Utah Part A!!

Barrett Keene, a PhD Student at Cornell University, recently finished walking the 3,475 miles between Miami and San Francisco to raise awareness about the realities that as many as 145 million orphaned and abandoned children face and present opportunities for people to get engaged in serving them.

Praise God…we were able to connect and raise awareness with somewhere between 900,000 and 1,000.000 people.  Also, 2,380 orphans and other children living in rags or less are receiving a school uniform through The Global Orphan Project!!!  The school uniforms are required for the children to be allowed to attend school.

In addition to 2,380 school uniforms being donated and the jobs being created for parents in the same impoverished communities to sew the uniforms together, as much as $23,000 has been raised to provide food, shelter, and care for orphans!

Please donate at least one school uniform ($20). When you sponsor a school uniform, you support three things: a uniform for a child, job creation in impoverished communities, and orphan care!

Utah!!

The first day in Utah yielded two pretty cool opportunities! First, people throughout Kansas and Colorado were constantly warning me about running into and advising me to run away from badgers!  Apparently, badgers are the real deal! They were described as “tiny bears” and as “fearless and ferocious!” So…naturally, I had been hoping to see one of these tiny beasts from a distant for quite some time.  Then, it happened, in the best way possible.  I walked up on a recently killed badger on the side of the road. Obviously, it is unfortunate little man had to die, but I have become quite desensitized to roadkill.  More than the blisters, tightness, sore muscles, and pain, stank nasty roadkill is by far my least favorite part of this entire journey?!  In this case, however, I was able to see the one animal I was both most afraid of and most excited to see up close and personal, without the typically accompanying smell.  The first day also brought about the unique opportunity to spend a night in a teepee!

Utah is an absolutely beautiful state!  The powerful mixture of fertile valleys, towering peaks, and desert is awe-inspiring!  As you can see though, it is a bit desolate and dry!  I was incredibly thankful to have Amanda who constantly providing encouragement, water, and veggies…lots of veggies!

The folks at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Vernal took us in with a beautiful display of hospitality.  They provided a wonderful place to stay, tons of tasty food, an opportunity to share at church, and several school uniforms for orphans!!  One of the highlights of our time in Vernal was the opportunity to meet these three young men.  I have been fortunate enough to stay in touch with the two guys on the right, Camren and and Jonny.  We met randomly just walking through the town and ended up walking, talking, and praying together for 45 minutes or so.  We talked about the challenges we have faced and the mistakes we have made in our lives.  We talked and prayed about the reality that regardless of what we face, whether we have brought those storms into our own lives, or we had absolutely zero responsibility for its presence, God desires to be with us in that experience and to purify us in order to bring about eternal joy in our lives. One of my favorite pieces of scripture reads, “35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Life has been insane since wrapping up the walking.  Working on my dissertation, interviewing for jobs, spending time with my family and friends, and moving to New York City has been insane.  Plus…I had no idea how incredibly hard the walk was until I stopped.  I honestly would not allow my mind to fully go there…as far as evaluating how lonely and challenged I really was.  It has taken a bit of time to be able to desire to spend much time in thought and reflection of this beast of a journey!  I will attempt to finish out Utah, and post my reflections on Nevada and Cali in the next couple weeks.  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and holiday season!

Posted in Walk | 1 Comment

Finished!!!

IMG_3398

Hey!  Praise God, we made it to the beach in San Fran!!

Posts on Utah, Nevada, and California are coming soon!

Please donate at least one school uniform ($20). When you sponsor a school uniform, you support three things: a uniform for a child, job creation in impoverished communities, and orphan care!

Here is a blog post on the last few miles from the Global Orphan Project:

Something important happened last weekend: one man who listened to God and made a commitment to children finished well.

10-months ago, Barrett Keene left South Florida with not much more than a backpack, a Bible, and his faith in Jesus. His plan? Walk coast to coast to raise support and awareness for children in need.  Along the way, he picked up a 20-year-old support van, slept in scores of homes, made hundreds of new friends, and walked thousands of miles to raise tens of thousands of dollars to ensure children in need all over the world could go to school. A book beckons. Here’s a snippet….

Two months ago, we sent a portion of the funds Barrett raised to Uganda’s three sewing centers – enough for 1,500 uniforms, providing two months of work for several tailors, with sewing center profits going to fund orphan care. That one investment blessed hundreds lives half a world away, from the northern reaches ofGulu (near South Sudan) to the southern community of Kabale (near Rwanda). So, no wonder, when Barrett walked across the finish line of the Golden Gate Bridge this weekend, the mayor of San Fran gave him a key to the city. Later that day, One Direction held a rock concert in his honor on Alcatraz and convinced thousands of pre-teen girls to scream Barrett’s name. Well….not really.

You see, in the world’s eyes, Barrett isn’t a big deal, like, say, Justin Beiber. He’s not a SF Giant, who can throw a baseball 95 mph or hit it over a fence with a wooden stick. He didn’t invent the iPad…or even work on it. No, Barrett’s primary gifts are loving Jesus and loving others with all his heart. So, instead of ticker tape parades, Barrett was met and hugged by about 15 people, family and friends, who love him like crazy….and a few thousand more (in spirit) that Barrett loved well along the way.

I can’t wait to see Barrett again. To thank him, not just for the miles he walked, but the people he loved….and not just God’s children in need of school uniforms around the world, but God’s children in need that he loved from state to state, like me. When you talk with Barrett, you have his full attention. He cares, like you are a brother or a sister, because you are.

I’ve heard that Barrett’s not perfect. I do know he hates getting personal attention for what God has done (like this blog). Still, now is a time to celebrate! We don’t do it enough. Barrett, God was faithful. You followed. You finished well. Hearts were touched. Lives were changed. Thank you for showing us how! And the best news? God’s not done yet!

Love and Respect,
Your GO Project Family

Posted in Walk | Leave a comment

Colorado!

Barrett Keene, a PhD Student at Cornell University, is walking the 3,475 miles between Miami and San Francisco to raise awareness about the realities that as many as 145 million orphaned and abandoned children face and present opportunities for people to get engaged in serving them.

Praise God…2,215 orphans and other children living in rags or less are receiving a school uniform through The Global Orphan Project!!!  The school uniforms are required for the children to be allowed to attend school.

In addition to 2,215 school uniforms being donated and the jobs being created for parents in the same impoverished communities to sew the uniforms together, as much as $22,000 has been raised to provide food, shelter, and care for orphans!

Recently, we took the opportunity to direct all of our giving directly through the GO Project website instead of using Crowdrise as a third party.  This ensures no online giving fees will be issued to people desiring to contribute and allows us to take part in the GO Project’s “Team Challenge!”  Please donate at least one school uniform ($20). When you sponsor a school uniform, you support three things: a uniform for a child, job creation in impoverished communities, and orphan care!

Here is a speech in which I spoke about our efforts to serve children:

Donate Please

Colorado!

In the last update, my friend Kent “Gunslinger” Esslinger and I made it to Colorado! Besides the heat and incessant insect stings, Western Kansas was one of the most enjoyable sections of the entire journey.  Walking the sand and gravel roads in the middle of cornfields allowed for a literal peace and quiet unrivaled by any other part of the journey.  Kent listened to a lecture series on theology while I continued listening to a couple sermon series as well as some dance music…just chillin.

