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- Coral’s Leenarts Testimony
- The Cup of My Life Retreat: Testimony by Erika Nordin (Thorpe)
- Testimony by Raymond Orchison: Comrades 2010 “More than just a race”
1 Testimony: Coral Leenarts
I would like to share my story with you and the community about the event that took place last year between September and October 2010. I have a wonderful husband, Mark and three beautiful children, Jenna-Lee (10), Evan (8) and Ryan (5). I run a playgroup called Little Squirrels (squirrel is my nickname as well as korrelkop and kops). I had arranged with the moms to take a week off during the holidays to go to Paris with Mark on all expenses paid trip from his company as a reward for his dedication and hard work. The weekend before the school holidays, we were going to Bloemfontein to visit Mark’s brother and sister-in-law, then we were going to Ramsgate for the school holiday, then Mark was going to Paris for a training session for a week and then I would be flying to Paris to join him for a week. It all sounded so exciting!
We arrived in Bloemfontein on Friday and spent Saturday walking around the flea market tasting different foods and then went back to Keith and Judy’s house. Everyone was relaxed, the kids were playing Nintendo Wii, Mark and Keith went to the shop to buy meat for the braai that night, Judy had just woken up from a nap and was busy in the kitchen, so I decided to go and relax on the bed – something I never do, I’m always busy with one thing or another. That’s when my nightmare started.
My right hand started shaking and I thought it was quite funny so I tried to call Judy to come and have a look, but the next thing, my whole body started shaking and the more I tried calling for help the less my voice would work. Eventually I reached for the headboard to pull myself up and I remember everything going black and I passed out – at the time I thought I was dying. Everyone thought I was taking a nap…. until I woke up vomiting uncontrollably. Mark rushed me to the Bloemfontein Hospital, I was convinced it was food poisoning from the bacon stick I had eaten at the flea market. The doctor checked me out, and the next thing I knew I was in ICU. I thought everyone was going a bit overboard because I felt fine. I was sent for MRI and CAT scans and the Doctor told Mark I had a brain tumour and because of its position I would probably be paralysed on the right side of my body so we should still go on holiday because it would be the last time I would walk on the beach.
I kept asking Mark to shake me, wake me up and tell me that I was having a nightmare, but he couldn’t, because it was real. I couldn’t understand how we could go from having the time of our lives to this nightmare.
When we got back home, we went to see a Neurosurgeon in Benoni, Dr Branca, who came highly recommended. He told me that because of the position of the tumour it was crucial to wake me up during surgery to make sure he didn’t damage anything so he could get the whole tumour out. All he said was “I am just a man, we have to have faith”. I was scared out of my mind! First to be told that I had a brain tumour and then that they would have to wake me up during surgery – I was not having a good day! We scheduled a date for surgery and the days leading up to it became unbearable, I started having fits, where I kept saying the same words over and over, like a stuck record, all I wanted to do was take the words out of my mouth and throw them on the floor.
My wonderful husband Mark took me to the Chapel where we prayed together. I felt a bit calmer when we left and even managed to laugh while we were trying to avoid the mulberries. The following day I saw John Stack, the minister at our local church – the Alberton Methodist Church, and repented for I thought God would not hear my prayers or those praying for me until I had done so. John was so reassuring and confident. We went and prayed in the Chapel with John and Debbie, counsellors at Alberton Methodist Church.
On the day of the surgery I was totally relaxed – this for someone who is petrified of an injection! Dr Branca shaved some of my hair off and a nurse stuck little round stickers on my forehead – it looked like one of my children had thrown Oatees at me! When I was wheeled into the operating theatre, I looked at Mark and said “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine – God is with me”. And God WAS with me, I felt totally calm and at peace – it’s difficult to describe the way I felt. The operation took four and a half hours, they were able to wake me up and ask me a few questions, which was crucial to the success of the operation, – none of which I remember, but I passed the test with the help of God! I certainly could not have done it without Him. When Dr Branca spoke to Mark, he air-punched and said to Mark “Yes! We go it out, praise the Lord”.
