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 145 million orphaned and abandoned children face and present opportunities for people to get engaged in serving them.
Praise God…685 children are receiving the school uniform they are required to have to attend school!!
Through the gift of these uniforms, as much as $6,800 has been raised to provide food, shelter, and care for orphans! Also, jobs are created for parents in impoverished communities to sew the uniforms!
Cordele to Hotlanta!
After a wonderful couple of nights with the Holder family in Cordele, things got pretty tough as I attempted to head north. During one of my longest days, I stopped to rest and grab a snack at a convenience store. After chomping down on some nasty convenience store pizza and pounding a Gatorade, I promptly walked away from my wallet…which was resting nicely on the curb in front of the store! By the time I made it back to the store, my wallet was nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, someone had rung up over $400 of charges at the Dollar General, a Pizza Hut, a beauty supply store, and the mall. So…that is unfortunate! Thankfully, our partners at Arms Around the World, were kind enough to help handle the paperwork and legwork to get everything taken care of! Being without a wallet made things a bit interesting…to say the least! Thankfully, my friend Amanda still had a week to hang out before she had to head back to Kansas. If Amanda was not there, I have no idea what I would have done as driving is usually quite difficult without a driver’s license!
One of my favorite aspects of the walk has been seeing all of the homes along the side of the road. Some of the homes are stately and some of the homes are in extremely rough shape, but noticing the creativity in the design and how people accessorize their home is what I find most interesting. The details concerning the front porches, the old trucks and cars (which are amazingly plentiful in rural Georgia towns), batting cages, and landscaping is so much more noticeable when walking. For instance, the house to the right took full advantage of the their resources by designing a small half-pipe in the carport and placing the basketball hoop in the tree…nice:)
Upon arriving in Perry, our first stop was at the local Police Department! These incredible officers not only expressed their genuine desire to help raise awareness of the realities facing children throughout the world, but they also provided us with free places to stay at a local hotel. After a night at the beautiful Camp John Hope, courtesy of Mr. Norman Gay, I walked into Roberta to crash a couple nights with the wonderful family of Darryl and April Baxley. I was fortunate enough to do an interview with a local Macon news station that morning. That night, Mr. Baxley was kind enough to organize a dinner with people from throughout the community. It was such a blessing to meet such incredible people and to hear of their own experiences serving children in need, both in and outside of the U.S. The horrible reality is, there is so much pain in our world. The beautiful reality is, God desires to use us despite our own infirmities and selfishness to address and fight against the multitude of sources of injustice and pain. Because the focus of the walk is on sharing about and serving children in need, many of the conversations I have with the people I meet center around our efforts and opportunities to serve. It is incredibly humbling to hear so many diverse perspectives, experiences, and goals in serving children. We ended up staying a couple nights, but the highlight of the stay was walking almost four miles with some pretty fabulous elementary and middle school students. We had an absolute blast! Meet Audrey, Sydney, and Yuki, some of the walkers in the video!
After a couple rainy days (which I really do not mind too much if I can keep the water out of my shoes), I arrived in the picturesque town of Culloden. As I was walking into town, a cop car drove up rather aggressively with his lights flashing. Someone called the police because they said I looked suspicious. I would like to think this is more indicative of our nation’s obsession with driving everywhere we go instead of walking or biking than my shady, rough looking appearance. I guess it did not help that I had recently allowed my friend Amanda to give me a mohawk…maybe I was being profiled…who knows?!:) The officer demanded identification, which was unfortunate considering the fact that I had recently left my wallet outside a Cordele convenience store. The officer clearly did not believe my story, or that I was walking across the country for orphans. Also, a search for “Barrett Keene” in their system (used to search for warrants) did not produce any results, so the officer thought I was not lying about my name too! The officer said he was going to have to detain me! I found myself being pretty pumped about this because A. I have never gone to jail, and B. I was exhausted and could really use an excuse to take a break! The officer informed me we were just going to wait there. So, I just sat on his hood for about 20 minutes until they were able to find (and clear!) my name in their system before his supervisor would believe I did not need to be arrested! The officer ended up being a wonderful guy and is even following the walk on Facebook.
That night, we met, attended a “Bull Bash” rodeo, and crashed with Corey, Christian and their wonderful children! My friends Abby and Carol were kind enough to contact their friends along the route to ask if we could have a place to stay. It amazes me how wonderful people throughout Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee have been to open their homes! The farther I get from Florida, the less people I know, so let me know if you have family or friend that might be crazy enough to let me crash on their couch or floor for a night or two. The next morning, we went to church, where I was humbled to be able to share about our efforts to serve orphans and share the incredible work of the Global Orphan Project. After a tasty meal of southern fried catfish and mac n’ cheese, it was time to get back on the road.
This Sunday stroll through the tiny town of Milner was one of my favorite days on the road. I was blessed to meet a group of humble, hilarious guys who were kind enough to let me get in a little basketball and I was able to walk along the most beautiful road I have traveled down yet! Also, one of the, most beautiful aspects of this walk is the immense space I have to reflect, listen, pray, and reflect deeply. One of the sermon series I have listened to has really stood out so far. The series, titled, “The Rebel’s Guide to Joy,” address topics such as conflict, temptation, humility, suffering, death, and loneliness. There were a couple aspects of the talks I found a bit funky, but overall, having the opportunity to learn, think and pray about such daunting, challenging, beautiful topics has created a mini-journey within my journey. I would recommend checking this series out. Perhaps my favorite thing to do while walking is to pause whatever I am listening to and to spend serious time reflecting on that point, question, or challenge. I have been blessed to listen to sermon series with titles such as “Praying like Jesus”, “Generous”, and “Doctrine.”
Here are a couple pics from the road I loved so much north of Milner:
The next stop on the journey was staying with the Brown family in Griffin, Ga. My friend Amanda is a pretty big couchsurfer. By “couchsurfer” I mean there are a ton of people who are willing to open their homes to random travelers and travelers who are open to staying in the homes of random people!:) A stud of a young man, Mr. Will Brown and his wonderful parents opened their home to us for a couple nights. This family brings Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 as they welcome travelers into their homes through couchsurfing.com. They do so with purpose…to serve and to love others. After receiving some excellent directions from Will, I headed north through an area that was surprising rural and relaxing, even though we were so close to Atlanta.
The last town I will mention in this update is Hotlanta! One of the highlights of the day was randomly walking by my friend Shaun’s work and being able to stop in to surprise her. Walking through the communities of College Park and East Point was pretty incredible as well. Besides a random lady asking me in a progressively louder and louder voice, “Where’s your briefcase? Where’s your briefcase at? Where’s your briefcase?!?”…about ten times, the day was quite nice. After walking more the 38 miles in two days, limping into downtown Atlanta was one of the most rewarding and painful stretches of the trip so far! I was fortunate enough to be able to share at a house church, a Christian student group from Georgia Tech, and spend some time with your of my closest friends growing up…Mr. Jono Hehn. I am pretty excited to write the next update to share the incredible experience of visiting The Big Oak Boy’s Ranch over in Alabama. Something I have never actually told anyone before is that every single time I think about the word Alabama, I cannot help but want to shout it like Forrest Gump did when telling his favorite lady she needed to come back home:)
Have a wonderful day! Please let me know how I can be praying for you.