Just a week short of Dr. Jim Buckley’s 67th birthday and roughly 2,200 miles into his walk across America, he experienced a ‘first’: Virginia storms stopped him in his tracks, forcing him to spend August 10 inside the 22-foot RV he and his wife, Glenda, have called home since April.
“He has walked in rain, but this is just an absolute downpour,” explained Glenda. “We didn’t think it was a safe thing for him to walk in it.”
The stormy weather was just one in a series of obstacles the couple, both NCU grads (Jim ’68 and Glenda ’69), tackled over the past three years.
It all started during a short walk in Utah while visiting one of the couple’s five children.
“I had this thought: ‘You should take a long walk,’” the longtime pastor remembered. “I thought, ‘A long walk? What do you want me to do? Walk across Utah?’ And the thought came, ‘No, walk across America.’
Buckley chuckled, recounting his reaction, “That’s not my mind thinking that. That’s the Lord. I thought, ‘Why would I do that?’ Two words came: ‘Go home.’”
He returned to his son’s house a little confused, telling Glenda, “I think God wants me to walk across America.”
“I figured she would say, ‘Are you sure?” or ‘Go back to bed” or ‘Maybe you need to eat something,’” said Jim. “But she immediately said, ‘Can I go?’”
“I’m not sure why I said that or quite what it was,” laughed Glenda. “But that’s what popped into my head: ‘I’m going too!’”
Though Glenda’s response seemed to come as a surprise to the Buckleys, their background suggests any major undertaking – especially a walk across America – would be done in tandem.
They met on the then-NCC campus nearly 50 years ago. Despite the decades that have passed, Glenda still remembers the first words Jim ever said to her, which came after she fell in the mud during powder puff football practice: “Aw, she got her pretty red socks all dirty.”
Shortly after that, the two walked hand in hand across the University of Oregon campus and Jim had a revelation. Years before, he’d vowed that the woman he married would value Jesus as the number-one person in her life.
“On that walk, [Glenda] made the statement that Jesus was number one in her life,” said Jim. “I thought, ‘Whoa! This could be something.’” It turned into a 45-year marriage that produced five children and 13 grandchildren.
“We’ve had not just a marriage,” Jim said. “We’ve had a great marriage, a tremendous marriage.”
Jim, who served as the lead pastor of Newbury Park First Christian Church in California for 28 years, attributed that success to having Jesus living in in the home he shared with Glenda and his children.
“Jesus did live in our home,” Jim said. “Through losing a child at birth, losing a grandchild, losing money in a house, Jesus has been there and made all the difference in the world.”
Buckley wanted to ensure other families the Lord can make a difference in their lives too, if they’ll only let Him live in their home. But what does that mean? Jim described it as treating Jesus like someone who is physically living in your home; naturally, you would have conversations with that person daily.
“If you’re hanging around somebody,” Buckley pointed out, “you tend to become like them.”
Buckley didn’t take his message door to door so much as mile by mile. He knocked out 20 to 25 miles each day, hitting the road as soon as the sun rose.
“I watch him walk day after day, hour after hour, step after step,” said Glenda. “He just keeps going and he’ll wave at me when he goes by, he’ll smile – sometimes he smiles more than others.”
While Jim worked on wearing out another pair of Brooks Glycerine 10 running shoes (he took 13 pairs with him), Glenda repositioned the RV, did the day’s shopping and laundry, made lunch and dinner, and tried to find a place for the couple to camp out each night. That last task was more of a challenge than you might think; they never quite knew how far Jim will make it in a day or where the nearest church would be.
“We just sort of depend on the Lord to provide a place that day and he always does,” commented Glenda.
The couple met people all along the way. Jim was sometimes invited to speak at some churches, sharing his message with the congregation. Occasionally, curious onlookers would catch up with Jim along the highway, asking him questions like “Where’d you start from?” “How many shoes have you worn out?” or “Why are you walking?” The same questions would arise from fellow shoppers when Jim and Glenda popped into a supermarket to get groceries. Jim said he was happy to explain his mission: to invite Jesus into every home in America.
“I’m finding people are not wildly excited about the church,” Buckley explained. “Church is almost been marginalized in many ways. But they are responsive to Jesus. Jesus is personal. And people want a personal relationship.”
Like the process of building a relationship with the Lord, the couple’s voyage across America required a considerable commitment, mentally, physically and spiritually.
“They really compare a lot. It’s the long haul, it’s not a quick thing,” Glenda pointed out. “There are twists and turns. That’s the same in your home. There are times when you don’t know what’s around the next corner and you don’t know what you’re going to be able to handle. By keeping Jesus in your life and in your home, you know the person who does know what’s around the next corner and he can show you through those twists and turns.”
There were plenty of twists and turns in the couple’s trip across the country. But after more than 180 days and more than 3,000 miles, Jim, Glenda and their family crossed the George Washington Bridge on October 4, 2013.
“I just believe God wanted us to walk across that bridge as a family,” explained Jim. “It’s just a symbol that all the homes in the Buckley family belong to the Lord.”
The family and a group of supporters made it across the bridge and trekked eight miles to Times Square. There, Jim says he was overwhelmed.
“I said [to Glenda], ‘I’m going to raise my hand in victory and achievement. Your hand’s going up with mine because I wouldn’t have made it without you. There’s no way I could have,’” Jim said. “So she and I raised both hands, then we hugged. We hugged and we hugged and we hugged. We think both of us started just sobbing. It was a tremendous relief, but at the same time, a tremendous celebration.”
Jim explained that he wasn’t celebrating the walk, though; he said he was celebrating his obedience to the Lord.
“Obeying the Lord is out of this world,” he said. “Just simple obedience is the strongest thing we can do. It’s the simplest thing, so we don’t do it often. We downplay it. Just do what He says.”
Buckley said Jesus hasn’t revealed what He has planned next, but Jim is excited by the possibilities.
“The walk is done. The platform is set,” he said. “Now we go to work. I don’t know how to do it yet. I don’t know what He wants done. But the inviting America home has just begun. We spent six months doing it, but not every home has Jesus yet. That’s the challenge.”
For more photos and personal reflections from Jim, visit http://www.invitingamericahome.org.