By the time he was 9 years old, Peter Walker had lived in 49 countries. The son of a street preacher, Walker often wished his dad “just worked in a bank.” But he had a change of heart, and now Walker’s faith plays a huge role in his life as he tries to share his faith throughout the Triangle through a website and face-to-face interactions in strangers.
Q: How did your dad’s job affect your upbringing?
A: In America, the Christian culture almost has an economy of its own ... its own status. When I was growing up, my dad living and working in the street, preaching in foreign countries, it had no status. The only status it had was as some kind of weirdo who was maybe part of a cult. It was not a career to emulate.
Q: When did your attitude change about incorporating faith into your life?
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A: About 10 years ago as I was working as an addiction counselor at a methadone clinic, I just had this real deep sense of the brevity of life and the message of hope that Jesus brings and how if you don’t bring that message to people you can literally spend your whole life talking about the weather and things that really don’t affect the deep areas of hurt in a person’s life.
Q: Three years ago, you started handing out cards with three scripture verses you thought might encourage people. Why?
A: God really pressed that he wanted me to share with people in my everyday life. I give those cards out all day, every day, everywhere I go — probably 15 to 20 a day — and I just say, “Hey, these three verses might encourage you.”
Q: How do people respond?
A: I’m scared every time; I always brace myself for the worst, and yet I’d say only one out of 20 is somewhat hostile or says no. I’m there to give people hope, and if they choose to reject the card I’m trying to give them, that’s a hit I’m willing to take because I’m not really doing it for myself. I’ve approached this more out of obedience, with a certain fear and trepidation, not brazen confidence.
Q: What are the verses?
Matthew 11:28; Isaiah 43:25; and Ezekiel 36:26.
Q: What do your kids think about what you do?
A: I grew up under the umbrella of this kind of stuff, and I know its impact. My kids by God’s grace, my five kids are 8 to 18, they get it. They realize it’s off the beaten trail … and that it’s an unpredictable zone with people. By me sharing my faith with people, they read the Bible stories very differently because they see me doing it, they see it in action, and it’s not so theoretical to them.
Q: How are others getting involved?
A: For the first time last summer, I did outreach to four cities in four Fridays: Cary, Raleigh, Carrboro and Durham. I put an invitation out to friends who follow me on a closed group on Facebook, and I just shared some of my stories. We met at local cafes for a half an hour, prayed together, and then struck out in twos, meeting back later to share stories. For the first one, only two people showed up. I had a lot of people tell me they wanted to do it, but they were scared. So I rented the clubhouse in my neighborhood and did an actual training session. At that one, 30 people showed up representing about six or seven local churches.
Q: What was the response when the group knocked on doors?
A: Some people shared their stories or asked for prayers, to remember them in prayer, that they were there on their own or a single parent. I approached one man in the laundry room of an apartment complex and I held out the card, and he stalled, and I was kind of waiting for him to throw it at me, but he nearly started crying. He said, “My phone and money were stolen, and I’m sitting here doing my laundry, and I needed this.”
Q: What’s surprised you the most?
A: How open and receptive people are; I’m very inspired. What I’m most grateful to God about is how much warmth, meaning and impact (I see) and how warmly received the verses have been.
Peter Walker — Tar Heel of the Week
Born: Feb. 7, 1975, in San Diego
Family: Wife and five kids, ages 8 to 18
Occupation: Licensed addiction counselor
Hobbies: Running, journaling