Two clergy hit the highway to save lives

The goal of beating malaria in Africa put two United Methodist clergymen on the road in hilly East Tennessee.

And they weren’t riding in automobiles, either.

The Rev. Charles Maynard walked 100 miles from April 21-25 in the Holston Conference’s Maryville District, visiting 17 United Methodist churches to promote Holston’s ambitious goal for assisting the UMC’s Imagine No Malaria campaign.

The Rev. Charles Maynard crossed four counties in his 100-mile walk. PHOTOS COURTESY OF FIRST UMC MARYVILLE

As he walked, the Rev. Randy Pasqua pedaled, covering 130 miles by road bike over two days, and visiting 19 churches with the same message.

Mr. Pasqua described his journey as plenty tough, given the Appalachian foothills terrain, but not as demanding as Mr. Maynard’s.

“I got to sit down the whole way, and he had to walk,” Mr. Pasqua said. “I got to coast downhill, too.”

Holston set a goal at last summer’s Annual Conference to raise $1 million for Imagine No Malaria by the time of their 2013 session, planned for June 9-12 at Lake Junaluska, N.C. As of April 15, the conference was a little over halfway there.

Neither Mr. Maynard, superintendent of the Maryville district, nor Mr. Pasqua, who leads camping ministries for the conference, has been to Africa. But they both strongly support the conference’s goal, convinced that many lives are being saved through the spread of mosquito nets, which go for $10 each and can provide protection for an entire family.

Mr. Maynard has a close friend from seminary days, the Rev. Fred Dearing, who with his wife Libby has been working in South Sudan for the last couple of years. Their communications about the extent of malaria and the effectiveness of the UMC’s effort helped get him more deeply involved.

“It’s been more than theoretical because of that connection,” Mr. Maynard said.

Mr. Maynard, 58, is an author, and won an award from the Southeastern Environmental Law Center for a collection of his essays titled The Blue Ridge: Ancient & Majestic. He’s in demand as a storyteller, as well.

And Mr. Maynard has been an avid mountain hiker since his youth. It was on a hike with a couple of friends a few months ago that he first talked about walking 100 miles for Imagine No Malaria.

“I said, ‘How crazy is this idea?’ They said, ‘Pretty crazy, so it should suit you just fine,’” Mr. Maynard said.

Mr. Pasqua, 61 and a longtime bicyclist, recalls getting recruited by Mr. Maynard. They agreed their effort would be to raise awareness, not to raise funds directly. And they decided to start from different directions, Mr. Maynard going south to north, and Mr. Pasqua going west to east.

The Rev. Randy Pasqua (center) gears up with riding partner Don Washburn, as the latter’s wife, Jackie, looks on.

They met along the way, serving communion together at First UMC Maryville, in a service marking World Malaria Day.

“That was a neat moment,” Mr. Maynard said.

In their separate journeys through four counties, they often had company. Don Washburn, a UM camp director, rode both days with Mr. Pasqua. The Rev. Laura Rasor and her husband, David Cheney, rode with him one day.

Mr. Maynard’s companions included one of his daughters and a longtime hiking buddy, Hal Hubs.

In one of the five days, Mr. Maynard hiked alone, and covered 21.5 miles—the most he did in a day. Deeply read in the history of the region, he found himself moved to be in the same territory that naturalists John Bartram and John Muir walked, and that Methodist leader Francis Asbury traveled as well.

He also found himself thinking about Africa.

“I thought about the fact that for most people [there], health care is a walk, not a drive, away,” he said.

The effort by Mr. Maynard and Mr. Pasqua—dubbed “Next Mile”—got considerable local media coverage. Proof that they had in fact raised awareness about anti-malaria efforts came to Mr. Maynard when he was walking one day, and a young woman pulled over in her truck.

“She walked up to me and said, ‘Are you a Methodist?’” he recalled. “I said, ‘Does it show?’ She said, ‘Well, here.’ And she handed me a bottle of water and a bag of nuts and $10 dollars. She said, ‘We’ve been talking about this at our church, and I just wanted you to know that a lot of us support you.’”

Another poignant encounter was with an elderly woman who had been told by her pastor that Mr. Maynard would be walking by, and might need refreshments.

“She had lemonade and cookies, and she was literally at her front door, waiting,” he said.

Mr. Maynard thought about sleeping in churches along the way, but decided he would need to be well-rested to complete 100 miles.  So he arranged car transport to get him home each night.

The last stretch, for him, came at Eden UMC, where three churches collaborated on a covered dish supper, erected a “Finish Line” banner and played music from Chariots of Fire.

“It was kind of nice to be walking toward Eden,” Mr. Maynard said. “There’s something poetic in that.”


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Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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