By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
An important part of Christianity is reaching out to others to show the loving example of Christ and the benefit of having that love in your heart.
Two pastors who passed through Joplin last month could not have set a better example. One walked and the other ran. Joplin marked the halfway point for each, who left California one week apart in April, heading for New York.
The walker, Jim Buckley, left his home in Newbury Park, on April 1, walking 20-25 miles per day to bring awareness and inspiration to the struggle that homes are going through in America. He called his effort simply "Inviting America Home."
Steve Spear, a 1986 graduate of Ozark Christian College, departed seven days later from Santa Monica on a five-month run to raise money and awareness for clean water in Africa. He continues to run 35 miles per day five days a week. Buckley, 66, teaching pastor at Newbury Park First Christian Church and former lead pastor for 28 years, plans to reach his final destination of Times Square around Oct. 1. Spear's plan is to complete his marathon running by the end of August, arriving in Brooklyn before his father's 90th birthday the following month.
Run by OCC grad
Following months of prayer, discussions and research, the 49-year-old Spear made the decision to plan for, train and run across America to raise $1.5 million to bring clean water to 30,000 people in a Kenyan community. His run is an outreach of World Vision, a nonprofit Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.
In addition to sponsors, his fundraising efforts are coming from donations he derives from speaking at churches, community organizations or, as he says, anywhere somebody will give him an audience.
He trained by running from 80 to 130 miles a week near his St. Charles, Ill., home in preparation for the 3,243-mile run that will be equal to more than 120 marathons. He has been coached by Ryan Bolt, who has a camp in New Mexico where he trains elite runners, and Josh Cox, who is the American 50K record holder. Spear said in an email interview recently that so far the most difficult aspect of the journey has been redundancy.
"The redundancy of day after day getting a 35-mile run in is difficult at times," he said. "The constant level of fatigue is comparable to extreme jet lag all the time."
Two recreational vehicles donated for the trip have Spear and his wife occupying one and his road crew for medical, communications and other functions in the other.
Although Spear said the fundraising part of the trip has been going well, there is still much money to be raised.
"There has been a great response from people but we still have over a million dollars to go," he said. "We are fully committed to reaching that amount."
Arrangements may be made for donations by going to the web site: www.teamworldvision.org/runningforwater, texting the word water to 30644 with an opportunity to donate popping up or sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Walk raises awareness
Buckley, on the other hand, is not looking to raise money but to raise awareness about American homes where he says problems of abuse, addiction, abandonment and immorality run rampant.
As he walks, he visits homes, churches and people on the road with an invitation to Americans to become champions of their homes by inviting Jesus in and sharing God's message of hope.
Buckley's wife, Glenda, has joined her husband in a backup role. The couple bought an RV for the trip and she follows him closely.
Three years ago on an eight-mile walk, the thought flashed across Buckley's mind to walk across America.
"It was starting to dawn on me that this might be he Lord quietly speaking to me as He often does through His still small voice, speaking through my thoughts," Buckley said. "I then asked why. There was no quick answer but a sense that it would be good for me to visit homes. In the days and months to come, I was getting a clear message that I was to go to touch the hearts and the homes of America, one home at a time. That hit me hard, resonated within me and has become my passion. That was the birth of what I thought at first was an idea but which I now firmly believe was a call from God for me to walk across America to invite America home."
More information about Buckley's journey can be obtained on his web site: www.InvitingAmericaHome.org.