Daily Reporter staff writer

HANCOCK COUNTY — Four kilometers.

Americans know it as about 2½ miles. Though a cross-country runner might make quick work of that distance, a daily walk of that length is known perhaps to only the oldest among us, as the stuff of I-walked-to-school-uphill-both-ways stories.

In Brazil, that distance is uphill, and one who walks it could face tropical heat, rains that produce red clay mud or cows giving chase.

Story continues below gallery

For ministry workers going to a remote community in Brazil, the distance represented time, time not spent feeding, educating and mentoring children.

The Trek for Transportation is a trek that goes where one man has gone before — up the jungle-lined dirt road to Cajueiro Claro. Pastor Flavio Travassos used to exit a bus and walk that road daily.

The annual event in Southeastway Park began in 2007 to raise money for a van to hasten that journey.

“It started with helping to raise funds to buy the van,” Steve Turner said.

More recently, since the purchase of the van, the event is to keep that van maintained and its fuel tank full.

Turner attends Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine and is a Brazil field representative for World Renewal International, a missions organization based in Hancock County. His son, Jeff, lives in Brazil with his family and works as director of communication and technology for WRI’s Brazil work.

The Volkswagen van, referred to as a Kombi, helps transport ministry leaders, food and volunteers for the Living Stones ministry that operates in Cajueiro Claro and several other communities.

The ministry began more than 15 years ago when Assuerio Naque, a pastor and church planter, noticed some naked children playing in the street. He talked to them and learned their mother had left and was working as a prostitute, and their father was drunk.

“Assuario just sat down on the curb and wept,” said Gary Wright, president of World Renewal.

But he did more than that. The pastor began offering children food and a place to work on schoolwork. Those who found no room in the public schools or had no adult ensuring their attendance could receive some education there. Those coming before, after or instead of school could also find a hot meal and a Bible lesson. New churches began to form from the families whose children were part of Living Stones.

Caid and Rachel Ferguson work with Living Stones. In an email from Brazil, they said the van allows them to spend most of their time on ministry, not transportation.

“The fact that we have a vehicle doubles the amount of time we can spend with the kids at the Living Stones,” they wrote. “Before, when it was just Rachel and Flavio at the Cajueiro Living Stones, a third to half of their time was spent on getting there. We now can better reach the kids and do more with them. In short, we can have a greater impact in our ministry.”

The Fergusons have come to Indiana for past treks; Rachel Ferguson is a Hoosier. This year, they won’t be here; their first child is due this month. In a YouTube video made to promote the trek, she notes that about 30 percent of the ministry’s budget is spent on transportation.

Money raised through the trek will “free up our general budget to be able to be spent for food and nutrition and education for the children,” she said.

Roland Zaleta, who attends Brandywine Community Church in Greenfield and serves as a field representative for the work in Brazil, said the function of the annual trek is not only financial support but also encouragement.

“It would be great if we could get a bigger group out there and take some pictures and show them we’re supporting them,” he said.

Steps of faith

What: Trek for Transportation, a 4km road/trail run/walk

When: 10 a.m. June 13.  Check-in and late registration will be from 9 to 10 a.m.

Where: Southeastway Park, 5624 South Carroll Road

Goal:  Organizers hope to raise $5,000 to pay for gas and maintenance for a Volkswagen van.

Why 4K? Every day, Living Stones workers walked 4 km each way to minister to the children of rural Cajueiro Claro. Often, that is how far children have to walk if they want to go to school. (A stroller-friendly 1.5-mile option is also available.)

How:  Visit http://www.wribrazil.com/trek to find forms. There is a $35 registration fee to participate in the walk, but this fee will be waived if you collect at least $35 in pledges. Can’t make the 4K? Visit wribrazil.com and select the “donate online” box.