Eastern Colorado is really not that different from Western Kansas.  It is rural, arid, and there are just enough hills to make it interesting.  Our first town was Burlington.  A beautiful, loving couple literally gave us their home for a couple nights while they slept in their travel trailer in their own driveway!  The pastor was out of town Sunday morning, so I was blessed with the opportunity to preach.  That night, Kent and I were blessed to share with the English and the Spanish congregations! It was a blessing to worship and share with both groups and attempt to share a bit in Spanish.

The clarity of scripture concerning our opportunities to serve those in need, particularly the fatherless, is powerful and an absolute blessing to share.  Jeremiah 22:16 reads, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?”  Isaiah 1:17 states “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”   When I’m blessed to share, I often think about the child in Haiti I have connected with the most, a little man named Ellison. Ellison is the little guy in the orange shirt in the picture below.  When Ellison was a baby, he was left to die in a trash heap.  A man named Pastor Claude heard Ellison’s cries and climbed into that nasty, foul trash heap, picked Ellison up, and took him home.  Ellison is now healthy, going to school, and growing into a beast of a 10 year old little man!

As a Christian, the beauty of serving orphaned and abandoned children, specifically the opportunity of adoption, is so incredibly beautiful because I know the work God has done and continues to do in my own life!  Ephesians 2:5 says, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”  Even when I did not and still do not deserve it, God came into the foul, pitiful trash heap that is my own sinful, selfish life, picked me up, and called me His own.  He forgave me of my sins, began a work in me that brings about any bit of love, joy, and strength you might ever see in me, and even considers me a co-heir with Christ (Romans 8)!  Obviously, I have no idea what the future holds in my life, but the continually mounting joy of knowing I have been adopted by my eternal father fosters a deep desire to serve others through orphan care and hopefully through adopting a son or daughter at some point.

After Burlington, Kent and I were blessed to stay with Ms. Lyndee Charles and her family for a couple nights in Flagler, CO.  Lyndee actually walked all day with us!  Also, we were blessed to meet and share with several students one evening at her high school. After three weeks of walking everyday, the blisters on each of Kent’s heels were gargantuan!! Take a second to check them out in the post below.  On our final day, we were wrapping up a long day of walking west of Limon, CO.  All we had to do was get in the van and drive to Denver so Kent could fly home and I could fly to Kansas City to attend the GO Project’s “Big Event.” Kent was kind enough to go get the van.  Just before Kent picked me up, the van broke down!  Since we were in the middle of nowhere, we had to wait two hours for a tow.  Incredibly, our driver volunteered to tow us around 60 miles for free! We were blessed to spend the night with our wonderful friends, Paul and Emily, before flying out the following morning.

The best part of the quick trip to Kansas City was seeing and reconnecting with four of the families I stayed with in Missouri and Kansas as well as tons of people (including five of the coolest kids you will ever meet!) that came out to walk with Mike Sugihara and I in the Midwest.  Since I was leaving the route, and I was able to find a multi-city ticket for not much more than the original round trip ticket, I decided to take a quick detour and surprise my wonderful girlfriend, Bethany Nichols!  Bethany’s incredibly sweet friends Grace, Allyson, and Keir worked out all of the details for the surprise.  It was an absolute blessing to stay with some of my closest friends, Javier and Yai Moreno and spend a few days with Bethany!

Thankfully, my friend Austin was waiting on me at the Denver airport.  Austin flew out from Virginia to join the walk and help drive the support vehicle.  We covered some serious ground during that period, including a huge chunk of Eastern Colorado, Denver, and the Continental Divide!  On our second night, Austin and I stayed with the family of one of the top rodeo clowns and bullfighters in country!  Bennie and his family were incredibly kind and it was a blast to hear all of the technique and training involved in handling potentially deadly bulls.  I graduate next May, maybe I will try my hand. Who knows? :)

The day before we walked into Denver, my close friend Mr. Jordan Wilbanks (on the right) flew in to join the walk for a few days.  We were blessed to spend three nights under the care of the beautiful Fritzler family.  Not only were we treated to delicious food, but one of their daughters was out of town, so she just gave us her home even though she had not and still has not even met us!  Denver has to be one of the coolest big cities in the U.S!  It is clean, green, and bustling with runners, bikers, and active people of all sorts.

Directly west of Denver lay with out a question the most intimidating portion of the entire journey – the Rocky Mountains! Honestly, I was intimidated and a bit afraid.  This is the Facebook status I posted immediately before walking into the giants standing in front of me:

“Courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of it…which is good because I’m about to attempt to walk over the Rocky Mountains and I am scared for sure!!:)

Isaiah 40:31 says “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”

I know this is true in my “walk” with God, but I get the feeling my body might stay rather sore over the next month or so:). Still…the discomforts we face pale in comparison to the horrific realities millions of children face every single day. These children are no more responsible for the horrific challenges in their lives than we are for the beautiful blessings in ours. Please pray and/or consider how you might be able to begin serving them! Gowalkamerica.org”

Little did I know, the Rockies would prove to be my absolute favorite part of the entire journey!  The climbs were steep and the descents seemed to shred my muscles, tendons, and ligaments more than the climbs!  The temperatures got chilly and I liked the cars constantly flying around corners even less than I like the Georgia Bulldogs!  Once again however, God was with me every step and provided in beautiful ways!!

One of the toughest days was Austin’s last day.  On a cold, rainy, windy day, out of water and a bit nauseous, Austin and I reached the Continental Divide!  Austin literally almost lost his lunch and my head felt like the Tarantula Wasp I unfortunately met in Kansas tagged it a few times.

After Austin left, I was blessed to spend a some more time with my men Jake and Ozzie Mutz close to Denver while I waited on my parents to come out for a few days!!  My parents and I crashed at Jake’s cabin in Frazier, did some serious walking, and even visited the Rocky Mountain National Park!  It was really special having my wonderfully caring, supportive parents with me in such a beautiful area!  After four days with my parents, I spent a weekend walking over Rabbit Ears Pass just east of one of the coolest cities in the Rockies, Steamboat Springs!  A “pass” is another word for a really high place that is not quite as high as the mountains around it:)  Rabbit Ears Pass is 9,426 feet in elevation.

Thankfully, my friend Amanda Lindahl came back for her second month on the trail! In between Steamboat and Salt Lake City, there is NOT a ton going on!  There are a couple of stretches where there might only be one store or cafe within 70 or 80 miles!!  I honestly do not want to imagine what this stretch would have been like if I had to do it alone. Surprisingly, west of Steamboat, the Rockies weren’t really that beastly!  While the stretch was anything other than flat, there were several valleys with rather flat terrain, so I was able to kick my averaged number of daily miles back up to 18 or so, which was great.

Praise God, there were opportunities pretty much every weekend to share at churches and several opportunities to share with student groups as well.  Additionally, we were blessed with host families and churches every single night!  Incredibly, Western Colorado was the most rural part of the entire journey.  One time, I literally walked for three days without seeing a single building!  The natural beauty was stunning, but it was a bit frustrating because of all of the massive trucks were traveling the same road (40) as me.  These incredibly loud trucks made it practically impossible to listen to any books, sermons, or lectures, so I mostly just listened to music.   Thankfully though, Bethany and I started listening through a sermon series on Luke together from The Village Church in Dallas.  This has been such a blessing in both of our lives.  This in-depth series has impacted the ways we understand and are continuing to get to know God, our relationships with Him, and his grace-filled love for us.  Also, I started listening to the same series of lectures Kent listened to in Kansas and Eastern Colorado.

