The End…and the Beginning

+JMJT+

After a summer of walking, sweat, perseverance, prayer, and mountains of grace, we arrived in Washington DC.  We walked a marathon day (in which a few people walked 26.2 miles) which ended at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.  We waited until all the walkers arrived at the bottom of the steps before ascending the basilica steps.

Adrenaline rushed through my body as I mounted the steps, realizing that we had survived.  After a summer of walking, sweat, perseverance, prayer, and much grace, we arrived in Washington, DC.  As we knelt at the altar, tears of gratitude and unbelief dripped down my face at the completion of our journey as we all offered up our summer with its beauty (as well as its struggles) to the Lord. 

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While we were in the DC area, we had the privilege of joining Lila Rose, president of Live Action, in a rally to demand elimination of media bias on abortion.  The rally took place right outside of ABC News and specifically addressed ABC, NBC, and CBS.  (http://liveactionnews.org/d-c-rally-calls-for-abc-nbc-cbs-to-end-media-bias-on-abortion/).

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I am still processing the events and adventures of this summer.  My mind fails to grasp the richness of the blessings that I experienced.  My amazing teammates.  The walking.  Guidance and help from the Crossroads office.  Traveling through eleven states.  Miracles.  Heartache.  Awesome host families.  Grace.  Pain.  Trust amid constant confusion.  Prayer.  Uncertainty.  Fraternal love. 

I wanted to write about my gratitude to the people that made this summer possible and to my awesome God Who carried me through this summer, but words fail me.  Instead, I am left with quiet reverence and awe at the goodness of the Lord and the generosity and goodness of so many along the way who made Crossroads possible.  I am truly grateful and will continue to pray for all of you as the Lord continues to direct our paths.  For although this is an end to my journey across America, it is a new beginning for continued growth, compassion, and love for my brothers and sisters…born and unborn.

-Jessie Graehler, Southern Walk 2013

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(Above:  all three walks join for a USCCB reception in Washington DC)

Waves, Vocal Responses, and Honks.

+JMJT+

We have encountered many waves, vocal responses, and horn honks as we walk.  Our team has analyzed and named just a few to illustrate the beauty of walking every day.

WAVES:  Many drivers wave in friendly response.

The princess wave:   the slow rotation of the hand.

The thumb’s up:  no explanation needed.

The trucker finger:  keep hand on the wheel, extend pointer finger.

The excited wave:  mouth open in wide smile, hand in fast rotations.

The concerned stare:  unsure of how to react, “stop and stare”.

The hand lift:  perhaps too tired to wave, yet wanting to acknowledge.

The peace sign:  we’re cool, you are too.

The head nod:  too lazy to lift up my hand wave.

“Read between the line’s” wave:  aka–the middle finger (this is definitely the least common but does still happen).

VOCAL RESPONSES:  Many people lean out the window and give vocal responses, most of which are very affirmative and supportive.  We have listed a few of the vocal responses we get as we walk along highways and country roads.

“Good for you!”

“Thank you!”

“God bless you!”

“Yall are awesome!” – It’s y’all because we’re in the south afterall.

“Get a life!”

“Hey sweet cheeks!” –What girl doesn’t look cute in a fluorescent prolife t-shirt?

“Prolife forever!”

“Do you guys have car trouble?”

“Is everything okay?”

HONKS:  Our team loves honks.  In the heat of the day, sometimes a “honk” is all you need to keep going.  We even wrote (with window crayon) on our support vehicle, “HONK FOR LIFE!”  We get a lot of different honks and decided to analyze just a few of the honk responses we have encountered.

Nice toot + polite wave

Lay on the horn honk (the honk starts when the driver first acknowledges the driver and may continue until the walkers are out of sight.)

Metronome honk (honk, honk, honk, honk, honk all the way down the road.)

Post-honk (often, drivers are initially confused but will acknowledge us walkers after they have already passed us.)

-Jessie Graehler (with the much-appreciated help from Jenna, Peter, Stephanie, and Teresa), Southern Walk 2013

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† Precious Feet {The Story of a Sacred Life} †

A beautiful account of grace and life:

Pro-Life Walks Across America

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“Nothing we do to defend the human person, no matter how small, is ever unfruitful or forgotten. Our actions touch other lives and move other hearts in ways we can never fully understand in this world. Don’t ever underestimate the beauty and power of the witness you give in your pro-life work.”                                            

                                              ~ Archbishop Charles Chaput

 

 

God shows his loving mercy in SO MANY ways!! All I can say after this weekend is praise God from whom all blessings flow!!

Saturday, July 27, 2013: (I’m not so great at typing out stories so here are the main points)

~A woman and her sister decided to leave an abortion clinic with the intent to go back for an abortion at a later date. 

