Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Finishing Strong

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7, NRSV

Finishing strong. This is what every runner hopes to do at every race and run. For long distance runners, it means running all those miles but leaving enough in the tank for that final push.

My running buddy Stephen uses a very Alaskan metaphor of a woodstove or fireplace. At the start of a marathon, he would remind me to pace myself, to time the "feeding of logs into the fire" strategically so that the flame keeps going. He also reminds me to leave enough for the final push. Then in the last mile, he goes, "Alright, Carlo, whatever logs you've got left, this is the time to throw it all in the fire! Time to go all out!" One time, I actually told him, "I don't think I have any logs left." I just didn't have enough in the tank to finish strong.

I've since learned to pace myself better and in the last race I did, I actually had enough left in me to sprint to the finish line!

Jim Truitt & Rev. David Valera
Last week, I had the chance to travel to Galena, Alaska with Jim Truitt and David Valera of the Pacific Northwest Conference (PNW). Jim is PNW's Disaster Response Coordinator and is in charge of the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) efforts to rehabilitate the homes in Galena which were either severely damaged or totally demolished by the recent flooding disasters due to ice damming. David is PNW's Executive Director of Connectional Ministries and a very gifted communicator. They invited me to join them and witness, first hand, the work that our United Methodist volunteers have been doing in helping this Alaska village recover from the disaster.

David taking a video of the morning devotion and briefing
David was there to capture the work in video because there is a story to tell. In fact there are many heartwarming stories of service, sharing, servanthood, cooperation, connections and grace. I was fortunate to witness those stories firsthand. I look forward to David's videos and when they are available, I will let you know. I, too, took photos and will share them later when I get home (I am writing this from DS Training in Lake Junaluska, NC).

Jim talking with Lou, his chief of building operations
Jim was there to coordinate the final push. When we were there, they had two weeks to complete what they had started: finishing up 4 new houses which they built from scratch and 7 remodels. FEMA, the government agency they were working with  and who had paid for the volunteers' airfare to be there, had set September 2nd as their deadline. They were on their last mile of this marathon that started in May of last year. 200+ volunteers have come and gone. Many of them have come back more than once because they believed in the mission. When we were there, they had just said goodbye to team 10 and had teams 11 and 12 on the ground working. Because of the urgency of the "last mile" and the availability of two teams, they had doubled the shifts in order to meet the deadline.

It was a blessing to be there and connect with our volunteers from all across the US. I was honored to lead them in devotions and personally thank them for their work in our state. It was heart warming to hear their stories.

Friends, as you read this, our volunteers have one week left to finish what they have started. They are on their last mile and would like to finish strong. Whatever is not done by the 2nd of September will remain undone. I commend them to you that you may join me in holding them in prayer as they make that final push and finish strong.

And what about you? Are you near the end of a project, a tenure or a journey? Know that you are in my prayers. May God grant you the grace to finish strong!



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