Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bark and Berry summit Katahdin!

Good news everyone!

Bark and Berry have summitted Mt. Katahdin, completing their Appalachian Trail journey of 2,175 miles, from Georgia to Maine! They finished their hike on October 1st, a journey started on April 1st, at Springer Mtn., Georgia. They had been hiking as Trail Chaplains, for ATServants, and, although their missions trip/hike has now ended, I strongly suspect that their ministry has just begun...

They were two of a handful of thru-hikers, (5 thrus plus yours truly!),to brave the class three conditions on Katahdin, a climb that is difficult on the best of days. Class three meant some trail closings, severe weather, icing conditions, and a general warning/recommendation that hiking above treeline would be dangerous and NOT SUGGESTED!

Cari, (now named "Mrs Stickman" by Berry), and I were fortunate to both get October 1st off, at our jobs, so on the night of the 30th, we headed for Baxter State Park, hoping to find that Bark and Berry would be attempting the summit in the morning. We arrived at 1AM, after a drive of 3 HRS., then took a rest in the cab, nestled under a quilt, while we waited for the gatehouse to open at 6AM.

When the gate finally opened, we hurried to get to Katahdin Stream campground... we went to the Ranger Station, where there were two backpacks... Cari identified them as Bark and Berry's! That meant that they had borrowed daypacks at the Station, and were probably on the "Big K" already! Cari and I went to the trail and checked the hiker's sign out sheet (mandatory check-out), and found that they had been on trail for an hour already. I wanted to be up on the summit with them, but also felt it to be fitting for them to finish without my company. I decided, rather quickly, to try to make the climb, at least part way, and possibly accompany them on their way down. I started to hike...

I will say, now, that I will NEVER hike on Katahdin on a class 3 day again! I was alone, and more than just a little concerned for my safety. I took some comfort in knowing that Bark and Berry were somewhere ahead of me, and that when they came down, they would find me! Then, of course, I got concerned for THEIR safety! What if they needed help!?... I pushed myself further. If you have ever hiked Katahdin (if not, you should) on a GOOD day, as in clear, dry, and sunny, with perhaps a slight cooling breeze, then try to imagine climbing it with a good stiff wind, rain, sleet, snow, and icing conditions, making every step, every rock, a challenge in itself!

I pushed on, surprised that I had climbed so high, and had not met them on their way down. I admit that I was more than a little scared. I made it to the "Tablelands", crossed it, and pushed further, towards the last good climb to the summit. Eventually, peering through the fog/sleet/snow, I made out a hint of the sign! ...and just below that, the outline of three hikers, beginning to come down mountain! I continued, and could soon see that it was Bark and Berry, with another hiker, Blackbird (from Bethel, Maine). They spotted me, and Bark gave a shout out to me! It was SO GOOD to catch them up top! They had been there for a half-hour, and although chilled to the bone, they were willing to go back to the top with me. We realized that Patches was walking up on us, and after a greeting, we went to "the sign". Pretty quickly, Crazy Lady approached! It was so nice for them to all be there together!

From left to right in the photo are Patches, Bark, Blackbird, Crazy Lady, and Berry!

I was so glad to be able to take photos of them all together! I was able to use everyones cameras for their summit pictures, and as a group... sure hope they came out OK!

Patches and Crazy Lady left to hike downward, disappearing as quickly as they had appeared. Bark, Berry, Blackbird, and I decided to stick together, and descend carefully, assisting each other as needed. Thank you!!! You were all a comfort to me on the way down! There certainly IS safety in numbers!

Conditions had certainly worsened as we went downward... It wasn't getting any warmer!

Here is Bark and Blackbird, sporting their frosty beards!

I was snacking on a Snickers bar... that was frozen solid! I put it in my pocket, trying to thaw it out, but every bite let me know that it was going to remain in the "ice age".

Eventually, once we hit treeline, conditions improved greatly, and we relaxed. Soon we would be at the campground. The plan was to stop at the hiker's register, log out, and get the cameras ready for when Bark and Berry, and Blackbird were reunited with parents... but the surprise was on us! Berry's parents, Chip and Martha, were waiting beside the register with Mrs. Stickman! What a wonderful reunion, after a six month journey! ...and shortly after, Blackbirds folks showed up!

