“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!