Last year in May I took part in a Muskathlon. In short, it’s a fundraising trip where you go to a country to support and learn about life-changing local ministries. You also take part in a walk, run, or cycle there.
In the lead up to the Muskathlon in Lebanon, I was asked a series of questions for the Open Doors blog. You can see my little piece (my name is Peter) along with something from the other members of the Aussie team.
At the same time, I received another set of questions to answer post-trip. Here are my answers.
After months of training and fundraising, what was it like crossing the finish line?
I ran half a kilometre to the finish line after 62km of walking. I was exhausted, but alive. I remember being fueled by anger at injustice, desire to finish well, and the joy of comradery. I also was getting very sick. (I’ll talk more on this another time.)
My experience of crossing the finish line was not straight forward. Yet, I’m glad I am able to still tell the tale with joy in my heart.
What has this experience done to your faith?
It’s made it all the more precious. To hear the stories of faithful believers, who have given up so much for their faith and ministry was a true blessing. To be with “muskathletes” who had all made sacrifices to be on this journey gave me such joy and encouragement. The power of prayer moved me and had a personal impact on me through my sickness. I am certain God used all I experienced to continue to grow me to be more like his Son.
Could you share one story (or one experience) that you will remember from this trip?
We were taken to a community centre run by a church. It was on the outskirts of refugee camps. The couple of hours we spent there were with Syrian and Iraqi refugee children, playing games and running activities for them. It was a chance to pour out love on these hurting kids for a little while. We had a blast, playing ball games, piggy-back chasey, and giving them snacks.
Everyone got a gift at the end, which was either sweets or a home-made crocheted toy. I was struck with the thought of this being where love met suffering. Love came against suffering and swept over it with a force that would be felt for at least a little while. My hope and prayer for these children and other children like them, is for people to show love to them. They need a lot of grace and a lot of care. Life has been devastating for them, yet Christ is love and offers eternal hope.
What would you tell someone who was thinking about travelling with Open Doors, or doing a Muskathlon?
I would tell them a lot of things. Be ready for your faith to be challenged. You will see the faith of your brethren in Christ who’ve suffered through persecution. There is no doubt that persecution will come for believers if they are faithful and outspoken servants of Christ. Yet in some places in the world believers experience much higher levels of attack. Be ready with lots of questions and hearts ready to learn.
You must be ready to suffer. A Muskathlon is not a walk in the park. You are expected to aim for a half or full marathon, a 120km bike ride, or 63km hike, all to be done in less than a day. You are expected to aim for $10,000 in fund-raising for Open Doors*. All this effort takes its toll on your daily life when you are in the midst of it. Expect disappointments and exhaustion. Expect feeling like you can’t get the preparation done and wondering if it will be worth it.
You must be ready to be a team player. Trips like this stand and fall on team work. You need to be on-board with one another, supporting each other in your weaknesses, and loving each other. The leadership will be seeking to draw you all into a state of single-mindedness about the trip. They will guide with devotions, teachings, instructions, etc.
Finally, you must be ready to be filled with joy. Trips like this are a long journey that start with a prayer, a building of interest, or an invite, but will be carried by joy. Your team will support you and you will learn to depend on God more fully; the hard times will drive you to your knees and that will give you peace and joy. You will find reserves you didn’t know you had; you will discover your weaknesses and strengths. You will have joy as you entrust yourself to God.
*Or Compassion International, depending on the trip.
Compassion Muskathlon in Indonesia – Deadline: End of May!
Open Doors Muskathlon in Jordan – Deadline: End of May!
Featured pic: Me running across the finishing line!