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