Recently an intergenerational team from our church, Hillside Community, ran a half-marathon as part of Team World Vision to raise nearly $90,000 for clean water initiatives globally.
Hannah is a 15-year old who offered her own reflections afterward on how this experience became about much more than running:
I always wanted to be able to run a marathon or at least a half. I had watched my brother run multiple marathons and it always looked like so much fun, but I never had enough motivation to actually do it. When the half marathon was announced in church I had just been thinking more about how I really wanted to run long distance and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to run, get more involved at church, and help a good cause in Africa.
At a lot of church events in the past, I have felt uncomfortable. As a shy person who doesn’t do well with events totally based on social interaction, I never thrived with the rambunctious games or long, unorganized periods of “socializing time.” Going into training, I was afraid it might be the same, but it turned out to be completely the opposite.
I was able to connect with different generations of the church: people my parents are friends with, but who I have never really gotten to know because we have been constantly isolated with only our own age groups at church activities. There were only a handful of people my age running the race, which surprised me at first, but over the course of months of training, I grew incredibly close to each of them.
Running 13.1 miles this morning, I saw all of these relationships and truly understood how close a church family is meant to be. As I ran, I would see others from our team and we would cheer for each other, shout encouragement across the sea of runners, and keep going, knowing that we were each backed by 200 others all doing the same activity together on a chilly January morning. As I passed the mile 13 marker, the cheers of other Hillsiders pushed me to the finish line.
Afterwards we talked with one another; real, deep conversations about how we have changed over these past few months. It dawned on me that perhaps for the first time in my fifteen years at Hillside, I feel like I belong, like I am a valued piece of something bigger than myself: a community of believers who all truly love one another.
When I started training, I would have said that I run to be as impressive as my brother, to have that medal around my neck instead of simply being the little sister at the finish line. But over these months, my view has changed. Now I would say that I run to connect with the church, to form bonds that will last a lifetime. We have all experienced a lot over the past few months: moments of joy and moments of sorrow, moments of peace and moments of pain, but what was most important was that we could all share these moments together. A true church family, united by a cause and a God much bigger than any of us could ever imagine.