Monday, August 25, 2008

Alabama Minister Racks up 13 Years of Walking for Shoes

Rick Hagans, a Southern Baptist minister from Auburn, Alabama will soon begin walking across the entire state of West Virginia. That would be a lot of miles for anyone (approximately 400 miles), but for Pastor Hagans, its just another walk, or as he puts it, another “Pilgrimage of a Promise”.

The promise and the first walk that came from it started way back in 1995, 13 years and almost 6,000 miles ago.

Pastor Hagans’ walking started when a little boy he met in a garbage dump during a church mission trip to Mexico asked him for a pair of shoes.

“We were on the last day of our annual Christmas mission trip when a little fella, no more than 5 or 6 years old came up to me and asked if he could swap the toys we’d given him for a simple pair of shoes. His own shoes were tattered with his toes sticking out well beyond the soles, and his were among the best in the dump.

Many people, including his own parents and sisters were barefoot, in a filthy dump, in a rare 30° snowy day in the Mexican trash pile they called home.” Hagans said that pitiful picture so struck a chord in his soul that while he had no shoes to give the boy, he gave him something more valuable, he gave him his word that he’d be back with shoes for everyone.

A school teacher at the time, Rick figured he could save a little money here and there and come up with the 80-100 pair of shoes he’d need to keep his word and provide the shoes everyone in that particular dump would require. The dream, to get those shoes somehow grew in Rick Hagans’ heart.

During a revival meeting that spring, he told a Birmingham congregation that if they’d help him raise shoes he would do something himself to earn them. Pastor Hagans pledged to walk all the way across Alabama if his friends would pledge a pair of shoes for every mile he’d cover. “They seemed enthusiastic about it so I upped the ante in a moment of excitement and told them I’d walk across Alabama barefoot like my little Mexican buddy if they’d help me raise 10 pair per mile.”

So his walking began. That first year, 1996, he indeed did walk across Alabama. Though walking barefoot on black-top highways in a hot Alabama July burned his feet so badly he ended up in a hospital.

He finished crossing Alabama that year, covering 300 miles, (East to West) and raising 30,000 pair of shoes. Hagans said when he was able to find that boy after returning to Mexico and when he put those new shoes on his feet, he felt more like Jesus than he’d ever felt like while preaching a sermon. So, like some sort of real life Forrest Gump, he walked on.

Over these past 12 years what he has done is walk across 28 states, covering over 6000 miles for which he has been given over 100,000 pair of shoes. “It’s hard to keep count of the shoes now that groups like Soles4Souls have started backing me.” Hagans told us, “We’ve taken tractor trailers full of shoes to Mexico, given away tens of thousands here in our own needy neighborhoods and even now we have a warehouse full of flip-flops and sandals we hope to ship to India.” Hagans smiles, “I guess I kept my word.”

If you’d like to help Pastor Hagans raise shoes, you can contact him at or call him at 334/332-3932 (he walks with his cell phone).

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