It’s the Little Things

Do you ever have a new experience where you come away and your head is swimming with all the different conversations, observations, and situations? Where it makes you see life from another angle? Where you feel like you can jump in someone else’s skin for a bit, walk around, and see how life might have taken you down a different road?

IMG_9537Friday evening I boarded a plane to Las Vegas which arrived around 9 pm. Knowing that in just 9 hours I would be meeting up with the runners at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission to run with them, I had asked the coach ahead if there was a bed to sleep at the mission. In my mind, it didn’t make sense to book a hotel room for such a short period, just to sleep, and then have to figure out early Saturday morning getting a taxi to the mission.

So my journey began. When I asked the cab driver at the airport to take me to the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, he just gave me a confused look, and then asked “Where?” again. With him having no idea where it was, I looked up directions on my phone and handed it to him. Must not be an everyday occurrence for him!

Arriving at the mission, there was dialog back and forth on a walkie talkie until the front gate let the taxi through. Apprehensive if this was a good move to stay at the mission, I get out of the car. My hesitation gave way as I spotted out front one of our previous Up and Running Again participants who was one of the first people I befriended at the mission last year. With a guitar hanging around her neck, she gives me a big warm hug. One of the case workers who was standing near her also greeted me. I was beginning to get the excitement of an adventure in a new territory.

Walking inside the women’s hall, I was met by a gal that would show me to the room. But wait! They needed to give me a breathalyzer first. What?! I had never experienced that before. I’m sure afterwards they were laughing about the novice who they had to say, “blow a little harder” into the device. Sure, I get why they do it, just caught a bit off guard.

IMG_9577A woman helped carry a suitcase for me up the stairs and showed me to a small room right at the top of the stairs. Wow, I wasn’t expecting my own room. Not sure what I thought, but I think maybe I had anticipated dorm style sleeping, like some hostels I had stayed at in Europe. I quickly changed into my running clothes to sleep in and lay in the metal bed.   They had made the bed up nicely with double pillows and an extra quilt at the base that said, “Jesus loves you.” The bed squeaked if I moved much, so I lay still. The window was open and the sounds of the freeway and city with the cool breeze lulled me off to sleep.IMG_9538

Having set my alarm for 6:15, I was awakened much earlier by a woman pounding on each door at 5:30 am. And shortly after I hear voices of women starting about their day. I get up to use the restroom and I find a girl already wiping down the sinks. I make a comment about how I don’t know too many people that clean bathrooms at 5:30 on Saturday morning. Not hesitating in her cleaning, she tells me, “I’m a runner, so I have to get my job done before heading out to run.” Well…nice to meet you! Most people have a tough time just making it up early to run, let alone clean a bathroom at 5:30 before going. Talk about dedication and hard work!

After getting ready and meeting the group, we read the devotional and head out on the run. This time we are running an out and back route from the mission. Not super scenic, but it sure is convenient. The weather is beautiful and we run through the city with the hotel skyline one direction and the snow topped mountains the other direction.

IMG_9546For a ways, most runners stayed together, but eventually they spread. I jog a bit between the groups, taking photos. One of the runners quietly asks me not to take photos of him. I try to gingerly ask him about that and between his accent and heavy breathing from running, I get pieces of his life history. He doesn’t want old colleagues to recognize him. He seems ashamed of them knowing him, so I wonder if he was in a gang or something. Don’t we always jump to conclusions? I ask what his job was and he tells me how he worked for a major newspaper for over 15 years as a writer. As it turns out, he is embarrassed for them to see what has become of him. I ask if he misses the writing. If he continues writing. Not completely understanding all of his response, I gather that he does do some writing. I offer him the opportunity to sometime do any writing about the Up and Running Again experience and send it to me.

I notice a girl starting to lag behind and looking like she’s struggling, so I head back to run with her. We talk a lot. I find out that she went to fire training as part of her stint in jail. She got out of jail about 6 months ago. However, she tells me that formerly she was in jail in California, but it was close to her home, so she was too comfortable knowing everyone in jail. When she got locked up in Las Vegas, it pushed her to want to change. I ask if she has any children. She tells me she had one that she adopted. I make some comment about how cool it is that she adopted a baby. Foot in mouth. She means that she had a baby that she adopted out to someone else. Of course, that makes more sense…my mind just jumps to what is in my sphere of people I talk to (and they talk about adopting). Seeing that she is very comfortable being open with me, I ask her if it was really hard to adopt her baby away. She says no, because she knew the baby would have a better life. That child is now 6 she says, same age as my daughter. I can’t imagine never knowing who my daughter was, and yet she said she has not seen her child. I make a comment about how that is true love of a mother, giving up her child to give them a better life. Her comment in reply left me heartbroken and struggling for a response. She said, “Not really…I chose my addiction over my baby.” What do you say to that? I need space and time to process how to respond. I’m not sure what we talked about after that, but the conversation moved on.

