Old Hiking Boots in Pursuit of Peace

Brad Martell

I have a pair of 14 year old hiking boots in my closet. The toes are scuffed and the leather is gouged in many places. The soles are degrading from the many miles of tails I have walked, the streams I have waded through, and the rocks and roots I have stumbled over. I have worn them while backpacking along beaches in the Gulf of Mexico and across glaciers in Alaska. They have been on my feet while hiking in the Green Mountains along the Appalachia Trail in New Hampshire, and in the Rich Mountain Wilderness in North Georgia.

I purchased these boots because of an answer to prayer.

Fourteen years ago my spouse Lori and I lived in Seattle, Washington as newlyweds. We moved to Washington so that I could get residence within a year to pay in-state tuition for graduate school at the University of Washington. During that year I worked as a bank teller and didn’t like it much, but it paid the bills. Lori did freelance graphic work for a number of companies in downtown Seattle. We had great friends and a lovely congregation. Living in Seattle was a wonderful experience, but we were also very restless, not fully content with our lives.

I thought I was restless because I could not wait to go to grad school, but that was still almost a year away. We began praying together before going to sleep at night asking for God’s Spirit to guide us and bring us peace.

After many weeks of prayer we received a phone call from my college roommate. He was living in Chicago and disliking his job. While we talked I told him that what he needed to do was ditch his job and enroll in an experiential education, environmental studies graduate program. You travel, live on a school bus, and sleep outside every night. Lori had learned about the Audubon Expedition Institute (AEI), years before we even got married. While on the phone I asked Lori where she kept that AEI catalog. With a puzzled look she told me. I found the catalog and gave my friend the 800 number.

Once I hung up, Lori asked me why I wanted the catalog. While I told her I noticed an excited look in her eyes. “Brad, last week I was working downtown, and I asked myself: If I could do anything what would it be? Guess what it was? It was the AEI program.” Feeling the Spirit’s presence and knowing God was answering our prayers, it all clicked in that moment for both of us. That night we ordered a new catalog. And in one month we had both applied and we were accepted into the master’s program in environmental education for that fall. We laced up our hiking boots and prepared for the adventure.

Our two years on “The Bus” transformed our lives forever. It brought us even closer in our relationship to God and cultivated our ministry for the healing of God’s Creation.

I purchased these boots because of an answer to prayer.

Fourteen years ago we felt God’s Spirit moving in our lives, guiding us, and preparing us for how we could more fully live out and share the Enduring Principle of Pursuit of Peace (Shalom).

A pair of hiking boots might seem a strange answer to prayer, but the paths I walked in those boots have brought me to an overflowing passion for peace and justice ministries. I challenge you to pray to God for direction in your own life. And then be open for God to surprise you!

Enduring Principle: Pursuit of Peace

  • God wants shalom (justice, reconciliation, well-being, wholeness, and peace) for all of creation.
  • Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom (peace), reveals the meaning of God’s peace in all aspects of life.
  • The vision of Zion is to promote God’s reign on earth, as proclaimed by Jesus Christ, through the leavening influence of just and peaceful communities.
  • We courageously and generously share the peace of Jesus Christ with others.
  • Led by the Holy Spirit, we work with God and others to restore peace (shalom) to creation.

Read the “We Share Document” with our 9 Enduring Principles.

Brad A. Martell is Peace and Justice Ministries Specialist at Community of Christ World Headquarters. He is currently working on his doctorate in environmental studies with an emphasis in ecological theology.

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