Going through my junk mail, I came across a letter from AARP asking me to join, even offering me a free tote bag. “They must’ve made a mistake,” I thought to myself. “I’m not old enough to receive AARP.” I discovered that a person qualifies for AARP at age 50, and my 50th birthday was in two months.
I always have been young at heart, and turning 50 was depressing for me. “My life is over,” I thought. “All of the fun years have passed, so now I am just a dead man walking.” After a few days of thinking this way, I snapped out of it and asked myself, “What is something that you have always wanted to do before you die?” My response was, “See every state.” But I also wanted to do something that would bring glory to God.
I came up with the idea of running in a 5K race in every state, collecting a medal from each completed race as a souvenir. Turning 50 and seeing all 50 states! The races would have to be non-Sabbath races; in each state I would meet a new friend and give them one of our spiritual books. I also would say a prayer over each state, asking the Lord to save all those that are His and that they would come out of her my people (see Revelation 18:4), praying the affirmation found in “Take me, O Lord, as Holy Thine . . . use me today in Thy service” (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 70).
Asking the Lord to guide me as to whom should receive a book has given me an adventure that I will never forget. To date, I have completed 14 races and have passed out over 40 books. Allow me to share a few of my experiences as God has lead me along the way.
My first race was in Chicago on April 15, 2018. I had a fever that morning (later diagnosed with the flu) and was tempted to skip the race, but it was my first one and there weren’t any refunds. Maybe it was a test to see if I would truly follow through. I ignored my physical condition and decided to attempt the race.
Completing the race would be the easy part. Being a shy introvert makes it difficult for me to approach strangers. Before the race, I sat in my car and prayed, “Lord, I can’t do this. No one is going to want this book [Great Controversy]. I’m scared, Father. Please help me to know who should receive it.”
I stepped out of my car and, before I could even close the door, a lady called out to me. “Hey there! I have two of those at home!” she stated, while pointing at my Mini Cooper car. I engaged her in a conversation, telling her that this was my very first race of my newfound journey. Gina happily agreed to take my book and be my friend from Illinois!
In North Dakota, I approached a woman named Donna who appeared to be rather sad. She opened up and shared with me a problem in her life. I told her I would pray for her, and then offered her one of my books. She chose The Incredible Power of Prayer by Roger Morneau; after I explained to her how the author was delivered from going to “the other side,” she was very happy with her choice. “My son could really use this to wake him up from thinking he can play around with that stuff!” she remarked.
While in Seattle, I had my first impression from the Lord. I was having some trouble trying to find the waiting area for my bus at the local city bus transit station to catch a ride to my hotel, so I decided to ask one of the security guards for directions. Due to a calf injury I had sustained during one of my previous races, I had a noticeable limp which the guard seemed to recognize as I approached. He kindly gave me the necessary directions and proceeded to escort me to the location, most likely assuming I needed assistance. Justin was his name, a young man who appeared to be in his mid-thirties. As such, I decided not to witness to him since I preferred to witness to women only.
We eventually reached the waiting area; rather than leaving, he continued to share with me certain things currently happening in his life. He shared how he was retired from the army and was raising a family. He was raised a Mormon and had left the church, recalling that “it just wasn’t right.” He kept talking to me as I waited for the bus, explaining to me how something was missing from his life. I then heard a still small voice say, “Give him the book.” I brushed it off because he was a young man and I don’t witness to men. I had already given away my book for this city, anyway, so I thought to myself, “No, Lord, send a man to him instead.”
The bus was running late, and everyone at the stop was growing slightly agitated from the delay, including Justin. “This bus is never late! In all my years of working here, this bus has never been this late,” he said out loud. As the people around me started to complain about the tardiness of the bus, I felt another impression. “The bus will not come until you give him the book.” Searching through my belongings to see if I even had a book to distribute, I came across a copy of Steps to Jesus.
“Justin, you’ve been telling me your life story, your hardships, and how you know that something is missing in your life. It’s the Lord,” I told him. “Give Him a try.” With that, I handed him the book. Pondering my words, he took the book as tears began to form in his eyes.
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied thankfully, “and I’m going to read it.” Within one minute of me offering Justin the book, our bus pulled up to the stop.
I’ve made over 40 new friends so far on my journey, some of them now following me on Facebook to chart my progress from state to state. Throughout this adventure, I have received a tremendous blessing from the Lord with a newfound boldness to be able to approach total strangers. To date, every stranger I have approached has agreed to be my friend and has accepted a book.
I’ve planned my last race to be in Maryland in 2020 as I finish with a tour of our General Conference office.
I give all honor and glory to God for His leading in this adventure. It will be my greatest joy to meet one of these precious souls in the kingdom!