Dear Chappy Jack,
I can’t help but feel a chill run down my spine as I think about the incredible journey you are about to embark on, the community you are about to become part of, and the transformation you are about to experience on the trail.
Like myself, I know that you have dreamt of walking the trail for year and years. Like myself, I bet you had no idea you’d be serving as the AT Chaplain for Holston when those dreams started brewing in your heart. I’m sure you are experiencing a wild mix of hopes and dreams alongside fears and questions.
Will the trail be anything like what you expect and have prepared yourself for? How will you wield the name of Christ in a community where the Lord is both ever-present through nature but often forgotten by those wandering down the path? Will your body stand up to the seemingly infinite miles between Georgia and Maine? How much will you miss your family and comforts of home? How will you balance your role as Trail Chaplain with your personal journey on the trail? For goodness sake, what will you do when you would rather be water boarded than eat another pack of ramen noodles and instant mashed potatoes?
Take my words with a grain of salt, but here’s what I’d like to impart:
· Embrace the suck—there is plenty of it on the AT, from cold rain to oppressive heat and feet that look and feel like they went through a meat grinder. You’ll miss this dearly when you enter the bland comfort of normal life again. Laughter is the best medicine.
· You are about to walk through the closest thing to Eden I’ve ever known. The Lord will come walk alongside you in the cool of the afternoon if you let Him. Don’t be afraid to walk with just the Lord for a few days. You have to be fed to feed others.
· Take Solomon’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes seriously—there is a time for everything; a time to share faith and time to simply live honestly in front of other hikers, a time to give prayer and time to receive it, a time to hike and a time to stay put.
· Never pass up a good meal—always pack out the leftovers (if there are any).
· Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s hanging your bear bag at mile 1500 or a ride to town and place to stay with a random stranger.
· Pick all the blueberries in New England. Schedule at least 90 minutes per day for this.
· Give yourself grace to adapt to life on the trail. Each section holds new challenges.
· There’s no shame in riding out a storm in the Motel 6 or hiking a 3 mile day just because you can.
· Become best friends with Miss Janet; she’s a true AT gem.
· Remember SLRTT in every town: Shower, Laundry, Resupply, Trash, TP and you’re golden.
· Use the long days of grinding out miles to incessantly intercede for other hikers.
Chappy Jack, you’re going to make your Father proud. I simply can’t wait to see how your journey unfolds.