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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Trail ministry

Tiny mountain congregation offers hikers food, showers & shelter

Peter Suwak posted cards along the Appalachian Trail asking, "Are you cold, tired or hungry?" As a result, many hikers enjoy the hospitality of Central Lutheran Church, Burkes Garden, Va.

Because of its proximity, Central Lutheran
Because of its proximity, Central Lutheran Church, Burkes Garden, Va., provides food and shelter to hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Member Lee Greever poses with hikers Jelly and Bean from Vermont.

This Appalachian Trail ministry began as Suwak's seminary internship project. This month he returns for his final year at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.), but this congregation of 14 active members will try to keep the hospitality going.

Because of Suwak's project and the congregation's welcome, hikers in need of shelter can come down from Garden Mountain for a shower, a warm bed and two meals before heading back to the trail. More than 50 came in from the snow and rain in the first month.

The church is at a vantage point: only a mile and a half from a trailhead on the 2,200-mile Maine-Georgia trail that winds around the rim of Burkes Garden, a scenic rural bowl near the Virginia-West Virginia line.


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