Having Amanda rejoin the journey was an incredible blessing.  Even though she is younger than me, Amanda has pretty much become a big sister to me.   A few of Amanda’s greatest passions are serving and teaching people and food…real food!  Amanda is a certified holistic health coach and a phenomenal cook, so when Amanda is around…I eat well, in every sense of the word! If you are interested in eating well and pursuing a healthier lifestyle, you should check out Amanda’s website! Instead of my typical consumption of a delicious mixture of granola bars and beef jerky, with an occasional Little Debbie snack for extra nourishment!  Amanda hooked me up with carrots, celery, cucumbers, and some type of incredibly delicious and healthy sandwich every single day!  I should mention that the delicious sandwich Amanda is actually holding in the picture was provided by seven extremely kind wives practicing polygamy, more on that later.

After experiencing God’s incredible provision through approximately 475 miles, three mountain passes, and three fabulous walking, praying, driving, serving, and laughing partners, I walked into the wild country of Utah!

Posted in Walk | 2 Comments

Pennies per Mile! Please read and share.

Donate PleaseBarrett Keene, a PhD Student at Cornell University, is walking the 3,475 miles between Miami and San Francisco to raise awareness about the realities that as many as 145 million orphaned and abandoned children face and present opportunities for people to get engaged in serving them.

Praise God…2,103 orphans and other children living in rags or less are receiving a school uniform through The Global Orphan Project!!! The school uniforms are required for the children to be allowed to attend school.

In addition to 2,103 school uniforms being donated and the jobs being created for parents in the same impoverished communities to sew the uniforms together, as much as $20,000 has been raised to provide food, shelter, and care for orphans!

Please donate at least one school uniform ($20). When you sponsor a school uniform, you support three things: a uniform for a child, job creation in impoverished communities, and orphan care!

Pennies per Mile!!

The donation to the online giving site (Crowdrise) is optional.

Hey!!!

Praise God, I just walked my 2,475th mile on my way from Miami to San Francisco! That means I ONLY have  1,000 miles to go!! Ha! I am not going to lie, it is still pretty scary. This last 1,000 miles will probably be the toughest stretch of the entire walk from Miami to San Fran. I still have to cross the Western half of the Rocky Mountains! Also, before arriving in Salt Lake, I will lose my current walking partner and driver, Amanda, and I will strike out into the deserts of Utah and Nevada solo. I’m honestly not even sure how I will carry all of the water I will need to walk close to 20 miles each day! Additionally, I have no idea how I will get back to the van at the end of the day, or where I might find a place to shower and sleep when there are sometimes 80 miles between towns! Then, Lord willing, after making it across the desert I will have the opportunity to walk over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in late October. They will potentially already be covered in snow…so…that will be interesting. Am I a bit intimidated? Yes:)

I am excited to walk these miles though because I believe in what we are doing! Thanks to many of you, through social media, television, radio, and speaking to groups, we have been able to connect with and raise awareness with almost 800,000 people, and we have another newspaper interview today! Almost 1,700 orphaned and abandoned children are receiving the school uniform they have to have to be allowed to go to school, months of work has been created for parents in impoverished communities to sew those uniforms, and as much as $16,000 has been generated to care for “the least of these” – orphans in our world.

Will you please donate at least one penny per mile?? A donation of two pennies per mile is $20 and will provide one school uniform for a child in need! I will give 100% of my body and my heart to literally walk over and through these obstacles. Whether you have given previously or not, I ask you to please sponsor me at least one penny per mile during this insane home stretch!

Also, please share this through social media, email, word of mouth, pigeon, and whatever other ways you can come up with!

I praise God for every bit of good that is coming from this walk. I will gladly walk 1,000 miles in mountainous, desert, and lonely conditions. Will you please provide the pennies per mile to literally change the trajectory of the lives of children in need, create opportunities for parents to work so they can care for their children, and put food on the table and clothes on the backs of orphans throughout the world?

Barrett:)

Posted in Walk | Leave a comment

Russell, KS to Colorado!!

Russell, KS to Colorado!!

My journey with Barrett began with my uncle dropping me off on the side of the road near Russell, KS on one of many 110˚ days! After my first full day we returned to the home of our awesome host, Jed Strnad.  We carried our things down to the basement where we would be spending the next few nights.  I promptly fell asleep on the couch!   When it was time for dinner, I attempted to walk up the stairs but my body would NOT work quite properly, so I proceeded to walk up the stairs on all fours as Barrett laughed unashamedly (and rightfully so!) at my incredible soreness. As you can see, I ended up with some horrific blisters, but besides those, I was blessed with great health the whole time, for which I’m thankful. However, even greater than any physical up or down were the relationships we were able to form, the incredible hospitality we were shown, and God’s faithfulness displayed in magnificent ways.

Barrett describes Kansas as the most relaxing state he’s walked through, and I totally believe it! You can see for miles in every direction, see the breeze blow over the fields, and feel a deep sense of peace. One of the best parts about my time walking was the amazing balance between solitude and meeting new people. We could spend the day listening to lectures, sermons, music, or just in silence while at night we would get to meet awesome new people and get a glimpse into different communities.

On July 24th we made our way into Hays, KS. We spent multiple nights with the Glover family and had an absolute blast with their 6 kids (all elementary school and below!) swimming, wrestling, and playing games. Our time with them really hit home for us because three of Jake and Amy’s children were adopted from Haiti. Haiti is one of the places The Global Orphan Project does incredible work in, maintaining sewing centers and caring for children in orphanages. We got to experience first hand with these awesome kids what love in action looks like, and the hope that these children in Hays, Kansas were experiencing. Saying that this re-energized us would be an understatement!

To top it off, Jake wanted to come out and walk with us for a day but unfortunately he couldn’t get any free day that week. So, what’s the logical thing to do? You guessed it: walk through the night! This turned out to be a blast. After a full day of walking we left that night (or morning) at 2am to get our 17 miles in! We had great conversation that night and ended our walk seeing a beautiful Kansas sunrise. This made for the longest day (24 hours) of the walk: 33 miles!!

We made tracks on the peaceful gravel roads adjacent to interstate 70, and man, did the towns seem far apart! One particular day we were walking near Quinter, KS when a man named Ben pulled up next to us to ask if we needed help or if we were just crazy (guess which one!?). At this time we were also walking with Jeff & Beki Lee who decided to join us for the first 2 days of their honeymoon!! After we explained to Ben that we were only partially crazy, he decided to pick us up at the next town and bring us to his place for lunch! (which was way better than the Quinter high school reunion we walked in on…) Ben and his family were very generous and we ended up seeing them again at the church we shared with that Sunday.

One thing that was so incredible about this walk was the hospitality we experienced from total strangers. On July 30th we reached Oakley, KS where we stayed with Murray and Janet Bean, who very quickly felt like family to us. The Beans were so eager to spoil us, serve us, show us the area, and fatten us with their great cooking- homemade pasta from their own eggs! It was a blessing and a reminder of how we ought to welcome and serve people in any situation. Plus, an awesome high school dude, Mike came out and walked with us all day!  It was a blessing to pray, chat, and walk through blistering temperatures with a young man who is allowing God to guide him through such a tough and exciting time!

