Running the Race of Faith

By Christine Tharseo

Team Captain Christine Tharseo with 6K participant Laurence Nelson and Pastor Anne Vining

When my pastor first showed us a clip of the Global 6K back in February, she asked for help to make this event happen at our church. I immediately was drawn to being part of the 6K team, but initially fear got in the way.

After a few days, I still had this nagging feeling that I was meant to be a part of the 6K. I sent my pastor an email saying if no one else wanted to serve as team coordinator, I’d do it, as long as she agreed to two conditions: 1) she joined the team and 2) I would not be required to give any announcements. To my surprise she replied, “You’re the first person who came to mind when I thought about a captain for this event.” (I’m still not sure if that was true or not, but it was nice and she agreed to the terms!)

Accepting the Call

Initially I thought we were just putting together a team to run/walk at another site, but I quickly learned we would be a host site and I would need to oversee the coordination of all the details. Clearly I bit off way more than I expected, as my plate was already full with a full-time+ job, taking college classes, and being a single mom—along with the rest of life. And more than the time commitment, I was terrified by the weight and responsibility I was taking on. Most of all, I didn’t want to disappoint my pastor, which was silly because I knew in my heart I couldn’t disappoint her, but my anxiety tends to get the best of me most of the time.

Somehow, amidst the weight of fear, God reminded me of the truth: God is always with me. God has not only walked alongside me when my world was falling apart, but God brought people in my life to help me make it through those difficult times. Surely God would help me with this new adventure.

I’m so thankful for God’s amazing ability to know what we need when we have no clue. This was certainly true amidst the many details I was juggling in the days leading up to the race. I found myself being grateful for prior challenges in my life, because through them I learned many coping skills on how to make the best of every situation.

During worship one Sunday, a few weeks before the race, our pastor was promoting the 6K and emphasizing how all ages could participate. She spontaneously called out to one of our senior adults sitting in the front row in his wheelchair, saying, “You, Laurence, can do it.” Sure enough, he signed up to wheel the 6K. We then learned he’d be turning 90 on May 30th, 11 days after the 6K. His 90th birthday became an incentive for extended family and friends to donate, and Laurence became our top fundraiser.

Seeing God Move

We were a little over a week away from the 6K, and I was disappointed to be so far from our goal of 50 participants, with only 25 registered. On the Sunday before the 6K, a flood of people signed up, and on race day we had nearly 70 people registered, ranging in age from 2 months to 89 years and 354 days, from a breadth of economic and ethnic backgrounds. New relationships were formed that day. People sincerely enjoyed being together for a cause bigger than themselves, and memories were made that will last for years to come.

I am in awe of all God has done—not just in terms of raising money for clean water in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Serving as team coordinator has caused me to reflect on all God’s been doing in my own life. If you would have told me two years ago I’d be serving in this capacity, there’s absolutely no way I would have believed it. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes: “Just because it’s not what you were expecting, doesn’t mean it’s not everything you’ve been waiting for.” I was never expecting to be a race coordinator, but turns out it was everything I was waiting for. At a time when our country and denomination are so divided, it was especially heartwarming to see us all come together because we really are better together.

There’s one more piece to this story. On May 30th, Laurence Nelson, our oldest team member, unexpectedly died—on his 90th birthday. He’d spent his entire life running the race of faith and in his final days on this side of eternity, he became the inspiration to all of us who participated in the 6K. Before he went Home, he helped 14 people get clean water for life! What a way to go!

Between the funds he raised and gifts made in his memory by family and friends, about $10,000 was given to clean water in Congo because of Laurence Nelson – and about 200 people in Congo will gain access to clean water as a result. If you would like to contribute, you can give through his fundraising page here.

Watch Pastor Anne Vining share Laurence’s story in the video below.

 

Christine Tharseo is the Global 6K Team Captain at First Covenant Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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