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Mission walk to take Sontag man across USA

Shane Mason, 28, of Sontag, takes a seat on the tailgate of hispickup to rest his legs after a long day of walking on the hard,warm asphalt. His sunglasses have left circles of white around hiseyes, his arms are red from the sun and he enjoys the relief of thepressure on his feet as anyone would who has walked from Monticelloto the Jefferson Davis County line and back again in one day.

Mason’s Friday walk was just a sample of the walk ahead. He tookthe day-long journey as a practice run for his upcoming travels,when he leaves Monday morning from Monticello, headed East downHighway 184, for a cross-country walking trip in which he willwitness to others for the next three to four years.

“The people I meet, I’m gonna tell them that God loves them, andthat Jesus Christ died on the cross so they could have arelationship with Him,” said Mason, already an ordained minister,explaining the furthering of his witness.

Mason plans to first venture to Savannah, Ga., then dip downinto Florida before turning North on his way to Boston, Mass. Ifpossible, he will continue on to Chicago, Ill., where he plans tospend the winter. If he doesn’t make it to Boston in time, he willspend the winter in New York City, working in various outreachministries.

From Chicago, he will depart toward Seattle, Wash., beforeturning South to California and, eventually, East back toMississippi.

He expects the entire journey to last at least three years, andhe is going forth with only a backpack and a trust in Jesus – hehas made no itinerary or extended plan.

“For instance, if I come up to a town about midday on aWednesday and see a church, I’ll go in and speak with the pastorand see if he will let me speak that night,” Mason said. “I’ll tellhim what I’m about, and encourage others to strengthen theirwitness.”

Mason will be traveling light, carrying a small tent andsleeping bag, rain gear, two changes of clothes, an I-pod, cellphone, camera, journal, and, of course, his Bible. He will takealong his debit card to attempt to meet any financial burdens hemay run across, though he doubts that the card will last.

“Financially, I don’t have it covered,” Mason said. “But I knowGod will provide. He wants us to put our efforts forth – he wantsto provide for us through hard works.”

Mason has not held any fundraisers for his travels, though somehave offered to help him do so. Donations to his cause will beaccepted, however, on his Web site,http://www.discipleswalk.net.

“While going through this thing, there was a long time that Ididn’t know when I was gonna start,” Mason said. “I thought I wouldwait, save up enough money to go through, and pay all my bills. ButI felt like the Lord didn’t want me to go back to boilermaking – Ifelt like he didn’t want me to go on the next job, but to getready, go ahead and leave.”

Mason said he was in debt to the tune of approximately $10,000,$8,000 of which stemmed from his motorcycle. He was preparing tohock the hog and get what he could, but a family member offered totake up the note on the bike. Mason still has $2,000 in debt toclear, but he’s putting his witness before his credit.

“God hasn’t taken care of that $2,000 yet,” Mason said. “ButHe’ll provide, some way.”

Mason said he will exist on $10 to $15 per day during histravels, and hopes to fulfill the rest of his financial needsthrough the kindness of others – through love offerings fromChristians in the churches he visits.

Some of Mason’s friends have pointed out that there are otherways to accomplish a nationwide witness. Why not drive from churchto church? Why not ride across the country on his motorcycle?

“I don’t know,” Mason admitted. “Walking is just what the Lordhas laid on my heart. I have a motorcycle, and when I first told afew people about my plans, they were like, ‘Cool, you’re gonna beriding your bike across the country!’ But that’s not where the Lordis leading me.”

Mason said that if the Lord had urged him to ride his bike, hewould. If the Lord had urged him to take a bus, he would.

“But He wants me to walk,” Mason said. “And I see it as an honor- I’ll be witnessing like the old disciples. They didn’t even havea backpack, just a cloak and a staff.”

The idea to walk across America and talk about Jesus first cameto Mason in the summer of 2007, when he went through some toughtimes that stretched his faith and broke his heart.

“This past winter, I really began to pray for God to use meagain,” Mason said. “I asked the Lord to reveal to me what He wantsme to do. I felt like He was leading me to do something thisspring, but I didn’t know what – so I prayed.”

God showed Mason the walking way during the winter on a deerhunt. Mason was out in the woods doing more praying than hunting,using the serenity of creation to draw closer.

“That’s when He put it in my mind to do this,” Mason said. “Atfirst, I didn’t know if it was me, my imagination, if I was goingcrazy or what. I really wasn’t sure if this what God wanted me todo. I entertained the thought to pass the time.”

The thought didn’t go away. Mason prayed about the idea forweeks and weeks, still unsure of the call. While visiting a friendin Marion County, the conviction became clear.

“I was just sitting there talking to him that night, and he wastelling me stories of his friends who had gone bicycling across thecountry for the ministry,” Mason said. “I said, ‘Let me tell youwhat the Lord has laid on my mind.'”

Believing that the walking witness was now affirmed, Mason beganto tell select friends and family. From some, he received wildenthusiasm.

“When he told me about his plans, my first reaction was, ‘Dude,that is you,'” said Tate Ervin, a deacon at Mason’s MonticelloBaptist Church. “It was nothing but awesome for me to hear thatfrom him.”

From others, Mason’s plan was met with worry.

“My family was really worried about me,” Mason said. “They wereworried about the trials I’ll face and the dangers that could beout there on the road. They’re still concerned about my safety, butthey’re supportive – we’re all excited to see what the Lord isgonna do.”

Several have voiced concern of Mason’s safety. People havesuggested that he take a gun on his travels, or at least a knife.But Mason is proceeding unarmed, save the tiny blade of amulti-tool that would be more of annoyance to assaulters than adeterrence.

“People have asked me if I was going to take some kind ofweapon, but I really don’t see the use,” Mason said. “If I did, itwould be stuffed in my backpack. I don’t think anyone who wanted tomug me would wait while I sat the pack down and pulled it out.”

Mason also added that if he was forced to injure someone, evenin self defense, it may harm his witness. Without the witness, thewalking would be all for naught.

Anyway, a strong faith is more powerful than any weapon.

“I’m more excited for Shane than worried,” Ervin said. “BecauseI know the Lord will take care of him.”

Mason is not worried about his safety. He has only one fear -solitude.

“I’m concerned about being lonely,” he said. “I’ll be on theroad by myself every day. That’s gonna be the main thing – the onlyreason I can see that might cause this to end early is because Imissed the community, and having my friends around all thetime.”

Mason is fully aware that by embarking on a trip that may lastas long as half a decade, he will be leaving everything behind, andthe world he knows in South Mississippi may be an entirelydifferent place when he finally walks into the state from theopposite direction in which he departed.

“Everything will be different,” Mason said. “And I will bedifferent as well.”

Mason’s worries, however, are overshadowed by the good that hehopes will come of his trip.

“I’m looking forward to seeing people come to Christ,” he said.”I’m looking forward to encouraging Christians to deepen theirrelationship with Jesus. And I’m looking forward to making tons ofnew friends.”