WARRENSBURG – They probably didn’t need a reminder of why they were walking across the country, but Amanda Goodman gave the Crossroads pro-life walkers one anyway.
Goodman, a Baptist, had earlier offered a soulful rendition of “Amazing Grace” at a June 29 dinner and prayer service for the 10 college-aged walkers. But before she began “God Bless America” to close the service, she told the walkers a story, pointing to her 9-month-old baby boy, Eugene.
“It’s people like you who are the reason he is here today,” Goodman said.
“Three times, I had an abortion set up,” she said. “Three times, the Lord set obstacles in my way – I couldn’t get a ride, or I didn’t have the money.”
Goodman, a former student at Wentworth Military Academy, finally turned to Tom Goodman, former academy public affairs officer who is now chairman of Johnson County Right to Life and a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Warrensburg.
Goodman got her in touch with professional counselors who convinced her that she could pull her life back together and have her baby.
“People like you are saving so many lives by your witness,” Goodman told the walkers, pointing to her son. “That little boy over there is one of them.”
For the 11th year in a row, Crossroads is sending three teams of college students to walk across the country as a witness against the “culture of death” and in support of life.
One team started in Seattle and will take a route across the northern states. One team started in Los Angeles and will take a southern route.
The team that arrived in Warrensburg on June 29 began their walk on May 22 in San Francisco on a path down the middle of the country. All three teams will converge in Washington D.C. on Aug. 6.
David Tovey, the central team captain, said that Crossroads was founded in 1994 by Steve Sanborn, a student at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, as a response to Pope John Paul II’s exhortation at the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver to “go to the highways and byways and spread the Gospel.”
“Steve Sanborn took his words quite literally,” said Tovey. “Hundreds of college-age students have taken part (in Crossroads walks). We’ve touched countless lives, and our lives have been touched by countless people.”
Like Tovey, seven of the 10 members of the central route team are students at Franciscan University. The exceptions were Jeff Newland, a student at Chadron State College in Nebraska; Jenna Wilson, a student at Benedictine University in Atchison, Kan.; and Cassie Pearson, a high school student who joined the walk when it reached her hometown of Reno, Nev.
Tovey said that the team splits itself into day crews and night crews, walking 24 hours a day and covering as much as 90 miles per day. When one crew is walking, the other crew is resting in a RV that accompanies them.
The walk itself is a form of prayer, said Bethany Carreon, who graduated in 2004 from Franciscan University with a degree in theology.
“It tests your faith,” Carreon said. “You have to trust in the power of prayer. That’s the only way my aches and pains can make a difference. Trusting that it is going to make a difference is faith.”
“Prayer and sacrifice are extremely powerful,” said Pearson, the high school student. “It gives me the confidence to keep going.”
The walk is a financial sacrifice to the students as well who are not only giving up their summer freedom, but also the opportunity to make money at summer jobs.
Crossroads charges each student $800, but also allows them to seek sponsors, not only for the walk expenses, but to make up for the loss of summer income.
That was important to Sarah Vyvlecka, a Franciscan University sophomore from Kearney, Neb.
Vyvlecka is one of 11 children in her family, and one of three in college. Knowing that her parents would be hard-pressed to support her walk, Vyvlecka sent letters to Knights of Columbus chapters, the Diocesan Council of Church Women, parishes, and even local businesses asking for financial help.
“God just provided,” she said. “The people were just amazing. I raised more money that I would have made working this summer.”
Not only that, but a Denver-area Knights of Columbus leader asked her during a stopover there if she planned to go to Cologne, Germany, after the walk for World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Vyvlecka told him she didn’t have the money.
“The next day, he came up to me and said, ‘You’re going to World Youth Day. The Knights of Columbus will sponsor you,'” she said.
The students said that by walking, they are standing up for the voiceless and the powerless.
“It’s all about answering the disrespect for God’s creation,” said Miles Foley, a Franciscan University junior from Sacramento, Calif.
“When you have a gift of God so precious as a life and you reject that gift, it’s horrifying,” Foley said.
Foley said that some 48 million babies have been aborted since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in the United States.
“That’s one-third of our generation,” Foley said. “You look around this room, and there should be 13 of us on this walk instead of 10. We all find it offensive that one-third of our generation has been aborted.”
The students say they have encountered people along the walk who angrily disagree with their pro-life stand. Instead of debating them, they pray for them. And sometimes, they cry with others who tell them stories.
“We met a 60-year-old woman who told us she had an abortion decades ago, and is still crying about it,” Carreon said.
“The men and women who make these choices (to abort) are going against nature,” she said. “When they make a choice to kill, they are wounding themselves so badly.”
“Our mission is to offer up our prayers and sacrifice as a witness for the dignity and sanctity of life,” Tovey said.
“If we don’t stop the culture of death,” Foley added, “this country is going to continue to spiral downward.”
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