We finish the run and give out shoes. One of the runners asked what brand of shoe it was. When I said, “Lalo” shoes and tell them that they donated all the shoes to them, he tells me how timely these shoes were that he got. He needed running shoes really badly. Overjoyed at these shoes and how they fit he told me he would forever buy Lalo shoes.

IMG_9580Having come back from the run past 7:30, the runners missed the breakfast time. One of the runners got special permission from someone in the kitchen to come in and have breakfast. She asked me if I wanted to join her. We wait as one of the other runners comes in and puts a hairnet on. His job for the day is in the kitchen. He fixes us up an egg sandwich and we sit alone in the large cafeteria to eat together.

We head back to the womens dorm and I wait for an opportunity to take a shower in the communal bathroom. I go in and start to get ready to take on a runner from our first Up and Running Again group comes in and I can tell she is dismayed. She has to get ready to head to work. No problem, I’m not in a hurry. I let her go first and hang out in the room a bit longer. Later after showering, I’m in the bathroom getting ready and a girl next to me is putting makeup on. I ask if I can borrow her hairdryer. That starts us talking. She tells me how she has 2 kids that she hasn’t been able to see in 3 months since being here. She misses them, but they told her they wanted her to do the program and get clean. Today she would finally get to see them. Her mom, who volunteers at the mission, was driving to pick her up. As it turns out, she offers to take me to the airport because she says it is on the way. I don’t want to eat into her free time away and with her family, but she insists. Yay! One less taxi ride for me!

As I’m continuing to get ready, the girl who is heading off for work comes in and shares with me how she isn’t where she wanted to be in life. She had hoped to graduate out of the mission faster. Get a job outside of the mission. Move on. Things hadn’t worked out that way, but she was still happy where she was. She was able to be a leader on this Up and Running team and encourage other girls. She was able to lead a Bible study. “God cares about the little things,” she tells me. To God the things that seem little to her are important in God’s eyes. “It’s about the little thing” she repeats repeatedly in our conversation. So much wisdom and reflection coming through her. When was the last time I’ve thought so deeply about things?

Before long I head off sitting in the back seat of the car with the two children of the woman who is driving me to the airport. We talk about life. Her mother, who already volunteers at the mission, decides she wants to volunteer and run a half marathon with the next running group. She’s always wanted to learn to run.  I’ve been struck by the kindness and generosity everyone at the mission has shown me.

As I’m dropped off at the airport, I realize that in less than 24 hours, I’ve been touched. I’ve learned about transparency. I’ve learned how hard these people work and how many obstacles they overcome just to make it out to run.   I learned that I go through life with so much more than I really need, and sometimes when it is stripped away, you are left to reflect more.

I wait on the curb to be picked up and am shocked by the lack of traffic. I must be in the wrong spot. This must not be the passenger pick up. And then I realized that I was at the Orange County airport, not LAX as many of my other trips were. And I was thankful. It’s the little things.

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Congratulations to the San Diego Rescue Mission Team

At the finish line with volunteers from The Rock church

At the finish line with volunteers from The Rock church

Runners from the San Diego Rescue Mission finished their first half marathon on December 27th finishing the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon. This was the first time the mission has participated in Up And Running Again’s 14 week training program and the results of these runners are amazing! All of the runners finished the half marathon and four of them finished in under two hours. One of these runners finished in the amazing time of 1:27:13! That’s a 6:39 minute mile pace!

Overall the first session of the Up And Running Again program at the San Diego Rescue Mission was a resounding success. San Diego Rescue Mission’s Mens Program Director James Pope stated, “I’m so proud of these men and what they accomplished. I had no idea how successful this program would be and how fast they would run! We’re looking forward to starting the next session and continuing to partner with Up And Running Again.”

Please prayerfully consider supporting Up And Running Again as we work to change the lives of others. Up And Running Again gives rescue mission residents new hope as they set a goal and work hard to accomplish something they thought was impossible. In the words of Martell who ran maybe the fastest Up And Running Again half marathon time, “Thank you! I never would have done this without the support of Up And Running Again. I want to keep running. I feel like I have another tool in my tool box, that I can set a goal and achieve that goal”

Finish Strong and Spread Christmas Cheer

Our runners from the San Diego Rescue Mission finished up their longest
run last week as they prepare for the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon.

