Little did I know that in 2010, when I set out to thru-hike the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, I’d be setting the stage for the beginning of an Eden Village of Tulsa. I was founder and owner of LawnAmerica in Tulsa, and took off on a 5-month journey to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, or AT as it’s called. Folks followed my blog while on the journey and we raised over $100k for local Tulsa charities. I learned a few things while on the AT, which I wrote about in a book I published, A Compassionate Journey. One was how a thru-hiker is really happy with food, water, clothing, and shelter, with all the other stuff in life not important. I became lonely at times on the AT, and learned more clearly that relationships matter, and we all need family and friends to be truly human.
As I have reflected on my journey 12 years ago, there are over 2,000 people in Tulsa right now that carry all their possessions on their back, as I did on the trail, and must find a place to sleep every night, often in the woods as I did. It’s a daily struggle for food, water, clothing, and shelter. Thru-hikers can stink, as most homeless people do, due to being able to show maybe every 4-5 days. However, I had a choice to backpack, and knew that I had family, friends, a home, and a business waiting for me when I was finished. For people experiencing homelessness, that’s not the case.
For the last 18 months or so, I’ve been volunteering, exploring, reading, and getting to know more homeless folks. In December of 2021, my wife Becky and I first visited Eden Village up the road in Springfield, after hearing about it from the good folks at City Lights Foundation in Tulsa. I visited Community First in Austin, a large community of tiny homes serving the homeless, where Nate Schlueter, the co-founder of Eden Village had worked for many years, and learned about tiny home communities serving the homeless. So, after much research, learning and seeing more of the situation in Tulsa, we signed the agreement on May 16th of 2022 to become partners with Eden Village, with the vision of having Tulsa be a city were no one sleeps outside.
Two other personal lessons from the AT, which I wrote about in my book, was the importance of finishing strong and not being afraid to do hard things. The AT was very hard to accomplish,
especially at my age then of 56 then. There is no doubt that building an Eden Village of Tulsa, or two, or three, will be very hard. I am called to do this, and with God’s guidance and provision, I’m confident it will happen. I know this is a big part of the last trail I will hike in my lifetime, and I’m determined to finish strong, just as I did on the AT.
It won’t happen though without first the blessings of our God, and for God’s people to get involved with helping to make Eden Village a reality.