I used to travel extensively around the world in Developing Countries, working with, and learning from local indigenous people groups.
One country I worked in many times was Tanzania, so I love to hear stories of their heroes. It reminds me how resilient these wonderful people are in every walk of life. One such story you may well remember if you are as old as me!
It was October 20, 1968 at the Olympics in Mexico City. Twilight filled the stadium, and the floodlights began to shine as the closing ceremonies ended and the medals were awarded. Then there was an announcement asking people to stay in the stadium for a few more minutes as the last runner made his way into the arena and around the track to the finishing line. What had taken this man so long? As he came into view his appearance told the story.
John Stephen Akhwari a fine marathon runner from Tanzania, was covered with blood and with his leg wrapped, staggered into the stadium. Thousands of people rose to their feet and roared their encouragement, applauding his courage. He had taken a dreadful fall, thumped his head, damaged his knee, and suffered a trampling before he could get back on his feet. And there he was, more than 25 miles later, hobbling his way to the finishing line.
When Akhwari crossed the finish line, he collapsed into the arms of the medical personnel, who immediately whisked him off to the hospital. The next day, he appeared before sports journalists to field their questions about his extraordinary feat. The first question was the one any of us would have asked, “Why, after sustaining the kinds of injuries you did, would you ever get up and carry on to the finish line when there was no way you could possibly win a medal in the race?” John Stephen Akhwari said, “My country did not send me over 11,000 kilometres to start a race. They sent me over 11,000 kilometres to finish one!”
Perseverance is something we are all called to as people of faith, and it is something we need in today’s uncertain world. It takes determination to stay on track with life and to finish the race. As the writer of the book of Hebrews in the Bible says in chapter 12, verses 1 and 2: “As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.”
Whatever challenges you are facing at this time, don’t give up. You have people around you who love and care. We are here for each another, to support when things are tough.
God’s blessing on you and those you love and care for.