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More importantly they volunteered with members of The Rock Church at the
Toys For Joy Drive. This program provides 22,000 toys; 12,000 bags of
groceries; and 223,000 articles of clothing and shoes to brighten the
lives kids and families in need in the San Diego area.

Well done runners!

-by Greg Clarke, URA Program Coordinator

San Diego Rescue Mission is Up And Running Again!

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San Diego is the eighth largest city in the United States with a population of 1.3 million. Out of the 8,700 homeless men, women, and children in the San Diego region, 527 are under the age of eighteen, 5,046 are between the ages of 25 and 54, and 631 are veterans who have served in our armed forces.*

In the heart of downtown San Diego is a rescue mission dedicated to serving the homeless, offering them shelter and hope through various faith based programs.

We are happy to announce that on September 21st, Up And Running Again kicked off a new running team at the San Diego Rescue Mission, and the runners are setting their sights on the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon in December.

As we start another Up And Running Again group we ask that you would consider supporting this new group. As they set out on this journey, it is certain to help them grow physically and spiritually as they strive to leave behind the challenges of their past and begin running in a way as to reach the prize ahead.

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* San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless published August 2015.

 

Race Weekend- OC and Long Beach Rescue Missions

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Our 14 week training season for Orange County Rescue Mission and Long Beach Rescue Mission culminated with the Mission Inn Half Marathon in Riverside on November 8, 2015.  Previously we had always done a half marathon in October, so this was the first time we bumped the training and the race back several weeks until November.

The OC Rescue Mission group, led by Greg Clarke, had 7 participants complete the program, with more than 5 consistent volunteers.  Coach Rich Hubbell, without the help of any volunteers during the week, headed up a very consistent group of 7 runners.

On the evening of November 7th, both groups attended a carb load awards banquet held at EV Free Church of Fullerton.  A group of volunteers from a couple adult fellowship classes at the church cooked homemade lasagne, decorated, waited on the tables and created a spread of desserts enough to feed an army.  The evening held special sentiment because on top of the certificates being awarded and special awards, a very talented volunteer, Liz Clarke, played her guitar and drums and sang “The Prodigal.”  Coach Hubbell had said that the song, “10,000 Reasons” was special to his group at the Long Beach Rescue Mission.  Most athletes from both the rescue missions came up front and worshipped God singing while Liz accompanied.

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During the message, presented by Jac LaTour, a couple people from the banquet dedicated their lives to Christ.  Awards for the season were given out, along with a medal that is new this season.  For any runner completing 90% of the training runs and turning in a completed Participation Manual, they earned the Up and Running Again medal.  We had all 7 runners from Long Beach and 2 runners from OC earn it.

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The next morning 22 runners, including coaches, volunteers and participants donned their lime green camouflage URA shirts to start the race at 7 am in Riverside.  Most runners enjoyed running in the cool weather.  One of the participants from the OC Rescue Mission ran the entire race with her baby in the stroller.  We had another runner who ran a 7:42 min/ mile to finish in 1 hour 39 minutes.  Another runner was out running for 3 hours and 42 minutes.  We had the whole range of paces and abilities, but each finished the race and many were flooded with emotion on finishing.

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One of the participants from OC had been in a gang in Riverside, his home town, and now he was turning his life around and finished the half with his family watching.  A runner from Long Beach said she committed her life to Christ during the URA training.  She also said that when she started the training she was pre diabetic, but a week before the race she found out that she no longer is and she believes it a direct result of the training.  Another runner said he made a goal during the season to finish his GED and get a BA and MBA.  During that time he got his diploma and is now reaching to complete the rest of his goals.

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The success stories from the runners is endless and we believe God will continue to use their time at the rescue missions and Up and Running Again training to mold them.   We are proud and excited for what the future holds for our new friends, so we remember what was sung at the banquet, “Wherever you are, whatever you did- it’s a page in your book, but it isn’t the end…”

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Barnabas of the Week Award

Who is Barnabas, and why does the OC Rescue Mission and Long Beach Rescue Mission call the award the “Barnabas of the Week” Award?  The first mention of Barnabas in the Bible was in Acts 4:36-37.  It says, “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”  We learn that although his name was Joseph, he was nicknamed Barnabas because he was known as ENCOURAGING.  And he was generous in his encouragement.

In Acts 9, Saul, who had been a persecutor of the Jews, turned his life over to God and God chose to use him.  However, when he tried to join the disciples, they were scared of him, so Barnabas, “took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord…”  He was not only encouraging, but he was BRAVE.  He was WELCOMING to Saul, when others wouldn’t come near him.  And he was PERSUASIVE with his words.

