What an incredible five days!!!! The original idea was to call attention to our efforts with Imagine No Malaria. I thought that if Randy Pasqua and I crossed the district we could focus our work for a week. What we saw, learned, and experienced throughout the 230 mile journeys, illustrated that the churches of the Maryville District have already been focused on Imagine No Malaria AND many, many other creative ways to reach out to those in need.
From the first step at Ironsburg until the last step into Eden, I experienced God’s grace in so many ways. I really had intended to reach out to the good people of the district. I had not thought about this whole endeavor as an exercise in spiritual development. I should not have been surprised that God was there before me, beside me, and even behind me (on some particularly difficult uphill stretches!). I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised over and over again.
Eden UMC on the Fairgarden Circuit was the Friday destination after leaving Ironsburg UMC on Sunday. Worship at Ironsburg was inspiring! What a start! Then, every step after that began covering the district – from the Monroe/Polk County line to the Sevier/Jefferson County line. Conversations, meals, snacks, and rest breaks were welcome interruptions, mile after long mile. The marvelous spring weather highlighted the beauty of this part of God’s creation.
I thought all week I was walking to Eden, but when I arrived at Eden UMC on Friday evening, I realized I had been walking through Eden all along. Eden – the paradise of God’s creation. Eden – the place where God’s people strive to live in Shalom – God’s full peace and justice. Eden – the experience of God’s reign.
Imagine No Malaria is only one manifestation of who we are as United Methodists, as some of God’s people. We are trying to get rid of a disease that is preventable and curable. But we are also striving to rid our communities of hunger, prejudice, hate, fear, injustice. We are trying to embrace the neighbor, the stranger, the alien, the sick, the imprisoned, the dying, for all to experience God’s Wholeness.
The table at Eden UMC was filled with delicious food. The air was filled with music, talk, and laughter. We prayed. We ate. We celebrated the foolishness of a 100 mile walk for a cause. For a few moments, we sat wholly and fully in God’s Kingdom, in Eden.
Ironsburg Pleasant Hill (Roane)
Tellico Plains Fenders
Eleazar First Sweetwater
First Madisonville Loudon
First Maryville First Maryville
Pleasant Hill (Blount) Broadway
Peck’s Memorial Peck’s Memorial
Broadway Pleasant Hill (Blount)
St. John Walland
Logan’s Chapel Camp Wesley Woods
Pleasant Hill (Sevier) Campground
First Sevierville Wears Valley
Eden (Fairgarden Circuit-Cedar Bluff & Fox) Gatlinburg
Both legs of the "Next Mile" journey are winding down. Spirits are high and God continues guiding everyone toward a world where it is possible to "imagine" a world without malaria.
Randy Pasqua (director of Holston Conference Camp Ministries) and Don Washburn (director of Camp Lookout near Chattanooga) headed out early Wednesday morning on a two day, 130 mile journey. The day began at Pleasant Hill UMC in Roane County with stops in Sweetwater, Loudon, Friendsville and several other places before arriving around 4:30 at 1st UMC in Maryville.
Day three of District Superintendent Charles Maynard's journey began at Oakland UMC where pastor Stephen Yeaney joined him for several miles. (A few weeks ago Stephen got a radical haircut
after his congregation raised $2000 for INM) Upon crossing into Blount County, Charles made a comment regarding the mile marker "0." He said, "two days of walking and I'm only at mile zero."
Charles made a stop in Fairview to have lunch with Holston Conference Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor and several local pastors. During the stop, the skies began to darken and the thunder started to roll and after the lightning passed it was time to get back on the road. Randy and Don mentioned several encounters with storms along their route, including some tense moments crossing Fort Loudoun Dam.
From Fairview UMC, Charles was joined by pastor Jerry Russell for the walk to 1st UMC in Maryville. Randy and Don made several stops at churches just outside the city including Middlesettlements and Bungalow UMC.
The highlight of the day came in the evening after the walks and rides had ended. People gathered at 1st UMC Maryville for a special communion service marking World Malaria Day (Thursday). Randy and Charles along with Rev. Asa Majors and Tim Jones. Part of the opening invitation and prayer talked about connections and how on "this day we gather with the conviction, that God is raising us up to make a difference in the lives of so many who are affected by malaria."
“Are you walking alone?” my daughter, Anna, asked this morning. I hesitated. I knew what she was asking me, but I still hesitated. I finally said, “Yes, just walking alone.” Then I said, “Well, there’s Jesus.” She said, “Of course.” And we both laughed. I thought about it the rest of the day. Was I walking alone? Somehow it never felt like it.
I thought about worship on Sunday morning at Ironsburg UMC with the children’s and youth choirs, the adult choir’s amazing harmony, the trio of young girls, the great congregational singing. I walked with Rev. Bill Clark from Ironsburg to Tellico Plains. Rev. Jim Hartley walked from Tellico Plains to Eleazar with me. We had supper and a worship service at Eleazar with folks from Chestua and Buckner Memorial. I kept thinking of all those folks from Sunday as I walked along.
Part way through the morning, a truck pulled up on the other side of the road. A young woman got out, crossed the highway, and came toward me. She said with a smile, “Are you Methodist?” I said, “Yes, does it show that much?” She gave me a bottle of water, a packet of almonds, and a ten dollar bill – “To save a life.” Katie introduced herself to me. She is a member of First UMC Madisonville.
