Being an athlete most of my life, I was concern that I wouldn’t be able to work out on the World Race. Luckily I have been blessed with two amazing teammates – Meghan and Katy – who have put up with my incessant drive to work out in the mornings. Over the months, we’ve ran along the beach in Ireland, through the streets of Ukraine, up to rock viewspots in Kenya with children’s feet pattering behind us. In Transnistria (Moldova) we saw dozens of small girls walking in their best white dresses and carrying small packaged gifts – we followed them and came upon an assembly of hundreds of children outdoors for the first day of school. We’ve been on so many adventures during these morning runs that I am convinced there is no better way to see the world. We don’t always travel the same way and sometimes we do end up getting lost, but it’s not about the destination but the journey.
Yesterday, we were on one of these early morning jogs, but this time we were in the mountains of Nepal. That means that your sleeping bag was way too warm and the air outside was way too cold to get motivated…but once outside and our feet were stepping across the swinging bridge, with the Bhote Koshi river rushing below, I knew there was no place I would rather be.
My tennis-shoed feet stepped up the particularly positioned rocks and the sound of the river filled our ears as we gradually ascended the side of the canyon. Frequently the dirt path in front of us split, letting the leader to choose the path of her heart’s desire, while the other two of us tagged along behind. The joy of running in undeveloped countries is that cars and roads are few and dirt paths are plentiful, which means our running experiences aren’t tainted by smells of exhaust or sounds of droning engines. The fog swirled around us and the canyon below until we made our way above it, into the glorious sunlight above.
We ran by simple homes with hay-covered stick roofs as small brown Nepalese children peeked out to greet us. Foreigners visiting this part of the mountains was definitely not an everyday occurrence.
We continued jogging up a side canyon, our breaths forming fog as we breathed in and out. Suddenly I heard shouting behind me. At first, I ignored it – but then the two young girls smiling and waving behind were too cute to ignore.
We stopped and greeted one another:
“Namaste! Miro nam Kelly ho.” (Hello! My name is Kelly)
They excitedly shared their names as well, which each of us tried to repeat but failed miserably (Nepalese names have way too many syllables!) Unfortunately our verbal conversation ended at that point (wish I would have learned more Nepalese!) but through hand motions we gathered that these young girls were gathering greens to feed their cattle with the sickle and basket they were carrying. One of the girls had a few crackers in her pocket, which was all she had to give, and offered it to us. Knowing this was a gesture of welcoming in this culture, we gladly accepted, and crunched down on the salty goodness.
Meghan motioned to ask if she could take a picture wearing the basket. They accepted, and as she placed the headpiece around her head, the basket slipped out from behind her back and tumbled down the mountain. We gasped. We knew that a basket is such an indispensable possession for life in the mountains, and probably costs more than they could spare.
But the girls just giggled, apparently at the clumsiness of their new American friends. They ran down the mountain, hurdling over the terraced landscape and were back within a few moments what probably would have taken us hours.
Then, one of the girls was trying to convey to us something, and she kept saying the words “swimming” and motioning with her arms in the freestyle swim motion. Surely she couldn’t be referencing swimming in the creek below? It was nearly forty degrees outside…
While I contemplated the thought of skinnydipping, I looked at my watch and realized that we had to leave right then in order to make it to breakfast on time. But in that moment I wanted to do something to bless these beautiful girls, the girls who had so graciously accepted us Americans into their culture and their lives if even just for a few moments.
I noticed that their ears had sticks or strings in their piercings – but no earrings. So I took out my pearl studs – all I had to give – and put them inside the palm of my hand. I carefully removed the sticks in my new friend’s earlobes, and placed her new earrings in her ears.
She gave me the biggest smile I think I have ever seen (way bigger than this photo shows!)
Waving “goodbye,” Meghan, Katy and I ran off and made it home just in time for breakfast: asian noodles, vegetables, rice and spiced eggs.
That afternoon, I realized that my computer had completely broke. As I mourned its death, thinking about all the things I couldn’t do – blog, check my email, update my music library, etc. God reminded me of all the things I had – things many Nepalese would never even consider owning. It’s easy for us as Americans to focus on our lack – what we don’t have – rather than what we do have.
In Matthew 15:33, Jesus asks his disciples to feed 4,000 people and they respond “Where can we get enough bread to feed them?” Jesus points them to what they do have – five loaves and two fish, then gives thanks and all are fed. It just shows that when we are willing to share what we have with one another – no matter how big or small – that’s how miracles happen.
The best thing about our morning runs is that not only do we come away with adventures, but also life lessons. Will you be one willing to sacrifice all you have to give to someone else? You might be surprised to see what God will do with your loaves of bread or your pearl earrings…
Some of my World Race teammates are still in need of financial support to meet our final deadline. If you believe in the work we are doing and would like to take part in God’s kingdom throughout the world, I want to invite you to check out their blogs. (“Support Me” tab on the left)
Katy’s blog: http://katywestrom.theworldrace.org – $1,700 to go
Leah’s blog: http://leahjohansen.theworldrace.org – $2,500 to go
Meghan’s blog: http://meghantschanz.theworldrace.org – $2,100 to go