This decision has been weighing on my heart for a few weeks. I still think I'm crazy. It's not a normal every day thing to just... just what? Run 26+ miles at one time on a fall day in October!
The motivation for this most certainly doesn't come from me. My husband and I were sitting in church last weekend when the pastor invited us to join him in his mission. Our conference has been partnered with a region in Liberia, Africa for several years. We are running to raise awareness of the conditions there and well as any sponsorship money we can. I'd like to devote this post to introducing you to the situation in Liberia and our race to change it. Information is drawn from the CIA Factbook, Wikipedia, and personal knowledge from church.
Liberia is considered by many to be the poorest country in the world. Their per-capita GDP is only estimated at $500 (2008 statistic, PPP). Liberia was settled by freed slaves fleeing America in the mid-1800s. For most of its existence, it has been poor, but modernizing efforts took place in the mid-1900s. A coup in 1980 disrupted that modernization as a vicious dictator took office. A formal civil war was declared in 1989. From then until 2003, the nation fought against itself. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed -- especially children and the educated. Businesses fled and infrastructure was completely destroyed.
Since 2003, the nation has stabilized, but it is so devastated. An entire generation of children is growing up without parents and without education. This is the root of my cause. Over the past 3 years, the Methodist church of Illinois has partnered with the Methodist church of Liberia to impact the children. We have worked to build churches, wells for clean water, and schools, as well as provide uniforms and scholarships so students can attend the schools. In 2004, only 65% of elementary age students and 24% of secondary age students attended any school.
Our team is running to build a high school -- the first in the Kokoya District. The John Wesley School there currently goes through 8th grade but needs a new building and well to enlarge and include the upper grades. Education is near-and-dear to my heart, so when Pastor announced that this is what the team was running for, my husband and I signed up.
I'll have more information in the coming weeks about the project. A man on the team is currently working to build a website with more information, pictures, and videos from Liberia (we have close contacts, Pastor just got back from Liberia in January and we've met several of the Liberians here in Springfield). I've never run before, so this is certain to be an adventure.
Be in prayer! May God do big things!