My time at GFES has taught me many things. One of the most important is the beauty of things Divine; Divine dreams, invitations, and victories. Truly, some things can only come from above. Last year, I had this crazy dream of celebrating my 45th birthday while participating in the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.
My husband agreed to support me in this endeavor, so he and I registered for the Dopey Challenge, which is comprised of completing a 5K, 10K, ½ marathon, and full marathon in 4 consecutive days. My birthday would fall on the day of the marathon. Really, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than crossing that finish line hand in hand with my love, and my brother, who ran the ½ and full marathons with us, all while being cheered on by my crazy for Disney family!
Our 28-week training began in July. Early on, my husband and I both dreamt of how to make this venture more about others than us. It was on our hearts for years to raise funds for Olivia’s Basket, an organization that is a precious and integral part of our family. Olivia’s Basket was established after the untimely death of Olivia Ray. This tender-spirited and spunky 10 year old was killed in 2009 while walking in a crosswalk less than a mile from her home. Olivia’s Basket strives to do what Olivia and her family, the Rays, already had done for years, help others in need. One of the main ways it does this is through a partnership with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Ensenada and Homes of Hope. To date this unique partnership has built 12 homes for families in need. Over the past 6 years our family has participated in 4 of those home builds. We have seen the direct impact a solidly build home has on a family and their community. So as the miles continued to mount, my husband and I both had a dream to raise $8000 for a home build through Olivia’s Basket. But during our long training runs, our minds were stretched and our dream turned into a Divine dream. Instead of $8000, we would aim at raising $16,000 over 6 weeks, thus doubling our goal to raise funds to build 2 homes for 2 families in need. This seemed as impossible to me as me actually completing 48.6 miles in 4 days in the upright position with a smile on my face!
Utilizing contacts God had provided, we reached out to Pure Charity, a fundraising engine, and within a few days, we developed a tiered giving structure and a fundraising page for our Project:174. We prayed 174 people giving at each of the different levels ranging from $50-$1000, would allow us to achieve our goal of $16,000. Over the course of the next 6 weeks, from Thanksgiving to my birthday, we reached out to friends and family through Facebook, Instagram, email and word of mouth. We shared stories about how saying yes to a Divine invitation extended to us by our friends, John* and Jane Ray, had changed the very fabric of our being and the way we viewed the world, others, and The Gospel. Building a home with Olivia’s Basket in 2010 for the first time flipped our world upside down in a wonderful way, and now it was our privilege to invite others to participate in that wonderful. So we invited, shared our heart stories, invited, and shared some more. Within the first two weeks, it became evident that the tiered structure we had established was going to be tossed out the window, because something about the stories and invitation, combined with the crazy of us running 48.6 miles in 4 days, compelled people to give generously.
As we moved into race week, we were still $5000 shy of our goal. Could $5000 be raised in 5 days? We didn’t know, so we prayed and ran, and prayed some more. We also had countless others praying and “running with us,” as they gave and cheered from afar. Over the course of those 5 days, we watched a miracle happen; we watched as the little goal meter on our Project:174 Pure Charity site moved further and further to the right, ever closer to the goal. When we woke on Jan 10, my phone had many text messages of congratulations on it. Evidently, during the night, while we fitfully slept, we had reached $16,458, not with 174 people giving, but with just 70 people giving! Michael and I were speechless. All I could do was cry; all he could do was sit in quiet wonder at what happened. In our hearts, we both believed $8000 was an achievable goal, but deep inside, we doubted we would reach the $16,000 mark. Yet, there it was! So with an added spring in our extremely tired step, we strapped on our shoes and headed out to complete the rest of our goal, for we still had 26.2 miles to cover. Despite heat, high humidity, sheer exhaustion, and a number of other physical challenges, we completed the marathon in 6 long hours. Knowing we had reached our fundraising goal definitely helped spur us along to finish the race in the upright position with smiles on our faces; a Divine victory was achieved!
Being a part of this Divine work was a total gift! Watching God fulfill the dream he placed in our hearts, experiencing his sustaining power as we covered many miles over many weeks, and knowing we had completed the race he had set before us was by far the best way to celebrate the 45 years God has allowed me to live on this earth. Indeed, there is magnificent beauty and great goodness in things Divine.
*John Ray is a 2015 GFES MDiv Graduate. If you’d like to support the Ray Family’s efforts to help others in need, please go to www.oliviasbasket.org. Thank you!!
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