Last week, Correspondent Kathy Swan introduced Journal-Capital readers to the Rev. Jim and Glenda Buckley of Southern California. Dr. Buckley is a 66-year old minister who began walking across America April 1. By the time he completes his journey at New York City’s Times Square on Oct. 1, he will have racked up an estimated 3,000 miles. Below is the continuation of their story.
The Buckleys spent one night of their journey at Pawhuska’s Settle Inn RV Park south of town. The author had the opportunity to interview this interesting couple and wanted to share a sampling of their adventures during their epic voyage across the nation.
After leaving Pawhuska, the Buckley’s headed east to Vinita. They were diverted from Nowata to Coffeyville, Kan. For safety reason, Dr. Buckley’s walk requires shoulders and pull-offs for wife Glenda’s RV. It is part of the “leap frog” process she practices each day as Dr. Buckley amasses upwards of 20-25 miles.
INVITE AMERICANS HOME
Dr. Buckley’s walk across America is a mission to ‘Invite Americans Home” by raising awareness of the importance of the home and dangers so many homes are facing — abuse, addiction, abandonments, and immorality.
“We are finding both churched and non-churched people believe the home is the heart of our Country,” said Dr. Buckley. “There is no doubt about it. Some of the places in Arizona and New Mexico have given up on anything coming out of Washington, DC. They don’t even consider them at all because they are so disconnected. I don’t think they ever see anyone from the government. They are not putting their hope in the government.
“God has been saying to me, ‘Jim, you have got to get out of your walls and find the people.’ The big cities get all the attention. We are discovering the heart of America and we love it.”
Buckley said one classic examples was a gentleman who was right across from them in an RV Park in Wickenburg, Arizona.
“He was retired, kinda crusty — a little rough around the edges,” said Buckley. “We went over to meet him. He knew we were rookie RVers, had a cigarette in his hand and asked what we were doing. We later discovered he was a four-time elected sheriff of Prescott County.”
In visiting with the man, the Buckley’s explained their mission of walking across America and their efforts to help troubled homes. Following their explanation, the gentlemen extended his hand to Dr. Buckley and said, “We need this, we need this desperately.”
Before the Buckleys left, Glenda went over to visit with the man some more.
“He thanked her again and had tears,” said Buckley. “It was very emotional. It was not because he was a church person or not. He has a heart.”
Glenda added, “In the home we are so vulnerable. We let our guard down and a lot of bad things can happen. You can be hurt or encouraged. I haven’t seen anyone who doesn’t want their home to go well.”
TORNADOES, TEXAS BBQ & DISORGANIZED RELIGION
When asked about unusual on-the-road circumstances, Dr. Buckley noted California doesn’t have tornadoes. They experienced their first tornado alert when they were in Amarillo.
“Someone called us to tell us get out of the area,” said Buckley. “We look for shelters now. Next, I was on the road from Canadian, Texas, to Higgins, Texas, out in the middle of nowhere. A gentleman stopped and said, ‘You are walking across America.’ I responded yes. Then he said, ‘Your name is Jim and you are staying at my house tonight.’ I said OK.
“He introduced himself as Randy Thompson and said he was on his way to the dentist but gave us directions to his home. Higgins is similar to Pawhuska with its single stop light. So we went there. What a wonderful couple. Their children came over that night. The storm hit and we had our first experience in a storm shelter. We were all fortunate that the storm ended up going around us.”
Another unique adventure happened while the Buckleys were spending the night at a remote airstrip in Miami, Texas.
“Glenda had just fixed a pot of tortilla soup when this jeep came roaring down the road, flipped a u and came back to us,” said Dr. Buckley. “Two guys in their mid-20s got out and came up to us. One guy said, ‘My name is Jake Booze.’ The other guy said, ‘My name is Rifle. We are inviting you to a steak BBQ, Texas style — tonight. You will have all the steak, all the beans, all the potatoes and all the booze you’ll ever want.’
“It was so funny. I was on the phone. I had my earpiece in and I was talking with my nephew who had served in the military in Amarillo. He was giving me all kinds of insights about Texas. So, I said to him, ‘Mark, should I go?’ He said, ‘You never turn down a Texas BBQ!’
“This turned out to be the volunteer fire department. They said, ‘We will not take no for an answer. If you don’t come, we’ll bring the food to you.’ We accepted their invitation and had a wonderful time.”
