Prayer walk connects Eagle County, Africa |

Prayer walk connects Eagle County, Africa

Scott N. Miller
NWS Prayer Walk SM 11-23-06

EAGLE – A few dozen people put Thanksgiving dinner on hold Thursday, so they could honor those who do without. All it took was a short walk.The walk started in 2000, the year Pete and Jane Brandes and their children left the Vail Valley for Tanzania for a year. Since then, walkers have taken a few minutes every Thanksgiving to raise money for hunger relief and get away from football and food.”It’s a great way to start Thanksgiving,” Liz Fessenden said. Fessenden brought a good bit of her home’s hustle and bustle with her on the walk, since she had her dog, Spike, and her boys Charlie, Jimmy and Dylan in tow.”We’ve been doing the walk for the last couple of years,” Fessenden said. “There’s a sense of peace doing it. We don’t have a lot of family here so it’s nice to be out with people.”There’s plenty of camaraderie on the prayer walk. Many people who attended are members of First Lutheran Church in Gypsum, the main sponsor of the event, so there’s quite a bit of chat between friends, with others included. But the chatter died down as walkers came to each of the 10 stations along the walk to pick up a “famine fact” and a snippet of scripture.Those facts – including that one in four people in the developing world lack safe drinking water – can be sobering. The Bible verses reminded walkers of Jesus’ compassion for the poor.The compassion of those who have walked the prayer walk over the years has raised about $20,000. That money has been raised through the sale of coffee, burlap bags like those used to store grain in Africa and other trinkets. The money raised can go a long way.

“A sack sells for $20, and that’s enough to feed a family of 10 to 12 people for several weeks,” walk founder Gail Cameron-Britt said. Most of the money raised goes to the Lutheran World Relief charity. The rest has gone to Haydom hospital in Tanzania, which is also run by Lutheran missionaries.The Brandes family spent their year in Africa at Haydom, in the depths of the worst famine the country had experienced in generations. Men, women and children died of starvation while in the hospital where they worked.”It’s burned onto your soul once you’ve been there,” Pete Brandes said. The family made lasting friends at Haydom, and Jane Brandes just returned from nearly a month at Haydom.”It’s mind-boggling how much improvement there’s been in five years,” she said. “And it doesn’t matter what your faith is. They serve all walks of life.”Kind of like Haydom, everyone was welcome at Thursday’s walk.”We’re from the Methodist church, and over there is a lady from the Catholic church,” Darlene Pritchard said. “I like the way everyone is welcome.”While there weren’t a lot of walkers, people did come from places besides Eagle and Gypsum.

Becky Vasco and her family had come from Fort Collins to visit friends for the holiday weekend, read about the walk, and decided to come.Colin and Dana Platt came to the walk from Avon, and brought their toddler daughter Olivia. They also brought a pie for the pie auction after the walk.”We wanted to donate,” Dana Platt. “It just seems like a good thing to do on Thanksgiving.”==============Five famine facts• 815 million people in the developing world are undernourished

• Of the 11 million children younger than 5 who die needlessly every year, more than half die from hunger-related causes• In the developing world, more than 1.2 billion people live in poverty• In Tanzania, 80 percent of the population depends on subsistence agriculture• In Tanzania, 40 percent of all children are malnourished================Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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