I had the special privilege to speak in chapel at Xenia Christian Elementary School (grades 1-5) this past Tuesday. I always enjoy talking about my hike, the AT itself, some of the ways that God is preparing my path, and my hopes of financially helping students attend my school. I only shared about 15 minutes but I loved the look on the faces of the students as I shared about camping outside for 120 days, of walking through 14 states and hiking over mountains and through streams. I shared a little about my fears – snakes, thunderstorms and the wilderness at night – but how God’s faithfulness is greater than my fears (Psalm 91:9-15).
Friday morning I had the opportunity to give a devotional thought to the faculty at Xenia and to my surprise after I was finished, the 5th grade teacher shared how the excitement of her class after hearing my story in chapel. She asked if I would come to her class sometime and share some more – I excitedly said, “Sure, you name the day and time.” She quickly responded, “How about today at 8:30?” (it was 7:50). I accepted on the spot and 40 minutes later I was welcomed into her classroom with warm hospitality.
The first experience was part of their daily routine – all of the students, the teacher and myself went up on a stage in the classroom. After we all climbed up the three steps, a student closed the curtain so we were separated from the rest of the classroom. Each student had a cardboard shield that they had made during the first few weeks of school. On the front of their shields, the students listed their fears and concerns – on the back was a Bible verse. Each student read their verse (most had it memorized) and then each had the opportunity to pray if he/she wanted to (I heard so many sweet, sincere prayers for siblings, friends, parents and even for my hike). At the end of the shield time, I knelt down, the students gathered around me, each placing a hand on my shoulders (or my head) and the teacher prayed for my trip and for God’s blessing and protection on my adventure. I can’t remember when I was more encouraged.
After this special time on the stage, we came back to the classroom and the students asked questions. The teacher had them journal after my chapel and they wrote questions that they wanted to ask. For the next half hour they peppered me with great questions – I could not believe that they were so interested in the adventure. “Describe your tent. Are you going to take a Bible? What kind of shoes are you going to wear? Describe what you will eat on a typical day. How are you going to get back? Are you going to take a weapon? Will you take a flare in case you get lost? Are there bathrooms along the trail? What will be the most difficult part of the trail? Can you take a shower? What are you going to do if you get hurt?” etc.
The teacher was so excited and her enthusiasm bubbled over into the students’ attitudes and attention. When I left the classroom I could not help but think of the richness of that classroom and what a joy it must be to be a part of that 5th grade community every day. Walking down the empty hall, I thought to myself – THIS is why I will make it to Katahdin.