The trip, dubbed Sugar to Salt because it will begin in Sugar Creek and end in the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico, will span 2,477 miles, encompassing five rivers and 10 states. The pair expect to take roughly four months to travel the length of the country in their recently donated Old Town 16’9 Royalex canoe.
Dalton resident Jon Detweiler, a senior Bible and theology major at Malone University, dreamed up the trip while at college. Tired of studying and writing papers and ready for more hands-on excitement, Detweiler thought, “What if we went canoeing?”
Ben Swartz, Detweiler’s cousin and partner on the trip, insisted that this adventure should be done for a cause.
“There’s more value to a trip when it’s on behalf of someone else, not just for ourselves,” said Detweiler. After witnessing poverty during previous mission work, Detweiler said he feels a moral obligation to help people and share the gospel. Acting on their shared desire to help others, the duo decided that the proceeds from this extensive journey would support Iris Ministries in Mozambique, Africa.
Founded as a small orphanage by Rolland and Heidi Baker in 1980, Iris now aids more than 10,000 children around the world and instructs and equips future African pastors for continued mission work.
Detweiler wanted to help spread God’s message by aiding pastors and Swartz, who has seen poverty in places such as Kenya and Honduras, passionately wanted to help the poor by helping orphans. Iris Ministries fulfilled both of their aims.
The cousins plan to divide the journey into two phases, each devoted to a different cause. The first 1,477 miles will support orphans, while the second 1,000 miles will support pastors. For a pastor, one mile will pay for one year of Bible training ($210 per year), including transportation, food, housing, manuals, Bibles, supplies, and a graduation present. For an orphan, one mile will cover one month of sponsorship ($100 per month). This includes meals, medical services, education, vocational training and spiritual mentorship for each child.
More than 2,000 miles of river travel may seem like a daunting task, but not when each mile means something special. As Detweiler and Swartz prepare to paddle their canoe such a massive distance, they keep in mind that this trip will not only traverse the rivers of the United States, but will reach across the ocean to touch someone’s life in Mozambique, Africa.
They also plan on doing some mission work of their own as they travel to the Gulf, camping in tents and the occasional church. “We want to meet people along the way and get to know the river culture,” said Detweiler. “We want to spend time with the homeless and poor along the way and make this a true missionary trip.”
Of course, it would not be a true adventure without a prize at the end. For Detweiler, that prize is the fulfillment he feels when helping others. “When you get out and start serving other people, there’s a joy that comes with it that you can’t really get by yourself and going about your daily routine,” he said. “It’s very fulfilling when every mile we paddle has value and goes toward a goal.”
Sugar to Salt has received excellent community support and enthusiasm. Due to this support, which includes food packages and equipment donations, all of the proceeds will go to the mission in Mozambique.
Supporters will be able to follow the progress of the pair as they make their way down the river. “We want people to donate, but we also want them to come along with us,” said Detweiler. He and Swartz will blog about their experiences and there will be Webcams at strategic points such as Vicksburg, Miss. and Algiers Point, New Orleans, La. The canoe is equipped with a GPS that will pinpoint exactly where the travelers are located on the map.
To follow or donate to what promises to be an adventure through uncharted waters for both the body and the soul, go to http://www.sugar2salt.com.
Published: July 19, 2011