ELKINS - A journey begins with one small step, and those associated with Young Life in West Virginia believe their group is the first step of a lifelong journey, helping youth with the choices they make today, based upon God's love for them.
A Young Life state board member, Taylor McCleskey of Wheeling, organized and is completing a Prayer Walk Across West Virginia, which passed through the Elkins area over the weekend.
The walk is an effort to raise awareness of the needs surrounding kids today and how Christ is using Young Life to change lives.
Taylor McCleskey, of Wheeling, and Heath Sizick, of Elkins, walk from Tygarts Valley to Elkins High School Saturday as part of the Young Life West Virginia Prayer Walk. McCleskey, who started his pilgrimage in Huntington, will complete his trek in Petersburg this week. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart)
McCleskey said was inspired by Young Life Africa and their efforts to reclaim an entire continent through the power of the Gospel and prayer.
"We believe in the power of presence," McCleskey said. "Because their Young Life leader believes in them, they begin to see that their lives have great worth, meaning and purpose."
McCleskey said the Prayer Walk Across West Virginia was inspired by Young Life Africa, and the group's goal to see the Gospel spread through schools, towns and counties and eventually, throughout the state.
The Prayer Walk started in Huntington July 12, and will come to a close tomorrow when McCleskey reaches Petersburg - 300 miles from start to finish, passing through Charleston, Summersville, Marlinton, Elkins and Petersburg.
McCleskey said God wired him with "a wonderful sense of adventure."
"My daughter is walking with Young Life Africa in Tanzania and I thought it would be a cool thing to do in West Virginia to raise awareness while praying for kids in West Virginia, so we are dovetailing the walk across Africa," McCleskey said. "The staff and state board members of Young Life were excited with this walk."
He said the walk has not always been easy.
"I encountered a black bear near Nettie," McCleskey said. "I also came face to face with a pit bull, three rottweilers and a German shepherd. There were some cold rainy days, and it was tough - especially going downhill, which puts lots of pressure on your feet."
McCleskey said along the way, he has been fortunate to meet many people and speak in many churches. His journey took him to Tygarts Valley High School Friday evening, and he walked from there to Elkins High School on Saturday with Heath Sizick, local Young Life leader.
Along the way, McCleskey said he had four pages of prayer requests.
"Rarely do you have six to seven hours a day to let your mind go without the stresses of work and distractions of life," he said. "This gave me time to think about the significant things in life."
While at Tygarts Valley, McClesky said he spoke with many parents and walked around the school praying for students and leaders. He said on his way to Elkins, he had special prayers for the new leadership at Elkins High School and the Randolph Technical Center. He said he also is praying for the parents, teachers and students at Harman School and for the Randolph County Board of Education members.