Women walk across America to pray for nation

Thursday, March 4, 2004
PRAYER WALK: Samantha Hanush-Garrett, left, her grandmother, Lyn Hanush, and Joni Balog

Staff Writer

Over a year ago two friends and one of their granddaughters made a decision that would change all of their lives. On May 12, 2003, the three women -- Lyn Hanush, Joni Balog, and Samantha Hanush-Garrett began a walk of faith in Blaine, Wash. For over a year that walk has continued uninterrupted across the United States.

On Feb. 25 that walk took them through Salem. "It's just something we really wanted to do," Hanush, 61, said with a laugh. "We felt like this country was in desperate need of prayers, so everywhere we go we pray."

Balog, 66, said they've walked more than 2,500 miles over the last 10 months. She said they have traveled through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and now Arkansas. Their goal is to walk all the way to Florida, a trek of over 4,000 miles.

Hanush said the most amazing part of their journey has been how nice people have been. People have given them money, food, drinks and prayers. Balog said she was surprised by the spiritual convictions of the people she's met. She said there is a definite spiritual revival in rural America.

Hanush said they try to walk 15 to 20 miles a day, but sometimes bad weather, like rain or snow, alters their plans. When they're not walking they stay in an RV. Balog drives the RV to a point ahead in the road, walks back and the three begin their daily journey. Hanush-Garrett, 16, said they leave a prayer stone in every town they stop. In Salem they left a prayer stone at the entrance to the Salem City Park. Hanush said she appreciated the Salem Dairy Queen feeding them free of charge.

The three said they have enjoyed everywhere they've been since the beginning of their adventure, but a few places stand out. Hanush-Garrett said her favorite place was the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. She said she was fascinated by their culture and it was a real spiritual experience for her.

Hanush and Balog said one of their favorite places was Thomas Falls, Mont. In Thomas Falls they met a couple who run an animal sanctuary. Hanush said the sanctuary was filled with animals that were injured and could no longer perform in circuses or other animal entertainment venues. She said there was an assortment of animals including: tigers, bears and mountain lions. Balog said she was amused by two of the tigers at the sanctuary because they would get up on a bed and watch television with the couple who took care of them. Hanush said there was also a mountain lion that purred like a kitten when he was petted.

All three women on this walk said the ultimate goal of this journey is to give glory to God. Hanush and Balog have non-denominational faith, while Hanush-Garrett is Presbyterian. It has been a spiritually enriching experience for them. The trio keeps a record of all the people they meet and they keep a prayer book with names of soldiers and others they've been asked to pray for. They expect to arrive in Florida in July.

More information about their trip can be found at www.greatamericajourney.com.

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