- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2006

The Rev. Rick McKinney and his wife, Jane, crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge into Washington yesterday, completing a 2,800-mile trek from Los Angeles in the name of moral and spiritual values.

The McKinneys — two evangelists from Harrison, Ohio, who began their journey from Santa Monica Pier on Jan. 1 and crossed deserts and climbed mountains to get to Washington — said they embarked on the “Walk to Reclaim America” to draw attention to what they see as the degeneration of values of family, faith and freedom in the United States.

“We really became concerned about our country, and we really wanted to do something to draw attention it,” said Mr. McKinney, 50, a member of Harrison Christian Center in Harrison, Ohio.

Several church members, relatives and friends who joined the McKinneys on the last leg of the trek said recent debates over homosexual “marriage” and abortion and what they call the “easy embrace” of divorce, single parenting and Internet pornography represent a departure from traditional American values and heritage in America.

Living by the Ten Commandments has fallen out of style, even though the country’s founders based the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence on those ideals, the couple said.

“We’re definitely in a moral crisis in this country,” said the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, who sponsored the walk and joined the McKinneys for a press conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday. “At this time in our nation’s life, it’s critically important that citizens understand it’s time for their voices to be heard and their faces to be seen in this debate on moral values.

“The McKinneys’ journey is an inspiration to all of us to act over our conviction to do something visible to register our concern for our country,” he said.

Still, the McKinneys said they are not trying to push a political agenda or force their beliefs on others. Instead, they said they want to encourage others to fight for their beliefs and to show others through kindness the joys they have felt through God’s teachings.

“We’re not trying to change this country politically [because] you can’t change people with legislation,” Mrs. McKinney said. “We’re trying to change people from their hearts.”

The McKinneys logged about 20 miles each day, and they walked between eight and 12 hours a day.

Volunteer drivers who joined the couple at several points during their trek drove beside them in a camper, in which the couple slept, or met them at pre-planned resting spots.

During their journey, the McKinneys walked past several U.S. landmarks, including the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tenn., the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial, where state representatives honored them and gave them a standing ovation.

Mrs. McKinney, who chronicled each day of the trek in a journal, celebrated her 52nd birthday and the couple celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary along the way.

The trip took 15 months of planning, including a drive along the proposed route, and the couple walked 1,500 miles in 2005 to prepare.

Despite being chased by dogs, battling temperatures in the 90s and single digits, and suffering blisters so bad that they nearly couldn’t continue some days, the couple said meeting thousands of people and simply being together made it worthwhile.

The best stories, they said, involved buying food, gift cards and other supplies for the homeless, and raising $160 in donations to buy a bus ticket for a manto return home to see his family.

“More important than all the cool landmarks and the awards were the American people, who are so awesome,” Mrs. McKinney said, her eyes filling up with tears. “We made it a point along the walk to help as many people as possible.”

“It’s amazing what you can do with a smile, a kind word, a little help or a hug — when appropriate,” Mr. McKinney said.

For now, the McKinneys said, they will return home and rest, and, at the urging of friends, possibly pen a novel.

“I think what we’ll write about is the people we met,” Mr. McKinney said.

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