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:
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:
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!