How Far Would You Go?

How Far Would You Go?

Chris Hennig '03 finished his five-month journey along the Appalachian Trail at 11:50 a.m. on September 5 by summiting Mount Katahdin in Maine. Photo courtesy of Chris Hennig.

by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, OH

September 18, 2009

Chris Hennig ’03 doesn’t mind that some people call him “Feed Bag.” In fact, he thinks it’s kinda cool.

“Feed Bag” was Chris’s trail name — a nickname given to him as he hiked the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. He earned the moniker because he carried his food pack on his chest so he could keep moving without having to stop to eat. But Chris saw a deeper meaning to the name, as his MP3 player allowed him to continuously “feed” on music, sermons, and God’s Word.

“I hoped hiking the trail would be like a ‘seminary-in-the-woods’-type learning experience,” he said. “It’s more like boot camp.”

A 28-year-old Nashville resident, Chris began his journey on March 29. But this five-month, one-week endeavor was about far more than accomplishing something few people have. He wanted to raise awareness of child poverty and reach enough people to sponsor 2,200 World Vision children.

The trail Chris chose winds its way through 14 states over difficult terrain, through swarms of bugs, and, quite often, amid less-than-ideal weather. Needless to say, the Cedarville University music major questioned many times whether he could actually reach the end of the trail.

“Maybe I tend to be a moodier hiker than everyone else out here,” he commented on May 27 — almost two months into his trip. “You can think of 1,000 reasons why it’s a good idea to attempt a long-distance hike. But on the tough days, only a few reasons are enough to tempt you to end the hike.”

By late June, he had walked 1,000 miles through four states. He was also seriously considering quitting. In desperation, Chris asked God for “trail magic,” which, he said, is like praying for patience — something you don’t want to do. “If you need it, God will normally teach you that lesson by stretching you, not by giving you exactly what you need exactly when you want it.”

And that’s what God did by continuing to provide for his needs at just the right time, whether it was a woman named Mimi offering Gatorade and ibuprofen from her yellow VW bus or a fellow hiker providing information on the many snakes they encountered on the trail.

Of course, Chris never forgot the main purpose of his adventure: to encourage more people to sponsor a World Vision child. It’s an important time for this, Chris said, as an estimated 10,000 children lost their sponsorship this year due to the economic crisis. Although he’s still a long way from his goal of 2,200 children, he isn’t discouraged.

“A fellow co-worker said, ‘The goal is one,’” Chris remarked. “If you get one kid sponsored, you’ve made a difference.”

Once his adventure was over, Chris’s next concern was getting back to work. The trip was more expensive than he anticipated, but he said he decided to hike “knowing it would cost me something.” Fortunately, he found employment before he finished the journey. So quickly, in fact, that he’s had little time to transition or even begin to process what he accomplished and all it meant. That, he believes, will take weeks, even months.

In the meantime, you can now find Chris touring with contemporary Christian music group Casting Crowns — working the World Vision table and still focused on his main goal: gathering more sponsors and spreading the word about child poverty.

*All quotes are from Chris’s blog, available at www.2200miles.com. The link also provides opportunities to sponsor a World Vision child.