Our last stop before Colorado was in Goodland, KS. Here was an example of true provision. A lady named Carol, contacted us through Facebook and told us we had a place to stay with a guy named Josh Simon in Goodland. We arrived at Josh’s house and after an hour of chatting he asked Barrett, “So how do you guys know Carol?” Barrett told him we didn’t know her, and he said he didn’t either! She had found him on Facebook the week before and asked if he would host us, and Josh said yes! Incredible!  After another night with Josh’s friends Jacob and Leslie, we made the momentous cross into Colorado!!!

August 5th, Colorado!

Seven states down, four to go! If you think about it (or even if you don’t) Colorado is a loooooong way from Miami! Getting into Colorado was a huge milestone, but also a little unnerving with knowledge of the terrain that was to come.

Posted in Walk | Leave a comment

Kansas City to Russell, Kansas!

Barrett Keene, a PhD Student at Cornell University, is walking the 3,475 miles between Miami and San Francisco to raise awareness about the realities that as many as 145 million orphaned and abandoned children face and present opportunities for people to get engaged in serving them.

Praise God…1,683 orphans and other children living in rags or less are receiving a school uniform through The Global Orphan Project!!!  The school uniforms are required for the children to be allowed to attend school.

In addition to 1,683 school uniforms being donated and the jobs being created for parents in the same impoverished communities to sew the uniforms together, as much as $16,000 has been raised to provide food, shelter, and care for orphans!

Please donate at least one school uniform ($20).  When you sponsor a school uniform, you support three things: a uniform for a child, job creation in impoverished communities, and orphan care!

Time to smell the Sunflowers

Leaving Missouri in our wake (we usually move at a blazing speed of about 3-3.5 mph), we booked it to Lawrence, Kansas (home of KU!), where we stayed for a couple of nights with the Dehoff’s, whose daughter had actually interviewed Barrett while he was in Nashville! Barrett had the chance to share at their church and speak to a number of families in the area. The house was a log house that they built themselves and it looked pretty sick :) We both came to the conclusion that we like Lawrence as a town for sure and it was cool to trek through the University of Kansas as well. Further moving west, we next indulged in a little time in the capital, Topeka, KS and had the joy of staying with such a chill dude named Mark.  Barrett met Mark’s girlfriend Jackie through FFA, but we had no idea what a stud Mark was until we got there. While we stayed with him, we watched both the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game (my boy Chris Sale looked good…go White Sox!) with him and just had a great time hanging out. Also, while were in Topeka, we chowed down some delicious pancakes at Hanover’s Pancake House, and were able to experience “La Fiesta”! “La Fiesta” was a fundraiser for a local church in Topeka, that’s been happening for around 78 years basically to both preserve Mexican culture and also to further the work of the church. We had some pretty amazing tostadas, watermelon juice, and enchiladas…mhmm mhmm! As for walking, I’ve very much enjoyed eastern Kansas a lot, it is pretty gorgeous and really nothing like I expected. In particular, the Flint Hills are just spectacular with breath-taking views and just pure natural beauty. Definitely love me some wide open spaces, huge blue sky, and rolling hills!

Continuing on through the state, we next set up camp in Manhattan, KS, “The Little Apple” with my friend Michelle (from Cornell University woot woot!) and her family. It is always so cool to see folks from school outside of campus and never would I have thought that I would  be in Manhattan! It was really a great time with her and her family! On one night, her dad rocked out three different kinds of meat on the grill: duck, steak, and pork…wow we were so spoiled. Topping it all off with some KC Masterpiece – simply a masterpiece if I may say so :) We spent time trying to get Barrett to play the Uke, getting some beats on Beatles Rock Band and some brilliant ping-pong playing haha, just a real refreshing time and great hospitality. Michelle’s sister, Rachel, also tried to educate us on the likes of Justin Bieber and One Direction…with limited success, haha. Rachel was also extremely confused about why we had not read “The Hunger Games.”  So, she actually read the story to us when she came out to walk with us!  Our next stop was the historic town of Abilene, KS, and it is a pretty sweet little place. The home of a number of museums, including the Dwight D. Eisenhower museum (he was born here!), a beautiful park, and most importantly, Amanda (who actually chilled with Barrett on the walk for a month earlier this spring!), it has been a blessing. Amanda is a fantastic chef and we’ve been treated to such tasty (and very healthy) dishes (and a banana/strawberry/coconut flower/almond butter smoothie!) over the past day or so! I also thought it was pretty fantastic to get to meet someone else that had walked with Barrett earlier this year and we had a blast discussing all of the nuances of the walk!

The people who I have had the privilege to meet all throughout this summer have been nothing short of awesome. Whether we are sharing with a TV/Radio station, at a church, the family we are staying with, or the many that we meet along the road, it has been a very rich experience. In many ways challenging for me to continue to rely on God for patience, energy, and confidence, but also very freeing as I see God come through again and again and simply provide. Just today, we met an incredible couple, John and Kelly, right around the time that we were running out of water. These folks have adopted five children (two from Bulgaria) and have eleven children total! The house was quite crazy, especially when you add in the four large dogs (like a couple German Shepherds and Labs) – yeah, it was a bit chaotic haha. We got to meet their six-year-old adopted daughter named Tavy who was partially blind and seemed to have some other mental deficiencies as well. She was so sweet, called us by name, helped me finish my Mountain Dew (which her mother had given me) and just wanted to hang out with us. To be able to share with this family about what we were doing was really cool, because orphans were something very close to their hearts as well. For us to be able to encourage them and to likewise be encouraged was so sweet, I loved it, and I was moved. Here was a family that was letting their actions show what was on their hearts: a desire to serve kids (another one of their adopted daughters had down syndrome) and love others. As the Book of Matthew discusses, this wild and beautiful family is a true example of loving and caring for the least of these. As we walked on, we also got to stop at a little league baseball game concession stand and they not only had Strawberry Gatorade, but also super moist, super tender BBQ pork sandwiches. God was watching out!

One (of the many) things that I have grown to appreciate more during my time this summer is agriculture – farming, ranching or whatever. This year in Kansas has followed the recent trend of being very dry, and in particular this year has also been very hot! I still remember just a couple of days ago, looking at the 10 day forecast and seeing high temperatures of “108, 106, 108, 108, 108…” that is unreal! Let’s just say, it’s not cold in Kansas.  Anyways, a dry/hot season means one thing to an urbanite like myself, but something totally different for one who relies on the land and weather to do their jobs. It has been a real blessing actually to gain just a wealth of knowledge more than I knew before about how farms work, everything from swathing wheat to windmills for water, and little things like Angus cows are usually black and the process of “roping and dragging” calves (which sounds like a ton of cowboy fun!). I am now able to specify rice fields from soybeans, corn from milo, and alfalfa from grasses. Starting out with very little knowledge of agriculture at all, it has been such a fresh and new experience to walk through these states and see, hear, and touch it all first-hand. With everything from weather, regulations, and available income to tackle, the agricultural community in America is facing some pretty tough obstacles in these coming years. I feel as though I have garnered just a much greater appreciation of agriculture throughout my time. While there are still so many things that I do not know, I do know that I will not think about or see farming, ranching, whatever the same ever again. This is for sure something that I never thought or expected when I started out in St. Louis in June!

