Wednesday, August 17, 2005

New shoes, a stop at the denominational offices for the Walk Across America.

On Aug. 11 a New Balance shoe store in Geneva, Ill., witnessed a unique event in Don Vermilyea's Walk Across America: the chance to buy a new pair of shoes in person, and to try them on with the help of a sales clerk.

Vermilyea is a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker on a Walk Across America, a quest to visit on foot every Church of the Brethren congregation in the US that extends an invitation. Along the way, Vermilyea shares his message "that it is time to get serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ." He has walked for more than three and a half years, and more than 15,700 miles, beginning in Tucson, Ariz.

BVS staff usually buy his shoes from congregational and individual gifts, and mail them to his next destination, said Vermilyea--who walks everywhere he goes and does not accept rides except in unusual circumstances. The shoes he exchanged for a new pair carried him from southern Louisiana to Arkansas, then from Missouri to Faith Church of the Brethren in Batavia, Ill. They had "only" 1,312 miles on them, Vermilyea said, regretting that he was not able to put on one pair the full mileage of the Illinois and Wisconsin District. However, this pair had become unwalkable because of uneven wear on the heels. Walking up to 34 miles a day, Vermilyea cannot take the chance of injury to his ankles.

After the shoe store, Vermilyea's next stop was the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., where he presented a slide show and held a question and answer session on Aug. 13. Vermilyea called on his audience to "wake up" to changes needed in American society, showing pictures he has taken along his walk of environmental destruction, pollution, development, and even road kill--and signs people have displayed expressing hatred and support for the war in Iraq. "I'm walking across America because we... Christians need to do things differently," he told the group of denominational staff who gathered to hear him.

On Sunday Aug. 14, he preached and held a "talk on" at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin. Previous stops in the district included many of the congregations in Illinois, the church in Wisconsin, and two weeks with the junior and senior high youth camps at Camp Emmaus in Mount Morris, Ill. Vermilyea was invited to join the junior highs for their annual seven-mile hike to White Pines State Park by camp counselor Jim Miner. While the rest of the group accepted a hayride back to camp, five youth opted to walk back with Vermilyea. Miner said that at the close of the senior high camp, more than 90 people walked a stretch of road with Vermilyea, the largest group to walk with him since the start of his trek in February 2002.

From Elgin, Vermilyea headed east through Chicago-land, making stops at Church of the Brethren congregations and a large downtown Presbyterian church. On Aug. 16 he visited York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, and today Aug. 17 he will be at Douglas Park Church of the Brethren in Chicago. On Aug. 21 he plans to speak at Fourth Presbyterian Church, and on Aug. 24 at First Church of the Brethren in Chicago.

From there, Vermilyea plans to walk through southern Illinois and eventually to Florida, where he hopes to spend the winter. Plans for 2006 and following years include walking north through the east-coast states, and then heading west again to visit the mid-western Brethren. Vermilyea estimates that he will complete the walk in 2011 or 2012.

For more information and a photo gallery see

Source: 8/17/2005 Newsline

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