“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” — Hebrews 12:1-2
I have always loved to run. In my late 30s, I took a desk job and in a few short years gained over 50 pounds. My daughter Jessica, having just completed her degree in Exercise Science, gently told me that if I didn’t get off the couch and do something, I would die of a heart attack. She then invited me to run. No problem, I thought. I got about a quarter mile before nearly collapsing.
I then realized the cold hard truth that I was no longer a 17-year-old varsity cross country runner. Jessica taught me the walk/run method and I gradually gained strength and endurance. In a couple of months, I ran a 5K, and two years later Jessica and I ran a marathon together.
Since that first painful, humbling, eye-opening run, I have completed 137 races, including three 26.2 mile marathons, and nine 13.1 mile half marathons. I have run races in Alaska, Idaho, California, Wisconsin, Maine and Florida, and have enjoyed meeting some very positive, happy, healthy people along the way. My life is much different and better than it was before. The positive changes in health and attitude did not happen overnight; they took commitment, determination and perseverance.
My experience is an example of what can happen when someone comes alongside another person and provides love and encouragement, while keeping them accountable. Jessica couldn’t run the race for me, but she did what she could, and I ended up in a place far beyond what I ever expected. Now I am a regular participant in Juneau Trail and Road Runner races. If you’re a runner, you’ve probably seen me: I am the old guy in purple.
It has been an amazing experience rediscovering running and hanging out with the runners. I have heard many words of encouragement shared among runners, no matter where they are on the race course, or if they run 5-minute miles, or 15-minute miles.
This is the way Christians and Churches are supposed to be, and the way Love INC (Love in the Name of Christ) is supposed to work: to come alongside our neighbors in need, to show them love in Christ’s name, and give them a hand up, not just a hand out; and an opportunity to change their lives for the better.
Through the love and generosity of volunteers and donors from our 24 partner churches, and other kind folks in our community, we provide practical helps such as food, furniture, linens, kitchen items, baby care items, personal care items, cleaning supplies, clothing, and transitional backpacks for clients exiting correctional facilities, but it’s not about the stuff as much as it is about the relationships we seek to build with our clients.
Love INC is committed to a holistic response through active faith — a hands on service that offers material, emotional, relational, and spiritual assistance appropriate to each person’s needs and requests. True love is voluntary, and our staff and volunteers want to help others because of what Jesus has done in their lives.
Though theologically diverse, we are united by belief in the Apostle’s Creed, an ancient statement of faith based on John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Thank you Juneau, for helping us help others.
• Guy Crockroft is Executive Director of Love INC and a Deacon at First Baptist Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.