On Monday (November 4) Bishop Eric Pike and his wife Joyce, will start a 200km walk through Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) to launch the city’s unique Nehemiah Prayer Route.
They may be in their 80s but they have plenty of walking cred — they have both completed the 780km Camino pilgrimage through France and Spain twice and while he was the Anglican Bishop of Port Elizabeth (he retired in 2001) Bishop Eric undertook a prayer walk around the periphery of the city.
The Nehemiah Prayer Route touches every ward of NMB and tells the story of the past and present role of the Church in the city.
On Monday the Pikes, together with Pastor Mark Upman, who will be the marshal for the day, and fellow walkers from the area, will set out from St Margaret’s Anglican Church in Summerstrand on their first 10km leg.
They will walk approximately 10km a day from Monday to Thursday for most of the route which they will finish back at St Margaret’s on Saturday November 30.
Each leg of the walk will be anchored by a venue — usually a church — where parking and ablutions are available. Churches situated midway along each stretch will serve as ablution points and some have indicated they will also provide refreshments.
NMB metro authorities have caught the vision of the walk to pray relevantly into every area of the city and to connect the people of the city. A police vehicle will drive behind and ahead of the walkers each day and a metro emergency medical service vehicle will accompany them daily.
Volunteer marshals will act as guides and logistics overseers each day. Marshals will serve in sections that pass through their own neighbourhoods and will be well-equipped to point out landmarks and tell some of the stories that have shaped those areas.
Anybody who would like to join the walk as it passes through their neighbourhood can find out more information, including route details, on the Transformation Christian Network web site.
Trevor Jennings, one of the members of a group of church and business leaders who first envisaged the route through a process of praying together for the restoration of the broken walls of the city, emphasised that the 10km launch walks in November are not for exercise but for prayer.
Bishop Eric, who volunteered to walk the whole route after he heard about it, has written a special prayer for the launch which walkers will pray before setting out each day.
At the start of each day’s walk, pilgrims will be given a list of five prayer points focusing on taking down key strongholds applicable to the day’s route, such as drugs, prostitution and gang violence in certain areas. As they walk they will also be encouraged to pray into “whatever their eyes are telling them”, said Jennings. They will also be challenged to bring the hope of the Gospel into neighbourhoods where poverty and unemployment have left many feeling hopeless.
After the November launch period, the Nehemiah Prayer route, which has been mapped out with GPS coordinates (see digital route) will be open for walkers, runners, cyclists, motorcyclists and motorists. School groups, fellowship groups, other groups and individuals were welcome to experience the prayer route and get firsthand insight into the challenges faced by the city, he said. They could tackle the route alone or hire people who have been specially trained as prayer route guides.
Because of the vast scale of the route — it takes four to five hours to drive through it — it has been split into five more manageable parts. He said it was hoped that locals would regularly walk their sections of the route and pray for their areas.