We made plans to meet for dinner later in the day, and Cari and I lingered in town, getting a few things at the market, and exploring. We met with Bark and Berry and her folks, having a wonderful time at dinner. We so enjoyed Chip and Martha, and got a hint as to why Berry is such a wonderful young lady. Berry is so fortunate to have such great parents! Cari and I would like to thank all of you for including us in your "First Supper" after the trail! You made us feel like family!

Well, I'm starting to get a little long in the blog... so I'd better wind down. Thank you Bark and Berry, for letting us share in your journey! If any of you folks out there have not enjoyed it yet, go to ATServants, check out the Trail Chaplains Journal. You'll love it! Great pictures there, too!

...perhaps this is my favorite picture of all...

...and speaking of prayer... I hope you all know that I continue to pray God's Blessings on all of you!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blessings from Boni Schanil, Estonia missions, ScriptureStick overseas!

Hi All!

I thought I would take a minute to share an e-mail with you... It is from Boni Schanil, a wonderful lady who just recently returned from a missions trip to Estonia! ...Go ahead... it's OK to look it up on a world map, or "google" it, (I did!). Boni had requested a ScriptureStick to take along, and off it went to her, along with our prayers for her safety, and a fruitful mission. In return, Boni has been a blessing to us in so many ways! Thank you, Boni!

...Here is her recent e-mail to Cari and I...

"Dear Kelly and Cari,

What a blessing it was, first to talk with Cari on the phone, then to receive your wonderful card—and then to have my Scripture Stick with me and in hand on my recent mission trip to Estonia. Because I have a blind spot in my dominant eye, I often fall due to the distortion of my visual perception when there are even slight obstacles. (Earlier in the year while on another mission trip to Russia I fell twice and last year in Estonia fell and broke my shoulder, and so my orthopedic specialist suggested that I begin using a walking stick.) This time, I used my Scripture Stick while traveling through five airports making the various connections—and it was a great help to me on the stairways in the airports (many airports in other countries don’t have escalators—and I even used it in the Chicago airport on a stairway down to a transportation bus). I am happy to report that I didn’t fall once on this trip. And, even though busy, the airport security attendants often took time to read the scripture verse on my stick! It was especially helpful in Tallinn, Estonia during our stay in the old town section where we daily walked on the very old and rough cobblestone streets and walkways.

In Tartu, Estonia, where the focus of our mission trip was located—I used the stick for walking in new areas of the city. Our mission was to teach a Friendship English Language Camp/School, practicing speaking English using the stories of Joseph from the Old Testament and correlating the lessons with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. We had 26 people enrolled and had 45 attend, including the addition of a children’s camp. We praise God and give Him the glory for moving mightily through the camp in His Almighty and Healing Holy Spirit power.

Another aspect of our mission trip was to bring encouragement and strengthen our partnership with Tartu Academy of Theology (TAT)—the only ecumenical Christian college in Estonia—training pastors, lay leaders and professionals with Bachelor and Master degrees. The founder of TAT had the vision for the college while he hid out as a youth for over four years in an underground bunker, while his pastor father was taken and sent to Siberian labor camps by the Stalinists. I also used my Scripture Stick on a field trip deep into the woods of Southern Estonia to see the bunker. To get there we traveled first by bus until the roads ran out and then we walked a marshy forested trail back to the location along with our host, Eenoch Haamer, founder of TAT. There he told us his story. His father’s journals from the time of his arrest while working at the church where he was a pastor through his time in Siberia and return home have been printed into a book, “We Shall Live in Heaven.” It is available for purchase at, website for East European Missions Network (EEMN), the organization for which I work and traveled on this mission trip. The website for Tartu Academy of Theology is

Attached is a picture of me with my stick in my back yard in Minnesota.

May God bless your ministry.

In Christ Jesus,

Boni Schanil"

...WOW!... God is so wonderful! May God Bless your ministry, also, Boni!

It is exciting for me to see God working through folks like Boni! It is also exciting for me to see that the ScriptureSticks that are sent out are often used in an active ministry, sometimes even to other lands, and, on occasion, overseas!

If you would like to share a story about your ministry, or how you were able to use your ScriptureStick in your ministry (or daily walk), please feel free to drop us a line. We would love to hear from you, to be encouraged in our little ministry, and to encourage you and pray for you in yours!

Boni, we thank you for your ministry, and for your generosity. May God Bless you!

...and may God Bless all of you too!