Why this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done

EDITORS NOTE: This blog was written before the Muskathlon trip in May, 2017. Therefore in it I ask for support and prayer. The trip is over, but if you feel like supporting Open Door’s ministry in Syria, go to their appeals and projects page. Cheers!

I’ve achieved hard things in my life, like walking the Kokoda Trail, like travelling overseas many times on my own, like eating steamed brussel sprouts for years, but this Muskathlon and everything surrounding it has been the toughest thing I’ve attempted.


As our Muskathlon trip in May looms, I have found myself mulling over what it took to get me here, still wondering, what did I sign up for exactly? I’m not questioning every motive I ever had about this trip, as I still am heartily in support of Open Doors and the work they do to encourage persecuted Christians. What I am thinking about is why it has seemed to be the hardest 4 months I’ve been through.

 

Commitments everywhere

One reason that comes to mind is that from September until now I’ve had commitments, including the Muskathlon from December, coming out of my ears.

In early January I was involved in a beach mission through Scripture Union, and the preparations for that started all the way back in September! This was my third year of involvement, and my role as a supporting Team Leader was all the more time-consuming and challenging. A lot of head-space was taken up for that camp!

Another big change from February was my transition to working a part-time hiring job with my former employer. I took on lots of Saturday work and quotes and managing jobs myself. It already has been a learning experience, but pretty full on as well!

Add to that the Council of Owner role (for the strata complex where I own an apartment) I’ve had since December and all my church involvement and a challenging leadership camp in February, I’ve hardly had a quiet day!

The Muskathlon training and fund-raising has been a real challenge, but that plus all these other things has made this season very busy!

 

The trials of physical training

Ever since I started my training for this trip back in mid to late January, I noticed my energy for an otherwise normal day was less than usual. As such I seem to have struggled more than usual to manage my time and responsibilities. This could be counter-logical, as you’d assume getting fitter would mean the rest of life would be easier to get through, but as I’m a painter by trade, I already have a steady stream of physical activity to tire me out. I also was constantly pushing myself to walk faster and for longer periods while training.

I had two days for training – on Sunday, going up and down Jacob’s ladder (a concrete stairway near Kings Park), and on Tuesday, walking through a local nature reserve for hours, eventually reaching and maintaining 3 hours a session.

At one point for weeks on end I suffered from back and leg pain after training with my weighted backpack, and took a friend’s advice to visit a physiotherapist for some advice. They gave some simple advice, along with muscle building exercises that I maintained for a maximum of 2 weeks! I just couldn’t find the energy or motivation to keep up the daily (or every second day) exercises. I still have the green elastic band as a reminder of my efforts! Sorry, Daniel, it was fun while it lasted. The pain is mostly a non-issue now, but it concerned me for a while.

I still wonder how well I will do during the 62km walk. I’m confident I’ll complete it but I still don’t know how tough it will turn out to be.

 

Taking the FUN out of Fund-raising!

I have sought funds through many avenues to support the refugees in Lebanon whom we will be visiting – $10,000 has been the set goal for each of the Aussie team members. Early on I wrote article pieces (like this one) on my Muskathlon blog to explain my trip as well as I could with what I knew at the time. I engaged on a large scale with my friends through Facebook by updated them on my training, with links to articles concerning the Middle East, and with fund-raising challenges. The challenges came about as I was trying to think how to get people involved in the fund-raising effort in a fun way. I decided that meant I had to suffer in some way while training! The one that succeeded in drawing in funds was me offering to listen to a Barbie Party Mix (Volume One) which had a bunch of party pop songs I had no business training to! I walked through 10 torturous sessions listening to the hour-long CD on my phone.

I also spoke at two churches, one of them my own, in order to engage the congregation about the trip. My initial hope was to line up a decent number of speaking spots throughout March/April, but that fell through a bit.

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A brochure about my trip a friend designed!

I decided to do a weekly update to my contacts through emails about how I was going with everything. It ended up being sporadic, but it was really encouraging to get replies from friends and family saying they were praying and caring for me!

I produced a flyer hand-out to easily share about my trip, and that proved worthwhile at many a time. My friend Maarten helped redesign the flyer to make it look great!

Last week I finally sent out letters with flyers in them, mostly to family who wouldn’t get the info any other way.

All in all, I feel I could have given a more concerted effort in fund-raising the $10,000. I’m still happy with the $7084 (with pledges still coming!) my generous family and friends have given!

My efforts had varied success and I certainly could have engaged with far more people. It felt like such a burden for a while, though. I certainly feel for charities who have to fund-raise to meet their goals. It’s wasn’t an easy task, even with all the help I got.

 

Emotional roller-coaster

A large reason this season has been tough is that I have had to work through my thoughts and emotions. This is no different from any other time in life, it’s just been hard as my emotions have bombarded me constantly throughout these 5 months. It’s been especially challenging since March. I’ve felt weak in ability and frustrated at my efforts and “success” with fund-raising. I have sometimes struggled with feeling anything at all! I questioned the worth of my trip and all the effort required.

Almost daily I cycle between being exhausted and thrilled and depressed, plus a bunch of other emotions. I’m exhausted because I suck at time management and over-committing and work is tough. I’m thrilled because all this effort is paying off. I feel fit and ready for the challenge, and the support of so many people is so amazing.

I’ve been depressed because I so often fail my own standards. If only I was fitter, spoke to more people about the trip, or cared more for the refugees in need. Mum said to me only the other night, “Don’t beat yourself up.” But I so often do. It’s one of my emotional habits, and this trip has really brought that to a head.

Just like we are told to control our bodies and desires as Christians*, likewise our emotions should come under our control. We mustn’t be swept off our feet and be so consumed with our personal feelings (or demons) that we can’t do anything productive.

This has been one of my biggest personal challenges this trip and it’s been a lesson in my own frailties. No doubt when I visit refugees in Lebanon, I’ll be struck with a whole new set of emotions to deal with. I need to be aware of that.

 

God

My relationship to God is very important to me, and this season has been so blessed and surrounded with prayer and Bible reading. People have been able to encourage me with Scripture they found helpful. In light of the trip, I rejoined a group who pray for (and do) ministry with Muslims. I found getting to that challenging, as it was another late night, but it was worth it!

The hard part of this has always been to trust God that He is in control, especially with the Middle East in turmoil. When I fail to trust in Him, I end up falling back onto my emotional state or dependency on created things that promise to be trustworthy.

That is sinful and also unhealthy. It has been tempting to not trust when I feel a certain way or things aren’t going exactly to plan. It will be a temptation when I’m on the trip, I’m sure.

 

Are you able?

I don’t like to feel inadequate or weak or not in control. The fact is, we are humans. We are inadequate and weak, not in control. It’s a humbling thing to come to terms with this. But I’d like to partly quote a recent encouraging message from one of my friends that speaks on this: “Fortunately, it doesn’t depend on your enormous abilities but on the Lord’s great power and willingness to show His love to His people through little old insignificant, not fit enough, not pumped enough you. Hold on tight Pete, but not so tight that you lose your peace. The Lord will fill in those great, gaping holes you can see.”

How amazing that God is adequate and strong and in control! We can trust Him!

And so I can confidently approach this trip to Lebanon despite all these massive challenges, knowing I follow the Lord God, great is His name.

Thanks for reading and for the many who’ve supported me on this trip. I will not forget your sacrifices.

Pete

 

*I Thessalonians 4:3-6 (NIV)- It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.” – Paul, to the Thessalonian Church

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