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Many RV drivers are concerned about how many miles they get to the gallon, but Jay Loecken and his family have a different measuring stick: good deeds to the mile.
On April 18, 2008, the family climbed into an RV in Atlanta and started driving around the country, looking for people to help. They haven't stopped since, in the process visiting 44 states, including a current stop in the Twin Cities.
"My wife and I always dreamed of traveling, but then God showed us that we don't need to just travel for adventure," he said. "We travel for a purpose."
It started with a 2007 mission trip that their church sponsored to Africa, where the family was appalled by the severe poverty.
"The amazing thing was that in the middle of this poverty, they had an incredible sense of community," Loecken said. "When we came home, we realized that despite all the things we owned, they had something we didn't."
The next trip was a lot shorter. Loecken agreed to accompany a man he met in a Bible study class in offering help to a group of homeless people who had taken refuge under a bridge.
"I had no idea that 20 minutes from where I lived there were people living under a bridge," he said. "Sure, there's a real need for help for people in Third World countries, but I realized that there also was a real need right here."
So Loecken and his wife, Beth, sold their home and most of their possessions, bought an RV and hit the road with their dog Kenya and their kids -- Ben, now 15, Bekah, 13, Abigail, 11 and Noah, 7.
"We had no idea what we were doing," Loecken said. He means that literally: The RV was delivered to their home, and Loecken had to call the man who sold it to them for instructions on how to start it.
They have since formulated a plan: They go from city to city, looking for service projects that can use their help and speaking in local churches.
The Minnesota stop is a bit different because Loecken grew up on a farm near Delano and attended Northwestern College in Roseville. After he and Beth were married, they lived in the Twin Cities for about 10 years before moving to Atlanta.
The Loeckens will be sharing their story at this weekend's worship services at Plymouth Covenant Church, 4300 Vicksburg Lane, Plymouth. Services are at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 9:15 and 11 a.m. Sunday. In addition, they will lead a "dignity serves" class at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Wayzata Free Church, 705 County Rd. 101, Plymouth.
They will be in Minnesota through the end of July. They have a website, passiontoaction.org, that includes a calendar of public appearances.A good business sense
The Catholic Spirit is looking for ethical businesspeople (cynics can insert the joke of their choice here).
Each year, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis takes nominations for its Leading With Faith Awards. Nominees must be Roman Catholic managers or business owners "who have influenced the workplace through business practices that reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ and his church and who share of themselves in their parish and/or community."
Up to four people will be honored in each of three categories: companies with fewer than 50 employees, companies with 50 or more employees and nonprofit companies.
There is plenty of time to work on your acceptance speech; the awards won't be given out until Sept. 30. But you have to get moving if you plan to nominate someone. That deadline is July 16. Forms are available at thecatholicspirit.com.
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392