Friday, March 30, 2007
What a week its been! I've successfully crossed the Andes & am now in Maracaibo in N.W. Venezuela. I had the ultimate Andes Mtns experience as I set out from Barquisemeto to San Pablo. The usual 4:30am start saw me trekking the surrounding hills by 8am. I met a fellow who'd just stepped off a bus & was interested in what I was doing. He was a Christian - I invited him to pray for unity but due to my poor spanish he thought I meant right there and then. He began praying for unity on the side of the highway, arms raised, cars flying past us. I guess you can't get much more of a witness than that! By lunch time I'd found an isolated yet open church perched on a hill with the most breath-taking view of the Andes peaks. I sat in the open doorway & rested for an hour then pushed on into the mountains. For the next 25km I walked & prayed along a disused road that twisted in & out of every mountain crease, higher and higher towards the highest peak. At the base of highest peak with 1hour of sunlight left I had a problem, the road forked but there were no signs and only one road was marked on my map. I decided to take the road less degraded but around the next bend I was discouraged to find that it headed straight up into the clouds. I had a moment of, "Oops, I'm in trouble again" but I realised at that point the power lines to the peak left the road just behind me but a line continued along my road (it had to go somewhere!). At 1400m above sea level I crossed between two peaks (@1600m each) from where I had a view of a multitude of valleys and mountains for as far as the eye could see. I met a goat herder and his family up there and he confirmed I was on the right road. I proceeded quickly down the narrowest & steepest road I've ever seen! I arrived at San Pablo just after sunset to find the highland breeze litterally whislting through what is now a ghost town. It was an eery sight in the twilight. Broken walls, scattered roof tiles, trees growing out of windows. The only life I found was a very old couple who who hadn't left when the new highway went through 10km south of here 15 years ago. They'd hung on, tending to their goat herd and living off the land. It was another 6km on through the night to a 2nd town with no assurence of accomodation. I sang loudly as I walked, enjoying the incredible echo I was getting off the valley walls. At 8pm after 60km I walked past an Evangelical Church that was starting it's Thursday night service! I was welcomed with open arms and was invited to stay at the Pastors house. We prayed together and shared as best we could with my poor spanish. He and his wife were incredibly hospitable. With a mattress on the floor, I headed off to sleep - another day completed! Thank you to everyone who has popped a comment on the website! They're great to read after a big walk. Please check out the comment Andy wrote under the video, it's good reading. I've had a few good oppurtunities in the past week to pray with people from many different churches over here - it's great to hear of similar fruit over at Tabor College in Adelaide! God bless you all and please pray hard! Sam.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Hello fine people! I write from Barquisimeto in the northern Andes, Venezuela! The journey for Unity continues with much prayer & adventure. I lost my sombrero in Ortiz so I'm now sporting a Puma cap through the mountains (rather fitting I thought). Just out of Ortiz I guy piffed a rock at me from his verandah as I walked past, thankfully he missed. I muttered, "coward" and kept walking. I would have liked to have gone over and said 'hello' but instead decided to add him to my intercessory prayer list. I also had a road on my map that didn't exist. The alternative route added 50km over 3 days. This would be tough at the best of times but food poisoning half way through really dented my hopes. Despite being violently sick during the evening I made a reasonably quick recovery & by 2.30pm the next day decided to hit the road again with a bag full of water and food. Much like Forest Gump, I had some people join me for the walk. They didn't join me specifically for Unity, they just joined me for a walk... I walked and prayed well into the night. My path was a brand new, unopened freeway. It was briliant. I interceeded & sang my way 30km to a Military check point where I slept in my hammock, slung under the trailer of a semi they'd confiscated. After an early start I completed the trip the next day a few hours after sunset, scooting along my own private freeway. Still recovering from the sickness and quite tired but enjoying the journey and the oppurtunity to do more for the Unity of Christians. My highlight for the week was actually a few hours before the sickness set in. I met some young guys who were very friendly and they took me on a push-bike tour of their town in the evening. The breeze was cool, the bike was relaxing and I just sat at the back of the pack peddling casually with a littel smile that said, 'I'm content'. Oh, I also had a hot shower last night - my 1st in 81days. Thanks to Brendan Donoghue you can now view the first ten days of my journey on Youtube! You can go to www.youtube.com and search for 'Walk for Unity around the world Ep.1'. Thanks Brendan! And as Paul Rowse from Melbourne commented, "Make 4:01 a daily favourite!" God bless, Sam.