This week our Barnabas Award for Orange County Rescue Mission was Sarah. Says Coach Greg, “Even though she is one of the slower runners she encourages others often as the pass her.” Coach Rich from Long Beach Rescue Mission gave Andrea (“Dre”) the award because, “Thursday she was so excited about the work-out she was doing cartwheels when I arrived.”

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A Whole Lot of High-5’s on the 5k!

Louie 'Fast' Faust gets runner of the week award.

Louie ‘Fast’ Faust gets runner of the week award.

The award from Long Beach Rescue Mission for the Barnabas of the Week went to Louie ‘Fast’ Faust. Coach Rich Hubbell said, “Louie was the first URA runner to finish the Santa Ana 5K. After finishing, he went back on the course and ran with other runners to encourage them. Good job Louie!”

11960146_10153561182022432_3912365171226862015_n-2Oh, so that brings us to the 5k!  Yes, for the second season in a row, our Long Beach and Orange County groups have been able to run in a 5k as part of our training!  This season, after being alerted to a free 5k race in the area, we signed up close to 25 runners (not counting at least 7 volunteers) to run on Saturday, August 29th.  Wearing LA Marathon shirts that were donated to us, we descended on Santa Ana wearing the greens, turquoise, and blue of the ocean.  As a way to promote health and fitness, the city of Santa Ana put on a run called Plaza Wellness 5k Run in which we ran through the city streets with over 1,000 runners to earn a medal.  And a banana.  Because you know it is all worth it for a banana!

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Despite the 89 degree blazing sunshine, our participants brought a cheery attitude.  It was great to see the Long Beach and Orange County groups meet up as they ran together, high-5’d and danced to the music.  The group gelled together and made me instantly look ahead to when we will meet up to run again in two weeks.  And that brings up Louie.  Talk about excitement and encouraging.  As I watched, he stood right after the finish line and greeted countless finishers (both URA and others he had never met) with a giant smile and high-5.  I’m not sure who was more pumped and energized from those high-5’s- Louie or the finisher.  Louie looked like he could almost run another 5k right after with all his excitement.  And he did run extra.  After himself finishing, he went back and found several of his teammates and ran with them through the finish line.  He even sacrificed his official time as somehow the timing chip recorded one of the later finishes he did with his teammates, and not his initial time.

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But, just as the front runners often show a lot of spunk and energy, the show is not lost on those at the back of the pack.  Cynthia from OC Rescue Mission showed all the emotion that veteran runners can relate to when they reach a finish line that truly challenged them.  “I just wanted to make sure I didn’t walk at all…” said Cynthia, “It got rough.  I got into the home stretch and I almost started walking but toward the end I was like ‘No! No, don’t walk! Don’t walk!’ Coming into the home stretch all those people were cheering and they had music playing.  I started crying because it was so exciting and I knew that God brought me through.” And with tears streaming down her cheeks and a giant smile, she pushed her jogging stroller in one hand and with the other gave high-5’s to the line of people on the way to the finish line.

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And so many of the runners learned what it is like to get excited by a crowd, encourage one another and pull strength from God and those around you, push yourself when you feel like stopping, and the feeling of finishing a job well done.  We are excited to see how that translates to the rest of their training and their future half marathon!

 

Portland Rescue Mission is Up and Running Again

The following is an excerpt sent out from an email written by Dallas Lange, staff at the Portland Rescue Mission.

IMG_7574During the last week of July, The Harbor set sail for its third half marathon training program. In partnership with Up and Running Again, 10 men and seven volunteers from The Harbor committed to training for the Run Like Hell Half Marathon in downtown Portland. In just 13 weeks, participants will be transformed from rookies to runners. (Training is four days a week, and starts at 6 am).

Beyond the physical transformation that can take place through the training, it is the relational transformation that we are most excited about. Every day that residents of The Harbor, volunteers and staff run together, a relationship is deepened. On Thursday, Coach Hunter (a Harbor alumni and Up and Running Again finisher) reminded us to make sure we were taking our off day seriously and getting the rest we needed. That immediately related to the importance of resting in life. Then on Friday, we discussed how very few of us would have even lasted a week had we been trying this alone, but together, we met our goal. After each run, the conversation grows, laughter increases and the celebration is heightened. For most (if not all) of the men, this is something they have never done before, and never even dreamed of doing — yet, here they are.

IMG_7575Kevin is in the Discovery Program at The Harbor (five-week introductory program), yet he jumped right in to the Up and Running Again training program. All Kevin needed was a pair of shoes (size 12). Coach Hunter showed up and said, “By the way, a friend wants to donate a pair of size 12’s, anyone need them?”

