FeedBag and the fundamental fabric of relationships

December 4, 2009

Andree Seu writes that, "Relationship is the fundamental fabric of the universe...you encourage me, and then I encourage two friends, and those two friends encourage each two friends, and those four people encourage two more." 

Lately, I have found myself forgetting the significance of relationship in thinking more and more of myself. Last year, I loved working with orphans because they forced me to focus on something bigger than myself. I remember missing my mother while working in Haiti. Not ten minutes later, and Spendy was crying because he didn't have a mother. Welcome, perspective.

My time in Haiti struck me afresh with how much we all have in common. We have our humanity in common. A selfish little boy is a selfish little boy, whether he eats McDonalds on demand, or sits hungry with bits of rice over an open fire in the street at night. The existence of others gives all of us reason to get beyond ourselves. Like Seu says, it's the fundamental fabric.

All of this, of course, came together for me this week because of something someone else said, like Seu said it would - someone called and encouraged me that I might encourage two, and so on and so forth. It was Chris "FeedBag" Hennig, a Cedarville University graduate, who helped me to get beyond myself again. Hennig recently finished hiking the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail in the hopes of getting 2,200 people to sponsor one World Vision child each. I've been thinking of the things he learned over and over and over again. In the spirit of relationship, I'm sharing them with you.

Chris chuckled when he told me that his trip resulted in only 16 sponsorships. He said he knew his goal was unrealistic. But the message those 16 sponsorships are speaking is coming through loud and clear to me: changing one life is huge. Changing two is even huger. 16 is half the Haitian orphanage I worked in. Make that 17 - his passion for others changed my life, too.

What was the purpose of your trip?
I was frustrated with my job, and I thought, “I need a change of pace so I’m going to go live in the woods for a few months.”
The hike was an attempt to combine several interests into one pursuit, specifically blogging, hiking and caring for people. It raised awareness for world vision, as well as spiritually and physically renewing me.
Overall, I wanted to combine this outdoor rugged experience with real facts rolling in my head about  poverty in the world and how it affects children. I thought that spending time away from creature comforts and in a rugged environment would help me think about that. There was one day in particular where I thought about the fact that 26,000 children under the age of 5 die each day. I throw out this statistic a lot, but I realized I didn’t really know what it meant. So I decided to count 26,000 steps. It ended up being only about 10 miles for me, so it was only half a day.                   
What motivated you?
I wanted to have an opportunity to be spiritually renewed, physically renewed, but at the same time I didn’t want to stop working with world vision. I started reading the book, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, and he made the trail sound like it would be a lot of fun. The book rekindled my interest in reading, no joke.           
How did it change you? I was hoping it would be an amazing awakening or some sort of pilgrimage or something, but it turned out not to be that. It was just about discipline and pushing yourself. I can’t say it changed my life and I’m going to do something completely different now. To summarize, I guess I’m more thankful for my friends and family and people that supported me now because of the support they gave me on the trail. I could not have finished without the people that were praying. 
I don’t know that I’ve even partially processed everything I went through, especially towards the end I really had to push myself to finish on time. In between hopping off the trail and starting at work was less than a two week transition. It was the craziest transition from wood to work.
How was it hard?
I knew it was going to be physically challenging, but I did not expect to get hurt. It was hard because I got a leg injury and had to take six days off at a time.
Learning to take care of yourself under constant physical stress was challenging. The other stress was the financing of the whole thing. I thought I’d be able to pay out of pocket, but at the end of last year, I realized that I owed a lot more in taxes than I thought. A long way into the hike I was still wrestling with it. I thought, “Should I go into debt for this noble purpose?” It was hard to wrestle with that.
It was also hard being away from people you know really well. I had good conversations with friends, but wished I had had them with my physically on the trail.
What is the message you would like to share with others? 
Life is meant to be shared. I think, if I could change something about my hike, I would have brought one person along to share it with. When it comes to poverty, or, "caring for the least of these," as far as orphans and widows, life is meant to be shared with them too. And when it comes to World  Vision (as well as other organizations, I'm sure, but this is the one that I am most familiar with), it’s so easy to share.
I hope sharing this way becomes as popular as cell phones. If you can be on a cell phone, then you have enough money to sponsor a child.
No one person can do a number any significance, no one person can do anything about a number like 26,000 people dying each day, but everyone can do something about one. You have to break it down into manageagable sized chunks of poverty. Numbers have lost their meaning really. Unless you know the person affected, they are almost desensitizing.
Why work with World Vision? 
The more I learn about them the more I love. There’s a couple of reasons why I agree with their philosophies and their methods of working. One would be that we do not discriminate who we work with. World vision is a Christian organization, but we don’t only hand out food to people who are willing to hear about Jesus. On the contrary, we work in many countries where we can’t openly share our faith. I agree with the stewardship. I know it’s a trustworthy organization. It’s a huge organization. It’s been around a long time. It’s just established, so I feel like I’m working for one of the best.      
Describe a typical day on the trail for me? 
Most hikers are up when the sun comes up and down when the sun comes down. I would wake up between 5 and 6 in the AM, pack all my gear, have breakfast, go to the bathroom, do a little reading and planning, and my goal was to be hiking by sometime between 6:30 and 7 in the AM. I always had a 90% plan, but once I started hiking I would  start walking and never stop for lunch.  
That’s how I got my trail name, "FeedBag." I would stop and stretch sometimes or take a picture if I saw something cool. Usually I hiked for about 8-10 hours and then unpacked and set up my little home for the night. Hiker midnight is at 9pm so everybody is asleep by then.  
Chris is currently touring with World Vision, and is still looking to meet his goal - sponsor a World Vision child here.        (all photos used by permission, and taken from Hennig's blog)  


angela said...

seriously? 2200 miles?! i don't understand. that's incredible.

and only 16 people. heartbreaking. if i had an income . . .