Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Lifestyles

June 23, 2014

"A Church of Us" visits Pleasant Hill

CROSSVILLE — One warm evening in May, three young men found themselves in Pleasant Hill seeking a place to spend the night. They were directed from Linda’s Coffee Shop to try at the Pleasant Hill Community Church, United Church of Christ. As they arrived and were looking for someone to ask permission from, a home health aide across from the church was looking for help. The homeowner had fallen and, although not injured, needed help getting up. The young men were happy to oblige and made a connection with the family who called someone to obtain permission.

Trevor Heinrich, 20, of Lancaster, PA; Jeffrey Norton, 22, of Warenton, VA; and Jonathan Stoltzfus, 20, of Lancaster, PA, shared their mission story with members of the church. They call themselves “A Church of Us” and “are guys brought together by God to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ in America.” They are walking (backpacking) coast to coast, bringing a simple gospel message hoping to inspire others to live a Christian lifestyle.

They are reading the Bible, taking pictures, blogging, writing music, proclaiming the gospel, witnessing powerful works of God, learning how to serve and edify others that they plan to put into a documentary at the end to reach even more people. The journey started on Oct. 4, 2013, at the Atlantic beach of Ocean Grove, NJ, with Heinrich and a friend who decided not to continue after they reached Pennsylvania. Childhood friend, Stoltzfus joined the trek in Lancaster, PA, and then they persuaded Norton, another childhood friend, to join them in Virginia.

As most of you know this has been one of the coldest winters the Northeast has seen for quite some time. Photographs on their website depict the snow and ice that they traveled through. At one point Trevor suffered frostbite on the ends of his fingers when he lost his gloves. By May 21 they had been through New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia and parts of Tennessee.

Stoltzfus, who was born without a femur, has a prosthesis below his knee. He says it does not hamper his walking and in fact, probably keeps that leg from aching like the other. At that point of their journey, Heinrich had worn out two pairs of shoes; Norton was on his second pair; and Stoltzfus has had to have four pairs of specially made shoes shipped to him.

They were heading for Nashville from Knoxville when they stopped overnight in Crossville, staying at the Bible Mission Training Center. The next day, as they were walking Hwy. 70 W, they stopped to talk to Paul Presley at the intersection of Main St. and Hwy. 70, who took them for a meal at Linda’s Coffee Shop on Main St. in Pleasant Hill. After their night camped out behind the church, showers in the Pleasant Hill Community House and breakfast with the family they befriended, they were taken for another meal at Linda’s by Don Smith, moderator of the church.

There they met Monica Henson, who invited them to spend the night at The Garden, which is a special place of Saturday evening praise, worship and sharing of meals. The trio had been told about The Garden at the Crossville Bible Mission Center, with which they share praise singing and worship services. Monica and Ray Henson took the boys to their home, where they were treated to a real bed, hot showers and a home cooked meal.

At that point, Norton decided to go back to Virginia. Members of the Bible Mission Center took him to a bus station. After breakfast the next morning, again at Linda’s, Heinrich and Stoltzfus continued on their trek across country, heading for Nashville where they had relatives. 

The boys camp when they can, weather permitting, and accept donations online through their website and in person. The donations and kindness of others supply them with the basic necessities to keep them fed and sheltered. Their ultimate plan is to continue through Missouri, Colorado, Arizona and end up in Huntington Beach, CA, where they plan to run and jump in the Pacific Ocean.

After braving one of the coldest winters on record in the Northeast, they are now experiencing the hazy, hot and humid summer weather. Last postings from them were photos dated on June 14, but no word of where they were. You can see photos of their journey at www.achurchofus.com or on Facebook.

This week in Pleasant Hill:

Thursday, June 26, at 8:30 a.m. — Candidate forum in Pleasant Hill Community House for county mayors, judges, 8th District commissioners and court clerk. Refreshments will be served. Call 277-5467 for information.

Friday, June 27, Little River Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park — Meet at 9 a.m. in the Pleasant Hill Community Church parking lot on the corner of Church and Main St. to carpool to the trailhead. Call 277-3518, ext 103, for information.

Saturday, June 28 — Grab Thrift Shop Bag Sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cost is $1 per bag. Call 287-3018 for more information.

Saturday, June 28 — Gospel music at The Garden, 603 Genetta Lane. Jim and Crystal at 4 p.m. Dinner at 5 p.m. Steve and Jackie Wilson at 6 p.m. Call 200-5728 for more information.

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