| Jul 01, 2013
When I started my Celebration Walk at our Redmond, WA office, I had four goals in mind.
1. To thank God for His blessings on our organization over the past 16 years.
2. To focus attention on the needs of those we serve.
3. To highlight the work that Medical Teams International is doing to demonstrate the love of Christ to those affected by disaster, conflict and poverty around the world.
4. To finish the walk – even if I had to crawl across the finish line.
I realize now that in focusing on these four goals, I was focused on things outside of myself. What I didn’t realize was how walking 220 miles would affect me internally.
Some of these ways include the following:
--The first day I walked, I was pretty intent on completing my goal for the day– to walk 13 miles by the end of the day. Listening to music on my earphones, I hustled past beautiful flowers, landscapes, interesting people and opportunities to reflect on God’s grace and mercy in my life.
The second day of my walk messed me up. I had planned to spend 15-20 minutes at Melissa’s house to reflect and pray with her about the 3 years that have passed since her husband died in Haiti while serving on one of our volunteer teams. That 15-20 minutes turned into 2 beautiful and encouraging hours which were more of a blessing to me than they may have been to Melissa.
When we were done and Lynn and I said good-bye to Melissa, I realized that my walking schedule had fallen apart. But, I truly didn’t care because I also realized that my walk was not ultimately about timelines, schedules or how far/how fast I walked. My walk was about slowing down enough to allow God to inject moments of grace, joy and beauty into my life. That’s something I hope to continue doing.
--When Rick walked with me in central Washington, he brought along his 7-month old dog, Ruby. I asked Rick how he got Ruby. He responded, “Do you want the short story or the long story?” Since we had about 10 miles of walking to do, I told him that we had plenty of time for the long story.
And, what I found out is that the long story was much better than the short story. The short story is pretty much the facts. The long story has humor, interesting developments, fresh insights. The short story doesn’t tell you much about the person telling the story. The long story gives you new and interesting perspectives into the life of the one telling the story.
So, I have determined to ask people to tell me the long story whenever we talk about important developments in their lives, or mine. And I am committed to taking the time to listen to these long stories because that’s often where you find the heart of the story-teller and it’s often where you find the heart of God.
--I enjoyed walking with other people but I also enjoyed walking alone. When I walked by myself, it often took about an hour to clear my mind of the clutter that we all face in our lives. Then, it was very interesting to see what thoughts would develop, what new insights might come my way, what memories would crop up of painful or joyful moments in the past, what thoughts would arise about the future.
Often, as I walked along, God would show up. I’d hear His voice in the thoughts I had about myself, about my past or my future, about Him, about others. And, I began to realize that, in some ways, I was not on a walk, I was on a pilgrimage—a pilgrimage to learn more about others, to learn more about God, and to learn more about myself.
This opportunity for reflection and for listening to God is not one that comes easily for us in our busy lives. I intend to continue to walk on my own in the days ahead. Not only because I need the exercise. But also because I want to create space in my life for God to show up.
--On my walk, I learned how much I need other people. I leaned for support on my wife, Lynn, every day. Whether it was food, water, transportation, rain jackets, directions, band-aids, encouragement, prayer, patience, love--Lynn’s contribution to my ability to finish this walk was immense. Beth W. also was a huge help in coordinating arrangements for walkers, serving as the connection point with the rest of the organization for me, praying for me and helping in so many ways. The 50 people who walked with me were a great help and encouragement, making the miles melt away and enriching my experience with their smiles, stories and insights. I may have walked the 220 miles, but I know very well at this point that I could not have done without the help of others—a good lesson for many of the challenges we face in life.
--On the last day of my walk, Kathi joined me, carrying a sign of some of the people and places she’d seen on the thirteen teams she has served as a dental volunteer. One of the people on Kathi’s sign was a woman who had walked for 13 miles to get help at Kathi’s clinic. After receiving treatment, she had to walk 13 miles to get back to her house. That’s 26 miles in one day, more miles than I walked in any single day on my walk.
When I heard Kathi’s story, I was reminded again of what had struck me so many times during my walk—the people we serve often are so desperate for medical or dental care that they walk for miles, perhaps an entire day to get help. Others have to walk for miles to get water to drink. I was reminded again of the many ways in which I am blessed—and of my responsibility to share that blessing with others in Jesus’ name.
--Finally, throughout my walk I realized how much I needed God. I walked along some difficult roads with narrow shoulders and heavy traffic. Of course, I took precautions, wearing safety vests and bright T shirts and facing the traffic as I walked. But, there were dangers. And, there were difficulties. Each day, before I set out on my walk, Lynn and I prayed for safety and for God’s blessing. Each day, God answered our prayers.
Now that I’m done with my walk, I want to remember how much I leaned on God to keep me safe and to give me the strength and health I needed. Because, in some ways, life is a long walk. And, we can’t make it without leaning on God for strength, safety, direction and blessing.
I’m done with my walk. But, I don’t believe that the walk is done with me. As I move into the future, I trust that God will use the things I learned while walking to shape my life, my relationships, my perspectives, my priorities and my faith in Him.
And, that’s something very important to celebrate.