2017 is off to a great start as we make plans to expand our ministry to Kenya and Uganda. Our primary focus in Kenya and Uganda is well repair and providing feminine hygiene products to several hundred women. Our women's ministry is called "84 Days". 84 days is the average number of days girls and young women miss school/work due to a lack of feminine hygiene products. We hope to provide reusable and sanitary products for the women in the villages we work with. Several of our young female volunteers are heading up this ministry and we are excited to see the results! We have sold tee shirts and stickers, designed by the girls in the Friendship Christian School’s mission class, to raise funds for supplies. We plan on expanding this ministry in several small villages in Nicaragua as well.
Limited resources, such as water, can be a source of conflict. The water provided to these villages in Kenya and Uganda represents the Living water and will be given freely just as God’s greatest gift is freely given. We will be working with local churches and in some cases community leaders to ensure that this gift is representative of Christ's free gift of Living water. We hope and pray that God will use these ministries as a source of peace and love in the villages.
Tevas for Lepers
If you know me, you know I basically live in Tevas. Last October, while on a scouting trip in Africa, I visited a small Leper colony. Many of the men and women there suffer from foot and leg deformities. I realized that the Teva sandals I was wearing made a great solution for foot wear. The padding and the adjustable straps made putting the shoe on easy and comfortable. Teva reached out to us and has donated 70 pairs of sandals for this mission work! We currently have 70 students breaking in the sandals so they will be more comfortable and flexible for the men and women we will be giving them to this March.
Our primary focus for Nicaragua is the completion of the pharmacy/clinic in Ojoche. The good people of Ojoche has started the construction of the building. We plan to spend three weeks organizing and stocking the pharmacy this June. This will provide many medical needs at an affordable price for the members of this community and a safe and clean place to receive medical attention. Also, we now have a local source for leather the micro business for young women in Ojoche. If all goes well, we hope to expand this leather ministry to help the women create an income for their families and community. This year, we are starting to work with a new community in Nicaragua, San Antonio. We ask for your prayers as we branch out and show God’s love in new places.
Our Appalachian ministry in Hancock county has seen blessed growth over the past 12 months. We are in the planning stages of adding a facility that will serve as a lodge for groups and a location for ministry. We are continuing the water tank installation for homes that can't get a well or piped water. The kids summer camp will minister to more than 100 children throughout the month of June.
Please continue to pray for our efforts and most importantly, pray for those hurting in our world!
As we look back on 2016, we would like to sincerely thank you for your contribution to our ongoing ministries. Your donations enhance our ability to effectively serve those who are in the most need. Your donations have provided Run4Water, its directors, and its volunteers the freedom and ability to serve God throughout the world during the 2016 year. In addition, your donation secured a bright future for Run4Water as it enters its eighth year of ministry! Again, we thank you for your donation, as we thank our Father for providing for us.
Our Appalachian ministry continues to grow with the addition of our June “Summer Fun Camp” for children; we served over 80 children in a county where 45% of the children are below the poverty line. The water needs of this area have always been our focus. This year we installed 6 water tank stations for homes lacking water. Your donation has helped hundreds of souls through multiple construction projects, our thanksgiving meal delivery, and our Christmas ministry.
The work in Nicaragua continues to grow. Through your generosity we were able to construct 6 wells in Ojoche with the addition of water pumps. We also continued the installation of the water system with ultimate plans to provide clean safe water to over 50 homes. Our biggest news of 2016 has been the construction of a pharmacy/clinic in the town of Ojoche. Our plans for 2017 include medical training and stocking the clinic/pharmacy with supplies and medicine. We also spent time surveying a poor community, San Antonio, for future ministry in 2017.
In October, 2016 we were blessed to begin a new Kenya/Uganda ministry. Our primary focus will be well repair and well borehole drilling. We will also provide hygiene products to teenage girls and young women. Our plans for 2017 will also include working with leper colonies throughout Uganda.
We are excited for the new possibilities to come in this new year. We are thank for our Father for providing and for your generous donations of time and money. Thank you for helping those who need clean, drinkable water.
