Pastors commit to hike, mountain climb to help children in poverty
Some Christians walk the walk, but Granbury Baptist Church pastors Shawn Lutgen and Lonnie Lehrman go the extra mile – and then some.
On Monday, Aug. 19 the two will leave for an arduous hiking adventure that will serve two purposes: commemorate their 50th birthdays this year, and raise money to help children living in poverty.
MANNA’s Hike for Hunger, a fundraiser for MANNA Worldwide, will be an 18-day, 220-mile trek along the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. The scenic trail passes through Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
The last day of the hike will be Friday, Sept. 6.
Lutgen said that he and Lehrman will be hiking northbound from Sequoia National Park to Yosemite National Park with about a dozen other men, some of whom are fellow pastors.
“It’s a good group of guys,” he said.
The hikers’ agenda includes scaling Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States and the Sierra Nevada, with an elevation of 14,505 feet.
Lutgen, whose 15-year-old twin sons Parker and Preston play football for Granbury High School, plans to plant a Granbury Pirates flag there “so Granbury will be on top of the United States.”
Money raised will fund projects in Guatemala, Mexico and the United States. The U.S.-based project is a backpack program to provide weekend food assistance for children who might otherwise go hungry.
In addition to feeding about 1 billion children across the globe, MANNA Worldwide has dug water wells, provided water filtration equipment, given away shoes, and held medical and dental clinics.
“I’m super passionate about MANNA,” said Lehrman, whose college buddy, Bruce O’Neal, is the organization’s founder.
TRAINING FOR THE TREK
Lehrman is Granbury Baptist’s lead pastor, and Lutgen is the administrative pastor. They are each training for the trip in their own way.
Lutgen is walking to and from work each day in the summer heat – a distance of about 14 miles. He lives in Meander Estates, and the church is located on Weatherford highway.
The round-trip takes him almost four hours, and he lugs a heavy backpack to simulate the load he will have to carry on the John Muir Trail.
“Thankfully, the weather will be a little bit different there,” Lutgen said of the cooler temps that are characteristic of high altitudes. “The weather will be in the upper 70s for the highs and in the 30s at night.”
Lehrman’s training consists of a combination of walking, biking and running.
“In the last 5 1/2 days, I’ve done 78 miles,” he said Monday.
Both men said they are also doing weight training.
Lutgen said that his wife Chrissy is “excited” about his plans, even though “she’s worried about bears, or about me falling off of a cliff.”
The hikers will have two satellite phones with emergency beacons so that help can be summoned quickly in the event of an emergency, he said.
Lehrman, too, has support from his family.
He and his wife Heather have three children – Blaze, 21, who is a senior at a Bible college; Cole, 18, who is a freshman in Bible college; and a 13-year-old daughter, Hope, who is going into 8th grade at Acton Middle School.
Lehrman said that Hope promised him that she and her friends will walk every day after school while he’s gone and pray for him and the other hikers.
The pastor said that both his sons contributed to MANNA Worldwide through a lawn mowing service they operated that also raised money to help fund their college educations.
Lutgen said that MANNA Worldwide has “loosened the grip of poverty on a lot of families.”
Both men said that Gran-bury Baptist supports the MANNA organization as well as their upcoming hike to raise money for MANNA programs.
“The church is excited,” Lutgen said. “They’re helping us financially with travel. We give about a quarter of a million to missions every year, and a big percentage of that is through MANNA.”
More information about MANNA Worldwide can be found at mannaworldwide.com. Online donations can be made there as well.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 817-573-7066, ext. 258.