(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Thirty-five years ago I decided to leave the ministry of being a pastor. I felt burned out, and I needed a break. Preparing for the transition, I became involved with an insurance and securities company and, after learning ‘the ropes’, I became quite successful in that business! I was in a position to step out of the ministry and into a $50,000 a year business with unlimited growth potential! (Remember, this was 1987).
My denomination, American Baptist Churches USA, was then promoting missions with a program called Alive In Missions. Since my earnings potential was so promising, I was encouraged to make a pledge of $25,000, to be given over four or five years, as I remember.
That summer God began to speak to me about His will for my future! I was not to be pursuing a career selling insurance and securities! He wanted me to continue being a pastor! I struggled, but finally relented. I would do what He planned for me to do!
I was called to be the pastor of Olive Branch Baptist Church in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, 25 miles south of Pittsburgh. I had a blessed ministry as the spiritual leader of wonderful Southwest Pennsylvania people for almost twelve years!
But what about my $25,000 pledge to Alive In Mission? I could no longer fulfill that pledge on a pastor’s salary while providing for my wife and two teenage daughters. But I don’t take lightly the promises I make! As I prayed about this dilemma, I asked God, “What can I do? I can’t give that much money now!” I heard the Lord answer, “You can walk!” Yes, I can walk!
- I had been walking and/or jogging for 21 years, ever since I stopped smoking three packs a day! I was in the Air Force, and a pack of cigarettes was only twenty cents. I quit because I could hardly walk up the hill from my barracks to the Maintenance Control office where I worked at the Saratoga Springs Radar Station! So I set out for myself a three-mile course, and I had trouble making the three miles just walking (never mind jogging) the first few times I tried! But I kept at it and before long I was jogging the whole course!
- “Yes, I can walk!” I made a plan: I would walk from my current church, Olive Branch Baptist in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania to Patterson Grove, an old Methodist camp meeting where we owned one of 110 cottages. It is located in northeastern Pennsylvania, in the Endless mountains west of the cities of Scranton and Wilke-Barre.
✞ I planned my route, and I would be walking 260 miles in eleven days! ✞ I contacted various churches along the way, about 25 miles apart, and arranged overnight stays with the pastor and family or a willing church family. ✞ Part of the planning was raising pledges for my walk.
- I didn’t walk alone. My twelve-year-old mixed breed dog Kinky walked the whole way with me! By the way, her name was inspired by her hair, not her personality!
✞ She was an amazing dog, especially for an elderly animal! I never had her on a leash the whole eleven days! She would trot along about ten yards ahead of me, and never moved toward oncoming traffic. On main roads like Route 22 over the Laurel Mountains, semi- rigs would come barreling down the mountain five feet from my Kinky! It never bothered her! If she ever de- parted from her straight course to maybe chase a rab- bit, it was always to the left, away from traffic! ✞ She was very well-behaved as a guest of our hosts. Knowing ahead of time that my old puppy was accompany- ing me, our gracious hosts always had food, water, and snacks for Kinky! She won the hearts of a lot of people along the way!
- Our last day of the walk was from the city of Bloomsburg to the Patterson Grove, about 32 miles! I was used to distance walking by then, but 32 miles was still an exhausting feat!
- The final count of money raised for Alive In Missions was just over 4,000 dollars! The folks in charge of fundraising forgave me my $25,000 pledge, and thanked me for my alternative efforts.
Why do I share about my fundraising walk? Because when I could not do what I originally planned, I still could do something that counted!
Perhaps you don’t think you can do great things for God. After all, not everyone can be a Billy Graham!
I will now share with you the featured Scripture, two verses from Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, Galatians 6:9 and 10. This Scripture continues to challenge me! I hope it does the same for you!
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Remember, you can do something!
And that ‘something’ can turn out to be ‘great’!