Riding on faith: Twig pastor plans 1,500-mile snowmobile ride to raise money for new churchTWIG — After Pastor Brad Shannon preaches a sermon titled “Ordinary risk” to the congregation at New Life Covenant Church in Twig on Sunday, he’ll depart on his Ski Doo Renegade Back Country snowmobile.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
TWIG — After Pastor Brad Shannon preaches a sermon titled “Ordinary risk” to the congregation at New Life Covenant Church in Twig on Sunday, he’ll depart on his Ski Doo Renegade Back Country snowmobile.
About 1,500 miles later, he plans to finish his epic ride in Churchill, Manitoba, the town known as the polar bear capital of the world.
Shannon, 44, is taking what he calls his “New Frontier Expedition” to draw attention to and raise money for what the church is doing. With a weekly attendance of a little more than 100 and an annual budget of $130,000, New Life Covenant is about to begin construction of a new building.
To do that, church members pledged $400,000, which is being matched by a loan from the national Covenant denomination. The finished product, including in-kind donations and “sweat equity,” is expected to be a million-dollar building, Shannon said.
The amount pledged “communicates how strongly the congregation wants a new church,” church member Walt Cressman said on Friday.
‘Community in mind’
The existing church, at Industrial and Dickerman roads, “has to be replaced,” church member Bob Winship said.
Formerly a one-room schoolhouse, the building has been remodeled and expanded over the years. But the sanctuary and classrooms are undersized, Shannon said. There are no bathrooms on the main level. Few people choose to have funerals or weddings in the building.
The new facility will be across the street on 7½ acres, five of which were donated. A local company donated excavating services as well, Shannon said.
The church will begin with offices, educational wings and a multipurpose room with space for volleyball and half-court basketball, Cressman said. A sanctuary is envisioned for the future.
“We’re really building it with the community in mind,” he said.
Construction is expected to begin in May.
The Shannons planned the snowmobile trip as a way to raise money for the project from outside of the church.
“The idea for me is: How can I invite the broader community into what God’s doing in Twig? So it’s friends and family. We have donations from California; we have donations from the East Coast,” he said. “We have donations from Catholics and Lutherans and Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians. It’s a beautiful picture of the kingdom of God.”
They’ve raised more than $10,000 so far.
Help on the way
Shannon has been snowmobiling since he was a boy growing up in Columbia Heights, Minn., and enjoying life at a family cabin in Wisconsin. His real passion, he said, isn’t for snowmobiling but for the wilderness. This trip was inspired by a three-week journey he and his father took after he finished college. That adventure, by plane, train and car, began in Churchill and continued north.
He sees the snowmobile as a means to an end.
“Adventure has always been in my blood,” he said. “There’s just something about going to places that you couldn’t get to without it.”
While Brad Shannon travels by snowmobile, Brooke Shannon, 38, and the children — ages 9, 7 and 3 — will make the journey in a Chevrolet Suburban and meet him along the way. For the final leg of the trip, Brooke and the kids will board a train in the town of Thompson, because that’s as far as the road goes. They’ll all return home together and hope to be back by March 2.
There will be help along the way.
The Shannons will stay in a few hotels, but they’ll also stay in church camps and in the homes of church members in other communities. No one is riding with Shannon for the entirety of his journey, but he’ll have companions for significant segments.
That includes 300 miles with no designated snowmobile trail. They’ll have the gear they need to camp along the trail if necessary, he said.
The church has given him the time off he needs to complete the journey, and a family is staying in their home while they’re away. The school the two older children attend, Pike Lake Elementary, provided homework so they’ll be able to keep up as they travel.
Cressman said he’s quizzed Shannon on the logistics of his plans “to make sure I think he’s sane.”
“I think his wife is braver than he is,” Cressman added. “She’s the one driving three kids across the wilderness in the middle of winter.”
Rebuilding a home
The start of the building project will be even closer when the Shannons return, but that’s becoming a familiar experience for them.
Brooke Shannon is the clerk of Grand Lake Township, which completed its new hall in 2012. At the same time, the Shannons were living in a trailer while their new house was being built about 3 miles from the church. They chose to build on the same property where their previous house burned to the ground on Sept. 17, 2011. They were at the family cabin when the fire broke out.
After seven years at the church, it might have seemed like the right time for the Shannons to move on. Instead, they rebuilt.
“My wife and I felt a particular calling to this community, and we feel like there’s a great need for healthy, fruitful ministry in a rural context,” Shannon said.
Church members see it that way as well, Cressman said.
“He is truly a community pastor here,” he said of Shannon. “He’s building the church one family, one relationship at a time.”
Shannon is using Joshua 1 for his text on Sunday. The Scripture includes the phrase: “Be strong and courageous.”
That applies not just to his journey, he said, but to building the church.
“Our little church has taken a big step of faith, or a risk, because they want to impact the community,” Shannon said. “It just goes on and on and on about why it can’t happen. But when you take that risk, God is always faithful.”
To learn more
Follow Pastor Brad Shannon’s journey at newfrontierexpedition.com