A Distance Runner’s Perspective on Missions

Recently I was doing some reflecting while I was running around and around and around an indoor track. (Yes, an indoor track! I am still in freezing Illinois and living in Guatemala has turned me into a wimp!!) Running in circles like that reminded me of my days of competitive running back in college. I was a distance girl: slow and steady, endurance-not speed. My favorite track race was the 10K. Now I have been quite nostalgic lately as I am at home visiting college friends, professors, coaches, and of course my family. Through conversations I have had with many people, I can see how formative my participation in college track and cross country was for me. I never expected to be a collegiate athlete because I was never a very impressive runner. I did it “for fun.” But I am so thankful that my coach made the investment in me and recruited me to the team and therefore took on a very important role in mentoring me throughout college. The whole experience has turned out to now be such a big part of who I am today and I am so thankful for all of my coaches throughout the years.

But as I was circling the track now in 2013, I thought about the experience of being a 10K runner. When you tell people that your event is the 10K, the normal reaction is “Oh my goodness,” “You’re crazy,” or “I could never do that!” A 10 K is 25 laps, and for me in college it was 45 minutes and 36 seconds of running.  It takes a really good friend and devoted teammate and coach who is incredibly supportive of you to stand through the whole thing (despite the sometimes awful weather) pouring out encouraging words on you and making sure you are making your 1:50 split. Most spectators come to a track meet to see super-human demonstrations of strength and cut throat, nail-biting, photo-finish speed races, not some mediocre girl chugg’in around the track for 45 minutes. It is easier to commit to cheering someone on when it is quick and exciting. Most spectators use the 10K as a bathroom break, or they swing by the concession stand. It’s even more of an injustice for the impressive 10 K runners who really are demonstrating super human sustained speed and endurance. It is just not as flashy as the shorter races. But the faithful supporters and teammates that are down on the side of the track, yelling at the top of their lungs for you as you trot by are sincerely invaluable for their loyal support and faith in you.

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I see missions in a similar light. The short term trips that are packed full of action, like a sprint, usually attract a lot more interest. Supporters and friends are able to keep their attention fixed on the sprint and see it through to the end. And these short term mission “sprints” can accomplish very impressive feats! But of course, someone running at that pace cannot make it too far. Myself, I have always been a distance girl. People who cheer me on have to have equal endurance to see it through to the end of my race. Those who cheer me on at a cross country race are even more committed because they have to end up running quite a bit themselves because the race cannot be seen from a stationary viewing point. And now that I have been living and working in Guatemala for a year and 8 months I can see how blessed I am to have a very faithful cheer squad. Having the opportunity to visit with many of you while I have been in the US this past month has been an indescribable blessing. I can see how many of you have the endurance to stick it out with me and some of you (like in a cross country race) getting up to run yourselves! You, my devoted supporters and teammates, are indispensable to a sustainable, 10K-style ministry. I’ve had wonderful conversations with a lot of you that have just spoken life-giving words to me and I am so grateful for your continued investment in my life!

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Continuing the track analogy, I am in the last 1600 meters of my race. And while that’s still a mile left to run, I have passed the easy going beginning phase where the biggest battle is controlling your speed so you don’t start out too fast and end up walking. I’ve past the point where the pain starts to set in and you think “wait, why did I do this again?” I’ve past the point where you hit the wall and your pace suffers a little. I am now at the point where you find strength again, dig in, and kick it up into high gear again: Leaving it all on the track.

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I have many more reflections to report from my trip home. It’s been a great time of discernment and rejuvenation for me. I am so excited to continue to reflect on the wisdom that has been shared with me and discover where God is leading me next. But let me reflect on these things a little longer before I report back to you. 🙂 I just wanted to share a little bit about the profound thoughts I have while running around and around and around and around….

12 K race in Magdalena! (2010)

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. (Aunt) Carol
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 16:39:32

    Britney, what a great blog post. I love all of the pictures that illustrate it. Keep your eye on the finish line!
    (Aunt) Carol

    Reply

  2. Shelly Nelson
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 09:48:42

    Brittney,

    What a great analogy! I thought of Paul’s comments about finishing the race and pressing on for the prize. Keep running, and we’ll keep cheering.

    Shelly : )

    The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are C. S. Lewis

    Reply

  3. bjvillhauer
    Feb 11, 2013 @ 09:06:47

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    Reply

  4. Alissa
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 15:59:10

    I am really glad you wrote this! I miss racing the 10k with you!

    Reply

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