Spiritual Lessons from Mary Jones and Her Bible

A Norwegian pastor follows in her footsteps.

News May 10, 2024

9 May 2024|Moss, Norway [Atle F. Aluwini]

Spiritual lessons along the Mary Jones Walk

Adventists in Norway have a tradition of uplifting the Bible and the mission work of the Norwegian Bible Society during the 60 days before Easter. In preparing my sermon to connect with this theme, I was also in search of a story that would help children connect with the theme.

If there is one story which illustrates the faith and commitment of a young person to the value of scripture, it is the story of Mary Jones and her determination to get her own Bible in her own language.  On learning that Mary had saved for six years to purchase a bible, I was amazed at the inspirational power of Mary’s life. So impressed by Mary’s faith and experience, I began to dream of doing the same walk (42 km) as Mary Jones did aged in sixteen in 1800.

From a dream to reality!

I wrote the first draft of this article from inside the small village church of St. Michaels Church in Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, in the heart of North Wales (UK) where Mary Jones lived as a child. Located inside the Snowdonia National Park, “[it] is a wild area of high mountains, deep valleys, forests, fast flowing rivers, waterfalls, and with many lakes and reservoirs.” (1)

I had finally arrived after completing the walk from Bala, starting the day before. Most people usually do the walk in the opposite direction, from Mary’s home village towards Bala and ending at the Mary Jones visitor and education centre.

But of course, after purchasing the Bible, Mary walked back home. And for me, taking the walk from Bala to her home village made me share in the joy of Mary as she walked, sometimes ran, back home, not with one Bible, but with three copies! Little did she know that all her efforts to obtain her own Bible came to inspire the reverend Thomas Charles to become a central figure in the foundation of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804.

The experience for me was also an opportunity to pray and reflect upon my own calling and ministry as a pastor, and prayer coordinator for the Norwegian Union Conference. I knew my task was to follow the Lord’s leading and pay attention to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.

The nearest village today to the hamlet of Llanfihangel-y-Pennant (the home of Mary Jones) is Abergynolwyn, pictured in late April 2024.

Lesson 1 – God is here.

I started from Bala on a Monday morning at 8:15 am and took the narrow road along the east side of Llyn Tegid, Lake Bala. It was a lovely start, with beautiful views, and no navigation issues, just following along the road. Soon I came to the St. Gywer church. Here I found a grave with the following inscription.

The kiss of the sun for pardon

The song of the birds for mirth

One is nearer God´s heart in a garden

than anywhere else on earth.

All along the way I anticipated God’s presence, and this little poem on a grave confirmed that by paying attention to the small details, more lessons would follow.

Lesson 2 – Help from Zion.

In the small village of Llanuwchllyn, I needed to find the path forward. There I met a friendly man with his young grandson and Golden Retriever dog. We talked about my journey, and then said goodbye. I sat down for a while after he left to attend to one of my toes. A few minutes later he returned, looking uneasy on my behalf, but said I could call him anytime if I should need help on my way. We exchanged telephone numbers, and I learnt his name was, yes, ‘Sion’ – which in the original Welsh means “God is gracious”. His help and support were very valuable and welcome, and I felt I had received help from above, from Zion, as we  read in the Scripture.

“May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.”

Psalm 20:1

I had just received spiritual lesson number 2, and I knew I was in for more.

Sion (left) a stranger who offered his contact details to Atle Aluwini (right) should he need help on the Mary Jones walk.

Lesson 3 – Aim low.

Sion pointed out the way forward, but despite his guidance I climbed too high up the hillside, and as a result had to veer right, and walk down to a lower point – ending up walking through a farmyard. As a dog started barking I got the nagging feeling that I was trespassing. A few minutes later a car approached me from behind, stopped, and through the driver’s side lowered window I received the ‘straight testimony’ from the driver! “Don’t you have a map?” exclaimed the woman. “Sorry,” I replied, “I am on the Mary Jones Walk.”

Well, sometimes we go wrong even with a map (read – Bible) in our hand. But a sound Biblical principle is ‘stay low’. Jesus said: “When you are invited to a party be careful not to go for the highest place at the table.” No, go low, and if the host wants, he might invite you to take a seat higher up (Luke 14:10).

Lesson number three: Aim low. If God has other plans, He will ask you to move up.

Lesson 4 – God is guiding.

