The Long Walk
It started as a crazy idea that developed into an audacious plan that moved into - okay we'd better do this thing! Once a year, the charity that I work for, requires all staff to run a fundraiser in order to support the work that we do. I love a challenge and I love my job, so I was excited at the thought of combining both adventure and my passion for the work that I do in supporting Eden teams around Yorkshire.
Eden work in the top 10% of most deprived communities across the UK. People move onto the estate, partner with the local church and do life with their new neighbours, showing the love of Jesus as they go about buying milk and bread or running a youth outreach event at the local park. It is long-term relational work, not a parachute in-and-out ministry and I love it. I love supporting new teams who are full of energy and vision and ready to go. I love supporting tired teams who maybe have lost energy but still have a deep rooted love for Jesus and their community. I love the stories of transformation from when a person understands who they are in Christ and are released from the bondage of self-doubt and hopelessness. So, my fundraiser had to be big. It had to be bold. It had to help tell the stories of those people who sacrificially live on some of our toughest estates.
I had an idea of walking between the furthest Eden teams that I supported. In the North is Hexham and in the South is Nottingham; something like 161 miles as the crow flies. Probably a little bit too far to walk in a couple of days. In the West is Bradford and in the East is Redcar; 76 miles to walk, definitely an achievable walking distance. After a few days of trying to find a walking route that avoided all the major arterial roads I stumbled across the Yorkshire Wolds Way. 79 miles of walking that starts in Hull and ends in Filey; two of the most deprived places in Yorkshire. This fit all my requirements. Distance, location, timing, it all worked.
Now for those who have followed me for a while, you know that we are a family that does mission together. So when I asked my eldest son if he would want to go on this adventure with me I already knew the answer. My middle son was mid GCSEs and I don't think that carrying a 7kg pack for 3 days was my daughter's idea of how to have a good time. So one-on-one quality time with my son whilst raising money for a charity that I am passionate about sounded exciting. I had a feeling that this was going to be a good adventure.
I would definitely say that I am organised. Solo parenting 3 kids whilst working full time, has a tendency to bring this skill to light even if it didn't already exist. So I planned everything. Campsites, routes, snacks, meals, travel to and from, support teams; you name it, it probably got written into my planning schedule. 26 miles a day for 3 days and job done. The mere fact that we had only ever walked a maximum of 13 miles in a day only crossed my mind a couple of times! Surely that would make it even more of an adventure?
The day came to finally travel to Hull. I was finally starting to get nervous. Would we even manage to complete this thing? Would we last the distance or get injured and have to be medevac'd off?
The trains to Hull were delayed which meant we missed our connections. We arrived on a Wednesday night in the middle of Hull and went to try and find our accommodation for the night. A Wetherspoons pub the night before a 4 day 'bender' weekend was probably not the best location for a restful sleep, but we made the most of the 'adventure'.
On an aside note, I do use the word 'adventure' a lot during this recollection. I think that life is way too negative. We can chose to not latch on to negativity and instead chose to speak life into desperate situations.
Adventure is the word that I chose to use to describe situations that are often out of my control, which can be a scary place. But ultimately I know that God promises to surround me with His love and protection.
So I chose to walk that unknown path with a spring in my step wondering with anticipation, about what or who I might meet along the way.
We woke the next day, a little sleep deprived and a bit like rabbits in the car headlights, but the weather was beautiful which was good as the train was delayed again! And then we were off. Social media plan in place. Support teams in place. Kit on our backs.
Over those 3 days we went through hell. We both got blisters on every single toe. We couldn't eat enough calories which meant we felt physically sick all the time. Jacob's back was in agony, an old football injury that continued to raise its ugly head. We ran out of water. I started my period, which is not good as my body is always low in iron. And 26 miles is actually a really long way - who knew! But we kept going. I literally reached the end of my reserve and as that happened, I saw Jacob emerge into this beautiful, resourceful, strong young man. My whole life I had nurtured, cared for, encouraged, prayed for, cried with, fed, challenged and loved this human being. And now when I was at the end of my own strength, the strength that I had poured into him began to flow back out. It was such a precious time.
I've spent all of their lives protecting them as any parent would. They have all experienced so much trauma in their young lives, some of which I couldn't protect them from. To be honest, the shame of that lives with me. But as parents, we cannot shield our children from every evil that this world houses. We are not super human. All we can do is raise them in a way that they want to change the world around them for the better. During that adventure, Jacob got to see the not so super-human me.
One of the reasons that we are a family on a mission is that I want them to see first-hand what God is doing in and through people across the UK. To see what it means to live an authentic Christian life. And to experience the adventure of following Jesus for themselves. As you live life so authentically open we cannot help but be changed in a way that gives us opportunity to positively affect the world around us. So here were Jacob and I, end of day 1 of a 3 day L-O-N-G walk, and the reality of what I had sowed into him was being poured out on my broken body.
We were both so blessed on the walk. Our two physical support teams were amazing. The number of texts, social media messages and phone calls that we got from people lifted our spirits. The kindness that people showed us along the way and the amazing conversations that we had with people along the journey was beautiful. We started the journey wanting to help support those Eden teams who give up so much to support those around them and we did that, but we got so much more in return which surpassed the physical pain that we went through.
So in all the craziness of our adventure I hope that you feel encouraged to live out your own adventures. They don't have to be meticulously planned, involve carrying stuff on your back or even involve train journeys (try to leave the train journeys out if you want to get anywhere on time). If you have children, involve them along the way. Teach them all the things you would have liked to know about when you were their age. Ready them for their own adventures when they have flown the nest and are ready to soar into the world on their own. It is through adventuring that memories are made which changes the way that our world goes around.