Walking By Faith

            Last Sunday morning, I received a text from someone I know stating that there was a couple coming through the area that might be in contact with me.  Jonathan, Sherry, and their black lab (Charlie) began a faith walk from Wyandot, MI to GA on July 4th and were looking for a place to put up a tent to sleep for the night.  Little did I know the amazing ministry that would happen over the next 24 hours!

            It is impossible for me to share the entire story of the meeting that occurred from 4 pm on Sunday until 9:30 Monday morning, but here is a snippet.  Jonathan and Sherry contacted me Sunday afternoon and after sharing a short summary over the phone, I invited them to stay at the parsonage.  It has been several days since they had a good shower and it was necessary after days of insect repellant and sunscreen.  They were so thankful for a good meal, a comfortable bed, an opportunity to do laundry, and air-conditioning.

            Then came the story...Jonathan had been baptized as a baby in the Catholic tradition and Sherry had just became a believer within the past 3-4 years.  They are in their early/mid 40’s.  Jonathan spent a couple of years in the Air Force working in the nuclear missile program.  Both of them had been in previous relationships and Jonathan said he had let his hair grow long as he listened to hard rock and roll, played in bands, and had strayed from religion for a while. 

            But when Sherry became a believer, it seems that the two of them began nurturing each other’s faith.  Jonathan had questioned whether his infant baptism was enough since he hadn’t made the decision to give his life to Christ, so he was rebaptized at the same time as Sherry.  In conversations with pastors since, he has been told that one baptism was enough and wanted to hear my thoughts, which came later.

            Their ministry moment to me was when they described this faith walk.  They have sold some of their belongings, but gave away most everything they owned.  In the picture on the screen, you will see all of their possessions are carried in 2 fifty pound backpacks and two push carts (and Charlie the dog).  Friends, Jonathan and Sherry have decided to live out their faith, literally one day at a time, trusting God to provide. 

            Each morning they wake up and begin the day with prayer, they walk anywhere from 4-10 miles per day, then begin asking people (with preference to churches for safety)  for a place that they can pitch a tent to sleep for the evening.  Their carts are packed with food such as Raman noodles, beef jerky, and oatmeal that provide protein and are easy to maintain.  Wherever they stay, God has provided people who offer bathrooms, food, places to stay, etc.  I was in awe of their faith.

            I asked when they planned to reach Georgia?  Their response was whenever they arrive.  Then I asked how they were getting back to MI?  To which they replied, we aren’t going back.  When they arrive in GA, they plan to begin a walk around the U.S., no matter how long it takes.  They are truly living one day at a time, completely trusting in God’s guidance, provisions, and protection.  When they arrived in Luckey, they had spent approx. $10 since leaving MI, thanks to the generosity of those with whom they have met.

            I gave them a tour of Zion and introduced them to our baptismal font, where I began an impromptu sermon about ‘Lutheranism 101’ and our foundational belief in unearned and undeserved grace.  Their experience touched me so deeply and in return, my message released anxiety that was occurring in their lives.  Tears were shared from all three of us!

            During the conversation, Jonathan mentioned that they study the Bible daily and begin and end each day with prayer (as well as pray throughout the day).  And they had recently read about the Israelites in the wilderness where God provided them with manna...food from heaven.  He said each day they have been blessed with bread from God.

            I look at today’s text and hear Jesus talk about being the Bread of Life and if we seek him, we will find him.  He is the bread that fills Jonathan and Sherry’s hunger spiritually and physically through those they meet and they see God each day in the faces and generosity of those they are meeting during this journey. I wish I could say that I had the amount of faith that they have each day, which doesn’t prevent them from some anxiety. 

Our encounter last Sunday afternoon and Monday morning has changed me.  I keep in touch with them and follow their FB page Goingon Anadventure and invite you to do the same.  Jonathan, Sherry, and Charlie can use all the prayers they can get.  This experience was an assurance of God’s faithfulness and a reminder of his grace in daily life.  And it was a conviction to all of the things that I choose to make important in my life that don’t necessarily have to be priorities.  What does ‘Walking by faith’ mean to you?  What does it mean to say Jesus is the bread of life?  Take some time to consider those questions this week.  I’d be happy to hear your reflections.  Amen.