Christian and I would like to thank you all for your patience in waiting for our blog to return from hiatus. My 26 year old sister passed away suddenly, and unexpectedly and it has left our family reeling with shock and unspeakable grief. However, we have also had moments of peace and have experienced overwhelming love from many of you.
On behalf of our family, thank you for the countless cards, emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, and prayers. We even had family and friends drive over 500 miles from Pennsylvania and Virginia respectively, to be with us in our time of mourning. We have been so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of love that we have been unable to respond to all of you individually. But, we want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Thanks to the generosity and prayers of Rev Jon Martin and Green Spring Presbyterian Church, Christian was able to get on a bus to come home and be with the family for a week. It may have knocked him off of schedule temporarily, but we were all thankful for his presence. Then, his gracious mother (who drove down from Upstate New York) drove him back to the exact spot he had left off on the trail one week later.
I will return to posting Christian’s journal entries this week. However, June 4th is Christian’s Birthday and we wanted to share a very special Birthday Blog for our readers. I want to share three things with those of you who have been on this journey with us.
#1 A Precious Moment
Tommy and Tammy Lanham are friends of this blog. Tammy took our Official Engagement Photos. She also took the last professional photos in existence of our family before my sister’s death. We cherish those photos and that photo session full of laughter and silliness now more than ever.
As you may recall, we have some homeschool families following Christian’s blog and using it as a teaching opportunity for their children. Tommy and Tammy Lanham are one such family. They attended my sister’s Memorial Service and their 6-year-old son was literally bouncing with anticipation because he was to meet Christian at the service. Tammy tells me that they sat behind us and her son could not tell from the back which man was Christian. He was so thrilled when he found out that he was sitting in the exact same seat a few rows back from him, that he exclaimed “Mommy, mommy…I see him! I see Christian! He’s in the same chair as me”!
After they met Christian, I had the chance to sit with these bright and beautiful children and ask them what they thought of his adventure. This sweet little boy who is wise beyond his years told me that he is ready to hike the Appalachian Trail with Christian. It was such a warm and tender sentiment and brought light to a dark moment. Christian is so greatful for your nightly prayers, kids. He will have a surprise for his Homeschool followers in a few weeks. Stay tuned.
#2 Worthy Walk
When I asked Christian what he wanted for his Birthday, I suspected he would want me to send something special in his care package or arrange for him to pick some hiking accessory up from an outfitter. Instead, he simply asked that I remind our readers the reason he is walking.
A few years ago we walked into a meeting that would change our lives as a couple, and we have never been the same. Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) was having an annual meeting a few hours away from the city in which we live. We did not know anyone but decided to join them for the weekend retreat based on their literature, some work we had seen them do in our community, and the price of the weekend. KFTC does not turn down people who want to participate in events and activities if they lack funds. Even if one cannot pay the full price of admission, one is still welcome. It would be us and more than 150 strangers but, we were up for the adventure.
We met Mickey McCoy, a former high school English teacher and former Mayor in the town of Inez who was one of the first environmental activists we personally encountered that shared his faith openly. He got involved when the streams and creeks near his home began to fill with black sludge and his water coming out of his spigots turned into a rust color. In an interview with his wife, he remarked:
“I think too that we both kind of see this as a spiritual issue – protecting the planet. And its not going to be something that is easy to do, ever. Because the Bible will tell you that greed’s a hard thing to fight. And so we basically just say: “We’re just going to have to keep trying.” We see it as our mission, as our cross to bear”.
We met a coal miner carrying his oxygen tank. He’d contracted Black Lung from the mines but the coal dust in the air near his home had exacerbated the situation. He couldn’t sit out on his porch because the air was so thick with coal dust.
And, we met the inspirational Beverly May, a Registered Nurse who became the subject of the documentary “Deep Down”. Beverly’s family had lived on her land for centuries when Mountain Top Removal (MTR) began destroying the mountaintops around her. A Coal Company offered her money for her land and she refused to sell because she knew they would just blow up the mountains. She once brought the dirty brown water that came out of her spigot to the Kentucky State Capital and asked the Governor if he would drink it because it was what she was expected to drink. He declined. Instantly, I loved her moxie.
All three of these beautiful and passionate souls have been arrested for civil disobedience, some on several occasions and they show no signs of stopping. Ordinary folks have been empowered by an organization willing to fight along side them when no one else will, and they have become extraordinary. Each has had significant successes against big coal companies with unlimited funds and fancy attorneys. It is no match for regular citizens who are tired of being poisoned.
- I walk for the over 60,000 additional cases of cancer that occur near Mountain Top Removal Sites. A study linked these cases directly to strip mining and MTR.
- I walk for the 40% higher birth defect rates near MTR sites.
- I walk for the coal miners who risk their lives daily only to come home to coal dust laden air they can’t breathe.
- I walk for Bopper Minton’s little girl, and children like her who take several medications just to be able to breathe, daily. http://bopperandmark.com/
- I walk for the rivers and streams, mountains and valleys destroyed by companies that have the audacity to blow up the mountains God made and a people that would stand by and let it happen all in the name of profits.
- I walk for the coal miners who lost their jobs due to MTR. They have been replaced by heavy machinery that further destroys the earth and takes jobs from human beings.
- I walk for the poor and impoverished, poisoned, dead, and dying Appalachian people who are expendable to big business.
- I walk for the drinking water we all drink. These problems are not merely confined to these places. Where do we think the water and air go?
- I walk simply to make you aware that this is happening. Coal companies are blowing up mountains, the settlement and pollution from the dynamite and other chemicals is being introduced into our water supply. The law says these companies do not have to clean up their mess. We say, they do. Better yet, we say they don’t make a mess of our lands in the first place.
- Most of all, I walk because I am a Christ-follower and the word tells me in Micah 6:8 that justice, mercy, and walking in humility with the Lord are qualities myself and my wife should have. I love justice and mercy and poor people being refused access to clean water in America is not justice (nor anywhere else for that matter). Poor people being forced to live with water they can set on fire with a match, air they can’t breathe because of coal dust, and unhealthy dangerous living conditions is not okay.
# 3 Make this a VERY Happy Birthday
We would love for you to see for yourself some of the work KFTC has done over the years. Some very talented folks put together an informative video. The first 3 minutes are merely historical images of grassroots activism. But, then you begin to hear the voices of regular people facing extraordinary hardships. You will watch victims turn into advocates and champions. You will see what happens when people are informed and empowered. You will see a people not content with regurgitating sound bites they have heard, but who have investigated for themselves and speak original words that bring change to their communities. We ask that you take a few moments to become inspired by people who personify the famous quote ” Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Finally, we ordinarily ask for a personal donation for Christian’s trip and his expenses. But today, his greatest wish is that you give to the organization that has given so much to us. A voice. Training. The belief that we can change things and allies to stand beside to help us follow through and achieve our goals. As a Birthday gift to Christian, please visit our Razoo site and donate on his behalf to Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, DBA Kentucky Coalition. He would like nothing more than to be able to help KFTC continue their work. They empower people to use their voice and tell their story. They teach us how to lobby our legislators and to have long term relationships with them. They educate us so that we know more than some of the lawmakers. Knowledge truly becomes power in the hands of the people.
Christian and Tanya