Brenda Petroski has been hiking since 1987. Soon, she will celebrate her 60th birthday by hitching up her backpack and heading out to Springer Mountain, Ga. There she will begin the longest hike of her life – the Appalachian Trail – with a specific purpose.
She is raising funds for Water For Good (formerly ICDI), an organization that builds wells in the Central African Republic (CAR). A grandmother of two, Brenda says she has always had a soft spot in her heart for needy children, and those without clean water touch a special nerve. Last year, she found a way to combine her passion for hiking with her heart for the needy.
“So many people don’t realize how unclean the water is all over the world,” Brenda noted. “An estimated 60 percent of wells in the CAR have been damaged in recent conflict or need to be repaired. Without the proper maintenance, once again communities are without clean water. My goal is to raise $20,000 to keep the clean water flowing from 40 wells in Central Africa.”
Brenda has always been at home in the woods. “When I was a kid we were six girls out in the country and there were farms all around – I’d always be out roaming the woods and the meadows or up at the farm.” Once she got older, she started hiking with the birding club to combat the winter blues, but her infectious, spontaneous laughter scared the birds away. She joined the hiking club instead, where she later met her husband Peter, who is a Grace Brethren church planter in Columbia, Pa. (a work that is supported by the Grace Brethren Church, York, Pa.).
“I’ve always loved reading about the Appalachian Trail,” she explained. “I like the idea of living out of the backpack…the rawness of that.” A few years ago, she picked up one of her well-read Appalachian Trail books and looking at the first page, immediately thought, ‘I’m supposed to hike the trail,’ and started praying about the idea.
The hike will take an estimated six months to complete – and many who start have to cut their hike short. But Brenda isn’t worried. “This is a spiritual journey for me…when I first realized this is what I am supposed to do I felt like Moses!
“I believe God puts something on everybody hearts that they are extra sensitive to – in my case it’s kids without clean water. During the hike I’ll miss my kids and my grandkids, and I’m afraid of streams and steep mountains…but if God can take a 60-year old grandma and send me out to the trail, He will equip me with what I need.”
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information about ministries in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.