They do things differently in Queensland.
It must be all that sunshine.
When it came to the inaugural Sunshine Coast Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) Walk My Way event on Sunday (4 August), things started early. A ‘big burst brekkie’ began at 6.30am, followed by an opening worship at 7.30am and by 8.20am, more than 270 blue-shirted walkers hit the bitumen … and boardwalk … and beach en route from Noosa to Coolum, Queensland.
Walk My Way is an ALWS walking challenge which raises money to help support refugee children to go to school. Every $26 raised helps to support one child living in refugee camps in Kenya and Djibouti in Africa to go to school for one year.
Up front on the course between Good Shepherd Lutheran College and Luther Heights Youth Camp were two pastors in running gear – a little different to their normal Sunday garb! LCA Queensland District 1st Assistant Bishop Mark Vainikka and 2nd Assistant Bishop Ben Hentschke were determined to see who could run the 26km in the fastest time. Pastor Mark, who offered chocolates to those who could beat him to the finish line, was first in a time of two hours and nine minutes. Pastor Ben finished third, after Megan Danslow.
Meanwhile, another LCA district assistant bishop, Western Australia’s Pastor Peter Hage, completed his Walk My Way ‘century’ during the Sunshine Coast event, clocking up more than 100kms for the cause, having also participated in the SA and WA Walk My Ways, the latter of which he walked twice. Pastor Peter set himself the 100km-goal to match the more than 100 children his fundraising efforts will help send to school.
Further back, another 10 Queensland pastors – including District Bishop Paul Smith – followed and, at the same time, led by example.
A special joy was seeing the ‘Fantastic Fives’ – Year 5 students from St James Lutheran School Hervey Bay, around 285kms north of Brisbane – step out in their special hats. Along with a group of Year 10s and 11s from St James, they not only walked but, as a school, also raised enough money to support more than 250 refugee children in Kakuma Refugee Camp to go to school.
St James Principal Luke Schoff said the school had received a visit from ALWS to share about Walk My Way before the event.
‘I thought it would be a great thing for our staff to do – I saw it as an opportunity for community involvement in something bigger than us, as well of course as the bigger purpose of helping refugee children go to school’, he said. ‘Straightaway, my staff came to me and said, “Let’s take our students, too”. We decided on our Year 5s as they are our next leaders. The response from students was excitement and enthusiasm – not just our Fantastic Fives, but some of our senior students as well. It’s a great way for us to build community.’
The most senior walker to take part was Hannelore Kienzle, at 78 years, while some of the youngest participants ‘walked’ in their prams or travelled by piggyback.
What a delight it was to see old and young, Lutheran family and community friends, walking side-by-side bringing love to life for children who have lost everything. It shows what can happen when Lutheran congregations and Lutheran schools come together, working through ALWS, and supported by the LLL.
While there was a lot of walking – at least 25,000 steps per person – and there was a lot of eating, too! Halfway through the event, an ALWS barbecue jostled with the local Peregian Beach market. Over the day, more than 450 sausages were lovingly sizzled and sauced. Every snag, along with every delicious item at the brekkie and the ‘made-It munchies’ at the end of the course, was donated.
Meanwhile, the LLL generously funded walkers’ t-shirts and the beautiful African carry bags created by the Lutheran Community Sewing Group in Adelaide. (By the way, if you haven’t watched the group’s video, give yourself three minutes of joy now at https://vimeo.com/331116724)
This generosity, along with the kindness of volunteers who cooked, marshalled and welcomed, meant the walkers’ efforts have raised more than $57,000 as of 5 August, which can support 2196 children to go to school.
The Sunshine Coast ALWS Walk My Way, follows earlier events in Adelaide, Darwin and Perth, with 733 walkers and their sponsors raising $240,041 to support 9292 children to go to school.
All of this is part of the ALWS GRACE Project that seeks in 2019 to inspire the Lutheran family across churches, schools and friends, to support 40,000 refugee children to go to school to match the 40,000 students blessed by Lutheran schools in Australia.
The good news is you still have the chance to be part of Walk My Way – by walking, sponsoring someone, or simply giving a donation to help a child go to school. The Gold Coast ALWS Walk My Way happens on 8 March 2020 – and organisers are already planning ways to top the Sunshine Coast’s achievement, while the total Queensland aim is to match – or surpass – South Australia’s fundraising efforts of more than $140,000, supporting 5450 children.
Planning is also underway for a Melbourne ALWS Walk My Way. And there’s energy for a walk in Toowoomba, along with a very special Walk My Way planned for Albury in 2020, to celebrate the 70th birthday of ALWS. That walk will have as its feature Bonegilla Refugee Camp, where ALWS started when a Lutheran pastor began a ministry welcoming these ‘strangers’.
So, stay tuned at walkmyway.org.au … where together we can step out to bring love to life!
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