With a few steps into the cold Atlantic Ocean Nov. 15, Mike and Lindsie Billeter completed a 3,600-mile, cross-country journey that began in June 2012 in San Francisco.
They called their journey Storming Jericho, based on the well-known Old Testament story of Joshua and the Israelites bringing down the walls of Jericho to open a path to the Promised Land.
“It was about teaching us to rely on God to provide for us and take care of us,” Mike said.
But their journey turned out to be much more. Their walk became a ministry to those who provided them shelter along the way. “We had so many opportunities to share with people,” Lindsie said. “Our initial purpose was to teach ourselves to let go of us and cling to God, but God had plans beyond that.”
It was also about tearing down obstacles in the way of attaining God's promises, Lindsie says. “God has so many promises and plans for all of us, but Satan tries to thwart those plans with distractions. We had things in our lives that were distracting us,” she said.
Lindsie had to overcome depression and low self-esteem while Mike says he was going through the paces of everyday life with no aim, partying on the weekends and spending time playing video games. Lindsie says her life was out of control; Mike says his life was empty.
Out on the backroads of America is where they learned to break down those obstacles and gain a clearer perspective of what God's plans were for them.
They stayed in churches and homes most nights during their walk. They carried a small supply of food and water with them, but usually were fed by people along the way.
“Physically we may have been able to do this walk,” Mike says. “For us, mentally, spiritually and emotionally, God was the only reason we were able to walk coast to coast.”
The young couple put their lives on hold to take a giant leap of faith that ended in Dewey Beach 17 months after the walk began. Their journey was interrupted by snow in November 2012 and resumed April 28, 2013, near Montrose, Colo. They averaged walking about 20 miles a day across 13 states and the District of Columbia pushing two carts accompanied by their Yorkshire terrier, Jaeda.
Already home in South Dakota, the couple has had a little time to reflect on their accomplishment. “It's not necessarily the places that standout to us, but it's more about the people we met along the way. Many people went above and beyond to help us. And we were also able to share what the Lord has done for us,” Mike said.
Blessed every step of the way
The idea for the walk was Lindsie's. She told Mike up front when they started dating what her plans were. On the couple's website, Mike explains his life turned around when he met Lindsie. They were married less than two years when they started their walk across the country.
“So much of this was a new experience,” Mike said. “I'm not even a camper or hiker. We had a lot of faith, but I knew there was so much out there you can't control. This was about as cold turkey as you can get.”
They followed Adventure Cycling maps, used GPS and an atlas and talked to other walkers about taking the most direct route and hitting as many towns as possible. Serving as navigator, Lindsie plotted their routes and eventually learned almost to the minute when they would arrive at a destination.
As it turned out, they were blessed every step of the way. “You have to trust that God will take care of you,” Mike said. “There are many more good people than bad. We never felt threatened or unsafe.”
“We learned you can live with a lot less,” Lindsie said.
It's not that the couple didn't face trials and tribulations. “I missed my family and friends so much,” Lindsie said.
Crossing the deserts of the Southwest was also trying. “It was so desolate there. There were times when we were out of contact with our family for seven days with no cellphone reception. It was hard being so disconnected.”
Far away from towns, it was during these period in the journey that they were forced to find places off the road to camp.
Lindsie said she also had a fear they would not get back on the road when they stopped for winter. “It would have been easy to say we'd finish in 50 years after we had raised our family,” she said. “We were in walking shape and wanted to keep moving.”
Mike, 27, who is a writer, plans to write a book about their experience featuring Lindsie's photographs. He also has a children's book that he is ready to publish. Lindsie, 28, works in marketing and was attending graduate school when they started the walk.
The couple has some work to do in Missouri and then they have plans to return to South Dakota and start a family.
“We were told along the way that having kids is a great adventure,” Lindsie said. “I think this will be our next adventure.”
Go to stormingjericho.org for blogs, photos and more information about the walk.