  • Sleeping accommodations for seven nights during the pilgrimage
  • Breakfast and dinner each day
  • Bus and train transportation in Spain
  • Admission to Tito Bustillo Caves Tour in Ribadesellaand Gaudi House in Comillas
  • Guided navigation on the Camino del Norte (northern route of the Camino de Santiago)
  • A complimentary copy of Listening for the Heartbeat of God by John Philip Newell (to be read before the pilgrimage)

Extra Costs:

  • All non-students will be required to pay a $10 application fee
  • Individual travel insurance
  • Lunch each day: $8 / €6 / £5 per day for a total of $56 / €44 / £35 for the week
  • Equipment: each participant will be required to supply their own equipment (small backpack, sturdy hiking shoes, rain jacket, etc.). A packing list will be sent a few months before the pilgrimage
  • Travel fare to and from Edinburgh, Scotland (if applicable)


The Camino Peace Pilgrimage is a physically rigorous experience. Multiple days include walking up to 18 miles/29 kilometers in a day, often with challenging elevation changes and a lot of long and steep hills. Pilgrims are expected to train extensively to prevent pain or injury while on the walk. While some of the accommodations are very nice, some include a bunk bed in a simple hostel, and a few nights include a shared queen size bed with one other person. During group sharing time, participants are sometimes sitting on the ground or floor. All participants will be required to sign a waiver release.

Interfaith Leaders

The Pilgrimage will be co-led by Ben Lindwall, Executive Director of Heartbeat, and Esti Ziad.

Ben lives in Portland, Oregon USA, where he and his family practice energy conservation in their tiny house. Ben has been leading group experiences for over a decade in various capacities. He has been mentored by John Philip and Ali Newell over the past few years and is a certified Spiritual Director. Ben has been the Executive Director at Heartbeat since 2013, working with people from all over the world to advance a vision of healing, transformation, and peace. Coming from an evangelical Christian background, and now like many of his generation, Ben considers himself spiritual without any formal religious membership. He and his wife Jen have two young children.

“A pilgrimage is always an opportunity to be re-born. I’ve seen and experienced the power of leaving behind the safety and comfort of home on a quest for deeper understanding, awareness, and connection. The act of moving our bodies, moving our feet gently upon the earth in unison can be a kind of soul-march. It reminds us of our true identity, our oneness, and creates liminal space to hear and know our calling. In co-leading this pilgrimage, I hope to cultivate an environment for each of us to learn and grow.” – Ben Lindwall

Estifa’a is a final year masters student at Edinburgh University studying Physics. She spent last year in Vancouver conducting research in particle physics.  Estifa’a is an active member of the University Chaplaincy; she was president of the Islamic Society and remains a coordinator of the Syrian teenage tutoring program. She has been part of the widening effort to create support networks and representation for minorities in Edinburgh and more generally in the UK. Estifa’a is of Afro-Arab origins and identifies as a practicing Muslim.

“To go on a pilgrimage is to walk with strangers, yourself amongst them. Each rhythmic step is a chance for reflectance and self-acceptance, a journey to love all, including ourselves. As life has forced me to grow, the path to find light is ever changing and has often felt hopeless. When I’m tired of walking and want to stop, I remember the Camino and the friends who despite the long journey have chosen to walk it with me. ” – Estifa’a Ziad

Peregrinación A La Frontera/Border Pilgrimage

UbicaciónEl Paso, Texas, EE. UU. / Ciudad Juárez, México
Fechasdel 2 al 8 de mayo de 2019
Costo de inscripción$625.00
BecasBecas disponibles
Fecha límite de solicitud20 de marzo de 2019

Vive la Experiencia

La peregrinación a la frontera una experiencia espiritual, educativa y orientada a la acción en El Paso, Texas y Ciudad Juárez, México. A través de la oración, el aprendizaje y el voluntariado, el grupo ampliará su entendimiento sobre las comunidades fronterizas, apoyara en solidaridad y se unirá al movimiento por la justicia de los inmigrantes. Nuestros socios experimentados de Hope Border Institute han ayudado a preparar actividades, enseñanzas y diversas oportunidades en ambos lados de la frontera para profundizar en la resolución de abogacía y ayuda humanitaria.

Cada día incluirá un ritmo de práctica contemplativa, entornos aprendizaje e interacción, reflexión guiada y diálogo.


