There is something that happens within you when you know the end goal is within reach. Deep down, you have a resolve that you will finish. Deep down you begin to know that you will make it, and nothing will prevent you from doing so. Somewhere, somehow, you find the strength, the energy, the will to continue. You play through the pain. You endure the hardships. You press on.
Perhaps this truth about humankind is what St. Paul captures when he writes these words in the third chapter of the book of Philippians, "Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus." Paul, of course is talking about something much more deeper than finishing a 100 kilometer walk, but I believe the gist is the same.
We took a little longer to get started this morning as we left Industry United Methodist Church. We took time to bandage blisters a little better. Some took a few moments to grab a drink at the local store. We milled around and talked for a little while as we prepared for the last leg of our journey, and after a word of prayer, our little cavalcade marched toward home.
Tammy, who I blogged about earlier started off like a shot. After doctoring her blisters and wrapping her feet, she was almost like new. Several of the ladies even remarked, "That's the Tammy we know!" It was very good to see her walking almost without a limp.
However, we soon discovered another lady was having difficulty. My runner up hero, Jessica, was having some pretty strong soreness and swelling in the front of her ankles. She was really having a hard time of it. We pulled over on the side of the road and wrapped her ankles as best as we could. We hoped she would hold up.
Our first leg of day three took us to New Ulm. We made a little slower time of it, so we were not able to march in the town's Oktoberfest Parade; however, in reality there were some in no shape to do this. It was a welcome stop that we had at St. John Lutheran Church of New Ulm. We made sure and prop Jessica's feet up on a hay bale as we rested and dined on the snacks provided.
A neat surprise for me was the arrival of my wife, children and parents who stopped to check on us. It was fun to play with my kids at the church's playground. They were definitely missing their daddy. I could only feel for the children of the rest of the crew who hadn't seen them at all for the past two days. I was glad my dad was along because I had him talk to Jessica about her feet. He told her that if she wanted to finish the walk, she needed to ice her feet.
I wish we would have had that piece of information when we first stopped to rest; unfortunately, it was at the end of our rest time there. We had to make three more miles before stopping for lunch. We left St. John, and to say it mildly, Jessica was struggling. We literally slowed our pace to a crawl.
At this point, our tractor driver buzzed me on my cell phone, "Pastor, we're moving a two miles an hour. Traffic is backing up. This isn't good. You might need to talk to her and see if she will ride for a little while and ice her feet."
I really didn't want to do this. I knew I risked angering her by even suggesting that she stop, but we had to press on. These are the toughest parts of leadership. We had to pick up the pace. We pulled over in a grassy area near a parking lot, and I talked with Jessica.
"You're really struggling," I said. "We need to pick up the pace. Do you want to stop for a while and ride? At least until lunch? Then we can ice your feet, and you can start again."
She didn't want to stop. She didn't want to rest for even part of the journey. She wanted to finish. You could see it in every fiber of her facial expression. There was no quit in Jessica, just like there was no quit in Tammy. "I need to pick up the pace?"
"I'll do it."
And she did. I invited her to walk with me at the front of the group so we could set the pace. Jessica was a true trooper. She endured the pain. We walked and talked for the next three miles. We pulled off the road into a home belonging to some folks who attended church at St. John of New Ulm to eat lunch, and we pulled off into a little piece of heaven.
We walked around the back of the house and onto the porch. Tables and chairs were set out with a wonderful sandwich spread provided by St. Paul Lutheran Church of Columbus. The scenery was nothing short of fantastic.
The backyard was beautifully landscaped with huge shade trees surrounded by colorful shrubs. We looked out upon a landscape complete with areas of shade trees, Brangus cattle, and a large stock tank. The land was gently rolling, covered with green grass. We ate together soaking in the beauty of the country and finding our spirits once again refreshed.
Jessica iced her feet and ankles, and when we began once more, she was much better. It was a welcome sight to see her moving along with the group at a good pace.
At this point, we had eight more miles to go. Several times I moved up and down the line offering encouragement, checking on hurting feet, and seeing if there was a need to stop. We managed to make it to the next rest area with little trouble, and we found a treat awaiting us. Blue Bell Ice Creamery had donated 408 individual cups of vanilla ice cream to our endeavor, and the Men in Mission from our congregation brought some for us. It was delicious. Side note: when you are hot, sweaty and burning the calories like we were, everything cold tastes better. Beer, soda, ice cream, you name it--it always tastes just that much better.
Jessica again iced her feet. There was no doubt that she would make it. We took our turn into the home stretch and headed down a path that I walked more times than I could count in preparing for this journey. My feet almost had a mind of their own as they realized they were on home turf. We put the last few miles behind us and made our final turn toward the church and the picnic that awaited us there.
We broke into song as we covered the last 100 yards. "Oh when the Saints...Go marching in...." Our voices lifted as did our spirits. Tears began to form in the eyes of many as we walked into the parking lot to be greeted by family members and friends who clapped and cheered. The ladies from Katy had their children run into their arms. Husbands hugged them and held them to congratulate them. My children all clapped and yelled, "Yay, Daddy." It was truly heartwarming.
We took the obligatory pictures and headed into the fellowship hall for our meal. I welcomed everyone and announced the total: those walking had garnered pledges in excess of $30,000! Triple our goal! Celebration truly ensued, although for many who walked, it was a little more subdued--not because of a lack of happiness, but because of a lack of energy!
It was a great completion to the journey.