On Halloween, 68-year-old the Rev. John Halvorsen began a walk across America. After dipping his foot in the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica Pier in California, he set off for Times Square.
Shortly before noon Thursday, he crossed the Susquehanna River on Route 462. Over the past 8 1/2 months, he has walked through rain and dodged flooding. But until Thursday, the summer heat hadn’t bothered him.
“Your weather is HOT,” he said Thursday just east of Columbia while taking a break from Prayer Walk America. “I mean it’s oppressively hot.”
Halvorsen is a nondenominational minister from Duluth, Minnesota. His walk, he said, began with “a nudge” from God to walk across the country to help foster “a moral and societal awakening” in this country.
The walk, he insisted, is purely spiritual, not political.
“It’s to prompt and appeal to heaven for America.” he said. “I’m hoping for an awakening in the United States.”
Along the way, he has met and prayed with people — be it Midwestern farmers who have lost crops due to flooding or people down on their luck.
“All across Missouri, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana, farmers have had serious weather issues with crops,” he said. “I’ve spoken to farmers who say ‘Please pray to God for us.’ ”
When he and his wife, Sandy, who is accompanying him in a 30-foot motor home, have asked people if they can pray for them, “People will just start to cry. These people are God-fearing. It’s not what I expected.”
Halvorsen says he was born again in 1975 while working as a drug addiction counselor. In 1980, he took several addicts on a canoe trip that was featured on the “700 Club” television show.
He became a pastor in 1983. From 1991 to 1996, he and Sandy served as missionaries in Ireland and planted a church.
His has since served as a pastor at churches in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He most recent charge was at Great Lakes Church in Duluth.
This is not the first time Halvorsen has felt nudged by God.
In 1998-99, he walked from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico and then from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans, calling on the nation to repent and calling the church to prayer because he believed the country faced “tumultuous times” ahead.
He believes the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks represent those tumultuous times.
He followed that with a 6,000-mile walk across Eurasia in hopes that God’s presence would open ancient doors of hostility.
And he has traveled to both the North Pole, aboard a Russian ice breaker, and to Antarctica to proclaim that the Gospel has reached the ends of the earth and that the Lord wants his world back.
The treks have been self-financed and supplemented by donations.
Joined by friends
On Thursday, Halvorsen was joined by friends Mark Eskola and Jerry Jones, who had driven to York from Minnesota to accompany Halvorsen for the day. They were scheduled to return to Minnesota this weekend.
That evening they took part in a potluck dinner hosted by St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Manheim Township.
Halvorsen walks 96 miles per week. As of Thursday, was on his fifth pair of shoes.
His goal is to reach New York City and set foot in the Hudson River by July 31 — the day after he turns 69.
The reaction to his Prayer Walk has been overwhelmingly positive, he said. The lone negative, he noted, was that he had not lost any weight.
“I’m still overweight,” he said.