I began thinking about running this race and realized we all should be running the race for Jesus. “Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV
Our amazing race began in 2001, going overseas to do mission work in Africa. When people heard this they got a glamorous picture of what it would look like. They imagined me holding orphans and seeing amazing places, but they never imagined the hard stuff. So there we were in this beautiful country called Uganda; where the dirt literally sticks to your skin. The kids act as if you’re their older sister. And your nickname is now Muzungu.
What’s so hard about that? So here’s the hard stuff.
The Race is a lonely place:
On our amazing race, we had some friends who were supportive and encouraging. But after month two, month three, and month four, the number of friends that we heard from dwindled down. It is as if our closest friends had forgotten that we were alive. We realized that doing missions overseas meant being alone or feeling lonely. It meant that God is the only true friend that will be there to listen and talk to 100% of the time.
The Race means missing big occasions:
On our amazing race, Richard’s grandchildren were babies and now they don’t know him. I had two young nephews who are grown men now. It is hard because sometimes we felt that we were missing out on significant moments in people’s lives. But then we realized that people missed out on significant moments in our lives as well; the day that 30 prisoners got saved, the day that an entire family was lead to Jesus, the demon possessed man foaming at the mouth at the mention of Jesus’s name, the first church service held in the newly constructed building at Trace Creek Mission with over 600 in attendance, the day a baby was born and mom asked us to name him.
The Race means no alone time:
On our amazing race, we were with people 24/7. At first it is awesome because you need someone to talk to about this new adventure in a different country. But once you get used to living overseas, all you need is to be ALONE! Your sanity now relies on earphones and earplugs. You can’t take a walk without having to have one other person with you. You can’t read your Bible without the church in front of your house blaring their worship music at all hours of the day or the mosque down the street reciting the five prayers at dawn, noon, afternoon, after sunset, and at nightfall over a loud speaker.
The Race means loving people:
On our amazing race, love is hard. Sorry to pop your bubble about love, especially when you don’t initially click or “like” the person. We realized that there are many personalities and people in the body of Christ and you have to learn to love. We learned to get over our flesh that wants to seclude ourselves from those people and instead put out our hands and introduce ourselves.
The Race means not being there:
On our amazing race, our families had gone through hard times. Times that I wanted to be there to listen, talk, hug, cry, and to understand. Two of my cousins died, one from a gastric bypass operation leaving behind a wife and child, one from an accidental overdose, leaving behind three children, my maternal grandmother passing in 2006. I saw things unfolding from half way across the world. I couldn’t reach through the screen and hug my Mom when I knew things were too much for her to handle. Sometimes I couldn’t even make the phone call (no network!!) needed to make sure that she was okay or tell her that I loved and missed her.
The Race means awkward moments:
On our amazing race, there were a lot of awkward moments. Those moments sitting in the Land Rover and the body odor of 10 people is so bad that you throw up in your mouth or that small child whom you were holding decided to puke on you five times. There are times when you shake hands with someone only to wonder was that “poop” on their hands. Oh, help me Jesus, where is my hand sanitizer!!! There are times when eating in the village and you hope that was just a piece of gravel that you chomped on in your rice and not your tooth but you swallow it and smile.
The Race means dying daily:
On our amazing race, I learned that it is not about me. It is about serving and empowering others to become leaders. It is about discipleship, patience, and love. It is about giving room for someone to step and lead in the areas God has gifted them.
I have counted all these things as blessings because they have refined me and drawn me closer to my Father. God is bigger than I imaged. His love and heart for the lost has changed me from the inside out. I had plans before this amazing race, I had desires for my life. It has been rewarding to think back and challenging to think forward. God is giving me peace about my next steps and showing me how to trust Him.
I have learned a deeper meaning of relying on Christ to be my strength, friend, shoulder, trust, and love I need. I wouldn’t ever trade all of this hard stuff for the comfortable stuff of my past. I am a different person now because of the hard stuff and I am never going back.
Forever changed baby! The Glass Slippers are Off!!
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mothers or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30 NIV