Reflections retracing a pioneering and inspiring walk
Stephen Cheek’s purpose was clear: to visit the church in Warwick to encourage its people and share the Way of Jesus with their friends.
His walk began well, however a storm rolled over the range and he was drenched. Despite the temperature dropping, he pressed on with his sandals caked with black soil.
Aged just 31, this trip would be his last. Stephen contracted a fever and passed away after arriving in Warwick. After six-months preaching about Jesus and planting churches through Brisbane, West Moreton and Darling Downs, Stephen’s life and ministry ended too soon, leaving us with only the churches and the lives that were changed.
We don’t know much about Stephen except his determination to follow the path he believed God was calling him on. That’s why in May 2019, a few friends recreated his great walk…
Setting out from Killarney, the group headed up a dirt track. With only cows to cheer them on, they got into our groove and enjoyed the banter of mates on an adventure.
Arriving at the top of the hills, the valley opened up in front of them, giving them a feel for what lay ahead. Thankfully, the next 16kms were downhill. However, the final climb of the day tested their endurance―a trudge uphill to the local Junabee hall.
By this time, their feet were hurting, and they welcomed the chance to stop for dinner and roll out the swags. They woke the next morning to freezing temperatures and a beautiful sunrise. The quiet roads gave the group time to contemplate on what this walk would have been like for Stephen, wearing just leather shoes and a dark suit. As they arrived in Warwick, the end of the track dumped them on a busy road with trucks roaring past, a stark contrast to the previous peaceful roads.
Stephen was a young man who had an incredible impact on Churches of Christ in Queensland, and his story still inspires our movement today. He demonstrated we are never too young to partner with God in making a difference. For business leaders, his pioneering spirit and commitment to risk all for the sake of others. For our pastors and churches, we can embrace Stephen's message, ‘that every person might hear that the love and grace of God are available to anyone who would come’.
Completing the trek, the group reflected on the differences between the Churches of Christ in 1880 and today. Our presence in Warwick today would shock Stephen. Our integrated Campus, across 10 acres, has a 128-bed aged care service, retirement village, church, café and community centre.
After retracing Stephen’s walk, it was inspiring to think of his enthusiasm for the message of Jesus and all the good things God has brought out of his simple desire to share his faith with others.
The group had planned to make the trek an annual pilgrimage, however the pandemic intervened. Perhaps you could make the trek in honour of Stephen Cheek and the impact he made to our movement?