Bearing his cross: Man walking US 50 in Kansas on trek to California
The saying goes everyone has a cross to bear. For Roger L. Gates, who has stopped for a few days in Newton as he walks from Oklahoma to California, his physical cross weighs in at about 65 pounds, constructed of 2-by-6-inch lumber with a tote and wheels attached.
"I never I would be doing this at 73 years old," Gates said over a glass of iced tea in Newton. "I thought I would be like other 73-year-olds, sitting on the porch in a rocking chair. I did not exercise for this."
His metaphorical cross, at this time, is raising funds for a project he feels led by God to build — three or four warehouses, 20 acres each, to be used for a food ministry. One of those warehouses will be in Oklahoma, one in California and a third in North Carolina — where his walk began last year before he wintered in Oklahoma.
His path will take him down U.S. 50 — he plans to pass through Hutchinson, Pratt, Dodge City, Garden City and small towns in between as he makes his way to the Colorado border. That adjustment to his route came after interaction with a police officer — an officer who wanted to carry the cross for a bit.
It was after that he learned that pedestrians are not allowed on Interstate 70.
He's been averaging about 18 to 20 miles a day on this trek.
"We have a tracker. ... I have walked several days of 15 and 16 miles. I am getting stronger, even with the heat. The Lord has showed me how to set my pace," Gates said. "You don't get in no hurry, you just keep walking. You drink water as you go. Before it is over I will probably walk like I was before I stopped, 25 to 30 miles a day. The farthest I ever did was 40 miles a day."
His first walk across the country was about 30 years ago, following Interstate 40. This time around his path is longer — estimated at 4,000 miles — and split. In 2020 he went from North Carolina to Oklahoma before breaking for winter.
His path is not a direct one, when he feels led to do so he heads north or south to see different towns.
He's cranked it back up again, heading north out of Oklahoma to Kansas, first trying the Turnpike before getting off of the road where pedestrians are prohibited. Pedestrians are also prohibited on Interstate 70, his first choice to get across Kansas in Colorado. Instead he will head westward on U.S. 50.
After a small break for predicted thunderstorms and not-so-great weather in the area.
This is his mission — one that came to him after a vision. His goal is to build 80 acres of warehouses for food to be used during a disaster, and as a food bank. His previous food ministry gave food boxes to the needy in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
He's led quite a life, from dropping out of college to serve in the military — signing on to be a Marine in Vietnam under President John F. Kennedy — to being sentenced to decades in prison for drug charges. That sentence, he said, was reduced "by God" to about six years.
He served those years, and during his time in prison became a Christian. He became an ordained minister after getting out of prison, and he founded a food ministry he operated for more than a decade.
Then, last year, he donated his home and most of his possessions to the ministry when he was called to walk across the country to raise awareness of his ministry.
"I say I am homeless, but I have a place to stay," Gates said. "... For a single person, I probably have more money than I need. ... There are too many people getting on God's work. To me, a lot of them are turning into Pharisees."
There is a ministry partner who now lives in what was Gates' house, and another who handles financials and social media.
He collects Social Security, and he gets support as a fully disabled veteran. He served in Vietnam, where he said he "walked away from the Lord" and got involved in alcoholism and drugs.
"I walked away from the church," Gates said. "I wasn't listening to my parents. I quit school and went to the military because I thought I needed to serve my country."
After his discharge he ended up in prison — involved in criminal organizations and drugs before getting caught. During his stay in jail he had visions, visions of God. He walked away from the crime, and drugs, and started to serve others.
After prison he founded a food ministry, one that has continued today.
Donations to his ministry can be mailed to Ministry of Truth, 7907 S. 105th St. E., Braggs, OK 74423 or made online at paypal.me/ministryoftruth101.