Heading in a southwesterly direction I found there was ample room for navigational error. At several points, the trail split in two. On one occasion I turned right and a minute later I found a large tree blocking the path. This made me check the Ordnance Survey app again, and yes, I was on the wrong path.

Lesson number four was coming at me: God is guiding, and He may block the road to get you back on track. But stay humble, check again, and change course.

Lesson 5 – Guiding principle.

Later, the road split again, but this time even the Ordnance Survey App wasn’t clear. I decided to follow the principle learnt earlier that day; stay low, and so I did. I took the lower path and without knowing, I departed from the Mary Jones track. But again, I soon found that God had something to show me.

Just by the side of this ‘low road’ I found myself on, a treasure turned up: an old church, hidden by trees, behind a momentous gate. I entered the church and discovered the prayer of Francis of Assisi, a prayer I first heard and learnt in school at the age of twelve. It is a prayer known to most Christians, but now it came back fresh to my mind.

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

On the way out of the churchyard, I saw the inscription on the gate, “I am the resurrection and life”.

Lesson number five came to me with these words: Sometimes not even the Bible is clear. Then stay on the main principles shared in Galatians 5:22-23, listing the fruits of the Spirit. ‘Stay low’ was my guiding principle and God showed me again that He had something very important to say.

Lesson 6 – Use your own familiar gear.

Before leaving home in Norway for Wales, I was unsure of which boots to wear. First, I decided to take a pair of new mountain boots, never used before. But just in time I went for the shoes I use almost every day. I felt assured they wouldn’t give me any problems, and this proved right. The first day I walked for 11 hours, and even though I was completely exhausted, my feet were fine.

Lesson number six. When you are up for a challenge, use your own tried and tested gear. Don’t experiment with unfamiliar methods but stick to what you know will work.

A valley looking toward Llanfihangel-y-Pennant.

Lesson 7 – Facing disappointment.

As I got closer to Llyn Mwyngil, with only one more hour to go, I passed a donkey, the first and only to be seen during my walk. I should have taken a picture, but my phone was on spare battery power. Immediately afterwards I passed Minffordd Hotel, with this sign: Open – No vacancies.

Immediately my thoughts went to Joseph and Mary travelling to Bethlehem. Extremely tired, a dreadful vision started to haunt me. “No, Lord, please don’t give me the Joseph & Mary experience!”

My goal for the night was a hotel in the upper part of Llyn Mwyngil. I had no idea if it would be full or closed – whatever the case, I had no reservation.

Now the still small voice came across with a message I was not ready to accept. I kept on walking, but was expecting unpleasant things to turn up. I said again to the Lord, “No, Jesus, please, I don’t need a Mary & Joseph experience. Let me just imagine how it was for them, without having to experience it, so please Lord, spare me!”

As you might have guessed where this story is going, the hotel was closed – for renovation! On meeting the manager, and before I could say much, he just took one look at my bedraggled and downcast condition and said, “Just continue for another 20 minutes down the road, and you will come to Tyn-Y-Cornel hotel. They have rooms available. I will text them and inform the staff about your arrival.”

Lesson number seven: Life comes with twist and turns; disappointments are to be expected. You cannot have a contingency plan for every life circumstance, but God is still leading.

I could have shared a couple more lessons learnt along the way, but for the moment I end with some words from Psalm 37 that I find very meaningful.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this…

                                                                             Psalm 37:5

Postscript

I am planning to return to Wales at the end of April 2025, and invite more people to experience this walk for themselves. Maybe God has lessons for you as well? My new friend Sion has already signed up. Please let me know if you would like to experience the Mary Jones walk –  a prayer walk in beautiful Wales – to be inspired and to understand God’s vision for the people of Wales, for yourself, for the Church, for the future. If so, send your message to: [email protected]


1. https://visitbala.org.uk/

Thanks to Victor Marley (Norwegian Union Conference president) for giving travel authorisation to take this walk, and to David Neal for providing valuable advice in advance.

Atle F. Aluwini, serves as pastor of the Moss district of churches, and as Prayer Coordinator for the Norwegian Union Conference.

Bible texts from the NIV.

Photos: Atle F. Aluwini Adventist Media Exchange (CC BY 4.0)

Featured image: St. Michaels Church,  Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, Gwynedd, North Wales.

In June 2018, a group of TED youth under the leadership of Zlatko Musija and Victor Hulbert also experienced the Mary Jones walk. Their reports can be found here.

Into the future – concluding the Mary Jones story

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