Pastor Walter “Chick” McGill was a reluctant participant when he started his walk across America in Kill Devil, N.C. on April 23.
It was his 19th wedding anniversary when he left, and while still in the state on U.S. Route 64, incurred a shin splint and a torn meniscus in his right knee.
“I was dragging my leg,” he said.
In Winston, N.C., a pastor prayed for his knee as the news media watched on. McGill left dragging his foot, and when he got to the city limits, he cried out to God.
“I asked him, ‘When are you going to answer this prayer?’ He dragged his foot awhile longer, then started walking normally.
“God did it,” he said.
McGill, who was in Fayetteville recently, continues westward and once he reaches New Mexico, will travel U.S. Route 66. In all, his journey will take him through 12 states. As of Wednesday, he had walked more than 913 miles, and now he’s actually beginning to enjoy it.
The 68-year-old, Vietnam vet carries an American flag while saluting passersby. He shares a message of God’s mercy and hope for America as he continues his journey to walk another 2,200 miles to a pier in Santa Monica, Calif.
“America’s got heart problems,” he said.
His mission is to promote a new birth of freedom and integrity, restoring self-respect, family values, liberty of conscience and victorious living while observing the universal principles of God’s laws of physical, mental and spiritual health.
“I’m talking about the new birth of freedom Jesus talked about,” he explained.
“The truth will set you free,” he added. “Christ is the center of the message.”
While he is a Christian, he doesn’t like to talk about denominations – “When you’re trying to heal America, you put aside denominations.”
In Fayetteville Wednesday, he met with Mayor John Ed Underwood and presented him with a small book, “If My People”, a 40-day prayer guide. Mayor Underwood presented him with a lapel pin with the Fayetteville City logo and a key to the city.
As McGill stands along the side of the road, people are drawn to him like a magnet. Two women in different vehicles, within a few minutes of one another, stopped to talk and pray with Pastor McGill, and his wife, Barbara Isenburg-McGill.
He gave one young woman some advice and urged her to stay away from gadgets and the things the world has to offer. Further he advised her, “Don’t ever doubt God.”
Pastor McGill was raised as an orphan in Montana, but despite hardships, was a scholar in school and became valedictorian. He went on to enroll in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, but then left to serve in the Vietnam War between 1967-1969.
When he was discharged, he went back to Knoxville and became a successful businessman. He explained that he got off track in his walk with God, but years later repented and became a pastor. He has been serving others for the past 27 years.
The McGills served as natural health missionaries in Uganda for several years. But the pastor returned, while Barbara remained in Uganda, and during that time Pastor McGill was inspired to try out the homeless lifestyle in Arizona to see what it’s like and how they live, while sleeping in the car and sometimes in homeless shelters.
In 2012, he awoke at midnight and believed he heard God’s voice telling him to walk, but that night he went back to sleep. The next night, “I heard God again,” he said, but argued with God. The third night at midnight he woke up again.
“God said, ‘I’m serious about walking across America’,” the pastor explained on his 67th day of the walk. “With every step I take my faith gets stronger.”
He hadn’t seen Barbara for eight months, but came up with a plan for the walk. He bought an RV for her to sleep in and for storing food and supplies. He had graphics painted on their car picturing a man walking across the desert and the words, “If you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walknow.com”.
“My walk has the potential to help others to be delivered from whatever problems, especially for young people.”
“It’s not about the walk. It’s about the connection of people and concepts, to get people thinking,” he said. “I beat a loud drum, so that some will hear the whisper.”