Friday, March 16, 2007
I've now walked to a town called San Carlos in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The change of scenery is abruptly magnificent and it is espcially nice to have a cool breeze slicing through the 40 degree days. Earlier in the week I was in Ortiz where I met the wonderful Padre Vladimer who welcomed me with open arms more than once! His hospitality was overwhelming and he was particularly generous in inviting the Sunday mass congregation to pray for unity. He even got me to sit up the front while the music ministry sang a song for me. Almost embarrassing... I also ate particularly well. From Ortiz I made a marathon trip across to San Carlos over 3 days. The final day was a doozy. With the temperature tipping 39degrees I walked 60km from the Orinoco plains into the Andes foothills. I'd slept the night at a military checkpoint in my hammock (strung between two lemon trees) and began my assault on the 60km at 4:30am. I rolled into my destination at 8pm having just run out of water a km up the road. In total I drank 14L of fluid for the day! I was very tired and sore but was welcomed well by the Tinaco parish. It's amazing how much prayer time 60km allows for as well. Oh, and due to roadwork markings on the road every 50m I was able to work out that my average stride length is 91cm at a rate of 5.1km/hr. Oh yeah, exciting stuff I know... I also discovered that if you place a can of mussels with hot chile sauce in the top of your backpack on a 39degree day and then open it at 4:30pm for afternoon tea it will explode at cataclysmic speed over every inch of your clothes. Lesson learnt. I enjoyed my biscuits for afternoon tea. Please invite a friend to set their alarm for 4:01pm to pray for Unity! And a special thank you to Elsy and Jonathon for helping 'the tourist' who couldn't order lunch. God bless and peace be with you. Sam.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Hello! It's been a hard slog on the road to El Sombrero but I've made it. Venezuela isn't the place to be at the moment. I watched the President on tv last night deliver a speech to 1000's of screaming fans on the evils of the USA. There were Russian 'Sickle & Hammer' flags flying and a huge sign calling for Bush to be assasinated. It was frightening to watch. I have to be very careful not to be mistaken as American. The hospitality is still up and down, though I've been blessed with a number of free meals at restaraunts so for that I'm grateful. On the lighter side of life I did manage to spill a can of condensed milk over my bible and diary, which are now sratch and win tickets. I've been a big winner so far!! I also had a guy ask me yesterday why I was carrying a picture of Osama Bin Laden in my itinerary folder. I almost choked on my orange juice as I explained it was actually St Pio (Padre Pio) from Italy. I don't think he was convinced. I also managed to arrive at a town with one shop & as I sat on the shop steps getting my money in order to buy dinner the owner closed up and refused to reopen! So for dinner I ended up having 3 bran biscuits, a small mango & half a raw onion - now there's a challenge for any celebrity cook! My story of the week though comes from a town 100km east of here where I was sitting on some steps eating lunch. On the other side of the road I watched a lady enter a house with an open umbrella that was too large for the doorway & thus jammed. She turned & looked at the umbrella, ROTATED it and tried again. I thought to myself, "You didn't just rotate a round abject to get it through a square frame did you?" Sure enough, she rotated it again and tried to pull it through. At this point my jaw dropped and I could see her thinking about the problem at hand. I thought, "Don't you dare rotate it for a third time," but she couldn't read my thoughts & so, for a third time, rotated the umbrella & pulled hard. Thankfully, a person form within the house came to her aid and twisted the umbrealla through the doorway. For the past four days I have been contemplating this moment in human history and trying to understand what I saw. I'm still baffled. Happy St Patrick's Day for next week & please keep me in your prayers. Please pass on the invitation to pray for unity at 4:01! God bless, Sam.
Friday, March 2, 2007
It's been a long hard slog on the road, praying as I plod along dead straight roads across dry lowland savanna in sweltering central Venezuela. Yesterday at the 20km mark I stopped at a farm entrance to eat my 1st lunch. The farm house was 100m off the road & as I sat down I spotted someone peering around the corner of the house at me. I sat down regardless, resting against the front fence and watched the traffic go by as I ate my tuna & vegetables on honey wheat biscuits. Ten minutes later I heard a very soft & near, "Oi". Startled, I swung around to find myself looking down the barrel of a pump action shot gun. This was far more frightening than the puma encounter & I very quickly jumped to my feet & backed away from him pleading for the gun to be lowered. I can say with authority that the inside of a gun barrel is very dark - there is no light at the end of the barrel! Eventually I was standing on the edge of the highway, arms raised & trucks hurtling past me. The farmer was irrate & kept me lined up. In broken spanish I explained who I was & what I was doing. He yelled at me to "Go!" but after a little more explanation he finally lowered the gun and allowed me to return to my backpack which he was standing over. Not quite sure what to say to someone who's just lined me up with a pump action shot gun I smiled and enquired, "You want half my biscuit?" At last he smiled slightly and thankfully he declined... I looked down at my biscuit & realised it was now in a million pieces so it may have been difficult to share. I very slowly and cautiously got my gear together & kept talking to him as I did so. It turns out he thought I was a robber and said to me, "It's very dangerous around here." Yeah, no kidding!! I can't imagine why... Incredibly, as I prepared to leave, I had the oppurtunity to show him what I was doing and he was intrigued about my mission. Then he posed for me for a photograph! He invited me to stay & finish my lunch but I told him I was pretty much done & hit the road again. Time for some sorrowful mysteries on the old rosary. By the grace of God I arrived in the most hospitable town I've come across yet and ended up having a great time with the locals, sharing my adventures on the road and inviting them to pray for unity. Likewise, please keep praying. By the way, if upon my return I start talking about the time a puma held me at gun point and tried to get into my bed, you'll know it's all become one big blur.