It is never a dull day on the Appalachian Trail. And never are two hiker’s stories the same. While many hikers plan and save for years to hike the trail in one straight six-month go, others hop on and off as their work schedules allow. At Sola – Appalachian Christian Retreat we are glad to help the hikers in whatever way we can while encouraging faith in Jesus Christ. Two of our most recent visits to Sola indicate just some of the diversity of experiences in our work.
First, there was a man thru-hiking the trail. I met him just outside of our church. I was heading back home (only two doors away!) to grab a ladder and then to return to the church to pressure wash the siding with one of my elders. The hiker explained he had run out of money, lost his phone, and been disappointed at the village post office not to find a resupply package a friend was supposed to send him. I invited him to stay at Sola and asked him if he’d like to join us in cleaning the church. He jumped at the prospect and proved to be a hard worker. The previous night my wife and I had been at a going away party for a friend and took home with us a considerable amount of food. I gave some of it to this hiker, and he ate without pausing to speak. Now, it is common on the Appalachian Trail for hikers to do a work-for-stay, putting in a couple hours of work instead of paying for a shower or overnight sleep. But that wasn’t going to be sufficient I thought for this hiker. Seeing that he was a hard worker, I offered to hire him for a day to pressure wash our house! Though he was a quiet man we had some good conversations over the next day. Finally, we sent him off with a day’s wage and a bag full of food, praying that he would make it down the trail to where he said he had some job prospects. When he left, he gave me the biggest handshake and direct eye-contact thank you I have ever had.
There was also a Christian couple out for a six-week section hike of the trail, fundraising for the homeless shelter they operate in Michigan. We knew we would be out of town when they arrived, but we agreed to allow them to park their vehicle at our place for the duration of their hike. We only got to meet them when they returned. We were thankful for their donation to our mission and for the couple hours of conversation when we finally met them.
We never set out in this mission to hire anyone or to act as a parking lot, but we’re glad for all the ways in which our mission can show Christian love and hospitality here in the tiny village of Unionville, NY.