Junior Garcia and his team of supporters returned to Texas Wednesday, July 18, after more than a month's journey of walking to Washington, D.C., from his home church in Saginaw.
Garcia, 19, carried a wooden cross on his back for close to 1,225 miles. The Journey, as he called it, lasted 37 days. The trip began on June 7 and ended on July 13. The White House was the final stop on their trip, where Garcia was able to conduct a prayer service.
"We had some great encounters on the road," says Randy Lemme, senior pastor at The Oasis Church in Saginaw, Texas. "Lots of lives were changed. We're still hearing stories on Facebook and other venues of people that were touched by seeing the cross."
"Garcia was able to witness to a lot of people," says Rusty Rexroad, pastor of Life Ministries at The Oasis. "He had an effect on people who had no idea of what he was there doing."
Rexroad says there were many visitors during their time in Washington, D.C., and other individuals throughout the trip that stopped to pray with Garcia and the team.
"It was a cool thing to see people pull to the side of the road that wanted to pray with us. In Smithville, Tennessee, there were 40 kids that joined us and walked with us," Garcia says. "Five different churches came together to join us for a great time of fellowship. We threw out our different religious backgrounds and stuck to the things of Christ. Those things really stuck out to me and brought the biggest impact on my walk."
Garcia says God revealed things to him during the walk, as well. "A lot of that was in my personal life, like where I go next," he says. "My major has changed and I've decided to continue in ministry training through Global University. "
"Junior handled the journey with grace, determination and focus," Lemme says. "I saw over this last year a young man, who would barely say three words in a conversation, become a very bold man for Christ. He has handled himself very well, especially with the media."
Overall, Garcia says the trip went well, aside from the day-to-day challenges of summer heat and physical fatigue. "I was asked to leave the interstate in Tennessee, but other than that, we didn't run into any major issues," Garcia says.
During the first five days, physical challenges arose with the walk - Garcia says his feet got wet, blisters formed and his legs were hurting. "That was the hardest part of the trip, really, just getting through the first five days," he says.
Although there were additional challenges with the trailer and bus, Lemme says, the problems were easy to fix, and God had protection over them during their travels.
Storms passed through Virginia while they were traveling, causing damage to trees and homes, and cutting power in some areas, but Garcia and the team were protected. "People got to see the cross as we walked through," he says. " We were able to bring a light to the city after they had gone through so much."
"We saw [God's protection] numerous times where we were literally on a shoulder a foot wide with vehicles flying past at high speed," Lemme says. At one point, a farm vehicle came close to hitting members of the group. "But we never really felt threatened or in danger."
So far, only a small portion of the $35,000 pledge has been raised, but Garcia and the team are still working towards meeting their Speed the Light goal. However, it was still an accomplishment for Garcia to complete The Journey.
"The main goal was to walk and raise awareness of Christ," Garcia says. "In my eyes it was a success, because so many people came to see the cross and we really did what we set out to do."
"It was awesome to have a support team, they did as much work as I did and took care of little things," Garcia says. "They gave 37 days out of their summer to carry the cross and work for the Lord, and I'm thankful they wanted to be a part of The Journey."
Garcia says there is definitely another large-scale event on his heart in the future. "This journey was not the last journey that I'll take. I know that I'll carry the cross again," he says. "I know that others have been encouraged by what we're doing - my hope is that they can step out and do things for the Lord."
Lemme says he would join Junior on any future trips. "He absolutely has my 100 percent support," he says. "We have definitely formed a bond, Junior and I, we're very close and I'm behind him all the way."
The congregation back at The Oasis has also been supportive throughout the whole trip.
"The mission of the church is to see the Cross of Christ lifted high," Lemme says. "I'm thrilled that God used a semi-small church in Saginaw, Texas, to do such a large thing. We look to do a lot more, all for the glory of God."