To get Sexy, Silky, Smooth

IMG_1657The runners at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission are in their 3rd week of training. Around 20 residents there head out at 6 in the morning, 4 days a week to build their endurance.  Even at that early hour, the temperature is anywhere from the mid 70’s to the 90’s.  Once the Saturday runs get longer, it is sure to be hotter.  They are a tough bunch though that took time to tell us what motivated them to train for a half marathon.

“When I first heard of this Up and Running, I was so thrilled.  Because in my recovery I want to take care of myself and my body.  Our bodies are a temple and in my addiction I was abusing my temple.  So now I want to do everything in my power and will to be healthy and happy.  It helps me stay serene and peaceful.  To stay motivated and keep going I just get up in the morning and go before I can talk myself down.  Also having a running recovery sister keeps me going with her motivation.  Before I was in recovery I could never show up or finish anything.  So now I am determined to do this to the best of my ability just for me.”– Cassie C.

“To get sexy, silky, smooth.  [I will] look in the mirror as a reminder.”– Zachary

“When I was out there doing drugs, abusing myself, hurting myself, my family I did not care for nobody else, including myself.  Now that I’m healthy and forgiven myself I want to do this half marathon before I reach 50 years old.  I always wanted to do this but now I’m able to do it.”– James C.

“I’ve never done this before.  I wanted to see if I could do it.  To do what I signed up for.  Finish what I started.”– James H.

Meet Program Coordinator- Greg Clarke

Greg enjoys doing triathlons (races where you swim, bike, and run)

Greg enjoys doing triathlons (races where you swim, bike, and run)

A week ago you were introduced to one of our coordinators, Brian Witt.  Here we give you a chance to get to know a bit about Greg Clarke, who with Brittany Watrous, rounds out the 3 musketeers…I mean coordinators.  We are excited that Greg is also going to be coaching the team from the Orange County Rescue Mission!

Tell us about your relationship with Christ: Having suffered much loss in my life and coming from a family of alcoholism, it set me on a journey of seeking answers to the loss and destruction I had witnessed growing up. I finally found those answers when an employee invited me to his church and I was introduced to the saving grace of Jesus.

Where do you live? I grew up in Long Beach rooting for the Dodgers and moved to Orange County in 1990 to be closer to work. I now live in Tustin with my wife Liz and daughter Thierry. Orange County is a wonderful place to do the activities I love which are running, cycling and swimming.

What other activities are you involved in? I serve as a lay counselor at my church counseling men with marital and or addiction issues. I also lead a Divorce Recovery Workshop at my church. I’m so thankful for the privilege that God has given me to serve the broken and wounded. When I’m not serving you’ll find me swimming, biking, and running all over Orange County. If you see me be sure to wave but don’t honk. I ignore drivers who honk! 🙂

What is your athletic history? My first love is baseball and I played baseball and basketball for many years. My first venture in to endurance sports was setting a world record of 96 consecutive hours playing table tennis. Later I started cycling both road and off road and in 2005 won the California State Championship as a mountain bike racer. With inspiration from my father in law Ray who ran a half marathon at 70 years young and encouragement from my wife Liz who was doing triathlons, I started the journey of training for an Ironman triathlon and finished my first Ironman in 2010. The takeaway from these things is not what I’ve done, but how I’ve seen God work through these things to help shape and mold me in to the person he desires me to be. During the hard training or difficult races God has revealed himself to me so that I can gain a better perspective on my life and my faith, through His strength not mine. Each mile that I can swim, bike or run, I’m so very thankful. My prayer is that all Up And Running athletes will experience the same.

What region are you a program coordinator for? What ever region God and Steve calls me to. 🙂

 
How did you get involved with URA? I first found out about URA during a meeting at the Orange County Rescue Mission. I talked with one of the staff and right away thought it was a brilliant program. You can learn so much about yourself and your relationship with God by participating in endurance sports.

 
What are you most excited for in working with URA? Building relationships with people and being an active listener to their personal stories. God wants us to be in community, engaging with one another in our hurts, fears, pains, and of course celebrations. The fact that I get to do this while running is just a bonus!

 
What part of the URA program or participants have impacted you most in the past? Building a connection of trust with a runner where you are not only encouraging them in their running but in their personal life as well and to have them look at you and say “thank you for helping me.”

After the Laguna Hills Half Marathon, Greg gives Jeff, from OC Rescue Mission a big hug.

After the Laguna Hills Half Marathon, Greg gives Jeff, from OC Rescue Mission a big hug.