Walking along a sweltering desert highway in Nevada, Mike Rumsower was screaming to the heavens. The strong desire for fast food with no restaurants for miles around was bad enough, but even more seriously, he was starting to question his mission.
But, he kept walking, and within two hours everything made sense again, as he soon met a series of people who couldn’t help but stop and ask him about his unique traveling equipment.
Rumsower, of Gallatin, Mo., recently passed through Craig with a large, 40-pound wooden cross on his shoulder. He has been walking across the country as part of a project called Walking in Obedience.
“It’s about trying to help turn people from dark to light and find their faith in Christ,” he said. “I’ve had three dreams about going across the Golden Gate Bridge with a cross. For many months, I’d argued with the quest and once I decided to do it, everything started to fall into place.”
Setting out on March 30 from the San Francisco landmark, Rumsower has since covered more than 1,000 miles, talking to hundreds of people along the way about their relationships with God. However, he said he prefers not to initiate conversation, rather to let people approach him if they want to discuss his mission.
“A lot of preaching I do is one step at a time,” he said. “As a Christian, I believe that we’re not to preach at someone and ram it down their throat. It should be a question, and you couldn’t force it down my throat before I found Christ. There’s a saying: ‘Preach the gospel always and if necessary, use words.’”
Rumsower will end his walk in Gallatin. This is the fifth such walking tour for him but the first to go outside of Missouri.
He said he wants to cover the other side of the nation next year.
“I’d like to go to Washington (DC),” he said. “I think we could use more faith in the capital.”
Rumsower said his journey to serving the lord involved many trials and tribulations, as he experienced problems with his work, home and family before getting serious about his faith about four years ago.
His life still had difficulties even after his embrace of spirituality, with his faith being tested by his wife of 11 years leaving him and their three children.
Rumsower likened his time on the road to the rest of his days — some are filled with smiling faces and support while others are terrifying. He has had a gun pointed at him more than once during the last few months.
“I’m not really in fear of any of that,” he said. “If they shoot me, they’ve done nothing more than set me free.”
One incident in particular went from bad to good. While in Dayton, Nev., two months ago, Rumsower was standing next to a stop sign while carrying his cross when a car pulled up next to him.
“It was a guy in the passenger seat of a Suburban, he rolls down his window and he was screaming,” Rumsower said. “‘You people are the reason my people keep getting shipped back to Mexico! Who are you going to crucify with that?’”
Rumsower’s attempts to calm down the stranger only resulted in the barrel of a gun being shoved in his face until something he said struck a chord with the assailant.
“He said, ‘I could kill you, you know,’” Rumsower said. “I said, ‘You sure could. You’d be doing nothing more than setting me free and you’d still be empty inside.’ Tears filled his eyes and ran down the passenger seat and he left.”
Rumsower encountered the man’s wife an hour later.
“She hugs me 20 minutes with the cross in between us and asks, ‘What did you say to my husband?’” he said.
Rumsower learned his words had inspired the man who could have killed him to drop out of his gang, clear all the guns out of his home and start attending church every week.
“He’s turned the tide,” Rumsower said. “He’s put his family first and God first and we visit once every other Sunday.”
Rumsower said he had to go through the same overhaul of his life when accepting God, putting his three children ahead of other aspects. He described his two sons and daughter as his “steady, strength and heart.”
While Rumsower is on the road, the kids are getting reacquainted with their mother. Though he misses them, he said he wants to return to Gallatin with the sense that he’s completed something.
His camcorder is proof enough that he has made a difference in dozens of lives. Rumsower has collected testimonials from numerous people who have talked to him about his walk, his cross and how it affects them.
“There’s a lot of noteworthy stories,” he said. “I was walking down the center of Highway 50 in Nevada, the whole time I was yelling at God, ‘Why do you have me here, what is my purpose?’ There wasn’t anybody there to see me and there wasn’t even a bicyclist to knock me off the road.”
Rumsower said he continued his tirade for hours before stopping to thank God in spite of his dismal surroundings. Almost instantly, he came into contact with motorists full of questions and experiences to share, including one couple who offered him something that brought tears to his eyes: two burrito supreme specials from Taco Bell.
“I was just sitting on the side of the highway eating my burritos and crying like a 4-year-old because I doubted my father in heaven,” he said.
Food isn’t usually as far and few between as that. Rumsower keeps a cart of supplies attached to the base of the cross. He shops frequently at the towns he passes through and he has bedded down at hotels about one-quarter of his time on the road.
He most often camps out with a fair amount of amenities. He keeps a small generator attached to the cross, which recharges through the motion of the cart’s wheels as he walks.
Rumsower arrived in Craig over the weekend, staying longer than he anticipated because of a mechanical difficulty with his cart, the third of which he has used while traveling.
However, the layover allowed him to visit some local churches.
“My experiences here have been great,” he said. “Some wonderful churches and very nice people.”
As a non-denominationalist, Rumsower said he wants to promote the idea of all Christian groups unifying.
“Not only have we used religion and race to not be united in this country, but we use it to the point where it’s like saying, ‘My faith is better than yours,” he said. “If you actually put everyone together in one room, what are you going to have? Everybody always says, ‘An argument,” but in all reality, you’ll have the full contents of ‘The Bible.’”
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