Peter Jenkins Finds Jesus While Walking America

The author of A Walk Across America talks about why angels smiled down at him at a revival in Mobile, Alabama.

Peter Jenkins began a five-year, 4,500-mile walk across America in October of 1973. First published as two articles in National Geographic, his memoirs then led to two best selling books, A Walk Across America and his most recent book now available in paperback, Looking for Alaska (St. Martin's).

"On that original walk across the U.S., however, Jenkins found something else—faith. Two years into the journey, he stumbled into an Alabama revival and accepted Christ.

How did you end up in a Southern revival service?

I grew up in Connecticut in a very quiet, official, East Coast Presbyterian church. My parents believed, and they made their six children go to church and Sunday school.

In 1973 I had started walking from upper New York State. A year and a half later, I found myself in Mobile, Alabama. It was just as radically different as any place I'd ever been.

I was working as a tree surgeon and some people had invited me to go to this party. I knew it would be a typical dope-smoking party where you just sit and listen to The Allman Brothers. [On my way there,] I saw these big billboards advertising a revival.

I had no idea what a revival was.

Were you looking for a religion?

I wanted a religion that had emotion in it. I wanted a religion that had life, action, and the kinds of things I found in the kind of music I loved. Prior to this, I had lived in North Carolina with a black family. And that sort of set the stage. I had realized in that black church that you can have emotion and you can express yourself. You can even dance and sing for three hours. You can shout. You can be mad.

In all of our lives we're on this spiritual quest. As you go, you can see how things are set up, just like they are in a good movie. The scene is set.

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The Dick Staub Interview
Dick Staub was host of a eponymous daily radio show on Seattle's KGNW and is the author of Too Christian, Too Pagan and The Culturally Savvy Christian. He currently runs The Kindlings, an effort to rekindle the creative, intellectual, and spiritual legacy of Christians in culture. His interviews appeared weekly on our site from 2002 to 2004.
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