Walking for peace

Peacewalker Bob Gross stopped off in Avalon last week, hosted by Jane Miller, pictured above, and family as part of his 3,000-mile walk from Indiana to eastern PA to raise funds and awareness of peace programs. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

With North Korea threatening nuclear war and with lawmakers battling over gun legislation, prospects for peace seem to be more elusive than ever.
One man, though, in his own quiet way, has not abandoned the quest for a better future, taking his message to the streets as he walks from his home in North Manchester, IN to Elizabethtown in eastern Pennsylvania.

That walker, Bob Gross, stopped in Avalon last Thursday, spending the night with Rick and Jane Miller and family.

Gross did not just pick Jane's name from the White Pages when looking for a place to recharge and relax. "Jane and my wife, Rachel, grew up in northern Ohio and they have stayed in contact," he said.

He explained his journey as being a project of On Earth Peace, an organization devoted to violence prevention and reconciliation. "It's related to the Church of the Brethren, a peace church, a witness for peace." The denomination is in the same tradition as Mennonites and Quakers.

Miller, who grew up as a member of the same church, said that she has observed the work of the peacemakers. "I believe in the work that they are doing."

Gross said that people are doing bike rides and walks to discuss violence prevention and to raise money for On Earth Peace programs. Prior to his walk, he solicited pledges of $200 per mile, with half-mile sponsorships also accepted. To-date, he is mid-way through his 600-mile trek as well as in reaching his goal of $130,000.

Many of the peacemakers are dedicating their efforts to the memory of Paul Ziegler, who had planned a 3,000-mile bike ride after graduating from college. Unfortunately, Ziegler, who lived in Elizabethtown, was killed in a traffic accident before he had the opportunity to start his journey.

"This organization is my job," Gross said. "A significant part of what we do is with youth and young adults. Lots of people in the campaign are young people."

Until last summer, Gross, 63, served as director of On Earth Peace, but he stepped back to focus on fund-raising for the programs that address weapons, war, and "…all kinds of violence that is incompatible with the Bible. We work at that level in speaking out against violence"

Wearing lightweight hiking boots and toting only essentials that include a small laptop, Gross noted that his solo walking gives him time to think, especially on roads where traffic is light.

"And I notice things along the roadside. Much of it is trash, but just recently I came across a wireless router. I'm looking for a keyboard now," he said jokingly.

Gross is maintaining a blog of his journey that may be accessed at 3000milesforpeace.org.

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