Estamos buscando personas interesadas en la intersección de la espiritualidad y la acción con un enfoque en la justicia de los inmigrantes. Debido a que habrá múltiples cruces internacionales hacia Cuidad Juárez, se requiere un pasaporte válido (válido hasta julio de 2019). Los solicitantes deben tener 18 años de edad o más, deben poder caminar hasta 15 millas y ser capaces de completar las tareas manuales de trabajo moderadas que se requieren durante el voluntariado.


Manta de solidaridad para los niños recluidos en el campo de detención en Tornillo, TX

Los participantes aceptados deben llegar al alojamiento en El Paso antes de las 5 p.m. del 2 de mayo (approx. 20 minutos en automóvil del aeropuerto) para presentaciones, una comida compartida y orientación. El programa y las actividades concluirán antes de las 10 am del 8 de mayo. Varios ajustes contribuirán a la visión general de este viaje:

  • Formación cultural impartida por Hope Border Institute
  • Visita con migrantes recluidos en el Centro de Detención ICE.
  • Asistir a audiencias de inmigración en el magistrado
  • Voluntario en la Casa de Migrante y la Casa de Anunciación.
  • Conocer a migrantes que viajan a través de la región, así como con defensores de los migrantes y organizadores locales.
  • Visita a Tornillo, TX, sitio del centro de detención de tiendas de niños inmigrantes en el 2018
  • Recorrido por el histórico parque de Hueco Tanks
  • Paseo guiado de peregrinación a lo largo de la frontera.

Líderes de viaje

Ben Lindwall es el Director Ejecutivo de HEARTBEAT, actualmente  ubicado en Portland, OR, y ha liderado viajes orientados en espiritualidad durante más de una década. Está certificado como Director Espiritual y también en Primeros Auxilios. En 2011, Ben realizó una peregrinación a la Isla de Iona en Escocia y desde entonces ha sido asesorado por John Philip y Ali Newell.

Ilka Vega es especialista en desarrollo comunitario en Hope Border Institute y originaria de El Paso, TX y Cd. Zona Juárez, México. Las peregrinaciones son una parte esencial de su educación. Ha realizado cinco peregrinaciones formales a Taizé, Francia e Iona, Escocia y trata de implementar prácticas y reflexiones espirituales similares en sus viajes y en la vida cotidiana en la frontera y en su trabajo por la justicia social.

Recaudación de fondos para la Casa Anunciación

Annunciation House/ Casa Anunciación, una organización en El Paso con una larga historia de proporcionar atención y servicios a los migrantes, ha solicitado donaciones financieras para apoyar sus esfuerzos en curso. Parte de la misión de la Peregrinación a la Frontera será responder colectivamente a esta solicitud. Los participantes serán guiados para establecer un objetivo de recaudación de fondos, utilizar sus redes sociales e invitar a apoyar financieramente. Es importante tener en cuenta: los fondos no se utilizarán para los gastos individuales del participante. Heartbeat recibirá donaciones y enviará todos los fondos a la Casa Anunciación.

Cómo Aplicar

Favor de seguir este enlace para la aplicación y completarla  para el 20 de marzo de 2019. Un maestro, mentor, asesor o líder religioso / espiritual que pueda comentar sobre la capacidad del solicitante para participar en la experiencia y participar con el grupo también debe completar esta referencia en línea.  Se requiere una tarifa de solicitud de $ 10 para todos los no estudiantes. Las becas están disponibles por hasta $ 525 según la necesidad financiera. Indique si está buscando asistencia con beca en la solicitud. Los solicitantes serán notificados de su estado de aceptación antes del 22 de marzo.