For the Buckley’s, the side roads of America have been a blessing. Whenever they encounter people who oppose organized religion, Dr. Buckley jokingly replied, “You would like our church. It’s disorganized.”
Both Buckley’s are as fascinating as the walk is for them, it has become intriguing to a number of people. He cited one example of a Louisville church lady who writes a newsletter for around 80,000 subscribers. She was intrigued with their walk. Although she understood the purpose, she wanted to know little extras, such how many pairs of shoes the walk would take, number of daily miles, what time their day started, etc.
For the curious, the Buckley’s hit the road Monday through Saturday at 6 a.m. Although he carries two walking sticks, these are seldom used. Dr. Buckley has 13 identical pairs of shoes with three inserts. The insides of the shoes begin to break down after 300-400 miles of continuous pounding. After Dr. Buckley began his journey, the children in his church wanted to do something for him. They had a jog-a-thon that raised $3,000 which paid for his shoes and other expenses.
The Buckley’s are documenting their adventures through blogs available on their website. “God has things He wants us to do and is responsible for these incredible adventures,” said Buckley. One of Buckley’s close friends said their journey has the makings of a fascinating book about faith, determination and the amazing people who make up this great country. To which he replied, “America has the book. America deserves this book. This is a great country. It’s so beautiful. Everywhere we go there is some special event.”
One particularly interesting story was when Buckley was walking along a very desolate part of New Mexico – the high plain – at an altitude of 5,000 feet. There was no cell reception, no houses were visible. Cattle were grazing. He was wearing his military-style Garmin watch as a safety precaution.
“If a flood washes me away, they will know where I am,” chuckled Buckley.
Some people asked Buckley why he didn’t just skip those spots as it was obviously a waste of his time and Buckley has no books or music on tape to help pass the time.
As Buckley pondered these observations, he said, “It was like a voice came blaring through, ‘Is it a waste of time to walk 30 miles with Me?’ With that, it was a confirmation of something that I was so concerned about. I thought to myself, ‘Jim, you need to slow down so I can speed up. God is so fast, so powerful – I think I get in His way so much. Maybe if I slow down, trust Him more, who knows what will happen. Then, it flashed in my mind as I was going through these thoughts. WOW, Jesus was baptized and then led out in the wilderness for 40 days and nights and I’m complaining about 30 miles. What has happened to our society?”
JOURNEY OF FAITH
Buckley said his faith journey goes back to his childhood. He lost his mom when he was ten years old. Although he was a Christian, he was concerned about also losing his dad.
“I had put my mom first. After a process of years, I realized I needed to put Jesus first,” said Buckley. “My morning walks are prayer walks where I chat with the Lord. I’m not always pouring out spiritual things. It was on an eight-mile prayer walk where I got this thought to take a long walk. I figured it was the Lord speaking to me. But I was kinda teasing him and said, ‘I’m on an eight-mile walk. What do You want me to do, walk across Utah?’ I was in Utah at the time. Then I got an immediate response – without words – just thoughts. ‘No, take a walk across America.’ I wasn’t thinking that. It had to be from the Lord.”
Glenda interjected, “People have asked if this walk was part of his bucket list. He had never had a bucket list.” Buckley added, “I’m too calculated, too disciplined, plus a full-time employee. I teach twice a year in Europe. We have a grown family with three of them in town with grandchildren. We are busy full time in the church. I moved from my senior position to one called Teaching Pastor. Someone said, ‘I heard you retired.’ I responded that I had moved from 60 hours a week to 80 hours. It was that morning that I got two more words, ‘Go home.’ We were visiting our son and thought God meant me to return to our home. I was hearing messages from the Lord that I wasn’t understanding. When I told Glenda I thought God wanted me to walk across America, she asked if she could come along with me. That was almost the beginning of the thinking process and it’s been confirmed all along. I knew it would be challenge.”
Glenda also has her daily prayer walks but explained she has to walk in a circle wherever she is parked.
“One day there were three words that came to me that have to do with what we are telling people,” she said. “These are: (1) Commit to your home; (2) Connect in your home — we are so splintered, one of the things we ask people to do is to have one meal together at least once a week without electronics and where you just really share and pray; and (3) Care.”
She added, “Talking to Jesus is called prayer. Listening to Him is the Bible. If you are around someone who is magnificent all the time, you are going to make changes in your life — a changed life, a transformed life. That is the kind of home you want others to have. It’s not that you are better, you’ve been blessed and you want to share it.”