There’s the traditional summer vacation and then there is what Mike Durbin has been doing.
In June, Everyday Christian reported on Durbin, a 15-year-old Whitehouse, Texas, boy who was out “to make Jesus famous” by walking 500 miles from his home to the Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, Mo.
Durbin was inspired to walk the distance after seeing a presentation on the denomination’s Speed the Light youth ministry. He said he felt God moving him to do the walk as an act of sacrifice an expression of his faith.
So for the rest of the summer Durbin is going to have his feet kicked up poolside, iPod in hand, right?
Not a chance.
On Thursday, Durbin was on his way to Dallas to fly out to California and link up with family members and other churches to continue his fundraising efforts started, in part, on his Website.
The site tracks online donations at only $600 of the $10,000 goal, but Durbin’s father, Mike Sr., said that’s only part of the overall picture.
“The widget only tracks the online giving,” Mike Sr. explained. “They’ve raised about half of their goal otherwise and we’re still waiting for some pledge forms. With that said, the goal is still pretty big. We do still need support to reach our goal.
“We’re focusing on Mike speaking at different churches continuing to raise money to hit their goal. We anticipated it being that way from the beginning, that a portion of it would need to be raised after the fact. It’s just amazing what he has done so far because he knows a lot of people were skeptical, even friends and family a little bit, that a person could actually do that.”
But Mike Jr. did, with the companionship of his uncle Marccus every step of the way and Mike Sr. driving a support vehicle. They arrived in Springfield on June 30th, purposefully doing a marathon walk.
“The day before we arrived, the boys came out and had their longest day of walking, doing a complete marathon, exactly 26.2 miles,” Mike Sr. said. “They dedicated the walk to Marccus’ dad, who has been battling cancer. They pushed as hard as they could to come within one mile of the end.”
That final mile came July 1st, just as scheduled. They were greeted on the final leg by local media and met on the local courthouse steps by church officials who congratulated Mike Jr. for his effort and commitment to his faith.
“I had mentioned before that this was really a rite of passage for these boys. I really felt an immense sense of pride in them to be able to complete this. I don’t really think they considered how huge it was until it was over and realized what it meant to walk those 500 miles. I saw a lot of maturity and a lot of growth in both those guys. I really felt they had a greater sense of compassion at the end.”
That sense of a journey well-done wasn’t limited to the adolescents.
“I don’t know if it necessarily changed my faith perspective,” Mike Sr. said. “As far my understanding of generosity and the ability of complete strangers to reach out, it was incredible.
“It reaffirmed in me personally that people want to give and want to support someone who is doing something great. The giving toward the kids by the adult restaurant and hotel owners along the way sticks with me. If there is value in what you say, and what you’re doing really means something, people will be willing to help no matter who it is.”
Part of the “who it is” factor for Mike Jr. came late in the trip at a stop in Joplin, Mo.
“All things happen for a reason and God puts people in your path at the right time,” Mike Jr. said, displaying wisdom well beyond his age. “I was at a Starbucks drinking my coffee and there was a man sitting outside by himself. I really felt like God was telling me to go talk with him.
“He was homeless and he said he did believe in God, but that God couldn’t change him. We erpt talking and by the time we left I had led him to the Lord. That was the first person I had ever done that with and it was just an awesome feeling.”
Looking forward to the trip to California, he was also interested in sharing his experiences with classmates when he returns to school in a few weeks.
“I feel like now what true sacrifice is and I can share that with others,” Mike Jr. said. “It helped me grow a lot mentally, physically and spiritually throughout the walk.”
And when he returned to Whitehouse after the trip – in a car – there was a surprise.
The bus for the First Assembly of God Church was waiting for the Durbins when they arrived at the town line.
“When we pulled into Whitehouse, at the city limits the youth pastor was there with his video camera and the church bus was parked,” Mike Jr. said. “The entire youth group was there with signs and we had a police escort back to church. It was a really crazy surprise.”
Danny Copeland was the youth pastor who put the impromptu celebration together.
“I wanted to let him know how much he was missed and how absolutely proud we were of him,” Copeland said. “When he was doing all the interviews and was on the road and we were reading his blog, we couldn’t help but smile. That’s our guy out there and we’re proud of him doing what God was calling him to do.
“I couldn’t imagine coming home and driving into town and nobody was there to meet me. I could have just sat there in my office at the church with my feet kicked up and said, ‘Welcome home buddy, great job.’ That wouldn’t have been cool.”
What has been cool is the immediate effect the walk has had on the life of the church, Copeland said.
“The week right after he got home we headed off to camp with those two (Mike Jr. and Marccus) and to see them get up on stage and share with 900-plus kids about doing what God is calling you to do is just awesome,” Copeland said. “It’s also had a huge effect on the youth of our church. Some of the kids we’ve had who were maybe a little lackadaisical about their faith are now asking questions and thinking about how they can be involved.
“They’ve been challenged and have raised their expectations about spirituality. Mikey has stepped up and raised the bar for everyone.”
That group of everyone should hopefully extend well beyond Whitehouse, Texas, too.
To donate to Mike’s effort, click here.