I won't be updating this blog for a couple of days. I'm going on a walk. A long walk. 62.5 miles or 100 kilometers to be exact.
This past January, I attended a church conference in San Antonio. While there, I had the opportunity to hear the President of the Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic (CAR) speak. Now, I must confess that I knew relatively little about the country and the issues it faced. That's somewhat sad considering my synod is a partner in ministry with the Lutheran Church of the CAR.
I was fascinated hearing this man speak. He talked of the conditions of the country and the challenges it faced. He talked about the lack of resources, lack of health care, the lack of infrastructure--things most of us take for granted. And then, he touched a nerve:
"The church has grown in membership to 70,000 people," President Golike said. This is up from 56,000 in just a year or two. Amazing growth, to say the least.
"We have 70 pastors to serve these people."
Now, the guy really had my attention. That is a very low number to serve such a large number of folks.
"These pastors each have 100 square kilometers to serve in."
President Golike then described how these pastors serve an itinerant ministry within those 100 square kilometers. They travel from village to village, church to church, to preach, teach, baptize, and give Holy Communion.
"Most of them walk and get paid the equivalent of $70 per month."
What? Are you kidding me? Most of them walk. 62.5 square miles to cover, and most of them WALK!!! Hell, I drive from Cat Spring to Brenham to visit one of my members who lives in Assisted Living. It's roughly a 60 mile round trip. I get to ride in an air conditioned pick up on paved roads, and I get 50 cents a mile in reimbursement. I get $30 to drive there and back, just a little less than half of what these pastors make in a month. Man, do I have it easy. And I don't have to travel from church to church to preach. Folks come to where I am at.
"We really need motorcycles to help pastors get from place to place. They make the work easier, and for the pastors who have them, they have become the main way to get people to medical care."
Damn. Motorcycles become ambulances. How great do we have it here? Could you imagine being taken to a hospital on a motorcycle? When you are hurt? Sick? Ready to give birth? Geez.
"We partnered with the ELCA and got enough money for 11 motorcycles. They cost roughly $2,500 each."
Wait a minute. You are telling me that in a church of nearly 5 million, you could only get 11 motorcycles? That's poor. I know that my congregation could do better than that. Maybe not 11 motorcycles, but we could dang sure do between four and six.
I knew right then, I wanted to help make a difference for these folks in the CAR. I knew right then, God had placed on my heart this burden to help these folks get more motorcycles. The problem was how would this come about?
I approached my congregation council shortly thereafter, and they agreed that we could do something for the pastors in the CAR. We would do something to raise money to get them motorcycles. But what?
While picking green beans in my garden that spring, the idea popped into my head. I had begun walking on a regular basis for health reasons and to lose weight. Why not walk 100 kilometers? Why not ask for sponsors in completing the walk? I could do it--I thought.
I brought the idea to one of my council members. "Well," he said, "Instead of just Kevin walking, how about we have a team Kevin and a team Dennis, and we have a competition."
Next council meeting: One of the members asks, "Why not open it up to whoever wants to walk. Invite other churches to send teams." Good idea!
Another member chimes in, "What about those who can't walk 100K, can we do something shorter?" Good idea!
Another: "What if we had a big party at the end?" Good idea!
All of this is finally coming together this weekend. I and 11 others will be walking 100 kilometers beginning tomorrow. On Saturday, we will be having a 10K and a 1K walk at our congregation for those wanting to travel shorter distances and help out. Other congregations have been invited, and we are hoping for some amazing things.
We set as our goal to raise $10,000--four motorcycles. I personally have pledges in the amount of $14,000. We will, at the very least, double our goal.
I know it's going to be a challenge to cover that distance in three days. I know that I will be sore. I know my feet will probably hurt. But if I thoughts of quitting start entering my mind, I will remember my colleagues half a world away who walk each and every day to spread God's Word. I will remember the sacrifices they make in their endeavor to serve the Lord, and I will put one foot in front of the other. I will not stop until I finish. It's the least I can do.