Solberg had estimated the timing right. It took him 13 hours and 31 minutes to “slog” to France. He landed in the town of Wissant just after midnight. He climbed over shore boulders and searched for a souvenir stone, a piece of France, something solid and the opposite of water. He found one, made his way to the escort boat, and took a far more pleasant trip back to England.

Solberg during the first hour of his
English Channel crossing.

A celebrated return

On Sunday morning in Rockford, just hours after Solberg reached the shore of France, the church was abuzz.

“You could just feel the excitement when everybody walked into church the next morning,” says Sally Hoff. “The tension had mounted. Those last hours were hard on all of us watching, but he made it.”

On Solberg’s return home in early November, he was honored by the Rockford city council, which declared Nov. 9 officially “J. Michael Solberg Day.” There were also television interviews and many well wishers.

Solberg, who had to postpone his trip to Angola due to logistical problems there, has committed to adding $20,000 to his original goal. The $70,000 will provide a larger school than initially planned, and he hopes to visit the school site in early 2010. Meanwhile, he finds himself returned triumphant, but somewhat off balance.

Two weeks after he returned to his office, he reported “I still feel like I have two left feet.”

He has given sermons, but hasn’t yet spoken of his epic swim.

“I’m still debating a sermon on the channel,” he says. “I kind of just don’t have enough clarity in my mind yet about how to summarize it. I need to let it percolate a little longer.”

But to many in his church, Solberg has already preached in the sense of the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel always, and when necessary use words.”

“The thing about Mike is he really does strive in everything he does to be a true disciple of Christ,” says Hoff. “I’m sure there are times for Mike when it is very hard in this very secular world to do that, but it’s like swimming the channel, or running a marathon; he does it.”

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