River adventure for pair of Ohioans

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River adventure for pair of Ohioans

Postby chief joe » Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:32 pm

COSHOCTON, Ohio — Canoeing down the Tuscarawas River this week, cousins Ben Swartz and Jon Detweiler exchanged greetings with several men fishing off a bridge.

“Where you headed?” one of the anglers asked. “The Gulf of Mexico,” Swartz said — a reply that was met with laughter.

“Very few people actually believe us,” he added.

The skepticism is understandable. Detweiler and Swartz, after all, are trying to cover the roughly 2,500 miles from Sugar Creek near Detweiler’s hometown of Dalton in Wayne County to the salt water of the gulf — which explains the name of their trip: Sugar 2 Salt.

Their motivation is partly adventure but mostly mission. The 22-year-old cousins are raising money to feed orphans and train pastors in eastern Africa.

Their timetable is somewhat loose: They expect to finish in about 21/2 months.

Three days in, they had traveled about 80 miles when they pulled over briefly at a rocky outcropping on the Tuscarawas a few miles east of Coshocton, where the Tuscarawas empties into the Muskingum River. From there, they will paddle to the Ohio River and, finally, to the Mississippi and the gulf.

Despite months of planning, they quickly began wondering what they had gotten into.

“At the beginning (Sunday), I’m like ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’” Detweiler said. “I feel like all my confidence just leaked out.”He has since recovered: “Every day as we go, it’s like ‘This is possible; we can do this.’” With his wide-brimmed hat, partly unbuttoned shirt, beard and bare feet, Detweiler resembled a modern Huck Finn. Swartz — clean-cut and sporting a hat with sun flaps — looked more like a serious explorer on a safari.
Their clothes mirror their personalities, helping to explain the origin and purpose of the fundraiser.
The trip originated last year when Detweiler, sitting in his dorm room at Malone University in Canton, began zoning out.
“I’m a theology major, and I have to write a ton of papers,” he said. “I was in the middle of one, and I’m like ‘Man, I’m done.’ I wanted to think of something that would help me escape.”

A fan of author Allan Eckert’s series of books about the Ohio frontier, he started envisioning himself as explorer Simon Kenton, plying the waters of Ohio’s rivers.

“I wanted to do something out of the ordinary and very physically challenging. I wanted it to be challenging enough that I wasn’t quite sure that I could actually do it.”

A loner at heart, he at first thought he’d travel solo.

“Then I realized the value of shared experiences,” he said, so he called Swartz, a native of Botkins in Shelby County and Detweiler’s “go-to guy” for adventure. The cousins had previously gone white-water rafting together, among other travels.
Swartz, who works for his father’s contracting business in Lima, was initially skeptical but eventually agreed — on one condition: The trip had to be more than just a college-kid adventure.

“We decided there was so much more value to it if we did it on behalf of others,” Detweiler said.

Swartz, with a passion for missionary work, has taken such trips since he was 16 — to Arizona, Honduras, Mexico, Africa, New Orleans and New York.

He soon came up with a beneficiary: Iris Ministries, which since 1995 has been feeding and educating orphans and training pastors in Mozambique. His aunt, Ashlee Swartz, recently returned home after working for the group for four years.

Her nephew’s decision thrilled Ashlee.
“He (Ben) loves people, loves God and loves life,” she said. “He really has a big heart to help those who are unlovable or unlovely.”

The serious planning began in November. Despite a lack of experience and expertise, the cousins felt confident that they could handle the obstacles, including a series of locks and dams.

The toughest challenge, though, might simply be navigating large bodies of water in a small boat.

“The Ohio and the Mississippi — that’s big water,” said Andy Graham, owner of Outdoor Source in Columbus, which donated the pair’s camping gear. “It’s like paddling across a lake the entire way. The most dangerous part is dodging barges and big boats — staying out of traffic and avoiding everything.”

Besides the camping gear, most of their other needs are being supplied by family members and friends, who will periodically mail packages of nonperishable food to cities along the way.

The two are soliciting monetary pledges through their website ( www.sugar2   salt.com  ) and Facebook page (Sugar 2 Salt). As of Wednesday, they had raised about $25,000. Their goals: $100,000 for orphans (enough to feed 1,000 orphans for a month) and $210,000 for pastors (enough to pay for a year of Bible school for 1,000 pastors).

Although the money is important, both see the trip as serving another purpose, too: They plan to stop frequently along the way, visiting churches and ministering to people they meet.

Detweiler, who recalled seeing homeless people living on the riverbank in downtown Cincinnati, views the trip as “real-time ministry — to meet people, talk to them, show we care.”

“We want to encourage everyone in their faith,” Swartz said. “We want them to know that a life with Jesus should be adventurous, not just about sitting in church.”
Joe Beran
"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull." - W.C. Fields
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