An interview with Terence Lester by Arian Moore, Enliven Department Editor
Photos in this article are from Terence' Instagram page.
I am sure that I'm not the only one who has had to take a break from social media and even some interactions due to the current divisiveness within our nation. I've been on a quest for all things inspiring and all things motivational. When I came across this story I was not only moved, but I was provoked to do more. Terence Lester, an Atlanta native, allowed his passion to end homelessness to push him into action. Over half a million people find themselves living on the street, in cars or in shelters each night. Terrence and his organization, Love Beyond Walls, provides grooming services, a free laundry program, and groceries to homeless men, women and youth in the city of Atlanta. Terence is currently on a 648 mile trek from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about homelessness in America. He walks 13 to 15 miles a day sleeping on a bus or in donated hotels.
He's chosen the name MAP16 for this awareness campaign which stands for “March Against Poverty in 2016.” "We chose MAP because a map is a symbolism for direction," Lester said. "Not only do we hope to inspire onlookers to get involved, but to inspire people to create life-maps that will lead them out of poverty." Here is a chat he and I shared about his goals and his journey as he makes his way through Charlottesville, VA.
Arian Moore: What sparked your passion for homelessness?
Terence Lester: Well, it's twofold. Firstly, my faith plays a huge role in why I chose homelessness. When I think about how God rescued me from the poverty of my own soul it literally compels me to want to get involved with the things that concern God. When you look at scripture from Genesis to Revelation you'll see that God has a heart for the poor. Therefore, I wanted to join God in where God's heart is. Secondly, my personal story is sprinkled with homelessness when I was younger. Therefore, now that I have overcome many odds stacked against me I see it as both a passion and a purpose to lift others.
Arian Moore: How was Love Beyond Walls formed and what kind of work do you do?
Terence Lester: Love Beyond Walls was formed from a church plant in December 2013. I actually started the organization with my wife. My first campaign involved me intentionally making myself homeless (with my family's permission) to understand homelessness as an adult to advocate it. After the first campaign we started mobilizing people from all over to serve the homeless and under-served families that wrestle with poverty. So far, we've moved 7000 people to serve over 30,000 people in Atlanta and abroad.
Arian Moore: How has faith influenced your desire to help others?
Terence Lester: It's simple. I follow Jesus, and try my best to live like him. It's not anything more than that. One of my favorite scriptures is Matthew 9:36-38
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
This verse pushes me to love the weary like Christ.
Arian Moore: Why are you walking 648 miles?
Terence Lester: Specifically, I’m walking to raise awareness about the millions of people who live in poverty in America. With this campaign, it is our intent to elevate stories over stats.
Each week, our organization resources people who wrestle with poverty, and many of those stories represented will go unheard.
- Single moms who struggle to care for their children
- Homeless people who did not ask to be homeless, or struggle to find help
- Working class people that walk miles to secure resources to survive and live
- Senior citizens that live on less than $100 per month.
- Mothers that struggle to gain resources for their children
- Persons who have been unemployed for months, and do not have any job leads
- Persons who have severe health problems, but can’t afford adequate health coverage
- Homeless people who struggles to find a place to shower from month to month
- Families that have been evicted in the last month
Arian Moore: What sparked the idea for a walk to raise awareness?
Terence Lester: Every single week, people walk to our headquarters in College Park for various items to survive. Many walk to receive groceries because they are food insecure. Some walk for haircuts from our Mobile Makeover Bus. Some walk to wash their clothes because they need to save the few dollars and not spend it at the coin laundry. Some walk for clothing out of our closet to do interviews. Some walk to attend educational workshops that we host. Whatever reason, many people walk because they lack transportation and most times—hope.
Therefore, people that we encounter on a week-to-week basis inspired the idea. Their strength, courage, and tenacity has pushed me to identify with the suffering of the poor in the country. Also, I’m walking to share a message that to overcome poverty it takes many steps, and people can beat poverty by taking the right steps.
Arian Moore: Why walk instead of riding a bike or traveling in a car?
Terence Lester: I have chosen to walk because when you walk—you see more, and understand more. Additionally, walking has many symbolisms:
Walking symbolizes long-suffering. There are many people who wrestle with poverty and have been doing so for a long time. In fact, many people have had to display long-suffering in dealing with poverty. I have chosen to walk this distance to identify with those who suffer for long periods of time.
Walking symbolizes taking one step at a time. There are no quick fixes when it comes to poverty, however we can collectively provide solutions and make strides one-step at a time. Additionally, if someone is wrestling with poverty, we’d like this demonstration to symbolize that poverty can be overcome one step at a time.
Walking symbolizes the ordinary. Sometimes people think that we need to have magical powers before we make a difference in the lives of others and the world. That’s not true. We are making this trip to inspire individuals, small organizations, and groups of people to take a stand for something. Everyday ordinary people can make a difference.
Arian Moore: What type of physical training did you undergo before taking this journey?
Terence Lester: I trained five months walking tons of miles every single day and being coached by a personal trainer (Levon Thomas).
Arian Moore: Though this walk has purpose, has it inspired you from a fitness perspective and if so how?
Terence Lester: It has inspired me to live healthy every single day of my life. I'm in the best shape of my life just from walking. I'm looking to see how many more gains I can achieve in my life as a result.
Arian Moore: Do you have a meal plan that you go by while walking to maximize endurance? If so please share.
Terence Lester: I burn a lot of calories every day so I do not have a meal plan. I try to load up on good carbs and stay away from anything unhealthy.
Arian Moore: How can people support your walk? Can people join in?
Terence Lester: People can support in three ways:
- Share the story by following our social media accounts (@lovebeyondwalls)
- Partner with us or volunteer
- Give to help us build a resource center for the poor
Terence is two weeks away from reaching D.C. Follow Love Beyond Walls on social media to get more information on how you can help or visit the website to view the route.
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