Ciudad Juárez, México

Costos adicionales, requisitos y avisos

  • Cada participante debe ser mayor de 18 años de edad, ser capaz de caminar hasta 15 millas, y ser capaz de completar tareas manuales de fuerza moderada que se requieren durante el voluntariado.
  • Cada participante debe tener un pasaporte válido hasta julio de 2019.
  • El grupo realizará varios cruces hacia Ciudad Juárez, México y utilizará el transporte en taxi. Todos los solicitantes deben revisar las advertencias gubernamentales relacionadas con el cruce a Ciudad Juárez, México.
  • Cada participante deberá traer dinero para el almuerzo todos los días y dos cenas (un promedio de $ 10 por comida para un total de $ 80).
  • Cada participante deberá comprar un seguro de viaje individual (aproximadamente $ 40).
  • Cada participante necesitará proveer información de su aseguranza medica
  • Cada participante necesitará completar una asignación de estudio antes del viaje que incluye leer artículos y escuchar podcasts.
  • Cada participante necesitará traer el equipo necesario para completar su lista de equipaje
  • Cada participante deberá afirmar nuestros Compromisos de Comunidad Peregrina y el Proceso de Resolución de Conflictos, así como nuestros Compromisos del Código de Conducta si se participa en una manifestación, demostración o protesta.
  • Cada participante deberá leer cuidadosamente y firmar la forma de exención e indemnización de Heartbeat.


Póngase en contacto con nosotros por teléfono (503) 902 – 4820 o por email:

Hebridean Treasure: Lost & Found

In song, dance, and narrative, the inspiring story of a people’s soul

We are beyond thrilled and proud that on March 1, Hebridean Treasure: Lost and Found will take the stage at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.

For the past few years, John Philip has been writing and perfecting a performance piece – full of narration and music – that tells the inspiring story of the enchanted Hebridean world that was lost but is being found again in a new sense of the earth as sacred. It recounts the spirituality of the Hebridean people and the impact on them and their land as Christianity made its way into the area. This is a story of beauty, pathos, and hope. If you have attended the second year curriculum of the School of Celtic Consciousness, you might have seen a reading of this very story!

John Philip, from the start, has dreamed of bringing it to a live audience with original music and dance, and what a team he has assembled! The composer and Gaelic singer Mischa Macpherson weaves her spell of ancient and new sound around the equally compelling performance of the beautiful dancer Kirsten Margaret Iona Newell under the artistic direction of Shane Shambhu, achieving what has never been attempted before, a memory of the forgotten influence of India on the Celtic soul.

You can learn more and buy tickets on the Hebridean Treasure website.

Border Pilgrimage/Peregrinación A La Frontera

LocationEl Paso, Texas, USA/Ciudad Juárez, México
DatesMay 2 - 8 , 2019
Registration Cost$625.00
Scholarship AwardScholarships available.
Application DeadlineMarch 20, 2019

The Experience

The Border Pilgrimage is a spiritual, educational, and action-oriented experience in El Paso, Texas, and Cuidad Juárez, Mexico. Through prayer, ritual, learning and volunteering this group will expand understanding about border communities, stand in solidarity, and join the movement for immigrant justice. Our experienced partners at Hope Border Institute have assisted in preparing activities, teachings, and various opportunities on both sides of the border to deepen resolve for engaging in advocacy and relief response.

Each day will include a rhythm of contemplative practice, engaging learning and outreach environments, guided reflection and dialogue.


We are looking for people interested in the intersection of spirituality and action with a focus on immigrant justice. Because there will be multiple border crossings into Cuidad Juárez, a valid passport is required (valid through July 2019). Applicants must be 18 years of age or older, able to walk up to 15 miles, and able to complete moderate manual labor tasks required while volunteering.


Sign of love for the children held in the detention camp in Tornillo, TX

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Because God is always with you.” – Joshua 1:9

Accepted participants must plan to arrive at the lodging accommodations in El Paso by 5pm on May 2 (about a 20 minute drive from the airport) for introductions, a shared meal, and orientation. Program and activities will conclude by 10am on May 8. Various settings will contribute to the overall vision of this trip:

  • Cultural training provided by Hope Border Institute
  • Visit with migrants held in ICE Detention Center
  • Attend immigration hearing proceedings at the magistrate
  • Volunteer for Casa de Migrante and Annunciation House
  • Meet with migrants journeying through the region as well as local advocates and organizers
  • Visit Tornillo, TX, site of the 2018 child migrant tent detention facility
  • Tour of the historic Hueco Tanks
  • Guided pilgrimage prayer walk along the border

Trip Leaders

Ben Lindwall is the Executive Director of HEARTBEAT, based in Portland, OR and has been leading spiritually oriented trips for over a decade. He is a certified Spiritual Director and is also certified in First Aid. Ben made the pilgrimage to the Isle of Iona in Scotland in 2011 and has since been mentored by John Philip and Ali Newell.

