Journey to Efilwen

Some time ago I was told by a number of people that I needed a life changing experience, and a few even said that I should visit Efilwen in Wales. To succeed I needed to start at Aberefilwen, and experience the whole valley right up to Bryn Efilwen.
So one day I decided to take the journey to see if it would help to change me. After passing the ‘Welcome to Efilwen’ sign I arrived at Aberefilwen, the mouth of the Efilwen river. Nothing I heard or saw there had any effect on me, and I was wondering what is so special about Efilwen.
The local church, Eglyws Aberefilwen, was nearby and I thought that if I went in there it might spark something off in my life. But no, it was very drab inside with a small number of candles flickering, but they were not providing much light to even show me how to get around the church.
So I started up the valley through Cwmefilwen, but the valley was dark, dingy and scarred from the dirty work that took place in its coal mines in the past. That only made me feel worse, and this did nothing to enhance my life but only to add to my confusion.
Then I heard bells tolling across the valley and I noticed it came from a little church called Llanfairefilwen. On entering the church there was a strange smell that I had never come across before. Maybe because I had never been to a church while they were burning incense.
‘Sights, smells, bells, what next on my journey to Blaenefilwen – the ‘Head of the Efilwen valley’.
Now my journey was getting harder. I was walking up a steeper road, and had to concentrate on what I was doing, so I didn’t really take in the scenery. On reaching Blaenefilewen I notice that a large percentage of shops were closed and people were hanging around in groups to pass the time, as there was not much else for them to do.
Then I heard a sound that stood out in this dismal place. Singing was coming from the local chapel, Capel Efilwen, so I decided to investigate and entered the building. I listened to the choir for a while, and included in the programme was a rousing hymn called, ‘Come ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched, Weak and Wounded, Sick and Sore’, but I came out unaffected.
On leaving the chapel I just had to climb Bryn Efilwen to complete my unspectacular journey. While climbing the hill some of the words of that hymn were lodge in my mind, and as I was scrambling up a steep section I found myself singing ‘He is able, He is able, He is able’.
Later on, during another difficult climb, I was singing ‘Without money, without money, without money’. Why I don’t know, but this section of the tune with their various words were stuck in my brain.
Finally, when I got to the top of the hill and burst out ‘It is finished, it is finished, it is finished’ while I was bent over with my eyes closed. Then I looked up, and saw such a beautiful sight as the hills and mountains spread out before me, that I exclaimed out loud “Oh, My God!”
‘Oh, my God!’ Did I say that? ‘My God?’ Then I realised that God was talking to me, and if he’s talking to me, then God must care for me.
I carried on looking at the hills and mountains as they were spread out before me. Wherever I looked it was a glorious view with so many wonderful colours, with the vivid greens of the trees and fields; the purple, pink, and blues of the heathers; and the browns and rich orange of the ferns.
As I turned around, this wonderful sight was all around me. Then it struck me when I saw the Efilwen valley, which looked so dire while I was travelling up it, but now from the Bryn it too looked so beautiful. All that dirt and grime, ruined buildings, worry, despair, the wasted and broken lives of the forgotten and desperate people that were so prevalent as I travelled up the valley, were change into this beauty. Is this what God can do? If he can change such a view, can he change lives? As I pondered these thoughts I realised that God was changing me.
As a travelled back down the valley, I looked at the valley from a different perspective. At Bleanefilwen I realised that the people were not just wasting their time standing around but they were encouraging and supporting one another. The Chapel was trying to lift the people with their rousing singing and trying to point them to God. In doing that I realised that they had placed the words of that hymn in my head, which stayed with me at the Bryn.
In the valley I noticed more the beauty of the scenery surrounding the ruins, and how nature was trying to break up the ruins with grass and other vegetation as it also struggled to take hold among the concrete.
The bells sounded a cheerful tune and not a toll, and the smells in the church were sweet and not pungent. The church at Aberefilwen was not so dark, and provided a wonderful atmosphere to sit still and talk to God.
Outside around the mouth of the Efilwen the scenery was far better than I remembered when I first arrived. Everything looked different since having God in my life. He gave me a new perspective. I realised then it was the word by mouth that brought me to Efilwen, and that was really the start of this journey.
Talking about perspectives, as I drove away from Efilwen and passed the ‘Welcone to Efilwen’ sign, I looked at it in my rear view mirror and realised it was saying, ‘Welcome to New Life’.
©2016 Clive Dale

‘New Life’ notes:


Aber – mouth           Blaen – head          Bryn – hill           Capel – chapel
Cwm – valley            Eglwys – church     Llan Parish – church      wen – white

Efil  said be a corruption of Efail – forge
also said to be a welsh version of ‘evil’
but there are instances where neither of the above fit in with:

Efil Fach, Michaelston super Afan
Yr Efil,  are two peaks in Snowdonia kown as ‘The Rivals’ – with ‘Yr’  being ‘The’

The Hymn:

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, joined with power;
He is able,
He is able,
He is able,
He is willing, doubt no more;
He is willing, doubt no more.

Come, ye needy, come, and welcome;
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings us nigh;
Without money,
Without money,
Without money,
Come to Jesus Christ and buy;
Come to Jesus Christ and buy.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.
This He gives you,
This He gives you,
This He gives you,
’Tis the Spirit’s rising beam,
’Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all;
Not the righteous,
Not the righteous,
Not the righteous,
Sinners Jesus came to call;
Sinners Jesus came to call.

View Him grovelling in the garden,
Lo, your maker prostrate lies!
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Hear Him cry before He dies—
“It is finished!
It is finished!
It is finished!”
Sinners, will not this suffice,
Sinners, will not this suffice?

Lo! The-incarnate God, ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood;
Venture on Him, venture wholly;
Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus,
None but Jesus,
None but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good;
Can do helpless sinners good.

Saints and angels joined in concert,
Sing the praises of the Lamb;
While the blissful seats of Heaven
Sweetly echo with His name.
Sinners here may sing the same,
Sinners here may sing the same.

Hymn written by:  Joseph Hart 1759
Tune: ‘Bryn Calfaria’ (Calvery’s  Hill)  composer:  William Owen 1852