This is the story of how I came to be running the Chicago Marathon in support of Dios es Amor, a church in Quito, Ecuador.
In early March, 7 students and a co-leader (Maria) traveled to Quito, Ecuador for a mission trip. In all honesty, my heart wasn’t really in it. It was a commitment I had made months earlier, long before I had decided to leave the fulltime employment of the University. Upon arrival in Quito and throughout the week, there were several things that were off about the trip. By the last day, I was counting the hours our passports would be returned to us as it signaled the start of the journey home.
Then, on that last day, two hours before we officially finished serving and 10 hours before we were to board our flight, one of my students, Alexis, was injured. The diagnosis was unclear, but it ranged from cracked ribs to internal bleeding. If it was internal bleeding, the airport medic advised, there was a good chance Alexis would be unconscious when we landed Stateside.
Talking with both Alexis and my co-leader, we decided that if no additional symptoms presented themselves before we boarded the plane, we were going home. Alexis was in tremendous pain, so she and Maria went in search of a body brace. As I walked alone up the stairs to rejoin the rest of the team, I remember praying to God, hoping I had made the right decision. The weight of caring for another was squarely on my shoulders that evening.
Twenty-two hours later we were home. It was confirmed. Alexis had two broken ribs and was unable to participate in track just as her Spring season kicked off. Despite this disappointment, Alexis was already talking about going back to Quito. She had fallen in love with the children there and I was left pondering how I could be so self-centered.
So, the day after my return, I was walking the track and asked God how we might be able to use this experience and Alexis’ pain for good. He suggested to me that I use my 2019 Chicago marathon bid as a way to fundraise for this little church. I scoffed and said “no” so loudly I scared the woman next to me. You see, I am coming out of a season of self-doubt and perceived diminishing self-worth. I run slow and my form reminds my husband of Phoebe from Friends. I had absolutely no desire to put my lack of running ability and possible marathon failure out there for the world to see. I ended the conversation with God that day by saying let’s just see how the Shamrock Shuffle goes before I decide.
The day before the Shamrock Shuffle an incredible depression overcame me. I could barely manage to be up for two hours before returning to the safety and security of my bed. I told my husband I was sick, but the truth was that I had to make a decision based on the two options before me: a) accept this assignment and put myself out there - risking failure and ridicule, or b) say no to God.
A colleague had told me a few weeks earlier that she saw one of my strengths as the Third Option. Asking her what she meant by that, she indicated that I often don’t stay grounded in the "either / or" options before me. When I get stuck, she observed, I develop a third, more attractive, option. Thinking about that during my 4.9 very slow Shamrock Shuffle run, I started to envision all the stories I could tell of this little church in Quito. I smiled, for the first time in a long time, and decided to enjoy the journey.
So, with my 26.2 mile run exactly 26 weeks away, I am excited to introduce to you this little church in Quito, its faithful leaders, and the children who captured Alexis’ heart. The church is called Dios es Amor which translates into God is Love. I’ll be posting regular stories and pictures about them. If you hear God speaking to your heart between now and October 13, I hope you might click the link below and give something to this little church with the big heart!