When asked whether he is an experienced long-distance truck driver, Paul Speckman says, "Absolutely not!" But neither that nor an ice storm stopped him and his wife Karon from driving a large moving truck full of quilts and kits more than 450 miles at the end of October.
During a normal year, about 18 churches in their area of central Missouri take their quilts and kits to St. Andrew's Lutheran Church's annual fall Ingathering, which the Speckmans have helped to coordinate since 2006. Then the load is transferred to a larger Ingathering in St. Louis. From there, a professional driver takes a fully loaded semi to the LWR warehouse.
But, due to the challenges of the pandemic, the fall 2020 Ingathering in St. Louis was canceled. Karon and the other members of the St. Andre's Global Missions Committee knew they had to find a Plan B. After all, their quilters and kit makers had gone into "high gear" during all their time at home this year, and they knew the need for these items had only increased.
"Our church had made the most quilts we've ever made, and we were worried they wouldn't get to the warehouse," Karon recalled. "We just decided we were going to have to get them there ourselves."
On October 24, representatives from 24 churches brought their donations to the parking lot at St. Andrew's in Columbia, where hired movers loaded them into a 26-foot moving truck. The entire operation was as safe and socially distanced as possible. The next morning, Paul started the long drive to St. Paul, with Karon following in their car so they could leave the rented truck there and drive back home comfortably.
The Speckmans laugh about their challenging adventure. "The truck didn’t go over 62 miles an hour," Paul said, a factor that stretched the normally eight- or nine-hour trip into a full 12 hours. To make the journey more interesting, the rain turned to sleet and ice in northern Iowa. "It was hard trying to scrape the windshield and not fall on the icy steps!" Paul laughed. And while Karon enjoyed listening to Broadway show tunes in the car, Paul couldn't hear anything but road noise in the truck — including his favorite podcasts and, worse, Karon's phone calls.
But they are glad they did it, because the load arrived just in time. In September, neither the Minnesota nor the Maryland warehouse had any quilts or kits to process. Because so many Ingatherings were canceled and the need for these items was so great, the shelves were completely bare.
Karon said, "In retrospect, I think about that 12-hour trip and say "never again" – but when you look at the list of all the things we took and how that will brighten people's lives, it brings joy. And that's what really drives people. It's so exciting to think what you're going to make is going to be something of joy for somebody."