"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, September 30, 2013

Appalachian Trail hero

 The faith of my Mennonite ancestors would teach me that having pride in myself, or in anyone else, is not a good thing because it draws attention away from God and the fact that God gives us all our talents, gifts, abilities and accomplishments. We cannot do it on our own; therefore, we should take no pride in it. With this, I agree. However, there are people I admire and respect because of their accomplishments in life and the fact that they acknowledge that it is all because of their faith and walk with God.

  Two of my newest heroes are a man and his wife that go to my church, Kirk and Mona. Kirk undertook the awesome adventure of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail this year. Thanks to modern technology, Kirk was able to keep in touch with Mona, family and others on a fairly regular basis, but a short telephone call or email cannot possibly be the same as having supper at home, watching television in the recliner and having a nice soft bed to crawl into at night. Kirk and Mona began a Facebook page so that all of us could follow along his journey with pictures and postings, and I began to live quite vicariously through this page.

  Sleeping in primitive shelters, eating out of bags, cans and such, washing body and clothes whenever possible in towns and hostels, plus waiting for the long anticipated care packages from Georgia to help replace supplies and clothing, waking up with snow surrounding the tent, days of sore feet and knees, long times when it is just you and your hiking buddy climbing up and up and up with no smoothly paved walkway with nicely set steps. All this adds up to six months of pure physical and emotional duress that I am not sure I could handle. Even with months or years of training. Nope, could not do it. A hike like that is definitely not on my bucket list. My list is pretty shallow and simple like trying extra sour cream on my taco or getting my ear pierced for my 60th birthday (yeah, get ready for it, Mom).

  What encouraged me the most about following Kirk’s journey on the Trail and Mona’s journey of being at home was their faith in God and their unwavering belief that God was with them the entire time. These are two people who do not have to publicly announce their trust in God; it is just a part of who they are. They are God’s people. They don’t have to shout it from the church steeple or beat people up with their Bibles and impress them with their spiritual knowledge; you just know from their example and the way they live.

  Rarely did a day go by that Kirk did not mention how beautiful was God’s creation. Rarely did a day go by that Mona did not mention how faithful God was to keep Kirk safe and to keep her comforted without him. To those of us who know them, we know the smiles we saw in pictures on Facebook and on Mona’s face at church were genuine and assuring of God’s presence in Kirk’s safety. Even when in the final few weeks from the Maine destination when Kirk’s father passed away and he had to leave the Trail for a period of time, he went back as soon as he could to finish what he had begun. Integrity. Honesty. Character. Godliness. This typified Kirk.

  The scripture that Kirk held close and shared with all those around was from the book of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I saw over the last six months how true this verse was for Kirk and Mona. And, their faith encouraged me. We can do anything with Christ’s help. Anything. Even hike 2,185.9 miles.

  And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy (and Kirk and Mona).