Rick and Jo Randolph in Alaska, 2019
by Jo Randolph
Walking is the oldest form of transportation on this earth. In Genesis 13:17 the Lord asks Abram to “Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” He explains this is the way for Abram to get to know the land that the Lord will give to him and his offspring forever.
Having grown up on a farm in southeast Wisconsin, walking was the mode of transportation to get to and from my grandfather’s home, to get to and home from school (on nice days), and to visit with friends after school and on holidays. It has become fundamental to the way I experience creation around me. When you wander many days and hours over fields, you feel the dirt between your toes, you smell the odor of the soil and the sweet ripe berries and fruits ready to eat. The beauty of the trees leafing out, the flowers arriving in spring, and the sound and smell of the leaves falling to the ground in the fall. To see creatures scurry away from me, to see the birds soar above, to hear the sounds of the wind rustling the leaves of each of the different trees, or water flowing over the rocks in the streams – it is a different language you learn when taking the time to wonder on the immense gift of this glorious creation around us.
I have had the opportunity to walk in many and varied areas of the world, from the farms of
Wisconsin to the mountains and deserts of AZ, from the forests of Germany to the glaciers of Alaska and the sands of the outer banks. The sounds of each step on the land and the sounds of the winds and animals informed my deep love and passion for this world and to care for it deeply.
These and other walks just around our suburban area have taught me to listen, see, and learn about not only the nature around me but the way we have changed that nature to suit our desires but not the needs of creation that must live there.
Walking on a PCUSA Peacemaking study tour is an amazing learning experience. An experience of the greater world around you that you cannot learn from just watching a documentary. Take the opportunity for yourself. I have had two such opportunities and am looking forward to a third one this April. My husband Rick and I traveled to Guatemala and Costa Rica in 2017. I also had the opportunity to travel in early 2019 to Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica.
In 2017 we experienced peacemaking, environmental issues, and climate concerns of highly conflicted communities. We traveled to historically peaceful places and highly conflicted small villages. From environmentally degraded areas to ones of great ecological beauty. We met and talked, worshiped, and learned about the people of faith in Guatemala and Costa Rica who have been responding to issues of peace and environmental justice issues for generations. We arrived in Guatemala and first visited CEDEPCA ( and its staff. We were briefed on the context of the climate and the areas of conflict of the indigenous peoples the we would be meeting and learning from during our short time in Guatemala. Our first stop the next morning was to visit with a small group of members of the Peaceful Resistance in La Puya. They were/are protesting the poisoning of their waters (and the minds of the corrupt Guatemalan government officials) by the mining corporations in Canada. They have set up a watch area on a small narrowing of a dirt road where they keep an eye on the helicopters and heavy trucks. The corporation is NOT supposed to be doing any work on or in the mines but these helicopters are flying in and out of the ‘closed’ area daily. There are big earth-moving trucks that are ‘just moving’ dirt to ‘help clean the tailings ponds’ from the poisonous chemicals that are used to release the gold and silver from the land. Having lunch with these people while holding a watch on all the traffic flowing by was revealing. Some of the travelers were neighbors and some were unknowns. Some with weapons and some traveling with foodstuffs and children heading home from work and school. The whole visit was certainly a visceral learning moment to absorb what our developed world ‘wants’ and is creating for those indigenous people’s daily lives.
Our Guatemala travels also allowed us to worship with the Asociaciónde Mujeres Indígenas de Santa María Xalapán (the indigenous women’s association of the Santa Maria Xalapán). The Xinca Invocation Ceremony was breathtaking and left us in wonder about the gratefulness these people have for the everyday gifts, given to them by God, of water, air, food, and comfort.
In Costa Rica, we learned the damage monoculture plantations of bananas and pineapples have on the lives of the small villages and villagers. The overuse of pesticides and fertilizers used in crop production for the export of these two crops alone has poisoned the water and taken jobs from the original inhabitants of the villages. I still wonder HOW villagers can function with only five gallons of water delivered weekly. The local government is mandated to deliver fresh water weekly to their homes, and it is per home, NOT per number of people living in the home. Those five gallons are to be used for ALL their needs, from drinking, and food preparation to cleaning both themselves and their clothing. The running water in the creeks is so caustic due to the chemicals it is ‘eating’ the skins of the people and the fibers of their clothing.
The 2019 Central American Migrant Trails peacemaking tour of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras focused on immigration issues. Our group learned about the immigration context being faced by those wanting to emigrate north. It was a clearer picture of the reasons why they take the risk of embarking on a dangerous journey with small children in tow. We heard from Not For Profits and government officials while exploring the potential and actual consequences of US policies. Mass deportation is impacting the lives of the returned migrants, their families, their communities, and their nations. In El Salvador, we heard from Catholic Relief Services, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, and returned migrants from a migrant program. In Guatemala, we heard a priest tell us about the pastoral challenges to care for caravans of immigrants. We met returned Guatemalans and heard their stories of how they are unceremoniously returned to Guatemala by our government. In Honduras, we met with organizations working for transparency and against corruption in the Honduran government. We also heard from a children’s ministries and advocacy group, the RedViva Danish network, and a Presbyterian Hunger Program partner Ecoré, working to better the lives of the people impacted.
Wandering and studying these and many other issues certainly opened our senses to wonder how this world created for all has been abused for the ‘select.’ Learning from those who have experienced the issues or those who work with impacted immigrants as well as with our own Presbyterian Mission Co-Workers opened our eyes in some small steps as to how we can walk in the manner to which Christ called us in Matthew 25 to care for all others.
This April my husband and I will again travel on a PCUSA Peacemaking Study Seminar. We will be studying the native lands of the Southwest, the Doctrine of Discovery, and its legacy today. We will be learning the harm the Doctrine of Discovery did to indigenous peoples of North America since the landing on this continent and to this day.
Psalm 104 will be with us daily as we walk, wander, and wonder in the steps of those we have harmed.
(31-34) – May the Glory of the LORD endure forever: may the LORD rejoice in his works . . . . May my mediation be pleasing to him for I rejoice in the LORD.
Jo and Rick Randolph are members of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Heartland Presbytery. Jo is currently the Treasurer of Presbyterians for Earth Care. Rick, an MD, is Senior Medical Director of Heart to Heart International.