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…1,638 orphans and other children living in rags or less are receiving a school uniform!!! The school uniforms are required for the children to be allowed to attend school.
In addition to 1,638 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!
Illinois to Saint Louis!
This 11 day stretch was one of the most difficult and beautiful so far. Multiple joints in my right foot were still inflamed leading to pain with every step! My allergies produced so much congestion that it felt like I might have had a growing ball of twine in my sinuses. Also, almost getting smacked by the tail end of a massive coal truck, unknowingly chillin with an attempted murderer (not going to elaborate on that one:), and a trip to a hospital because of bronchitis added interesting elements as well! However, lifting weights with coal miners in an extremely dilapidated building, having a walking partner (for more than a day) for the first time since Atlanta, listening to and praying through a sermon series on Genesis, and staying with wonderful families made this portion pretty unforgettable.
Southern Illinois is beautiful. The rolling hills were a continuation of the Bluegrass State. The only problem was, there were massive coal trucks flying by all day long. One driver, clearly not paying attention to the idiot (me:) walking down the side of a rural highway in the middle of nowhere, jerked the wheel the moment he saw me. While I appreciated the gesture, this caused the back end of his semi trailer load of coal to whip around in my direction, with the tires literally screeching as they slid towards me. Knowing there was no way I could run 50 feet to the side before it smacked me like a Titalist on a golf range, I immediately thought of Keanu Reeves in the Matrix. I imagined myself doing a much reduced version of the limbo-like move Keanu employed in dodging bullets in order to allow the trailer to pass over me. Let’s be honest that would have been as awesome as it was unrealistic:) Thankfully, at the last moment, the trailer straightened out and I neither got smacked by the trailer, nor ruptured any discs in my back trying to get my Matrix on.
If you read the previous post, you know that my friend Ryan came out for nine days to join the journey! Ryan is a stud and a bit of an explorer. Most days, Ryan and I would do some walking in the beginning or the end of the day. The rest of the day, Ryan would go explore some park, reserve, or conservation area. It was refreshing having a partner to walk and chat with. One of our favorite towns was Thompsonville, IL. The First Baptist Church was kind enough to get us a hotel room, treat us to dinner, and just flat out show us beautiful hospitality. Also, I was fortunate enough to interview one of the teachers at the high school for a nationwide study I am leading on how teachers can and do serve as transformational leaders in their classrooms. It was sooo rich to hear the teacher’s and their students’ perspectives on how the teacher leads students in this wonderful rural school of barely 100 students!
Check out this quick video from a wonderful crew of children who are serving children in need in beautiful ways!!
We were fortunate enough to share at several schools and churches along the way. One of the highlights was a stop in Marissa, IL. We were fortunate enough to stay with the Schmierbach family. Several students from the high school came over to hang out for a couple hours that Friday night and a couple of the dudes walked several miles the following day. Plus, I had the privilege of preaching that Sunday morning. It is such a blessing to be able to share the realities facing millions of children in our world and the tangible, simple, beautiful ways we can literally change the trajectory of the lives of children in need by making small decisions on our part. The desire to serve orphaned and abandoned children has so much depth in my heart, not because I am a good person…and not because I’m an unselfish person – I am neither. My deep passion to serve children comes from the developing understanding that my Heavenly Father came into my life and adopted me…calling me an equal heir with Christ. This beautiful picture of adoption impacts every area of my life.
After preaching, I left Marissa fully aware that a rainstorm was on the way. In addition to the rain, I quickly began to feel drops that were a bit more substantive. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of a hail storm in the middle of a cornfield! It was weird though…it seemed like every fifth or so nasty little chunk of ice flying my way punched me in the lips!…which hurt like crazy. After failing to hitch a ride with the first forty cars or so, the guitar player from the church that I preached at that morning was kind enough to rescue me!
The next few miles were special for many reasons, but one of those was that my very sweet mother joined me for a couple days. We had an absolute blast hanging out! Besides hail storms and a funky right foot, one of the main obstacles between me and Saint Louis was the town of East Saint Louis, IL. My main man Jacob Barreth, who lives in Haiti (um…not an overly safe part of the world:) by the way, texted me from Haiti and begged me to spend the two extra days it would take me to walking around East Saint Louis so I would not get shot, stabbed, etc:) Thankfully though, my walk through East Saint Louis was wonderful. It was my first day walking in above 100 degree temps all day long, and heat rashes (I’ll spare you the pics:) broke out on probably 1/5 of my body…which is never desirable…nor necessarily safe. Besides the oppressive heat, East Saint Louis was wonderful. Several people expressed curiosity about what I was doing walking through there by myself, but I met some wonderful people. I was even blessed to attend church the following morning and share a bit about our efforts to serve children. I understand the value of being cautious and wise, but I literally pray for an understanding of the proper balance between wisdom and not allowing our lives to be driven by fear. The people of East Saint Louis were as kind as any people I have met the entire journey and I feel blessed to have met and shared with some of them!
After a ton of walking NORTH, walking into Saint Louis meant more than just an opportunity to walk through another one of our nation’s incredible cities, it meant I was finally able to walk WEST! The route I chose allows me to hit ten of the largest cities in the U.S., but the route is almost 1,100 miles longer than just walking Jacksonville to Los Angeles…so finally heading directly west was rather exciting!! Walking across the mighty Mississippi was almost surreal! First of all, I felt like I was about to pass out, and the tricky thing about walking across major rivers is that the bridges are typically not all that flat:) More importantly, I could not help but think about the blessings that God has poured into my life, the people that are choosing to serve children through The Global Orphan Project, and that so much of the Western half of our nation was settled by walkers and wagon riders through this same city…which I think is pretty amazing!
What’s up Saint Louie????