Ilka Vega is the Community Engagement Specialist at Hope Border Institute. She is originally from El Paso, TX and Cd. Juarez, Mexico area. Pilgrimages are an essential part of her upbringing. She has made five formal pilgrimages to Taize, France and Iona, Scotland and tries to implement similar spiritual practices and reflections in her travels and daily life at the border and in her work for social justice. 

Fundraising for Annunciation House

Annunciation House, an organization in El Paso with a long history of providing direct respite care to migrants, has requested financial donations to support their ongoing efforts. Part of the Border Pilgrimage mission will be to collectively respond to this request. Participants will be guided in setting a fundraising goal, reaching out to their own social networks, and inviting financial support. Please note: funds will not be used for the individual expense of the participant. Heartbeat will receive donations and send all of the funds to the Annunciation House.

How to Apply

Please follow this link to the application and complete by March 20, 2019. A teacher, mentor, advisor, or religious/spiritual leader who can comment on the applicant’s ability to engage in the experience and participate with the group must also complete this online reference form. A $10 application fee is required of all non-students. Scholarships are available for up to $525 depending on financial need. Please indicate whether you are seeking scholarship assistance on the application. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance status by March 22.

Ciudad Juárez, México

Additional Costs, Requirements, and Notifications

  • Each participant must be over 18 years of age or older, able to walk up to 15 miles, and able to complete moderate manual labor tasks required while volunteering.
  • Each participant must have a passport valid through July 2019.
  • The group will make multiple crossings into Cuidad Juárez, Mexico and make use of taxi transportation. All applicants must review government warnings associated with crossing into Cuidad Juárez, Mexico.
  • Each participant will need to bring money for lunch each day and two dinners (average of $10 per meal for a total of $80).
  • Each participant will need to purchase individual travel insurance (approximately $40).
  • Each participant will need to provide medical insurance information.
  • Each participant will need to complete pre-trip study work including reading articles and listening to podcasts.
  • Each participant will need to bring any gear needed to complete the packing list.
  • Each participant will need to affirm our Pilgrimage Community Commitments and Conflict Resolution Process as well as our  Code of Conduct Commitments if participating in a rally, demonstration, or protest.
  • Each participant will need to carefully read and sign Heartbeat’s Release and Indemnification Waiver.


Contact us by emailing or call (503) 902 – 4820.

The Forum with John Philip Newell

The Forum is a series of stimulating conversations at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco about faith and ethics in relation to the important issues of the day hosted by Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young, the dean of Grace Cathedral. This month, John Philip Newell was honored to be a guest on The Forum to discuss the inspiration and challenge of naturalist John Muir. Watch their entire conversation below. Thank you to Grace Cathedral for sharing!

About the conversation 

John Muir – naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, co-founder of the Sierra Club and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States – exemplifies, according to author William Anderson, “the archetype of our oneness with the earth.”

In this conversation with Malcolm Clemens Young, John Philip Newell, the celebrated author of Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality, and one of the most prominent Christian teachers of spirituality in the Western world, re-examines Muir through Celtic Christianity, in which everything is essentially spirit, clothed upon with flesh, with leaves, with water, or that harder substance called rock.

About the host

The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young is the dean of Grace Cathedral. He is the author of The Spiritual Journal of Henry David Thoreau and The Invisible Hand in Wilderness: Economics, Ecology, and God, and is a regular contributor on religion to the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner.

About The Forum

The Forum is a series of stimulating conversations about faith and ethics in relation to the important issues of our day. Grace Cathedral invites inspiring and illustrious people to sit down for a real conversation with the Forum’s host, Malcolm Clemens Young, the dean of Grace Cathedral, and with you. Guests range from artists, inventors and philosophers to pop culturists and elected officials, but the point of The Forum is singular: civil, sophisticated discourse that engages minds and hearts to think in new ways about the world.

Prayer of Awareness

At the ending of the day
in the quiet of the hours
at the interplay of light and dark
we wait with the earth as it rests
that we may give thanks for darkness
that we may open to night’s senses
that we may remember the ground from which we come
and know You
as Presence in the mystery
as Evening Breeze in our soul
as Everlasting Strength in earth’s body.
At the ending of the day we wait
that we may know You
as Lover of the night
as Lover in the night.

