“Service to others is the heart of the gospel. It is through works of service, that our faith connects to God’s world.”
Nestled away in the coastal town of Scituate, Massachusetts is a 66-year-old woman with a heart for serving others. Bibsy O’Donoghue has made compassion her driving force, leading her to walk 4,000 miles this year to raise awareness and support for those in need.
Challenged by a friend to make the trek, Bibsy saw it as an opportunity to do something that would make a statement: “The more I thought about it, I knew that there was a bigger goal, it wasn’t just about me walking 4,000 miles and patting myself on the back. I thought, ‘I’d like to see if I can raise money to make an impact. Ultimately, I think that’s kind of why we’re here, to help others.’”
This heart is something that has been passed down for generations in Bibsy’s family. Her grandfather was a missionary in Thailand in the early 1900’s where he worked as a medical doctor as one of the first medical missionaries to bring the smallpox vaccine to the country. He worked with the American Presbyterian Mission, whose programs in Thailand are now affiliated with the Church of Christ. Her father was even born there in 1910.
Bibsy is a member of United Church of Christ herself in Norwell, and it was there through her congregation that she learned of the work Church World Service has been doing to help the world’s vulnerable. It was suggested to Bibsy through conversation with her pastor, mission and outreach co-chairs that she support the work of Church World Service through her walk, “It really seemed important to me to support someone who is local and global with their mission.”
The campaign spoke to Bibsy, she saw that CWS was partnering with the U.S. government to support a new hospital in Thailand, which made her look through family keepsakes about her grandfather’s work there. She found a letter written to her family in 1963, which talked about a then-new hospital wing dedicated in his honor. She even found a photo of him riding his elephant out into the jungle to take care of patients. She knew that the her 4,000 miles of walking was an opportunity to continue her grandfather’s legacy.
“I feel like I am finishing that circle that my grandfather started…I think my dad would have been so excited to know that I was doing something would carry on something begun over a century ago.”
So far, Bibsy has hit her 4,000 mile mark, ahead of schedule—walking up to 85 miles each week, and she’s still going. She is on her 9th pair of shoes for the year, replacing them every 450-500 miles (about every 6 weeks). “It’s been very inspiring, it’s been a wonderful journey, and I have just loved walking on our earth and thinking how lucky I am that I can do that and buy sneakers when I need them and clothes to keep me warm.”
80 different church members, family, friends, and strangers have donated to support her walk. Overall, she wasn’t sure how much her walk would raise when she started, but now that she’s just over $12,500, she’s set her sights on $15,000. “It’s been very humbling and gratifying to have all these people support my mission to help others. It’s been a really amazing journey.”
The same friend that urged Bibsy to start the walk shared a daily inspirational quote that stuck with her during her during her journey, “We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.”
“That’s kind of what my two legs are doing right now,” Bibsy remarked.
If you are interested in donating to support Bibsy’s 4,000-mile walk, you can do so online at www.uccnorwell.org. On their home page there is an option to “Donate Online”. Once you select this option, you can designate your donation under “UCC Norwell Directed Gifts” and enter the amount you’d like to donate in the first line item “CWS Walk”. If you would like to donate via check, they can be made out to UCC Norwell with “CWS Walk” written in the memo line and mailed to the address on their website.
Would you like to hit the pavement in support of our neighbors worldwide? Find a CROP Hunger Walk near you at www.crophungerwalk.org. We promise that these walks aren’t 4,000 miles long!