~A priest comes running up to our van of pro life walkers asking if anyone speaks Spanish

~My walk leader, Carlos, and I are the…

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The Whirlwind of Life

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+JMJT+

On Saturday morning, we were running late.  Very late.  I cautiously glanced at our GPS, which unabashedly shared that our estimated time of arrival was 45 minutes later than scheduled.  However, we kept our heads up as we continued our trek to the abortion clinic in Georgia. 

On the way, Carlos randomly mentioned that we should pray a Rosary, so we began praying during the hour-long car ride.  (Little did we know the grace and the prayers would prove much needed and perfectly co-align with God’s timing).  Once we arrived at the clinic, a sidewalk counselor rushed, breathless, to our van to ask us if anyone knew Spanish.  Carlos and Elise jumped out of the support vehicle, as she explained that a lady who spoke Spanish had wanted an abortion but was reconsidering.

Through God’s grace, a local priest, the lady who was side-walk counseling, and my team mates who were Spanish interpreters and support, this beautiful woman decided to get a sonogram.  The pregnancy resource center was not even open but the volunteers there graciously bent over backwards to get her the help she needed.  (You can read a first-hand account of this experience:  http://crossroadsprolife.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/%E2%80%A0-precious-feet-the-story-of-a-sacred-life-%E2%80%A0/ ). 

It amazes me how God works.  The beautiful woman wept for joy at hearing her baby’s heartbeat and decided against abortion.  Had we arrived at the clinic on time, it is very possible that our team would have missed this honor and opportunity to help save a life.  God is so good.

The rest of the day was chaos.  Between taking (and dropping off) the beautiful woman and her sister to the pregnancy resource center and picking up another rental car, the afternoon plans were completely ditched and everything became grace-timing.  After much chauffeuring and shuffling of teammates and vehicles, we were miraculously on our way to our parishes.  <Each weekend, we speak at parishes to ask them for their prayers, for their financial assistance, and to encourage them to get involved to help build the culture of life.> 

Carlos was driving a few of us in the support vehicle; we were in the middle of a very deep conversation when I heard a loud noise and felt a jolt.  It took a minute for everything to sink in, but we soon realized that the car behind us had hit our van.  After a quick assessment, we were grateful to realize that no one had gotten hurt and that Carlos’ quick ninja-feet had hit the brake just in time, preventing a multiple-car wreck.

Carlos got out of the vehicle to see how bad the damage was and speak with the other driver.  The rest of us waited in the car and quickly realized that missing our masses (because of the wreck) was a very possible reality.  We said a prayer and waited.  Through God’s grace, Carlos’ calm demeanor, and the help of the Crossroads office, we were able to leave the scene with very minimal van damage and no injuries.  And we all made it to Mass.

Saturday was truly a whirlwind of life.  However, it was a beautiful whirlwind of life.  I still marvel in gratitude at how God strategically allowed our team to be His little instruments in His plan and His timing.  How great is our God.

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A Detour of Grace

+JMJT+

This morning, we attended daily Mass at Mary, Queen of the Angels in South Carolina.  Afterwards, father invited us to visit Clean Start, a local ministry for the homeless.  Little did we know just how much of a blessing that this little detour (to our plans) would be.

We all piled into our RV and our support vehicle and caravanned to a brick building, designated by a big cross and a “Clean Start” sign.  As we walked through the doors, we were welcomed by about half a dozen washers, dryers, and side rooms with showers and bathrooms, as well as curious faces, unsure what to make of eleven youth with neon pro-life shirts. 

A very kind lady ushered us to the storage room in the back.  She explained that the ministry was run solely by volunteers and that everything was provided through donations.  She said that she made 60 cups of coffee every day that Clean Start was open and spoke of how they desired to uphold the dignity and sanctity of every man and woman that walked through the doors. 

She shared that Clean Start provides family and community to anyone in the area.  She told us a story about a man who was on his way to prison.  He asked the police if he could stop by Clean Start to let the volunteers know where he would be, because they were the only people who cared about him and that they would be worried about him.  (The police respected his request and they stopped there on the way to prison). 

After our tour, we made our way back into the main room and began introducing ourselves to men and women who were there.  They shared their stories, dreams, and even their artwork.  It was amazing, inspiring, and uplifting to share in their joys and sorrows.  Before we left, we rummaged through our RV and found extra clothes and items that we will not be able to use and shared them with Clean Start. 

Without a doubt, this trip to Clean Start somewhat butchered our plans for this morning.  Breakfast and Morning Prayer were pushed back substantially, and morning shift started hours late.  However, this little detour of grace provided us with a true reminder of the beauty of the body of Christ in action, and we left renewed and inspired.

