By Bill MacLeod, Executive Director
Recently, I was blessed to join hundreds of other mission-minded believers at the Perspectives National Conference. At the conference, I heard about two Olympic runners whose stories have much to tell us about our work in global missions today.
Derek Redmond was favored to win the 400-meter race at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. But, 250 meters from the finish line, Derek suffered a torn hamstring and went down in excruciating pain. Slowly and painfully, Derek got up, refused a stretcher and hobbled toward the finish line. When Derek went down, his father pushed past the security guards and helped his son across the finish line. Derek didn’t win the race but, when he crossed the finish line with the help of his father, the crowd of 65,000 stood as one, giving the “loser”, and his father, a standing ovation.
Fifty-six years earlier at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4 × 100 meter relay. Jesse was the most successful athlete at the games and, as such, has been credited with “single-handedly crushing Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy.” Reflecting on Jesse’s victory, Bishop David Perrin, the final speaker at the Perspectives National Conference, reminded us that the most critical part of a relay race is the exchange, those brief seconds when the baton is transferred from one runner to another. Relays are often won or lost if the baton is dropped or the exchange is a slow by fraction of a second.
In the coming days, as we approach the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, the stories of Derek Redmond and Jesse Owens have much to teach those of us who are engaged in the mission movement.
Sometimes, as with Derek Redmond, God can use a loss to touch the lives of more people in more powerful and deeper ways than a simple “win” ever could. And, as with Derek’s father, when we run the race set before us, our heavenly Father always meets us at our moment of need, helping us to achieve more than just a medal as we finish the race.
In a different way, the story of Jesse Owens reminds us that it’s the exchange, when we pass the baton with intentionality and grace to our fellow runners, that will enable all involved to experience victory in the missions effort. And, even if we feel like we’re running alone, we need each other to win, in life and especially in the spread of the Gospel.
In the days ahead, as you catch glimpses of the best athletes in the world competing in Brazil, keep in mind that the race God has called YOU to run, may be quite different, but it is no less important or critical for the fulfillment of His Purposes among the nations.