Go West Young Man

Before I proceed, I do need to mention that if you ever find yourself in Abilene, you have to make an appointment to dine at the Brookville Hotel, oh my goodness :) One of the best fried chicken spreads I have had, with mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn, biscuits and jam, slaw, and topped off with some vanilla ice cream – you know only the healthy foods! This past Sunday we had a chance to share at Emmanuel Church three different times, which just was a huge blessing and so beautiful to see God stir in the hearts of the congregation to pray, give, and serve in whatever way they felt impressed. I personally just really enjoyed sharing with the high school students during the Sunday School hour, about the walk and what we were doing, but then also just about how we each can serve and be sensitive to God’s voice and calling in our lives. High school is for sure a tough time of lots of changes, distractions, and pressures competing for your attention, and it is so important to in the midst of all to focus on God’s voice, his Word, his promises, and what he has already done for you. Very related, but randomly inserted, this week, I am simply loving a sermon series by Tullian Tchividjian called “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”. In this series, he is teaching through the book of Colossians and reminds us that “the secret of the gospel is that we become more spiritually mature when we focus less on what we can do for God and more on what he has already done for us.” In the end, we don’t strive better, but believe better, and more deeply understand this truth. This simple phrase is so simple, yet so amazingly awesome and freeing, in that we don’t have to worry about the acceptance of others or what people may think. So, anyways sharing with those students, many of them rising seniors in high school, was so encouraging and also challenging for me.

Another pretty interesting part of that Sunday was that we had the opportunity to share at a local retirement/nursing home in town. Personally, I do love just hanging out with older folks, there is just so much wisdom, thoughts, and experience all wrapped up. It was really a great privilege to be able to share about the walk, but then also just about how God uses the struggles, valleys, and challenges in our lives to refine us and build us up in perseverance. As we discussed the obstacles we have faced on the walk, we were led to also just share about the obstacles in life that we face, and how in Christ we flat out can conquer them all. Following the sharing, we had the chance to sing some hymns sans music, and when we sang the song, “Amazing Grace,” Don, sitting next to me, shouted out, “That’s my favorite!” The song presents such a real, and such a fantastic truth to grasp and dwell in and it was great to be able to sing these words with these folks. “It is by grace that we have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

After Abilene, our wonderful friend Amanda sent us off with a whole bunch of goodies, from homemade energy bars, to bags of trail mix, and her mother’s scrumptious peanut butter cupcakes, wow those were good! We continued west (nothing new haha) and headed into Salina, KS. It was pretty sweet; we had one lady join us on her bike for about 6-7 miles because we had parked our van at her sister’s home, and just had a chance to share with her and her sister’s family, which was good! Also in Salina, we had the great pleasure of staying with two wonderful families! First, we had a chance to stay in the home of the parents of a friend of the ex-roommate of the sister of Barrett’s best friend Jake (we actually stayed with this Jake in Kansas City, MO and Jake’s sister’s ex-roommate Emily in Columbia, MO)…kudos to you if you could follow that all! It is so awesome and crazy how God worked that all out to provide for us. We had such a blast hanging out with this family; the friend (Angela) and her husband Wade were also there with their two gorgeous kids, Kingsley (or King for short!) and Evangeline. We shared stories, had so many laughs, ate Dilly bars, traveled to nearby Coronado Heights (a really cool fort on top of a high lookout), and got to play numerous games with their children. Also, Wade (or Blade as we called him), joined us for over eight miles on Wednesday and it was a real blessing chatting and connecting with him during that time. The parents, Warren and Vickie, were just so loving and full of grace/service, and it was so nice to chat with them. I also had the chance to engage in aquacise for the first time (with some lovely ladies at the local YMCA), eat delicious sliders at Cozy’s and burgers/shakes at Bogey’s, all just good stuff in Salina! We then stayed with a past Kansas state FFA officer, Jordan, and her family, which was also a wonderful time. Haha, in all seriousness, I don’t think we’ve ever laughed so much during one meal!  Barrett and I were completely exhausted and quite honestly, a bit delirious from walking all day in another day of 108 degree temperatures!

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to walk through the small town of Wilson, KS, and stop off at the Snack Shack, a popular little place in this area. I just have to say, after walking about 13 miles to that point, the strawberry shake I had was so good and full of deliciousness! Although, I do have to say that the strawberry shake I had in Plant City, FL (also known as the “Winter Strawberry Capital of America”) was still tops. Also, I had a chance last night to continue to add to my list of firsts by going to my first county fair, it was an experience! We stayed in Ellsworth, KS with such a wonderful couple, Mark and Lindsey, and had a chance to learn about a number of new things such as how to best transport water to thirsty cows and all about the cooking of the “Pioneer Woman”. Really cool people, and actually Lindsey is a current Ag teacher and was someone that Barrett knew from his days as an officer in FFA, which is so cool to see all these connections. And the beds…the beds were SO super comfortable; it was a struggle each day to just wake up! Today, we continued west, through Dorrance, KS and on to Russell, KS, where we are staying tonight with Jed (actually another Ag teacher!). We all went to go see the new Dark Night Rises movie tonight, which was rocking.

BREAKING NEWS for today, Kent “Gunslinger” Esslinger hailing from Mankato, MN, and a rising Cornell sophomore came out to join the walk for three weeks!! The guy is a stud and just a wonderful brother in Christ – I had the joy of having him in my Cru community group at Cornell this past year. Just a dude that loves Jesus and others and wanted to serve, which is so beautiful!

While we were walking on Thursday, the sheriff (or cop) of Ellsworth, KS pulled up along the side of road and called us over. Apparently, someone had phoned in that there were walkers who were “jumping out in front of cars!” And we were those walkers haha. Well, we clearly were not in fact “jumping out in front of cars” as we would both very much like to survive this journey, and sought to clarify for the boss man about what and why were doing what we were doing. He thought it was crazy, although he was willing to give me a ride back to the van so praise the Lord! On the way back to the van, we had a great time just chatting about his life and the area, and as I got out of the truck, he said, “ya’ll are crazy, stay safe.” With a smile, I made my way over to our beloved ’94 Dodge Van.