-Jessie Graehler, Southern Walk 2013

Mall Evangelization

+JMJT+

Yesterday, Amy, Elise, Jenna, and I went to the mall for some mall evangelization.  This type of “evang” is a very fun way to meet new people, spread the Gospel of Life, and shop (I mean, can you get better than that?).  So we found ourselves in the middle of the Alabama mall, meandering from store to store, wearing our shirts with PRO LIFE written on them in 1,000 font (not quite, but almost…they’re hard to miss). 

 We ran into many people, a few who were curious enough to comment or ask questions…others, who look at you a little funny (sometimes you wonder why someone is staring at you and then you follow their eyes to your shirt and you remember that you are a walking billboard for the babies).  Two different individuals asked Elise what being “Pro Life” meant; it was such a blessing to both educate and share our mission to uphold the sanctity and dignity of every human life.

 As we were walking through the mall, we ran into a kiosk selling Teen Challenge Christian T-shirts.  We noticed their shirts, they noticed our shirts, and we struck up a friendly conversation, which turned into an amazing exchange of inspiration and fraternal love.  Teen Challenge is a Christian faith-based program to over come addictions.  They were a true inspiration.  Jenna bought one of the shirts and we left, encouraged and renewed. 

 We continued our shopping adventure, but came by the kiosk again on our way out of the mall.  They tried to get us to buy a few more shirts, but we realized our cash totaled $1 in bills, so we politely declined.  John then proceeded to explain how he supported our mission and gave us each some awesome Alabama Teen Challenge “Walk by Faith, not by Sight” shirts.  One of the guys was also selling hemp jewelry and he gave me one of the hemp necklaces. 

 We were humbled by their generosity and challenged by their witness.  I left the mall, amazed how we arrived to share of ourselves and our mission but how we left, renewed and inspired by the witness and lives of others.  God is so good.

 -Jessie Graehler, Southern Walk 2013

 

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Adventures, Confusion, and Chaos.

+JMJT+

Our poor RV has been hospitalized in a mechanic shop for the 6th time this summer.  (Most current issue: generator problems).  This has led to additional adventures, confusion, and chaos.  But mostly adventures.  After leaving Vicksburg, Mississippi very early in the morning, we made it to 7 AM Mass (barely) in Jackson with the help of a caravanning host family (we would not all fit in our support vehicle and Carlos and Peter were bringing the RV to the mechanic).  After a border breakfast at Shoney’s, we drove to Jackson Women’s Health Organization (the only abortion clinic left in Mississippi). 

Last weekend, a few walkers were trained for sidewalk counseling, so our team split up into a prayer group and a sidewalk counseling group.  In this way, we were able to offer tangible support, as well as prayerful witness.  It was amazing to see how the Holy Spirit worked in speaking to people there.  After three hours of prayer, witness, and sharing, we caravanned to a local BBQ place to eat dinner.  I couldn’t believe how much I had taken our good old RV for granted.  Even with the gracious help of Jeff (a former walker who met up with us at the clinic) and his car, it took two trips to bring our team to lunch.

After lunch and some waiting and witnessing to curious locals at lunch, we finally got word that our RV would not be done by the evening.  We caravanned (yet again) to Jeff’s friend’s house, who happened to be a former Crossroads amazing host family.  After some more confusion, Carlos and I took off to pick up essentials from our RV (sleeping bags, pillows, a cooler, prayer books, and walking shoes).  On our way, we got word that Allison booked us a second support vehicle to diminish caravanning.  On our way to the RV repair shop, we stopped by to pick up our gray SUV jeep patriot support vehicle from Enterprise. 

Carlos and I finally arrived at the repair shop, no one was in the lobby.  After about 15 minutes, we finally got ahold of someone who graciously allowed us to access our RV and get necessities.  We finally made it back to Jeff’s friend’s house, who kindly opened their hearts and home to us for the night.  They let us take over couches, beds, and their trailer as we survived another Crossroads day.  The day had been quite altered to the needs of our walk.  We were unable to get any walking in because of the circumstances, but it was amazing how God always provided, amidst the confusion and chaos. 

Reading this post may be a little confusing, but it is a pretty accurate reflection into the dizzying confusion and epic adventures of Crossroads walkers on our route.  Thanks to our additional support vehicle, half of our walk is currently walking through the city of Jackson, while the second half of us are preparing to pray at the clinic again today for a few hours.

-Jessie Graehler, Southern Walk 2013 

PS.  If you have any extra prayers, we would appreciate any prayers that our RV (which is still in the shop) would be speedily fixed for good.  Many thanks!

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