He’s been called crazy and brave.
Dr. Jim Buckley, teaching pastor at First Christian Church in Newbury Park, Calif., is walking across America with the theme “Inviting America Home” to help build strong families and marriages. He left California on April 1, walks 20 to 25 miles a day, will stop by the North American Christian Convention in Louisville next week and reach Times Square in New York City in September.
So far, he’s worn out five pairs of shoes, nursed blisters, swollen feet, fatigue and discouragement. He and his wife Glenda, who follows him in an RV, often pray for a good paved shoulder on the road. Uphill is hard. Sweltering heat is harder. Along the way, Jim and Glenda visit homes and churches to share their message about strengthening families.
On a trek the equivalent of 115 marathons, Jim is taking it one step at a time. It’s a long journey for a 66-year-old pastor who describes himself as “calculated and cautious.”
“This is by far the craziest thing I’ve done,” he said.
Crazy doesn’t bother him much.
“The greats in Hebrews 11 were called crazy—Noah while building the ark, Abraham going on a journey without a destination, Moses leading thousands of Israelites. Before they finished the task, they were called crazy. After the task, they were people of faith,” he said.
The idea of walking across America to bring attention to families got legs in 2010 on an early morning, 8-mile walk.
“An unusual thought flashed across my mind to take a walk,” Jim said. “I was already on a walk. Then another thought came, ‘Take a long walk.’ I thought, ‘How long?’ That was answered with the thought, ‘Walk across America.’ It started to dawn on me that this might be the Lord quietly speaking to me as He often does through His still small voice.”
In the days and months to come, Jim heard a clear message “to touch the hearts and homes of America, one home at a time.”
In 45 years as a pastor, Jim has counseled thousands of individuals and families. He believes the home is the lynchpin of the country.
“The home is important,” Jim said via telephone as he walked through Oklahoma. “Addiction, porn, abuse and more plague our families. If our homes are dysfunctional, our nation is in trouble. Acts 8:3 says that Saul began to destroy the church going ‘house to house.’ Satan’s plan is to destroy the church by destroying families house to house.”
Jim said that passion for strong homes and marriages goes back to when he and Glenda got married 45 years ago.
“When we got married, we made a commitment that Jesus is first in our lives,” he said. “We made that commitment at a Billy Graham Crusade. After three years of dating, 45 years of marriage, five children and 13 grandchildren, we care about strong families that put God first. Our family isn’t perfect. We labored hard to get our kids on the right path and keep Jesus in our home. One son is a recovering alcoholic and one of our daughters had real struggles, but they are all following Jesus now.”
A teaching pastor with a doctor of ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, Jim took a six-month sabbatical from teaching and preaching at First Christian Church to walk across America. Thousands follow his blog. He’s often featured in the local news in the towns through which he passes.
Days on the road have settled into a pattern.
Jim alternates between 13 pairs of walking shoes and walks about 3 miles per hour. He takes a break for lunch and rests on Sundays. He and Glenda stay in the RV she drives through the journey. In the evenings, he visits with families. When he walked 30 miles in New Mexico without seeing a single house, he questioned his mission.
“I asked myself if this trek is a waste of time,” Jim said. “The answer came, ‘Is it a waste of time to walk with Me for 30 miles?’”
Jim admits that he’s learning about solitude on the trip. “On the road” is a far different life from the busyness of teaching at his church and at a Christian seminary based in Austria where he leads classes in family life, marriage and transformational leadership.
So far in the journey, the Buckleys have spent time with 31 families, including rodeo champs, been treated to steak dinners and worshiped in churches where the members have become close friends.
Along the road, people often stop to ask if Jim needs help, a drink of water or if his car is broken down. He carries a sign that says, “Inviting America Home.”
Besides a task Jim believes God called him to finish, he is motivated by a picture he sees in his mind of the finish line.
When the walk ends at the George Washington Bridge in New York City, all 25 members of his family, including his children and grandchildren, will be waiting to welcome him.
“Throughout my life, my wife and I have had one goal to take our whole family to heaven with us,” Jim said. “That day will be a picture of walking into heaven when loved ones welcome us home.”
To follow Jim’s journey, go to www.walkacrossamerica.org.