As I continued walking on that day, for some I just kept thinking about how crazy this whole summer has been so far. First, that we are walking 16+ miles everyday in scorching 106 degree Kansas sun. Then, that we have 5-7 hours everyday to think, pray, and process well…life really. Also, our support vehicle is a ’94 van with a gas gauge that flicks up and down, mirrors that move, a broken radio, gusts of wind that ride up your legs as you drive – and it is still driving! To top it off, we meet new people everyday and not only that, stay with people I’ve never met before each night in their homes and it’s so rich and wonderful. We stayed the past two nights at house that Google Maps couldn’t even find haha. At the same time, we don’t really know where we are staying more than a week ahead and that is totally normal and completely okay. I’ve been to five new states, a state FFA convention, a county fair, and had the chance to go water skiing – loved it. Basically this summer, Barrett and I have been two homeless dudes, with a car that should have stopped working years ago, and something to share about the glorious Gospel and it’s vital connection to the realities of children. In the end we lack in all of the areas that I tend towards: control, comfort, and plans (at least long-term). And yet at the same time, it has been a beautiful ride :)

Reflecting on my time, I’ll be the first to admit that there have definitely been days this summer where I have struggled. I’ve been tired, not just physically, but mentally. To be honest, there have been times that I have desired just to be at home, to be somewhere that I knew, with people that I felt at home with and around. In particular, with people that knew me and already accepted me. I thirsted for the control and comfort that I have craved and satisfied all these years. As I’ve been listening to this really awesome sermon series through Colossians, and many of the points that Pastor Tullian has brought up have really resonated with me. In particular, he mentions how a couple years back, he experienced a season that was just incredibly difficult and a major struggle for him (overall it was the toughest year ever for him!). His church (in Fort Lauderdale, Florida) was dealing with serious conflict and even discussing whether or not to fire him. It was bad!
He explained how all his life, he was used to being accepted or at least having people like him, and when that approval was taken away, he realized how much he had truly relied on others’ approval for identity and purpose. I thought that was so powerful and reached deep. In my life, I have struggled with this same challenge, even just in these past few weeks. I have told God, “I just want my life back, my life of ease and comfort.” But God’s response was, “NO. In reality, you don’t want your life back; you want your idols back. And I love you too much to give them to you. Life is found in me.” This hit me hard – because it was so true. I have learned that there is no substitute for the complete love and acceptance that I already have in Christ. As Pastor Tullian explained, “why do we settle for anything less, when we already have the best?” So, instead of control, comfort, and plans (my plans), I see God transforming my heart to desire faith in uncertainty, peace in discomfort, and shifting from my plans to God’s plans which are infinitely greater and higher.

It was such an immense blessing and privilege to join Barrett with Go Walk America. As the Global Orphan Project seeks to serve children and pursue the work of God around the world, lives are being changed and transformed in a mighty way. I am so immensely grateful to Jesus and Barrett for the opportunities that I had this summer – to grow, to love, to stretch, to learn, to listen, to speak, to serve, and to walk. This is one summer that I will certainly never forget! Please continue to support Go Walk America as Barrett continues, as well as the efforts of the Global Orphan Project.

Faith in Uncertainty – Peace in Discomfort – Trust in God’s Plans

Posted in Walk | Leave a comment

St. Louis to Kansas City!

Barrett Keene, a PhD Student at Cornell University, is walking the 3,475 miles between Miami and San Francisco to raise awareness about the realities that as many as 145 million orphaned and abandoned children face and present opportunities for people to get engaged in serving them.

Praise God…1,683 orphans and other children living in rags or less are receiving a school uniform through The Global Orphan Project!!!  The school uniforms are required for the children to be allowed to attend school.

In addition to 1,683 school uniforms being donated and the jobs being created for parents in the same impoverished communities to sew the uniforms together, as much as $16,000 has been raised to provide food, shelter, and care for orphans!

Please donate at least one school uniform ($20).  When you sponsor a school uniform, you support three things: a uniform for a child, job creation in impoverished communities, and orphan care!

St. Louis to Kansas City!

After attending church back across the river in East Saint Louis, Illinois, I walked close to 18 miles to the northwestern corner of Saint Louis.  After crashing on the couch of my wonderfully encouraging and hilarious friend, Eileen, I walked to O’Fallon, MO.  My host family in O’Fallon was the wonderful Wild family! I was fortunate enough to meet Randy and Tiffany Wild in Haiti on a trip to visit and spend time with orphans through The Global Orphan Project!  Randy and Tiffany are role models in my life.  Their love for God, children, and each other is beautiful.  Not only was I fortunate to spend time with Randy and Tiffany, but another friend I was blessed to meet in Haiti, Wes Comfort, was staying with the Wild’s as well!

To make the situation EVEN more wonderful, the young lady I am very blessed to be able to call my girlfriend, Ms. Bethany Nichols, flew in from Indiana flew in to spend a few days walking and chilling with us!  Being apart is obviously challenging, but God has blessed me to share this time with a young woman that is passionate about Him and His children.  Bethany has been so incredibly patient, encouraging, supportive, and selfless during this time, and I could not be more fortunate.

That night we are able to have dinner with several wonderful folks who are involved in serving orphaned and abandoned children through and with the Global Orphan Project.  It was a blessing to see and learn from the experiences and perspectives of so many that are dedicating so much of their lives to serve and impact the lives of children in need.

One of the most tremendous blessings of this journey has been spending time with wonderful people along the way.  One such person is a good friend of mine from school, Micheal Sugihara!  Mike joined the journey for more than six of the HOTTEST, most intense weeks of the entire journey.  Mike has been kind enough to share his perspective on the next leg of the journey!

Hello there! My name is Michael Sugihara and I am an undergraduate student at Cornell University from Skokie, IL, entering my senior year and studying Policy Analysis and Management. I had the joy of walking with Barrett this summer! I met Barrett through our Christian organization, Cru, my freshman year and have loved continuing to develop our friendship and brotherhood over the past three years. When Barrett first approached me a year ago about walking with him across America, I have to admit, I thought it was very crazy! However, I did strongly feel God calling me to serve him in a remarkable way, to be open to risks and challenges, and find that He is truly trustworthy and sovereign. So, I was willing to give it some time, thought, and prayer. Through my experiences with orphanages in Guatemala, God has been cultivating in my heart a specific passion over the past three years to be involved with serving children. I have been so encouraged by the work of The Global Orphan Project around the world and their holistic, gospel-centered approach to orphan care and love working to support their efforts to be involved with how God is working around the world!

In the end, when it worked out for me to join my brother for at least this summer, I was indeed nervous, a bit uncomfortable, but totally stoked! God has already used the time walking to stretch and mold me in unique ways, allowing me to appreciate suffering, provision, and relationships in a new way. The summer has been an incredible experience of learning through audio books, sermons, discussions, and just time – time with God, people, and the road! Go Walk America has been an adventure, while also an opportunity to serve and connect others with opportunities to serve. God is so good and the awesome reality is that you don’t have to be walking across the country to take part in the adventure that is life with Jesus :) The following posts are excerpts from my blog (michaelsugihara.wordpress.com) about our adventures this June and July.

____________________________________________________________

Some Initial Thoughts 

For me (and Barrett), as much as this summer was about serving others, God totally used it to completely break me down, mold my heart, and refine my mind in so many ways. Personally, I know how hard it is for me to give up and surrender to God the comforts, treasures, and if I’m honest, idols that I have stored up here on this earth just like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Even so, that is what I desire: to be a vessel for the gospel, and to be used in whatever way God may have, a calling much more worthy than I could ever achieve on my own. This is definitely one of my prayers for these coming weeks [with Barrett] that I may be flexible, fluid, and filled with the Spirit for whatever God may see fit. Flexible, fluid, and filled. 3 F’s. Haha, a funny thing for a Cornell student to aspire for and yet, very fitting for the kind of cross-cultural life Jesus has called us as Christians to. I have to admit that even as I am excited for the upcoming adventure, there is some nervousness and I definitely know there will be challenges. Three challenges in particular come to mind: the challenge of a lack of control, the challenge of being comfortable with new people and experiences, and the challenge of battling my own human inadequacies.

