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   Welcome. You're about to hop on the Appalachian Trail and become part of the 2009 thru-hike of Chris Hennig, whose trail name was "Feed Bag." While Feed Bag took in all the personal benefits of spending hours alone in the woods (getting in better shape, crying, pondering the meaning of life), there is a purpose greater than that for which he hiked: to make the world a better place for children. And you can be a part of this journey starting now...and help make a difference!

Start Date: 3/29/09 End Date: 9/5/09



Trail Magic at its finest

Filed under: Blog Posts — chrishennig @ 5:55 pm June 26, 2009

Thanks for choosing me over Saturday morning cartoons!

Well, are you ready to hear about me crying in the woods again? I’m not really ready to talk about it, but it’s not for my benefit…I hope it is for yours.

But first a word from one of my best friends from high school and his wife! I’m giving Nick the honorary trail name “Urban Eskimo” because of his amazing ability to run year round while living in Minnesota. (In high school, he once ran to my house from his in Ohio on a snow day…). His wife Christy gets the honorary trail name “Nurse DeFrost” because, well, she is a nurse, and someone has to warm Nick up!

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I first sponsored a child because it was a tangible way to give back to a country that I had visited. My trip to Ghana was powerful and challenging, so I wanted a way to keep giving back to support the country – one child at a time. Christy and I sponsored a second child from Zambia, a place she had spent several months of her life, after going through the World Vision Experience. These children are a reminder to us of our calling to serve in Africa and the hope that is within the continent and its youth.

Thanks Nick and Christy! More on sponsorship by the end of this blog…

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Friday 6/19 was one of those days when I was ready to quit. It was the hottest hiking day so far and not only was my temperature meter on high, but my doubts were running high and my water running low. I was also out of vitamin-I and in need of a few anti-inflamatory pills as the arch in my right foot was painfully reminding me how much I didn’t like my new shoes and inserts. I was rehearsing in my mind what the “last” 2200miles.com blog would sound like…how to bow out gracefully and graciously this year and let any readers know that perhaps a year or two from now I would resume the hike.

The trail exited the woods at a parking lot. Cars whizzed by as I crossed a small road, then several yards later crossed under I-66. The trail then took a 90-degree turn to the right, over a bridge spanning a small yet fast stream, then up-hill for the last 2.5 miles, gaining 855 feet of elevation until I would reach a shelter. As I listened to the traffic on the highway, it reminded me how much I loved traveling during my last year of work and how I missed the friends with whom I toured. I only made it as far as the bridge, took my pack off, and contemplated the last 2.5 miles. I didn’t want to hike anymore. And I didn’t know if I had enough water to make it to the top.

I looked into the creek I was supposed to cross and noticed there was some trash caught on a rock. Using my filter, I could have drawn liters of safe drinking water with little risk of contamination. But I didn’t want to. I sat down on the bridge, got out my video camera, and recorded a Debbie-Downer monologue that would probably talk most people out of ever wanting to hike the trail and let the camera know that I didn’t know what I was going to do.

And what I did do was a bit unusual. I put my pack back on and turned around and walked back the opposite way. I knew there was a town less than two miles from the road I crossed, and while the idea of walking extra miles didn’t excite me, the only thing in my mind at that time that would give me any comfort was the thought of Gatorade and Ibuprofen. I wasn’t in danger, dehydrated, or hungry. But I was thirsty, tired, and downcast.

I had been reading Psalm 42 as well as listening to a wonderful message by CJ Mahaney on that Psalm. He examines what the Psalmist had to do; the Psalmist had to tell his soul to hope in God and stop focusing on the circumstances that had him down and in turmoil.

This takes practice! And for me it helps knowing the promises of God because in them we also find purpose! But I had let my mind wander most of the day with downcast thoughts of, “This hike isn’t what World Vision sponsor kids need me to do…” and “I’ve reached the end. I know it!” Even though God continues to provide encouragement through His word and through my friends, I’m very quick to forget.

Well, as I had my back to the bridge, I tried to call hope to mind…and it was realized in the prayer, “God, I need trail magic.” Now, praying for trail magic is a no-no; it’s like praying for patience. If you need it, God will normally teach you that lesson by stretching you, not by giving you exactly what you need exactly when you want it.

As I headed back under the highway, there was now a yellow VW Bus parked in the lot I had crossed moments earlier. I’ve secretly wanted one of these VW buses for a while and with large peace symbol on the side, it wasn’t a very intimidating vehicle to approach.

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As I neared, a friendly voice called out from the van and we greeted each other. I asked if she knew about the nearby town and whether or not the general store there was reliable. She replied that it was nearby and asked if I needed a ride. I replied, “That would be a blessing,” and then she asked, “What do you need?” I told her, “I have 2.5 miles left to hike and all I want is Gatorade and some Ibuprofen.” She then said, “Well, I have that right here,” and began opening a cooler, pulling out bottles of Gatorade, cups of ice, and packets of painkillers. No extra miles walked, no need for a ride…she met my need right there on the side of the road. I was so thankful that I wanted to share with her how she was an answer to my prayer! I was barely able to utter the words, “I had just been praying for trail magic…” and I started crying. I felt so blessed and loved. By God and by this stranger I had just met. Then she did the only thing in the world that could exceed the love and blessing I felt at that moment — she placed her hand on my back and said a wonderful prayer for me while I was crying, then continued preparing a cold drink for me. Can you begin to imagine what Gatorade tasted like?

Her name was Mimi, and she was out for a few days to meet up with her son as he was hiking the AT. She started offering me food, which I actually declined because I was overwhelmed and not hungry. She offered me a second Gatorade, and I asked to make sure that I wasn’t taking from her son’s stash. She assured me I wasn’t, and even if she was low on supplies, she had “wheels.”

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I had run into an amazingly generous trail angel driving a VW Bus named “Josie” with the license plate “Gzus Bus.” She was so happy to give and help. What a blessing.

Even if this were the last lesson I have to learn on the trail and the last blog and plea for your help and action, it’s the perfect picture of the purpose of the hike up until this point. If you would imagine with me for a moment as you sit at your computer, imagine you’re behind the wheel of “Josie.” Your computer is now a yellow VW bus. What do you use it for? Where are you going? What do you have in stock? Do you have just enough for yourself and your family? Or would sharing bring you more joy and cause you no sense of loss?

What I experienced was really an amazing picture of sponsorship. It was one person easily able to meet the needs of another and from that a friendship was formed. Believe it or not, Mimi’s giving didn’t stop there. I actually ran into her the very next day at a road crossing. It was like we were old friends. I gave her a sweaty hug, she filled my water bottle, and we were both happy to see each other.

Let’s be honest. If you’re like me, you’re driving your bus on fumes right now. You’re tapped out. Your own would suffer if you gave or gave more. But we do have voices (honk your horn!) and roads that lead away from home (email friends and ask them to consider sponsoring a child!).

But perhaps you’re sitting there and you have the resources to steer that bus in the direction where you will not only be meeting someone’s needs and becoming their friend, but you’re a few clicks away from becoming an answer to someone’s prayer. And the cost equivalent is about $1 a day. Let’s finish June together on a positive note!

Thanks for reading and hiking with me. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you.

Click the banner below to begin the sponsorship process:

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