After 86days crossing the USA I now have 4days left before my visa expires with 4days of walking to go... that'll do fine. Oh, except that the Russian Embassy has my passport & was supposed to ship it to me last Wednesday but it's yet to arrive. That could be a problem, but hey, what's new? I'm not at panic stations yet & I took a photocopy of the passport in case something went wrong so I'm sure it can be sorted out eventually. C'mon the American Postal system! You can do it! Hello from Power in northern Montana, my last blog from US soil. I began my week by being snowed in at the Grove's ranch which was a fantastic place to be snowed in at. Karen & Greg were beautiful hosts as we watched 14inches of snow pile up outside. During the course of the day I had a good interview with a sports reporter from the Denver Post who was interested in doing a story on the physical demands of walking around the world. It's a bit of a side route to spreading the invitation to pray for unity, but a wide audience none-the-less. After a refreshing stop with the Grove's I was off again the next day & I headed into a week of humbling hospitality & generosity. Since leaving the Grove's Ranch I have had every single night's accomodation taken care of before I arrived. It has been incredible. One of my friends wrote me an email & commented that these days I write about bleeding feet & cold weather & it just isn't as exciting as me being held at gun point... haha, yes, I guess that's true, but at the same time, after all I've been through to get here, I'm filled with a great sense of hope because of the hospitality I've walked into here. It may not be as exciting to read, but it's far more exciting to encounter. Karen Grove rang ahead to the Sloan family in Stanford who were out driving the streets of their town looking for me as I walked in. The Sloan's invited the Gee family over in the evening to hear about what I was doing & then the next day I headed to Raynesford where the Sloan's had phoned ahead to the Hill family, who were out driving the highway looking for me as I arrived. In the mean time, before I'd arrived, the Sloan's had pulled up along side me with 2 hot chocolates, just to make sure I was ok. The next day I walked the 54km from the Hill's to Great Falls with cars stopping left, right & centre to say hello due to a front-cover Great Falls Tribune (the newspaper) thanksgiving story about the walk4one, which was organised by Karen Grove. A few hours into the walk the Sloan family pulled over again, this time on their way to taking young Steph to the airport. They'd carried with them some muslie bars (granola's) & heat packs for me due to the very cool morning air (around -10degC). As I began walking up the largest hill on the day's walk the Gee family pulled up on the otherside of the road with a warm Russian tea for me. It was well appreciated & I sat up in their car drinking my cuppa'. They were enroute to their thanksgiving dinner so I eventually jumped out of their warm van & they continued up the hill as I crossed back over. I didn't even make it to the otherside of the road before the Sloan's pulled up again on their way back home & once again they'd carried a hot chocolate for me! We said our goodbyes once more & I continued on up the hill. I still hadn't made it to the top of the stupid hill when the Grove family (two car loads worth) pulled over enroute to their thanksgiving dinner (which was also my destination for the day). They'd carried drink & food for me also but I was well supplied by that stage so it was simply a matter of enjoying their company once more & meeting a few new Groves, Heidi, Jeremy & his wife. The trip from there was slow as I tried to push hard but was stopped every 15mins by someone wanting to chat. It was well worth the 'slowness' though. I met more people in that one day than I probably had for the entire week leading up. By 6pm I was enjoying my very 1st thanksgiving dinner with the Donisthorpe & Grove families. The Donisthorpes had even gone to the trouble of driving across town & picking my brother Chris up from his hotel, so when I arrived he was sitting up in the lounge room in the middle of a full-scale game of Catch-Phrase. He must have made a good impression because Vicky Donisthorpe wanted to adopt him. Mum, is that ok? After dinner a few of us slinked into the magnificent outdoor hot tub out in the firgid air & snow. Thanksgiving was fantastic & the company second to none. I felt very blessed. The Donisthorpe's opened their home up to Chris & I & invited us to stay with them for our official rest day. We had a restful but fun day hanging out with Scott & Vicky & their 3 'kids', Noelen, Logan & Nicole. I write 'kids' because I don't think that either Logan or Nicole would classify for that age group anymore... their cars parked in the driveway would testify to that. They were great hosts & I got to meet some of Nicole's friends from university who were great faith-filled students. A bit sad sometimes that I have to keep moving on. While watching Transformers (the movie) with young Noelen (I'd give it a 7/10. A bit more of Optimus Prime would've bumped it to 8/10) Vicky came running in & announced that she'd just found some people in my next destination who would love to house both Chris & I for the next night. Incredibly, Vicky didn't even know these people! Now that's generosity on both parties behalf - & there I was watching a kids a movie, not exactly working hard for anything to happen... Vicky & Scott stocked Chris & I up with supplies & a few pieces of 'memorabilia' including a photo of the family. I didn't have much on me, but I wanted to leave something with them, so they now have my expired drivers license stuck on their fridge :-) (it's not much but it's better than my expired socks). Chris & I left Great Falls under darkness & walked a huge 51km to a small town called Power. Chris finished the day off well, which is amazing considering the distance & that it was his 1st big hit out since his 1st 'not-so-good' beginning 2weeks ago. In Power we were greeted on the side of the road by Marcus Raba, who very cheerfully guided us to his home, where we met his wife, Pam, and their 30 year old son, David. Dave's just moved home after basically having a huge conversion & I have to say, he's one of the most intersting & artistically gifted people I've met on the whole trip. He's kind of a cross between St Augustine & St Francis... Chris took today off & instead, Marcus joined me on the road. We walked & prayed to the next town where we spoke at the local church & met the townsfolk. Marcus returned from there & I pushed on down the highway until David & Chris came & did the pick-up late in the afternoon, returning me to their home for tonight's sleep. In the morning, Marcus will run me back out to my finishing point & Chris & I'll begin the new day. And yes, tomorrow's accomodation & the next night's have both been arranged by the Raba's already. God is good. And apparently the Montanan's like to carry his generosity & love. What a place. This week I had two cars slide off the road right in front of me due to the icy conditions, I walked through sub-zero temperatures for most of the week & I also saw a herd of Buffalo, which would normally be the focus of the blog entry, but the Montanan hospitality, family after family, has just left me speechless (obviously other than everything written above). Thank you to all of you. May the Lord continue to live in you & with you. Tomorrow I'm off to Conrad & the home of Fr Michael & I'll see if I can't get that missing passport back. All the best for the coming week & please keep praying for the unity of all Christians in love & in truth. Peace be with you, Sam.
"Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ." 1Peter 5:14
ps: I hope you had a great flight Steph, and to Heidi, Nicole, Oli, Jimmer & Katie, I hope you made it to your 2nd homes safely! Happy studying.