We had talked about it before the trip, wondering if we would see any of over 500 people to whom we gave apples, shared camp with and served in BENCHMARK’s ‘popup cafe’. I didn’t expect to see anyone, thinking that the “bubble” would be further north than where we were hiking. But I was wrong.Up and across the marvelous Virginia and Grayson Highlands washed in great views, great weather and of course, ‘wild’ ponies and gathering great memories together.After leaving the Grayson Highlands and the Mt. Rogers area, we were heading down a long slow decline. Heading up the trail came a married couple we remembered from Georgia. He is a larger, gruff man with a full black beard and thick northern accent. He and his petite wife were steadily hiking that very long hill. They were from “New”…New York or New Jersey. They too recognized us or at least they said they did. We chatted a couple of minutes and off they went. Three months of their journey put them completing about 495 miles. That’s lots of miles done, but even more yet to go. They were “behind” but still moving.As we continued down the trail I honestly asked my wife, “do you think it really makes that much of a difference. Do you think people really remember us and what we all do on the Appalachian Trail Outreach.”Not far down the trail the Evans herd stopped for a potty break…and lunch. We heard the voices of a young couple. They were moving along pretty well. We recognized them. We think they recognized some of us. It had been 3 months.We asked about their hike. Three months into their hike, most thru-hikers should be around the 1000-mile mark. “Wing Nut” & “Foxy”, trail names, almost no one uses their real name thru-hiking the AT, happily chatted about days since we last saw them last.They had left the trail for some time to recover from knee problems spending some time beach hopping. That time off the trail had hampered their long distance hiking progress. But then their memories, without help, got better.“Oh man, yours was the best trail magic. That big shelter. The food. Those dutch oven desserts, that was the best. We compare everybody else to your trail magic because it was so good.”We signed Wing Nuts backpack and off we all went with smiles on our faces.
There you have it, 3 months later, some still remember. We made an impression…in Christ’s name.
We hope they remember the great food, the wonderful dutch oven desserts, the kind service, the clean conversation, the willingness to help. Most of all, we hope they remember that the reason we serve them is because we have been served. We share before each meal, that it is our relationship with Christ, his service to us that compels us to serve.
I have served poorly. We miss the mark. There are times when service is not well received. Perhaps I serve others how we want to serve instead of how they need to be served. I missed. Still do…and that’s just in my own home. But I’m still trying. From time to time, I serve well. It’s meaningful for servant and receiver. It makes us both smile.
Though there are times when I think I am done, at this point, I’ll try to learn from the times I have served poorly, celebrate God’s good work in and through me when I serve well and leave God with the results. There is no guarantee that it will change the world. But it may plant some memories that God can use to change a life.
by James H. Evans