As the day progressed, the Rev. Tim Jones and Clayton Hensley, helped me with car placement and Facebook, Twitter, and other things. The three of us had lunch with the Rev. Carole Martin at First UMC Madisonville. I pressed on to Vonore and thought of my friend, Steve Sallee, now in the hospital, and how we had worked together for Imagine No Malaria. He “imagined” hard and led his congregation at Cokesbury UMC in saving over 4,000 lives!
In Vonore, I had a refreshing moment with the Rev. Laura Trent, the pastor of Bethel-Vonore UMCs. We grew up at Brainerd UMC together many years ago and now serve in the same district. In moving out of Vonore and across Tellico Lake, I thought of the churches in the Maryville District who have given sacrificially to Imagine No Malaria and to other mission efforts both locally and abroad. I remembered a dear friend who would have loved this walk. She would have been here with me every step. She loved to walk. I will pass near her grave on Thursday’s trek. I smiled also, thinking of Anastasia, Ainsley, and Allie Lamar, our granddaughters who skip more than walk and also of Levi Lee, our grandson who can’t even walk yet.
I thought of all in Africa who walk through a landscape filled with malaria and of the many who may walk one day with no fear of malaria.
At the end of the day, I realized that I would answer the question differently. “Are you walking alone today?”
“No, not alone. I walked with Jesus and LOTS of his friends.” I enjoyed the day with everyone immensely!
Randy Pasqua (Director of Conference Camp Ministries) begins his bicycle ride across the district tomorrow. He is set to arrive at Pleasant Hill UMC in Rone County at 8 am, leaving there at 8:30. The bicycle ride will take him to First UMC in Sweetwater, Loudon UMC, Friendsville UMC, Middlesettlements UMC, and Bungalow UMC before arriving at 1st UMC-Maryville about 5:00 pm for the "halfway point" event.
Here are a few thoughts from Randy as he gets set for this 130 mile journey"
"As I prepare to ride my bicycle across the Maryville District to help raise awareness for the Imagine No Malaria campaign, I am struck by how privileged I am. I can afford a fine bicycle to ride. I have the time and the health to invest in the preparation and the ride. Indeed I believe the preparation is contributing to my positive health. As I prepare I think about all my blessings and I pray that I can live thankfully."
"The Next Mile" is now in its second day and so far the journey has caught the attention of people not only in the Maryville District, but across the country. A day before Charles started walking, the Knoxville News-Sentinel ran an article outlining the plans and goals of this special event. The Maryville Daily Times did a similar article. In addition to this newspaper coverage, the folks at Imagine No Malaria have been talking about it too devoting space on the website to showcase what is going on.
Charles (seen on the left with Pastor Bill Clark) began Sunday by preaching at Ironsburg UMC. From there he headed to Tellico Plains where members of the congregation joined him for lunch. Between the two churches, Charles did not have any cell phone service, so those of us awaiting pictures to post, etc. had to wait until about 4:30 before the pictures started coming in. Once they did, response was almost instant. "The Next Mile" was off to a rousing start and at the end of the journey there should be countless more opportunities for us to Imagine a world without malaria!
Sunday I begin a trek across the district. We will worship at Ironsburg UMC and then begin the first phase of the journey. I have been trying to condition myself for this walk. I find myself thinking physically but also spiritually. Walking 100 miles in six days requires you to have your “head in the game.”
I have been thinking of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. I have thought about all the walking they did -- all trying to follow where God was leading. But the story that has rung truest for me of late is the walk to Emmaus…the story where two of the disciples walk away from Jerusalem and end up walking with Jesus. That is my hope for the next week. I hope that we can walk away from malaria, away from a world with malaria, away from sickness, death, and brokenness… but I really hope that I end up walking with Jesus.
Imagining Grace and Peace,
On Tuesday, four of the people involved in "The Next Mile" event had one last strategy session before Charles and Randy start their respective journeys. For months now, the idea has been in place and now it is almost time to turn all those ideas into something real and special.
Part of the meeting gave Charles a chance to learn a little more about Facebook and how to post pictures from his walk. With a little help and practice we can say Charles is up to not only the challenge of walking 100 miles, but also making sure his story gets out on the information superhighway. Charles is eager to share his journeys with you as we all work to Imagine a world without malaria.
The details of Wednesday night's event at 1st UMC-Maryville were also worked out at this meeting. The "halfway point" event will be a time for you to catch up with both Charles and Randy and break bread together on the eve of World Malaria Day. It starts at 4:30 with communion services at 5:30. Other churches throughout the Maryville District will also be going on the same night.
One of the keys to success for this event will be getting the word out, not only about the journey, but also how we can all help the people of Africa go "the next mile!"
This past weekend, thousands of people took part in the Knoxville Marathon and Half-Marathon. Preparing for such a race takes dedication and a spirit to challenge yourself to do more.
As the Marathon runners mark their accomplishments, Charles Maynard and Randy Pasqua are getting ready for a challenge of their own, a 100 mile journey across the Maryville District (Charles on foot, Randy on bicycle).
Here is a little on how each is preparing to go "The Next Mile."
"I am trying to walk several miles each day and take at least one long hike each week. During appointment week, David Graves and I were walking 4.4 miles each evening. I took a 13.5 mile walk up to the Appalachian Trail."
"I am riding as often as the weather and schedule will allow outside. I am riding inside on a trainer in the evenings when I can't get out."
The goal of this journey is to help give the people of Africa the chance to go "the next mile." Over the next few weeks we'll be updating you on what Charles and Randy are doing. Keep checking the website www.thenextmi