As part of my Badwater 146 training, I recognized early on that Tennessee would not sufficiently prepare me for the altitude I would experience on the ascent of Mt. Whitney. So to help me acclimate to the higher altitudes, I wanted to climb some of the highest peaks in Colorado. Yesterday’s adventure landed me in Manitou Springs, CO, an eclectic town located at the foot of Pikes Peak. The plan was to conquer the Manitou Incline and then hook onto the Barr Trail leading to the top of Pikes Peak. I have always been fascinated by the Pikes Peak Marathon, and was excited to tread the path that is used for that event.
In reading about the one mile Manitou Incline, I learned that some accomplish the 2,000-foot gain in around the 20 minutes. Gazing up the incline was intimidating. I wanted to test myself on the mile incline without pushing too much because I knew I had 12 miles after the incline to conquer before reaching the top. Trail running is not my area of strength; I am more of a roadrunner. I welcomed the experience to see how my body would tolerate the altitude and the trail. This was also a good opportunity for me to test out my Spot Gen 3 satellite-tracking device that I will use during Badwater 146.
I completed the first mile in around 32 minutes and then hooked onto the Barr Trail. As I merged onto the Barr Trail, I found myself alternating between hiking and jogging. This allowed me to average around a 20 minute pace overall for total 13 mile trek up to the summit. At Barr Camp, 10,200 feet, I started to recognize the effect the altitude was having. I began to feel a little dizzy and just “off” from my normal self. I was concerned because I knew there was several thousand more feet of climb to go. Although I did experience this general dizziness and my footing felt a bit unsure, it did not seem to affect my ability to keep my pace at an acceptable level. I maintained my forward progress and the symptoms did not dissipate, but they did not worsen either.
As I embarked on this experience, I found myself reflecting on the value most endurance athletes place on pushing their body to the limit. As my body was tested up this mountain, my mind kept returning to the village of Ojoche, Nicaragua where I have come to know and love many of its people. It is the need for water that brought me to these dear villagers, but it is the relationships we have forged that make this place so special. The water crisis for me is personal. I know and love people it affects and for that reason my mind is often consumed by thoughts of my Nicaraguan friends who also test their bodies’ daily. The difference is that their struggle is born of necessity and mine is born of adventure. For example, a common scene of late is the manual digging of 3-4 feet wide, 25-30 feet deep wells by some of the village men. The rudimentary system in use involves a hammer, shovel, and bucket pulley system to dig a well. The children at the top of the well operate the pulley to bring the bucket up and pull the debris out of the hole. The only sustenance the men will have to fuel their body day in and out is tortillas and salt. Run 4 Water has committed to supplying block and mortar to help these villagers complete their wells as well as filtered pumps to supply the family with clean water.
There are many parallels between life and running, especially ultra running. On the completion of my second VolState 500k (314 miles), my lesson is the "Joy of Brokeness".
Completing an event like the VolState 500k is humbling and strips a runner to their absolute core (at least that was my experience). It forced me to reassess my goals and strive to not become self defeated. On multiple occasions I wanted to quit, doubted my ability, feared for my health, and just simply felt BROKEN!
I had and verbalized a lofty goal of completing the 314 miles in less than 72 hours and had a very detailed plan (hour by hour) to complete the goal. There is a 12 hour check in so my goals were based on 12 hour increments. Since the race started at 7:30 A.M., I broke it down into segments: 12 hour days of extreme heat and humidity and 12 hour nights.
The first 24 hours went exactly as planned (120 miles) and I felt strong going into day two. Day two was not as kind. Since the course runs west to east, shade became a rare luxury. I found out early on day two that the heat was a factor sooner in the day than I had anticipated. I made a few mistakes managing the heat early on and paid for it dearly. The first 12 hours of day two only produced 32 miles. The next twelve hours (7:30pm-7:30am) the wheels almost came completely off. I found myself in the middle of the night incapable of even walking a 30 minute mile. I was fighting to remain conscious and contiplated just laying in the ditch multiple times. The night of day two only produced 24 slow miles. My goal of completing the race in under 3 days was a distant memory.