And yet, I am so excited by the ways that I know I can grow and for opportunities to do so. “’Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

The Start of the Journey (June 10th)

Such a joy to see my bro, Barrett Keene driving up to my house! We drove south and stayed the night in Bloomington, Illinois with a wonderful friend named Maci. One thing that I am so thankful for and found out right away is the amazing care and hospitality that so many people are willing to offer – it is truly an inspiration to me for sure. After Bloomington, we continued south to St. Louis, Missouri. We made a quick stop for lunch at an unbelievable BBQ place called Pappy’s and then traveled west to pick up back with the walking.  After talking wtih Barrett over a year about doing something like this to raise awareness about orphans, it still takes me a second to realize that I am actually taking part in such a crazy, yet awesome quest. Even in rural Missouri, we were still able to meet and share with a number of folks what we were doing – basically trying to connect people to this cause and reality, plant a seed and see how God may grow it. After walking, we then drove to Wentzville, MO to stay with Miranda and Dustin, a fantastic couple that Barrett had met through FFA. The walking was a little more intense on day 2, but I was able to take it easy a bit. We had such a great time hanging out at a local country store for lunch, and were able to share with the folks that were there and just had a blast getting to know someone new.

After walking, we got back in the car and headed south, driving over 7 hours to Little Rock, Arkansas. Barrett was asked to speak at a 4-H Team Leader Conference. We were able to share about Go Walk America, the Global Orphan Project, and connect these students to the immense struggles of the million of orphans in this world and specifically how GO Threads is working to combat this reality. After the talk, we jumped back in the car and drove another 5 or so hours to Cleveland, Mississippi, to visit our bro, James Bor, for a few hours at his location for Teach For America institute. [James is was also a Cornell student in Cru] It was such a great time to catch up and reconnect over delicious, though slightly salty catfish. We spent the night at his dorm in Delta State University and had a chance to meet a number of his fellow TFA’ers and share with them about the walk and the work of the GO Project. Definitely some awesome people there and such a beautiful thing to see all these young men and women serving in this way. Oh yeah, and we slept three dudes (Barrett, James, and I) on two twin mattresses…yeah, I’ll just say it was cozy. :)

At one point, James decided to try a trick.  It dd not work out so well.  This brief video shares just a slice of how awesome and hilarious James is and how undesirable our sleeping conditions really were!

We woke up at 5:15 am with James and his roommate David, hugged and said goodbye. On the road bright and early with the sun rising over the rice fields of the Delta, we read from the bible and praised our almighty God. We found our way to Memphis, Tennessee, to visit my cousin Rachel, who is doing a teaching program there, similar to TFA, but founded as a Christian organization in Memphis. We were able to also share with the group of over 30 students that she was with and they, like us and other TFA, are all about serving children in need and that is truly beautiful. We then headed back north to St. Louis, MO, to pick up our beautiful home for the summer, a 1994 Dodge Van! Swapping out the Volvo (sad to see it go…) with the van, we were set to start out once again.

As night neared, we drove over to Columbia, MO, to stay the night with Jeff and Brandi and their family who Barrett actually met in Haiti with the Global Orphan Project. I am still floored by the immense hospitality that we have been shown, even in just this past week and the awesome expression of Christ’s love for us through all these incredible people. Jeff and Brandi have actually been to Haiti a number of times through the Global Orphan Project vision trips and are very passionate about the work that is being done and lives that are being changed.

Also, I really enjoy food (as you may come to know) and these days have also been a time of many food firsts: Sonic’s cherry limade, Chick-fil-A’s chicken nuggets (ahhh soooo good!) and cookies and cream milkshake, St. Louis BBQ, Memphis sausage biscuits, and Mississippi catfish.  We have had the beautiful opportunity to share about the reality of orphans and the work of the Global Orphan Project in a number of different places around the country.

Mid-month Travels (June 21st)

Traveling west of Columbia, Missouri this past Monday brought us to the completely gorgeous Katy Trail, an old railroad that was converted to a fantastic and shady (!) hiking and biking trail.We gleefully trekked earlier this week in the glorious shade of trees alongside caves, high sweeping cliffs and rock faces, and the Missouri River. It was actually along the path of the adventures of one Lewis and Clark, which was cool and just beautiful. The caves were so sweet, we got to see a couple of snakes (one even about 5 or 6 feet long!), and most of all, no cars to worry about! It was just a solid time of singing, chatting, listening, reading, and relishing creation. We stopped along the trail in the city of Rocheport, MO and met the owner Larry and worker Jordan, two really nice and cool dudes who gave us free fruity snacks. As we were eating, we struck up a conversation with a mother and her son who just finished up biking for the day. The kid was 11 years old and we were able to briefly share about Go Walk America, the GO Project and what we were doing. About five minutes after they had left, the son (Drake), strolls back in with a check for $500 and asks, “Where should we write this out to?” What!!!??! $500. 25 uniforms. Jobs. $250 for food, shelter, and orphan care around the world. This money isn’t just making uniforms and clothes, it’s completely transforming lives. It is so incredible, amazing, and superbly humbling to have the privilege to witness the connection of people’s hearts and passions with opportunities to serve. More than anything else, I am so thankful that this is all so much not about me, but it’s God who is doing the work and nothing else.

After filling up two water bottles a piece at lunch, the afternoon wore on hot and bright. It was super toasty outside, hovering around 98 degrees, full sunlight and staunch humidity. Even so, it was perfectly okay, until about 5 miles out from the nearest house, we ran out of water. Ouch. All four of our bottles were empty and we could not see any house, gas station, whatever in sight! Well, there was nothing that we could do, so we partied on, basking in the glorious heat. I have to admit, I was very thirsty: the sun was taking it out of me, but there was nothing else to do, but keep going and then finally around the last corner we walked into a gas station on the edge of Boonville, MO. Water never tasted so good! This got me thinking: the Bible, in John 4 and 7, speaks of the reality that there is a living water found in Jesus that provides so much more than just quenching our physical thirst. This water provides life – eternal life – in the Spirit, and salvation through the Gospel. Once you drink of it, you will never thirst for life ever again. How awesome is that?! It could potentially really put a damper in Gatorade’s old slogan “Quench your thirst.” I would say it’s kind of hard to compete with Jesus’ “Quench your thirst…FOREVER.” But really, it is so cool for me that when I was thirsty, yet still drowning in my sin, Jesus came and found me. “All who are thirsty
, All who are weak, 
Come to the fountain, 
Dip your heart in the stream of life.”

Moving Forward (July 2nd)

In order to share with business leaders, 4-H, and FFA, We traveled to Plant City, Florida, Barrett’s hometown, which was super sweet and fantastic. I had the immense pleasure of being able to stay with his parents and to meet a good deal of his family who are such incredible and awesome people. I saw my first gators, had my first delicious homemade fried cornbread, and Fred’s southern kitchen buffet…soooo good! I experienced my first Florida tropical storm, Debby, and fed my first cows not living at a petting zoo. Also, attended my first FFA event, as Barrett was able to speak and share about leadership and Go Walk America at the Florida FFA State Convention in Orlando, FL. Flying back into Kansas City, Missouri, we traveled back east a bit to continue on the Katy Trail. While staying in Sedalia, MO, and had a chance to meet such a wonderful family with two fantastic kids. The kids (10-year-old Drake and 12-year-old Sage) joined us for a full 16-mile day of walking! Such studs because not only did they walk those 16 miles, but also they came back for more the very next day! This really has truly been one of the biggest blessings of the walk: being able to hang out and share with kids. There is nothing sweeter that I see than kids serving and loving kids.

