In 2016 my husband Jason and I said yes to a simple invitation: “Come run the Kansas City Marathon for clean water in Africa.”
I guess that’s a pretty big invitation. Simple, but big. Jason and I had actually run a marathon before and as we heard Pastor Merle sharing his experience running in 2015 with Team World Vision, I couldn’t help but think to myself: “Do I really want to commit to that goal again? I’ve done it a few times – will it be any different?”
However, that morning a funny thing happened – my heart and feet were saying “yes” before I think of a million excuses not to run. In that moment I knew that God was calling me to step beyond myself and say YES!
YES to running a race.
YES to the people I could help.
YES to God and His Plan.
I marched myself down to the front of the church with Jason in tow. (He didn’t have as fond of memories from the marathon!) Despite that, he knew I was resolved in my response. That day I signed up for the full marathon and Jason signed up for the half.
I am so happy we said yes! Our experience with Team World Vision was transformational in every sense of the word. I especially needed that experience last year. I was struggling with work and school, and I was trying to understand God’s path for our family. We needed something. However, through our experience, our faith was renewed. With every step we followed where God led us. Our marriage was strengthened, and as Jason and I trained together we became a stronger team. Most of all, our hearts were awoken as we became the hands and feet for those in need. We ultimately walked away from the experience, albeit a little sore, with a desire that we wanted God to use us to advance His kingdom here.
What was so special about this race compared to our others was that we were running for someone other than ourselves. Every time our feet hit the ground, we were thinking about our sponsor child Abdul and how he and his family had to walk miles every day to fetch dirty water. The facts are staggering:
1) On average kids walk 4 miles daily from their village to a swamp or a dirty river bed to fetch water.
2) Nearly 1,000 children will die every day from preventable diseases, caused by a lack of clean water. Think about that – 1000 kids today. That’s like 3 elementary schools in Liberty just gone. Every day.
Despite these statistics, there is good news! According to UNICEF, in the last five years, the number of people without clean water has dropped 25% – from 850 million to 650 million people. And this was really special – right before the race we received an update from our sponsor child’s community that they just put in a clean water solution in his community – a 5,000 gallon water tank! We are making a difference, things are being done, and – what better way to give life than with water? Water was one of God’s very first creations and we’re baptized in it.
What is neat is that Team World Vision is designed for newbie runners and non-runners of all shapes and sizes. This meant that many folks walked into the experience thinking “I’m too this, I’m too that” and we all came together in our journey in such a beautiful depiction of the body of Christ. We realized we needed to rid ourselves of all of our “too anything” to accomplish our God-sized goal of reaching 10,000 children with clean water.
Week in and week out that summer we trained on our own Monday-Friday, and then came together to run our longest, toughest runs as a body together each Saturday. Those Saturday runs were where community and friendships were built. Team World Vision’s motto is an African Proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go farther, go together.” That rings so true. Together we can do so much more than apart.
God calls us all in different ways to step out in faith. It says in Mark that “anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” (Mark 9:41) We challenge all of Pleasant Valley to consider if you’re being called to give that cup of water. One of our biggest takeaways from our experience with Team World Vision is that God can do amazing things through you if you step beyond FEAR and say YES!