Pilgrimages Become “Thank You” for Survivor's Second Chance

Ron Rinehart has a lot of life behind him.

At the age of 40, he scraped himself off the pavement underneath a bridge in Cleveland, Ohio. He was an addict — drugs and alcohol — who had been living on the street for ten years.

Ron's epiphany came in a moment when he realized he was sleeping under the very bridge his father — who had been a police officer — talked about when he told the story of another person's misfortune many years ago.

Ron found his way to a pay phone, called his father, found his way first to rehab, then a job, a wife, and five daughters.

For 27 years he's been sober and clean. Ron and his wife Dollie work as missionaries with recovery programs in Stirling and Paterson, New Jersey.

In 2012, Ron survived breast cancer. To show gratitude, this year he decided to hike the Camino de Santiago. It's an ancient pilgrimage also known as The Way of St. James and stretches nearly 500 miles from France across the northern part of Spain.

It took him a little more than 30 days, but he made it although he came home with a stress fracture in one of his heels and sans a big toenail.

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Ron figured he'd hike the Polish pilgrimage from Great Meadows, NJ to Doylestown, carrying the same intention of gratitude. But with only a month to heal, he may have been too ambitious. I met Ron during the afternoon of our first day on the trail. He was smiling, but hurting. That was the last time I saw Ron, but I expect he'll be back next year.

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