When I think about retirement, I picture myself sitting in a rocking chair on a porch by a small pond, sipping lemonade with my husband, a sleepy old dog at my feet.
Rodney Blyth, 63, has taken a different approach. The retired school teacher and community church pastor walked 6000 km across Canada
during the summer of 2018 raising $64,000 and awareness for Raw Hope emergency relief efforts for children and families impacted by conflict.
“When you truly put your faith and trust in God, no dream is too big,” Rodney says, when I ask him how he stays motivated. “To fulfill dreams, there are costs involved,” he continues. “But it’s all worth the while if you have that certainty that it is a dream that God has given you.”
Rodney and his wife have been child sponsors for 40 years and believe in the community transformation sponsorship brings. So, it was natural that Rodney would use his walk to raise awareness and funds for children living in some of the world’s most dangerous places. Because of conflict and crisis, many of these children have had to leave their homes in search of safety, food and shelter.
“I think of all these children that World Vision is trying to help. They have dreams too, but they are living in an environment where it is almost impossible to fulfill those dreams.”
Rodney’s dream to help began when he retired and was looking for something to occupy his time.
“I was 57, and it was hard to find people that age to do things with. So, I took up walking.”
Rodney began with 5 km, which soon became 10 km. “At 20 km, I kinda sensed that God was saying, ‘I’ve given you this ability to walk long distances’.”
So, Rodney decided that he would start a journey of faith across Canada, walking 40 km a day, and relying on the generosity of the communities he entered to shelter him. He began his Walk of Raw Hope in Halifax (pictured above), dipping his toe in the Atlantic Ocean on April 30th, 2018. He did the same thing when he reached the banks of the Pacific in Vancouver on October 17th, 2018.
Leanne Prescott is Rodney’s former student, and an Engagement Coach at World Vision Canada. She assisted Rodney with planning his 6000 km trek across the country. Rodney's courage and belief in the generosity of Canadians has touched her.
“Rodney backpacked the first week from Halifax to Moncton, in full faith that there would be somebody to house and feed him each night,” Leanne says.
“And there was!” Rodney adds. “That has been an added bonus to this adventure- the opportunity to meet all these new people and experience the Christian hospitality along the way. I’ve been learning to rely on God.”
Rodney in Québec with his friend Tom Jones (left), an RV driver who is accompanying his on his trip, and Monique Dion (middle), a World Vision Canada Church Representative. (Photo courtesy of Monique Dion)
That hospitality met him every step of the way. People saw his story on the news and reached out to make sure he had somewhere to stay. Others helped him in other ways, like when he encountered severe flooding that had forced the closure of the highway near Fredericton, NB, and was he escorted through by the RCMP.
“It’s a small world when we find ourselves doing God’s work,” Rodney tells me.
On January 29th, 2019, Rodney was honoured with the Courage Award at World Vision Canada’s Heroes for Children celebration for his dedication to empowering children, families and their communities to overcome poverty and injustice in the world’s most dangerous places.
World Vision Canada CEO Michael Messenger congratulates Rodney Blyth on receiving the Courage Award at WVC's Heroes for Children celebration. (Photo: Alison Ralph)
He continues to ask that Canadians pray for the 250 million children living in conflict zones around the world.
“I would ask that they pray, and for those that are able to financially provide, please donate or sponsor
,” Rodney concludes.
Meanwhile, I might just be tempted to dust off my walking shoes this summer. I'll also be thinking of Rodney's challenge to "use what you have and do what you can." So... what can you do
Rodney is part of a world-changing movement that knows no boundaries. He channelled his outrage at the injustice of 250 million childhoods lost to conflict and crisis by walking 6000 km across Canada to raise awareness and funds, because every child should have the chance to fulfill their dreams wherever they live.