Chicago teacher Daniel Bauer is a runner with Team World Vision, and leads his own team of student runners to raise money for clean water in Africa: "I know that God loves the poor and loves kids. Our marathon team is the perfect fusion of God’s love."
Read about the challenges these kids have faced and overcome in order to help other kids around the world!
Has God ever told you anything that made you erupt in laughter? Sometimes all we can do is laugh when facing a giant challenge.
In Genesis 17:16, God tells Abraham that his wife will bear him a son. Abraham believes that this is ridiculous. Verse 17 reads, "Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, 'Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?'"
I can't say that I would have acted differently!
In the spring of 2013, Team World Vision directors Michael Chitwood and Rusty Funk challenged my congregation at Willow Chicago to run the Chicago Marathon and raise funds for clean water projects in Africa. At the same time, I was challenged by God to run the marathon and invite my high school students to run it with me. In that moment, I could relate to Abraham because what God was calling me to seemed utterly ridiculous.
Romans 4:20-21 states: "Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised." This Bible verse is commenting on Abraham's reaction in Genesis 17. I wonder if he laughed because he knew God was serious. Abraham's faith was stretched and grew because he stood before a perfect God capable of doing BIG things! I serve the same God. Even though our team's needs are great, I "fully believe that God has the power to do what he promised" (Romans 4:21).
What started with a simple whisper during church has turned into a full-blown adventure! In 2013, 46 students at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep joined me in running the Chicago Marathon. Forty finished the grueling 26.2-mile race. This year, 39 students will run with me.
The challenges my students face are significant; 87 percent of them receive free or reduced lunch, meaning that they often come from economically disadvantaged homes. My students run in modest gear. They do not sport the fancy dri-wick clothes that are seen on the Chicago lakefront. Nor do they have the best shoes. Most students buy one pair of running shoes to utilize during the spring through fall training season.
In 2013, the students’ race fee was paid in full through fundraising efforts. However, this year I thought it was important that students demonstrated more ownership by paying the fee themselves. As of August 20th, the students still need to deposit a little over $2,000 to fully pay the race fee. These are the everyday barriers that my team faces, in addition to being full-time students and having to figure out transportation to our training runs.
This experience has impacted my students tremendously. Just like adult marathoners, these courageous young people learn a lot about themselves through marathon training and running the race itself. I have seen my kids develop their leadership skills and confidence. Once Michael Chitwood told the team, “If you can run a marathon, you can accomplish anything.” I believe that my students embody this idea to the fullest. These kids are completing a marathon between the ages of 16-18! It gets me fired up that they go through this grueling process prior to going off to college; their futures are truly limitless.
It has also been neat to see kids get excited about fitness. Many students have started competing in all sorts of races: 5ks, 10ks, and even triathlons! One of my students, Kyle, will be running his second marathon this year, even though he graduated and is off to Iowa in a few weeks. He will drive back for the race; at Iowa, he is joining the extreme sports team (they bike across the state and do other outrageous endurance competitions).
Finally, my students learn what it means to be globally conscious. One of my favorite days last year was when Natasha brought in a mason jar filled with bills and coins. She taped a picture of a World Vision kid to the jar and deposited over $80 of her own money to fund clean water projects. The selfless quality of Natasha is representative of the entire team. I am inspired daily by my kids because they give so much of themselves to this cause, despite their own challenges, to make the lives of children halfway across the world better.
I hope to teach my students what it takes to stare a giant challenge in the face and persevere. It is important to me to teach them about leadership and fitness, and making a global impact. Last year, the team raised just over $11,000 for clean water. This year we want to raise $50,000.
I know that God loves the poor and loves kids. Our marathon team is the perfect fusion of God’s love, and I hope that my kids get a sense of that by making such a global contribution toward clean water.