published in Poverty on April 28, 2020

Walking the Talk

Why is a 73 year old retired pastor walking 26km?

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When Pastor Rob Voigt retired from his Lutheran ministry, he didn’t retire from encouraging people to care for each other.

Now, instead of talking about it, Pastor Rob is walking it!

Walk your Way is a 26 kilometre Barossa Valley trek to raise money to help refugee children in East Africa go to school, through ALWS. 73 year old Rob completed his trek over 5 days.

“God wants us to care for people in real need.  While basic shelter, food and medicine are provided in these camps, education has the potential to lift these children out of the seemingly impossible trap of hopelessness.  Knowing it takes just $26 support a refugee child in school for a year, I am very happy to walk 26 kilometres.”

A pastor for 49 years, and well-known in the Valley from his time at St Petri Lutheran Church in Nuriootpa, Rob trained on a treadmill at home while reading a book.

Rob says his Walk wasn’t easy. The father of three, and grandfather of 5, is challenged by back pain, an approaching hip replacement and lungs he says can’t take cold air. But he knows the children he helps have many more challenges.

“When humans are faced with danger, it is natural to focus on ourselves to ensure our safety and protect our way of life.  The Covid-19 pandemic has been a unique challenge for all of us who were born after WW2.  And it will leave us and our comfortable way of life changed forever.  But what we consider difficult and tragic at this time is actually ‘normal’ for so many people in the world.”

Jonathan Krause, who helped create Walk your Way, says the event was inspired by his personal experience of meeting refugee children in camps in Kenya, supported by the Lutheran Church.

“I met one young man, Isaac, who’d walked for days with 6 children from his community. They’d survived hunger, thirst and war. Isaac begged me to give the children education, because he said education would give them life.”

Pastor Rob’s not alone in his caring for others. Across the Barossa Valley more than 140 people will be part of Walk your Way on Saturday 2 May.

Originally planned as a community walk from Redeemer Lutheran School in Nuriootpa to St Jakobi Lutheran School in Lyndoch, the COVID-19 guidelines have forced people to walk in their own time and way. According to Jonathan:

“There are children walking. People using wheel-chairs. Some – like my 84 year old dad from Nuri – are doing it with their 4-legged best friend. Each of these people has the courage to be kind in the time of COVID-19, so if you see them out and about in their blue Walk your Way t-shirt, give them a wave of encouragement and thanks!”

Walk your Way aims to raise enough money to support 10,000 refugee children to go to school. Pastor Rob has already raised enough money to support 63 children, and says:

“I am thrilled that so many children now have the opportunity to go to school. As they learn, they will know they are precious and valued members of the human race, who can make a difference in their societies.”      

You can support Pastor Rob, donate – or register to Walk your Way yourself!

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