Day 3 brought temps in the high 90s with an index over 100, but after modifying my approach to dealing with the heat I was able to muster a respectable 35 miles in the 12 hours of the day. I struggled through the night again with only 30 miles.
My goal now became to complete the race in under 4 days. That meant I had to complete 70 miles in 24 hours. Keeping in mind those 70 miles include 20 of little to no shade in 96 degree temps, two 3 mile climbs at a 7% grade and a brutal 3 mile descent at a 7% grade. Day 4 blessed me with strong legs, 37 daytime miles and 30 miles to the Rock just in time for a beautiful sunrise!
I must say one of my greatest motivators was my good friend, Johan Steene. He trailed me the entire race by just a few miles. The difference is that Johan was not crewed, meaning that he had to carry all his gear, fluids, food, etc. Considering the heat and the long stretches between aid, his performance is one of best I have ever witnessed! I thought to myself frequently "if Johan can do this at this pace without a crew surely I can".
Romans 5 tells us that we can find "Joy in Suffering (Brokeness)." It goes on to say that "suffering leads to perseverance, perseverance leads to character, and character leads to HOPE!" This is the passage for the ultra runner. The Brokeness/suffering I experienced in this race taught me volumes about myself, far more than any joyful occasion ever could.. I hope and pray that my character has been enhanced as I glean from life's experiences. But ultimately HOPE is what we long for! Hope is the expectation of future good! It helps us to remember how we will be delivered and that completing the race can be done.
Experiences like this remind me what my late grandmother Armstrong said about living through the Great Depression, "I wouldn't take a million dollars to go through that again, but you couldn't give me a million dollars to take away the memories/lessons learned."
Currently I feel the same about the VolState, but like most ultra runners I will soon forget the intense pain/suffering and probably sign up for next year!
The purpose of this blog is simply “tell the story” of how running, relationships, and striving to serve my Maker have blessed my life more abundantly than I could have ever imagined. I would like to feature the special moments and amazing people that have enriched and inspired me. I suppose some will be drawn to this for information about races or running tips. Others may want to learn more of Run4Water and the clean water ministry. More than anything I hope these simple words can in some small way enrich your life and inspire you to “be the good”!
Following his footsteps:
I have enjoyed running for as long as I can remember. I must credit my father for introducing me to self discipline (essential for the true runner). I often remember phrases like “son, you finish what you start” or something similar to one of my favorite quotes “if you are carrying all the feathers you can carry you can always carry one more”.
My father, either through example or the DNA he contributed (probably some of both), is my ultimate inspiration. Often times in a ultra marathon when the voices of defeat become deafening my father’s voice of strength and perseverance speaks louder. I am eternally grateful for his example of humility, strength and kind spirit. I only hope and pray that the virtues I have witnessed in his life will one day be evident in mine.
Water brings Life! Water: two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen - the most basic/abundant molecule on Earth. Since creation there is essentially the same amount of water on the planet. With each cycle, pure, clean life-sustaining water falls from the heavens.
Since our ministry is based on relationships and meeting the needs of God's children, we engage in a variety of projects, but water needs will always be a primary focus.
Most reading this find it challenging to relate to a life where water is not avaliable. Yes, every now and then we are told we can't water our lawns or wash our cars, but have you ever truly feared that your physical life was in jeopardy from either a lack of water or from the pathogens in your water?
This past week our team arrived in Ojoche Nicaragua to install tin on leaking houses, help establish a small pharmacy with basic medical supplies, and share God's story with seeds and irrigation. Within an hour of our arrival the town's last reliable well had dried up! Water was the talk of the 350 soul town. Everyone we spoke to expressed concern and fear about the lack of water. We visited a few homes that have attempted to dig their own personal wells. Some had dried while others were getting less than a bucket of water a day. "Strictly for drinking" was a common phrase.
Our focus shifted to the water needs, all else was trumped. A deep well, 260 ft, had been dug a half mile and within 30 hours of arriving the water flowed. We were able to install 2,500 ft of pipe from the well to a 300 gallon holding tank in a convenient area in town. I will never forget the cheers, tears, and faces of the people coming to get the life giving water. Water brings life!