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Several faith-based organizations in Columbus are about to take part in The Walk to Jerusalem, a new program intended to promote spirituality and fitness.

Starting Jan. 27, participants will log their workout hours for the next 12 weeks. The goal is to collectively walk the distance from Columbus across the Atlantic Ocean to the city of Jerusalem, a distance of more than 7,500 miles, by Easter. Participants log their hours of walking, swimming, biking and other ways of moving. A 20-minute walk is counted as 1 mile.

Platte County Lifestyle Coalition Chairman Luke Lemke said the goal is to encourage people who may not normally exercise to be more active.

“It’s absolutely to get the community of Columbus more active, through individuals. I think that’s the No. 1 thing, getting them more active. But also just bring them together as a sense of community in the name of physical wellness and health,” Lemke said. “Our overall goal of the coalition is to try to engage our neighbors, our friends and everybody to have a health environment, healthier lifestyles.

Lemke said organizers brainstormed several ideas as to how to get people more active in their community and churches.

“So it was just one of our projects that we came up with," he said. "And we’ve got several others that we are working on, but this is the first one we wanted to key in on.”

Eight Columbus based church congregations have signed up for the program: 1C Church, Federated Church, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Peace Lutheran Church, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, St. Bonaventure Catholic Church, St. Luke’s United Church of Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church. In addition, the nonprofit organization Youth and Families for Christ will be participating.

The Rev. Ross Burkhalter of St. Anthony's said he was ready to do his part in the group reaching its goal. He said he appreciates how the program provides religious material to encourage participants to reach their goal.

“After explaining what was all entailed with it, I just thought this was going to be a really neat thing for our church to get involved in,” Burkhalter said. “I think what it does is it combines the spiritual activity with the physical activity. I just like that whole analogy. It seems like it’s the whole person that’s involved in this.”

The program was first published by the St. John Providence Health System in Michigan. Platte County Lifestyle Coalition Coordinator Roberta Miksch said this is the first time the group has organized local churches to participate in the program. She said the coalition plans to provide more and similar events and programs in the future.

“We want to be able to provide the community with programs that they can utilize this year and move forward into the future,” Miksch said. “So we envision that they would use this material again ..."

If any other churches are interested in participating in the program at any time, Miksch can be reached at 402-562-4480 or at rmiksch@columbushosp.org.

“I would hope that this would be one of many programs to launch from the coalition out to the community, or work-site or school, coming in the future,” Miksch said.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News-Review.

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