Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Opelika Pastor Walks to Raise Shoes

For the last 18 years, pastor Rick Hagans, 51, from First Baptist Church in Opelika, AL has been lacing-up his walking shoes and taking to America’s roads in an effort to gather shoes because of a promise he made to a little boy.

One Christmas while in Mexico delivering toys to children, a little boy, between the ages of five and six, asked Hagans if he could trade his toy for a pair of shoes.

That moment stuck with Hagans. Since that time he has been collecting shoes for what he calls the “Pilgrimage of a Promise.”

Now working with Soles4Souls, Hagans collects about 10,000 pairs of shoes a year for people in Mexico, all while making an annual walk across different states. For every pair of shoes Hagans collects, Soles4Souls matches the contribution.

Currently, he’s walking across Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut.

“So far we’ve walked a total of about 300, 310 miles and we got another 70 or 80 (miles) to go,” Hagans said.

He expects to finish his walk by Thursday. Monday, he was in Newhaven, Conn.

“I always try to walk about 400 miles because that’s what I can walk in a month,” he said.

Since beginning his annual treks, Hagans has walked more than 6,500 miles and collected more than 150,000 shoes. When he completes his journey on Thursday he will have walked 32 of the 50 states.

This year, things are a little different on the pilgrimage, Hagans’ son, Chester Hagan, 19, is following in his father’s footsteps — literally.

Chester joined his father on the walk in an effort to raise more than 800 pairs of shoes for a Guatemalan village.

“We went up there one day to one of the villages, people didn’t have shoes,” Chester said. “I can get a pair of shoes for everybody.”

The village has about 800 residents.

Hagans partners with Times Square Church to gather the shoes and get them to Mexico and Guatemala.

In addition to collecting the shoes and keeping a very important promise, getting out on the road puts him in touch with people and he prays with people anytime he gets the chance.

“People are very needy for the word I have to share ...” he said. “To me it’s a lot more like Jesus than sitting in a stained glass sanctuary that’s insulated and isolated … Jesus never had a car, never got an airplane ticket.”

Hagans said in addition to collecting shoes and meeting and praying with new people, he hopes to set a record.

“The best I can tell nobody has ever walked across all 50 states,” he said. “I’m over half way.”

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