Walking on the Wrong Side of the River


In 2023, Steve Dunn, missionary, pastor, and church planter near Munich, Germany, found a unique yet effective way to spread the gospel across Europe. Dunn has served in Germany since the 1980s and quickly recognized the emptiness of religious traditions in the secular society. He says, “I had the feeling Europe only knows the dead Jesus. … They don’t know the risen Christ.”

Knowing the power of intimate, intentional prayer, in 2023 Dunn turned his daily prayer walks into an evangelistic, prayer-centered hike. This hike, which he dubbed the “Snail Trail,” spanned an astonishing 3,268-kilometers (2042.5 miles) from Germany to the west coast of Spain and took 130 days to complete. Dunn says, “The Lord told me there would be a lot of people on the path searching for answers. This was to be a prayer walk for Europe and an outreach to searching hearts.

The name “Snail Trail” came from an experience on a training hike where he rescued a snail from getting crushed in the middle of a bicycle path. In that moment, Dunn realized, “I was that snail, with my backpack being the shell on my back, moving very slowly because of painful blisters on my toes.” He heard God tell him, “Steve … I know your trip to Spain will not be easy. But I will be there with you and, when you need it, I will pick you up.” God kept that promise and strengthened Dunn many times.

The Snail Trail often covered rough terrain, including four sets of mountain crossings. While crossing the Pyrenees Mountains, at points Dunn had to crawl on his hands and knees over steep, narrow paths. He says, “I knew one wrong step, and this hike is over. Maybe I’ll be seeing Jesus real quick.” He prayed God would give him hinds’ feet to make it over the high places.

The next day, while eating lunch on a rock ledge, eagles soared above him, and he remembered Isaiah 40:31: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (NIV). Dunn recalls, “In that moment, I realized God had kept His promise. He had given me the strength I needed.”

Dunn did not know what to expect on the “Snail Trail” journey. He says, “I thought if I would have a couple good talks and if at least one person would pray and say yes to Jesus, that would be tremendous.” God, however, facilitated countless encounters. Dunn comments, “I really cannot think of one single day I did not pray with someone or speak with someone about Jesus. Usually, it was more than one person a day.”

On the hike, Dunn often entered empty churches and chapels to worship and pray in the Spirit for the people in the region. Fellow hikers watched and listened with curiosity, leading many to engage in conversation.

On one occasion, Dunn noticed a young Frenchman watching him sing and pray in a village church. When Dunn asked if the Frenchman was also hiking for spiritual reasons, the man said, “No, I have no religion. I grew up without God. But I do have questions.” Dunn explained the gospel message, and the man who grew up without God’s love prayed and said yes to Jesus.

Another time, while putting up his tent, Dunn met a Polish woman. She was familiar with the cultural belief of Catholicism but did not understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Dunn explained who Jesus is and his own salvation story, saying, “It started with a prayer.” When he shared what he prayed, to his surprise, she repeated it after him. He told her, “If you believe the words you just said, according to Jesus, you have passed from death to life, and there is no more judgment. You have become a child of God.” Tears came to her eyes, and she left with a smile.

Some interactions were shorter and did not end with a salvation decision, but Dunn still planted seeds of the gospel. Near Santiago de Compostela, he met a young Spanish hiker who said she was looking for her place in the world. Dunn shared with her the Bible story of Jacob, who also went on a journey looking for his place when he heard from God. A tear came down her cheek and she said, “I wish God would speak to me.” Dunn responded, “Maybe He’s doing it today through me.” After they walked and talked for two hours, she promised she would read the gospels to learn more about Jesus.

Another day, an older French woman heard Dunn pray and sing in the Holy Spirit. She said to him, “I don’t know about God. I’m not sure about Jesus. But I felt the Spirit. Thank you so much.”

Before starting the “Snail Trail,” Dunn carefully mapped the entire route. One day in France, however, he thought he found a shortcut and strayed off the planned path. Seven- and one-half kilometers (4 1/2 miles) later, where he thought the shortcut and main trail connected, he dead ended at an expressway with no way to get to the trail. He backtracked, frustrated.

Dunn heard an important message from God that day: “Steve, you were walking on the wrong side of the river. You were close to the right path, but it led you to the wrong bridge. Your efforts were in vain—time, energy, everything lost.” Realizing the broad application of this, Dunn says, “I see this every day. People … are going their own way, close to a spiritual experience, close to the water, but then they arrive at the bridge to enter eternity and realize it’s the wrong bridge. All that life, energy, experience … are lost.”

Europe is full of seekers. People want spiritual experiences, they want transformation, but they spend their lives following false paths that only lead to dead ends. They need a true God encounter. They need the love of the living Jesus, not the dead one. “That is why we are in Europe,” Dunn says. “There are so many people on the wrong side of the river.”

By Joy Myers

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