Moving forward, we spent a good amount of time both in Lee’s Summit, MO and in Kansas City, MO. I had the chance to meet one of Barrett’s best buds, Jake and stay in Lee’s Summit. Jake is working for The Global Orphan Project, and actually spent the last 17 months or so in Haiti helping with the organizations operations in the country. It was so good just chatting with Jake about being sensitive to God’s direction in our lives, our responses, and how we can best trust and live faithfully in light of God’s sovereignty. Also, it was very encouraging and inspiring to be able to hear his story and how he personally got involved with serving orphans in Haiti. We continued west of Lee’s Summit, and had the opportunity to attend church to hear Jake’s brother-in-law (Jeff) speak for the first time in Kingsville, MO. It was such a joy to hear all about what God is doing in Jeff’s life and how Jesus has moved in him to this point. We started walking again post church lunch (which consisted of really good roast beef over a bed of white bread and mashed potatoes and gravy!) with Jake, his brother Ben, and a high school student named Shawn. After walking about 3 miles, we ended up at a gas station and met a young man named Ben, who must have been about mid 20′s. His story was that he had been hitch-hiking across the country from San Francisco and was heading towards South Carolina, for a new start and a new life. Having been disowned by his family, who he referred to as “alcoholics and drug addicts” in Upstate New York (Syracuse) and things not working out with his girlfriend in Indiana, he found himself in Cali, and now heading back East after having some troubles in San Francisco. So, we ended up taking him in the beast of the van that we rock on the daily to a gas station near I-70, hoping to find someone to help him out. While, we weren’t able to find anyone, we instead ran into this old gentleman named Larry. Larry had seen the decals on the van (which describe what Go Walk America is and why we are doing this – for orphans) and wanted to buy us gas. As he smoked on his cigar in his huge white Denali SUV, he went on about how crazy it was what we were doing and in the heat [SIDE NOTE, it is so super smoking hot in Missouri right now, literally every day is at or above 100 degrees cool...lots and lots of agua] and then gave us $100 for uniforms for orphans! God is AWESOME and so good and gracious to us all the time.

Ben was actually a Christian as well. I asked him as we shared some McDonald’s chocolate dipped ice cream cones (sooooo good, like DQ) how he came to know Jesus. He shared that the one thing that he thanked his mom for is introducing him to Jesus and that when he was younger that he asked Jesus to be his Savior and Lord. That was fantastic to me and I mentioned that God is sovereign and in control and I will be praying for a such a peace and provision for him in his travels. Ben then responded by saying that yes, he knew that God was sovereign and good. With the knowledge of his very challenging past and struggles, I asked, “Why would you say that?” He answered me, “Simply because I’m alive.” Wow, that struck me. Would I say the same thing? How do I respond when God doesn’t answer my prayers in the ways that I want? To Ben, because he lives, his Saviour lives. God delivers us in our need and our poverty when we call out in humility and brokeness. Seeing how God worked out all of the details of this day is just one of the many stories, and many blessings so far this summer. God is definitely doing a work in my heart and others in connecting us to the reality of orphans and children in need due to no fault of their own. And connecting us to the reality that an all-powerful, holy, and infinite God calls us “children” in our need, our depravity, and our hopelessness due to all fault of our own. He served us, so that we can serve him and others…incredible.

God is so good and I am constantly amazed each morning when my legs still decide to move. While I am definitely getting in better shape every day, there is also this consistent lingering soreness. People will often ask, “are your feet sore??” And our answer will be, “Yes…well in reality, our whole body is sore haha.” It’s just how it is and what happens when you walk 16+ miles every day. And when you have seven consecutive days of 100+ degree weather. Yeah, that’s hot no matter where you live :)

As we moved into Kansas City, we were able to spend an afternoon with folks at the GO Project in Parkville, MO, which was such a blessing! It was a huge privilege for me to meet the people that are involved with the work that I am supporting and to be able to faces to names and in the end just a very encouraging time. Some really cool, funny, and smart people who love Jesus and desire to serve orphans with their lives. I made the following comment to a member of leadership in the organization, “I believe the work that the organization is doing is awesome!” He responded, “Well, it’s not our work; it’s God’s work. So simple, so humbling, and so true. God is doing awesome and incredible work in and around the world, and he has provided us with the blessed opportunity to tag along for the ride.

So, we then had the great pleasure of spending our Fourth of July in downtown Kansas City, chilling with Jake and friends and watching fireworks from their seventh story loft (which was so sick by the way – it had exposed brick, a raised kitchen, high ceilings…). Overall, just really loved my time in KC (a very nice city!), we got to enjoy the fountains (KC – “City of Fountains”), the MLB All-Star Game banners, and such a blessing staying with a Godly couple in Jake and Melody and meeting the rest of the family and others. Such hospitality, care, and kindness!

As you know, I’ve been walking this past month with Barrett Keene, who amongst many things current PhD student at Cornell, Plant City boy, FFA all-star, and one crazy fun guy. When I think about all of the blessings that God has provided on this walk, one of them certainly has been time with Barrett. When you spend 24 hours, 7 days a week with a dude for a month, you get to know them pretty well and vice versa. We share about the Global Orphan Project and orphan care together and connect with people. We eat and drink together. We pick up on habits and tendencies of each other. We chat about everything from food, to relationships, to career direction, to God, to triathlons (which I hope to train for one next spring!). We discuss the sermons and books we’ve been listening to, things on their mind, and questions/ideas about whatever. We seek wisdom and guidance and relish in the satisfaction of our new insulated water bottles (which in this heat are nothing short of magical!). We read the Bible together, pray together, and encourage each other in struggles, while challenging the other to continue to desire growth. We share in the triumphs of a tough day done, and also share in the disappointment of realizing we were totally walking the wrong way. Sometimes, we just walk together in silence as we listen to music, pray, or just think. We do push ups, joke a lot, and laugh even more. We live life together. It’s just good! 

For me, there is unmistakably a connection between the Go Walk America and my relationship (or my walk) with God. And just how I’ve been living life with Barrett, God desires the same in my relationship with him. God wants me to be hanging out with him 24/7, 365, chatting and discussing news, happenings, and things I’ve experienced. He wants to dig into His Word together with me, talk about what it means, and have me seek wisdom and guidance in Him. As a Christian, I am literally God’s walking buddy, and how cool is that? Yet even as I embrace this reality, how often do I actually experience this kind of community and life in my relationship with him? Do I eat and drink with him? Do I really know the God walking beside me, because unlike Barrett (who still knows me well), God knows EVERYTHING about me! The more I walk with God, the more I realize how much greater, holy, and righteous he is. The more I walk with God, the more I realize how sinful, hopeless, and helpless I am without him. Therefore, no matter how wealthy or privileged I may be in comparison to the orphans we are walking to support, we both possess the very same need for a Savior. Through Go Walk America and the Global Orphan Project, we can ourselves and encourage others to take part in helping to meet not only the physical needs of orphans, but though Jesus, quench the deeper spiritual need as well. Personally, I think that is awesome and well worth walking for :)

I can’t wait for what’s next: Bring on Kansas!


Chillin in “The City of Fountains” – KC!!!!

Posted in Walk | Leave a comment