10 October 2019 - Ely, Nevada
“From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)
I am now in Nevada, my 11th and penultimate state in this walk across the country. I am walking along Highway 50, proclaimed in Nevada “The Loneliest Road in America.” Four friends are joining me in succession to help me get across the state with the help of Tom Olschner’s truck and camper: Tom (last week), Walter Latimer (this week), Bonnie Spencer (next week), and Tim Hillmer (you guessed it, the week after that!). There aren’t many vehicles on the road out here, and when there are no cars coming and the wind is not blowing, it is incredibly Q-U-I-E-T outside! And this morning I had my coldest temperature of the entire walk - 16 degrees Fahrenheit. But it was sunny and clear and all my warm clothes, gloves, and beanie served me well!
As I’ve had more time to contemplate while walking 7-8 hours every day, my thoughts have turned recently to this question: What is needed to walk across the United States? I’ve come up with these seven things. There could be more, but these have seemed crucial to me.
God has provided for me in some many ways. This has primarily happened through God’s presence in people, but I have also felt God’s presence directly with me. What I have received includes protection from dogs and severe weather, food, lodging, water, free meals from anonymous people (in restaurants), encouragement, money, donations for the children, company, a camper for one month, peace, joy, and kindnesses too many to mention. I am very clear that without God’s grace, I wouldn’t even have made it successfully across South Carolina.
This overlaps with #1, but I wouldn’t have made it all the way to Nevada without ALL of the support I have received from my family, my friends, and numerous strangers - many of whom have become new friends. From all the people who have hosted me in their homes to all the folks who have handed me water or a bit of cash… from those who have prayed for me every single day to those who have met me one time and wished me “Godspeed!” or “Be safe!”… from those who have walked part of the route with me to those who have called me at just the right time, the support has been off-the-charts amazing. And here I must pause and say “Thanks so much, Julia!” You have been amazing!
I heard a call to do this over 10 years ago, and I have been faithful to what I heard God calling me to do. There have been days that I have wanted to quit, times when the challenges have seemed overwhelming, but through it all, I have felt God’s faithfulness unto me, and I have wanted to be faithful in return. Sometimes that has led to the most basic of prayers. “Lord, help me be present and do what I need to do this day, and not focus on what happened yesterday, or how many weeks (or months) I still have to go. Help me find joy in this day.” Without having heard such a powerful call from God in the beginning, I’m not sure I would have had the foundation to keep going when things got tough.
This seems related to #3 in some ways, but persistence also has the element of just keeping at something. It is amazing what you can accomplish if you simply leave the house, tent, motel, or trailer every morning and start walking again! It really is one step at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time, one state at a time. And suddenly you look up and the sign says “Welcome to Nevada,” and more than 7 months has passed, and I hear myself thinking, “Wow, Folly Beach, South Carolina seems like a long time ago!” I heard a chaplain say one time, “90% of ministry is showing up.” Walking across the country is like that, too. One has to keep showing up - every single day.
A lot of people who have met me on this walk have commented on my courage. Some of my friends have done the same. I haven’t always thought of myself as a courageous person, but there is a vulnerability in doing something of this magnitude, where you don’t know what is going to happen - a lot of the time! Where will I stay? What will I encounter on the road with respect to weather, animals, and my own emotions? Courage is a matter of the heart, I know that. And it is something that we can pray for, for God is very close at hand. “Help me to be courageous, O Lord.”
When there is a tree blow-down on the highway on the day you are planning to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you have to be flexible and deal with getting behind schedule with respect to what you originally planned. The same with stopping for an extra 10 days because your infected toe is demanding that you do so. Perhaps you have to change your route because roads are flooded and you cannot cross the Mississippi River where you planned to cross. I had to give up walking along long stretches of the Katy Trail in Missouri, because it was flooded, too. If you are going to walk across the United States, some flexibility will be needed!
I recommend that you have as many people praying for you as possible in doing something like this! Prayer is powerful. I asked a whole bunch of people to pray for a quick fix this past Monday when a water pipe broke in the trailer, and a man named Jared, of Ely, Nevada, was the answer to those prayers, He overheard Walter talking at the Ace Hardware store in Ely, calmly and quietly said “I can fix that,” helped Walter pick out the parts that he needed, and then went out to the parking lot, and with his own tools and know-how, fixed the plumbing on the trailer. Walter’s perseverance had a lot to do with the trailer being fixed, too! And… the people praying were a big part of how everything came together. My walk across the country has deepened my own prayer life, that’s for sure!
8. A Phone
Okay, I added an 8th one. I realize that Peter Jenkins and Peace Pilgrim and many other people walked across the country back in the day without a cell phone, but it sure makes a cross-country walk much safer and more manageable, not to mention having the benefits of staying connected to family and friends. And… you don’t have to carry a separate camera!
These are the 7 + 1 things that have been absolutely essential in my walk across the United States, in case you were wondering.