The last of our summer updates!:
Just before the beginning of the school year the varsity volleyball boys hosted a fundraiser clinic for their upcoming sports trip. I helped out with coaching and running drills throughout the 2-day event.
We had nearly 100 students participate, which is over 1/6th of the student population at Grace! That certainly exceeded the teams’ expectations for the clinic.
This year we combined our summer vacation with Amanda’s birthday celebration for an exciting week in Cambodia. It was so refreshing to leave Thailand for a few days to relax, pray, exercise, meet new people, and spend time refocusing on God in a different location.
We explored ancient temples, played with local kids, swam in a neat salt-water pool at our hotel, road around the countryside in a tuk-tuk (open air taxi), visited a floating village, took a canoe ride through a forest, and ran in the first ever Angkor Wat marathon and half-marathon. I ran the full marathon and Amanda ran the half pushing Paxton in our running stroller.
My favorite part of the race was that Cambodian locals paced the top 12 runners for the full marathon on bicycles. They would ride in front and stop traffic, making sure our paths were clear. It was terrific! I had free reign over whichever side of the road I wanted to run on as my biker would block off cars for me.
My legs felt tired from the beginning (likely from running the Phuket marathon less than two months prior) but I was still trying to place in the top three overall. I paced well until halfway – in third place – when I noticed the 13th mile went a mile too long. That was discouraging, and after realizing this was going to be a marathon+ I started to fade. My legs got more and more tired, the sun finally came out (the marathon started at 4:30am) and it got hot. I faded mentally too, and runners slowly started passing me.
As the race went on I cramped and lacked electrolytes or fruit to remedy it. Brutal in the 90-degree heat! I’m used to running in the heat of Thailand but not without the proper nutrition.
Each time a runner passed me, the bike pacers switched as each biker was assigned to a rank. Once I realized there was no chance I was going to place in the top three, I adjusted from race-mode to ministry/survival mode. With aches and cramps, I made a new goal to finish in the top 10 and enjoy the scenery. It was beautiful. We ran through the main town, local villages, and by the ancient temple ruins in Angkor Wat. The villages were lined with kids who were out to cheer us on. I enjoyed slowing down to wave, high-five or otherwise briefly engage the locals when I went by.
Since my pace at this point was being determined mainly by the strength left in my legs, I was breathing normal and able to talk with the other runners and my bike pacers. As I talked with one of my pacers the topic turned to religion. He was a Buddhist. I told him I’m Christian, and asked him if he knew who Jesus was. He said he knew a little bit about him. And just as started to tell him more, another runner passed me. My pacer had to switch, and I was bummed because our conversation was getting good.
Some of my pacers didn’t speak any English, but a couple spoke enough for light conversation. I eventually dropped down to ninth, and at this point my legs were in so much hurt that I was doing all I could to keep moving and not walk. I was trying to run faster because I felt bad for how slow my biker had to ride!
Then the half-marathon people merged courses with the full and they were running even slower than I was! Weaving through that was tough and it was so great to have my pacer clearing the way. He even encouraged me to keep going and to not let anyone else pass me. When my watch showed we had ran the complete marathon distance of 26.2 miles I asked him how much further to the finish. He just kept saying we were close. And so I kept running.
A mile and half later I could finally see the finish line. As I rounded the final corner my pacer gave me a high five and congratulated me. I thanked him for all his help, and took off in a sprint (as fast as my legs would go!) for the final 100 meters. The race ended up being 1.5 miles too long, a total of 27.75 miles. I finished 9th overall male.
After finishing I stretched and waited for Amanda and Paxton. They came in first place in the pregnant-lady-pushing-a-baby-in-a-stroller division! One and only! She did great despite having to slow down to feed hungry Paxton at mile 8. We were so wiped out when we finished that we left quickly, and forgot to take even a single picture at the race.
Once we got back to our hotel we decided to jump in the pool. And we wound up meeting a family who serve as missionaries in Cambodia. They were celebrating their anniversary with an in-country hotel getaway – also enjoying the pool that morning. It was really great to talk with them. They taught us a lot about Cambodia, the culture and spiritual situation there.
I also had the chance to read a couple good books over the summer, one of my favorites was ‘On Being a Missionary’. It is such an insightful for book for people either currently serving overseas, people thinking about serving overseas, and even those who support overseas workers. It’s very helpful in understanding the life and role of missionary work, and how to best live and support that.
Here are a couple quotes that I jotted down while reading, both hitting different areas of home for us:
“Maybe a missionary’s main job is to remove stones from the soil; then later one will come to reap the harvest. Who’s to evaluate the “success” of each one? “Success” for a missionary, or any Christian, is measured by obedience to God’s leading day by day – and that is something the home church simply can’t evaluate.”
“While we’re at it, let me give a plug here for the teachers of missionary children. Theirs is a most high calling. They fill one of the greatest needs on the mission field. What they do is just as much “true missionary work” as anything else. We other missionaries couldn’t stay on the field without them; we need their support. And they, in turn, need the support of churches and people back home. “Please keep such teachers coming,” is the plea of missionary families from around the world.”
That second one was encouraging for obvious reasons!
All in all, we ended up with a busier summer than anticipated but were still thankful for the variation in ministry opportunities, sights seen, and new friendships made.
And now as Grace is back in session with non-stop happenings, please pray for the students. As we’ve mentioned before, despite being a Christian school, there are a wide range of spiritual beliefs among students – from Jesus followers to complete non-believers.
And also for me – for wisdom as I teach, coach, and mentor my students.
I’m currently teaching the Advanced Strength and Conditioning Class, running the logistics of after school elementary sports, coaching elementary swim along with the U-16 (under 16) girls soccer, U-12 girls basketball, high school cross-country, and track. I’m learning and growing a lot and loving the opportunity to be a part of these students’ lives. I often have the chance to share some of my relevant life experiences with them in an effort to encourage them to pursue God.
Thanks for tracking with our last months this week. We always appreciate your readership, emails/communication, prayers, and financial support. And we love hearing what’s happening in your lives, too. Email, Skype, Facebook message, snail mail – let us know your world and any specific prayer needs from time to time, too.
Brian, Amanda, Paxton, and Baby #2