Be still and aware

By John Philip Newell | Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace

Photo by Margie New

Journey of Willingness

Dear Heartbeat family,

Our team’s visit to the border last October stretched me. I tend to worry a lot and leading up to the pilgrimage I was hesitant, if not a bit scared. We planned to cross into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a few times. This is a city that is on the State Department’s travel advisory list. “Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread,” the warning reads. These words pricked at my tendency toward anxiety, and at times I had to dig deep to find the willingness to do my part to make the trip happen.

After arriving in El Paso, I was inspired by my friend Bianca’s resolve, and I learned a lot by watching her. Bianca’s work is very grounded in reality. She facilitates yoga, spiritual accompaniment, and offers counsel to families considering organ donation. While in Juárez with our team, Bianca had a chance to use some of her skills when she met a woman (who we will call Maribel for her safety) from El Salvador. Maribel was trying to decide if she could risk being separated from her children by crossing into the U.S. to claim asylum. Maribel shared about the violence back home, about having a gun put to her head and seeing a man’s throat slashed in the street. Bianca listened with a radical willingness to offer compassion and presence in that moment. It was a difficult story to witness. “If they take my son away, I will die. I will die,” she told Bianca. We don’t know how Maribel decided to continue her journey, but we pray for her often and hold her strength and fortitude in the highest regard.

John Philip Newell often reads an excerpt from the poem “The Poet Visits the Museum of Fine Arts” by Mary Oliver:

every rose
opened in perfect sweetness
and lived
in gracious repose,
in its own exotic fragrance,
in its huge willingness to give
something, from its small self,
to the entirety of the world.

I’m amazed at what can happen with any amount of willingness. Sometimes it feels huge, like a force (what I see in Bianca and the woman she spoke to). But in my case, it can sometimes feel like it is barely enough.

During our time in the border region, I learned a lot. “I take my kids back and forth all the time,” Vanessa Johnson, one of our hosts and Heartbeat’s former Board Chair, told me. “I grew up crossing back and forth, and I cross back and forth every day,” said Ilka Vega who is a staff member at Hope Border Institute, another one of our hosts. No one was implying that certain precautions shouldn’t be made. No one tried to gloss over the danger. But it all made me wonder about the narratives that I have been told and the ones I buy in to. And of course the State Department doesn’t hesitate to play on people’s fear – this sort of ‘fear of the other’ also serves the energies that make villains out of neighbors and is the impetus for the building of divisive walls. These women – Bianca, Vanessa, Ilka and Maribel – showed me what the strength of willingness looks like. Without knowing it they helped make space for me to grow. To learn to navigate worry and also reflect on my own privilege, since it’s all connected. I am forever grateful.

Heartbeat Border Pilgrimage Group and staff at Hope Border Institute
From left: Edwin, Stephanie, Yadenee, Marisa, Ben, Frannie, Ilka, Eric, Bianca, Michel, Emily, Diego, and Edith

And our Border Pilgrimage trip was asuccess, if you could call it that in the midst of tragedy and injustice. Weprotested in Tornillo, TX where over 2,000 migrant children are detained. We volunteered with Annunciation House in assisting immigrants recently released by ICE. We raised over $7,000 to buy basic supplies for some of those immigrants. We learned, we witnessed, and we prayed.

Protest sign for the children held in the detention camp in Tornillo, TX
Protest and signs of solidarity for the children held in the detention camp in Tornillo, TX --- "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Because God is always with you." Joshua 1:9
Heartbeat Border Pilgrimage group at protest in Tornillo, TX

I will return to the border next year, co-leading two Heartbeat pilgrimage groups. My willingness is growing, and I wonder if you will join us on this journey. Each year Heartbeat reaches thousands of people with the vision of the Celtic world, partnering with John Philip Newell to offer The School of Celtic Consciousness and organizing pilgrimages. We are making space to join in the healing of the world by honoring the earth and restoring relationships across divides. None of this happens without your financial support. It is your ‘huge willingness’ to give that is propelling a movement of healing and transformation and makes Heartbeat’s work possible. Would you be willing to send a financial gift today?

Thank you for your accompaniment on this journey of willingness. Thank you for your gift in every form, whether prayer, volunteering, or financial contributions. With hope and faith we look forward to the work ahead.




Ben Lindwall

p.s. Please click the donate now button below to make a contribution online or find additional information on how to give a financial gift.