I hope this letter finds you all well! I want to share with you a little bit about what is going on in my life these days, but would first ask that you accept my apologies for not being able to take the time to address you all a bit more personally. For some of you, I see and talk with you almost daily, for some others, there is distance and time that keep us apart, and still others of you that I don’t really know as I would like to, but can count you as brothers, sisters, and fellow-laborers, having common bonds in Christ!
As some of you know, a few years back, (1997), I came to the realization that I needed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Although having grown up attending church services, it never seemed to register in my mind that I really was a sinner, and needed to be saved from my sin. When I did finally admit to myself how corrupted my life was, I also found that I was powerless to save myself, and somewhat unwilling to do so, even if I could! That’s where Christ comes into the picture…He is salvation; the only way to overcome sin is through His grace…His forgiveness.
Now, you might not buy into that, but I hope you will love me just the same, and be supportive! Read on!
Did you know me before I was saved? I can only hope that you see a difference in me. That would be an AWESOME WITNESS to the power of Christ! But wait, I know, I know…you can easily see that I’m still a sinner. Yep! I don’t want to be, but that’s the way it is…I will always be a sinner, even though I don’t want to be. I may have been able to stop sinning some of the sin, but there is always sin…so, I will always need Jesus to forgive my sin.
Thanks for staying with me this far. Now I’ll tell you what I’m up to, and how you can help. A few years ago, while living in North Carolina, some of the pear trees at the plant where I worked had received damage from a hurricane. Surveying the damage, my mind drifted to an old cane that I have. It once belonged to my grandmother, and likely, her mother. It was fashioned from an apple branch, and although age cracked and gnarly, it was quite sturdy. I considered that the pear might have similar qualities, and managed to salvage a few good branches that I made into very decent walking sticks. My wife, Cari, gave them as gifts and everyone seemed pleased with them. I especially enjoyed peeling, sanding, and finishing them!
Then, I got the idea of making walking sticks that could be used as a Christian witness. Cari and I set to work on it, trying different species of wood, to find out what might work for us. We settled on poplar, because of it’s abundance here in Maine, and the fact that we were not harming the forest by harvesting it. The tree grows profusely, and we are thinning what naturally would likely die off. Cari says that it is “just a scrubby little tree, that can become something useful, a lot like us being transformed by our Lord!”. It is very workable and light, yet surprisingly strong.
Then I thought... “wouldn’t it be neat to put scripture on the sticks!”. We figured out a system of engraving the sticks with a hand held router to gain depth, and then burning over that. We also chose to apply the scripture in a spiral around the length of the stick. This, invariably, will cause folks to say, “Hey, that’s a pretty nice stick! What does it say?”. We think that this is a great way for folks to be introduced to scripture, and lends itself to possibilities of discussions of faith, purpose, Christ, the condition of man, and the like. Our goal is to be non-confrontational in our ministry, yet have a clear message and purpose. Many of the verses of scripture that we have chosen “fit in” with the activity of hiking, such as, “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”, or “Hold up my goings in thy way, and let my footsteps slip not.”
….. So, we began to make them, selling a few to help cover expenses, and giving many away, by various means. We have donated sticks to several causes, supplied them to charity raffles, handed them off to friends, handed them off to complete strangers, left them in wilderness cabins, on top of mountains, and at trailheads. What fun! We have done a stick in Cherokee! We had the distinct privilege to do a couple of sticks in Swahili. (And plan to do more, as another “branch” of the ministry!). Our only regret is, there is not enough time in the day to do more!
So here we are…This years’ goal…is a BIG ONE! Yeah, I know… I am old. (50)...and have been intrigued by the possibility of hiking the Appalachian Trail for a long time. I now have a great reason to do just that … I need your help! Whew, that was probably the long way around the barn, but I felt like some information was necessary before I just said, “I need your help!”. Yes, it is true that most of you would have been on board with just a simple request for your support, but I don’t just want your support. I want much more than that. I want you to be a PARTNER with us in this ministry! So... here’s the deal…
I had all kinds of “plans”. They were mostly all mine. God’s plans are usually different than mine, so I’ve had to constantly modify mine to fit His. Most of them were small changes though. Like, I was planning to hike with my dear friend Dave. God replaced him with a different Dave. David Barnes, of Plymouth, Maine. Young fella, a Christian with a BIG heart for the Lord. Still named Dave, though…Love his heart. So, my hike was to be South to North, Georgia to Maine. Dave and God changed that. Now it is North to South, Maine to Georgia…but it’s the SAME DISTANCE! I think this year it will be 2,176 miles. Oh yeah! They also changed the hike date. I was going to start in April, hike through September. Now it’s start in June, end in November…but it’s still going to take SIX MONTHS! However, one thing is for sure.
We want to place ScriptureSticks along the Trail, in hiker’s hands, at trailheads, in towns, etc. with the help of youth groups along the way, wherever we feel led. Cari and I have been diligently crafting the hiking sticks. They are being numbered 1 to 1000. The goal is to place at least 220 sticks, (representative of a stick every 10 miles). The sticks placed on the trail will be sponsored sticks. If more sticks are sponsored, more sticks will be placed. Up to 1000! You are also welcome to purchase ScriptureSticks for yourselves, or as gifts. The purchase price is $25 plus a small shipping charge if we have to ship it to you. All revenues will make this mission successful! This is obviously bigger than we can handle without you and God! We are pretty sure that God will do His part. So…I guess it is all up to you now! Sorry, couldn’t resist!
Really though,............. could you consider doing three things for us?
#1 Please pray for all of us, and this ministry.
#2 Sponsor a Stick. Suggested minimum donation to sponsor a stick is a mere $25 (twenty-five dollars). However, ALL DONATIONS ARE WELCOME! Also, some folks have expressed a desire to sponsor in remembrance of a loved one, or in honor of a birthday, mother, father, grandparents day, our sons and daughters in the military, or other special person, or reason. We think that is a great idea, and we would encourage you to do so. Our wish is to make this a personal ministry in every way!
#3 Repeat #1. Please folks, the most important thing you can do for us is to PRAY! If you have friends and family that would be interested in praying for us,please let them know what we are doing. Yes, this is a big undertaking, but not bigger than God. Remember, also to pray for everybody. David and I have, in some sense, the easy task. We only have to walk. So, pray for a safe walk, and God’s guidance in planting these hiking sticks where they will be of use to Him. Cari, on the other hand, will be at home in Maine, continuing to work full time, acting as a coordinator for the Mission, tending the journals, working the website, and creating more ScriptureSticks. Her “spare time”, which is virtually non-existent, will be depleted. I know that our daughter, Elizabeth, will continue in her efforts to burn sticks and help with website, logistics, etc…..Lift us all in prayer!