By the grace of God and everyone’s prayers, our prayers had been answered. The operation took place on Thursday and by Sunday I was on my way home. Unbelievable, but true! The tumour was sent away and the biopsy came back as cancerous – stage four, which meant that it was one of the worst types of brain cancer you get. I had to start radiotherapy and chemotherapy to retard the growth, but I knew God had already performed one miracle, He was not about to stop! He had already put all the support in place, by sending such caring and supportive family and friends to help us through that period in our lives. I would like to thank everyone who has been praying for me and supporting me, friends and family and people I have never even met, you really are special – and thank you to God especially, who listens to me every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to bed. Mark, my amazing husband, who has been a pillar of strength and encouragement, and my Mom, Connie, who always knows what to say to comfort me.
I would just like to add that God is real and is listening to us, so keep up the faith and be strong knowing that He is looking after us. I believe that He guided me all the way. He knew I was going to get sick and waited until I was in Bloemfontein, which led me to Dr Branca, a Christian who would remove the tumour. Imagine what would have happened if I got sick while we were in Paris or while I was looking after my school children! I have since closed the school but once I am back on my feet I will definitely re-open and look after all “my” children, I miss them dearly!
I would just like to share some Bible Promises that kept me going:
We say “It’s impossible!” God’s Word responds “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27)
We say “Nobody cares about me!” God’s Word responds “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13)
We say “I can’t carry on any longer!” God’s Word responds “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
We say “I’m at my wits end!” God’s Word responds “Lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)
We say “I’m no good!” God’s Word responds “You are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31)
We say “I’m so afraid!” God’s Word responds “I say to you “Do not fear” (Isaiah 41:13), “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10)
We say “I’m worried and upset!” God’s Word responds “Cast all your anxiety on Him “(1 peter 5:7) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6)
We say “I’m so alone!” God’s Word responds “Never will I leave you” (Hebrews 13:5)
This experience gave me the opportunity of looking at life differently, life was always a rat race, rushing the kids to school and all the various extra mural activities and finishing the renovations on our house, and rushing to get supper made and doing homework then bathing the children and getting them ready for bed and not listening to them because all I wanted to do was have some quiet time for myself before Mark came home at 8,9,10 o’clock at night. Now I have stopped the madness and appreciate the time I have with my family. Mark has also started coming home early so we can have some quality family time. This is a lesson learnt to literally stop and smell the roses and not take life for granted. I see this as a second chance and I plan to use it the way God intended, to spend life worrying less about material things and live each day to the fullest.
I would like to thank everyone who has and continues to pray for me, not only in our community, but everywhere. It is truly amazing to see how our extended “Christian family” have come together in support of one another at a time like this.
I wrote this story a year ago after undergoing a strenuous course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It was extremely difficult for me as I had to have a mask made to fit tightly over my face when I went for radiotherapy to ensure my head did not move so they could treat the same place. Being claustrophobic did not make it easy! I went every morning for six weeks. Once I had completed the course, the nurses asked me whether I wanted to keep the mask, I told them to burn it!
I took chemo pills which I had to take every night for six weeks while going for radiotherapy, so radiotherapy in the morning and chemo at night, knowing that I was swallowing poison did little to encourage me. I regretfully read the leaflet that came with the pills, a part of it read “avoid contact with skin should the pill open”. The last pill was just too much for me to bear and I cried like a baby while Mark encouraged me to take it.
During those six weeks there were people making meals for my family and I and who continued praying for my wellbeing. People of God who came from far to look after us. There wasn’t one night that we went without food and to those people I am eternally grateful for looking after my husband and children while I was unable to.
I went back to the Oncologist looking like a monster. My hair had fallen out and my skin was red and dry from the combination of chemo and radiation. Everywhere I sat, I would leave flaky skin and the itching drove me insane. The only explanation the Oncologist had was “the worse you look the better the treatment is working”. She had never seen anyone who had reacted to the treatment in the same way I had.
I had to take chemo for another six months, one week on three weeks off, which sounds better except the dosage had been tripled. One day a good friend of mine, Nicole, gave me some brilliant advice, she said “every time you take the pill, bless it to your body”. That made it so much easier to swallow.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel! I have had two MRI’s performed and each time the results have come back positive, no further signs of growths or anything that shouldn’t be there. Praise our Heavenly Father! I have to go every four months for an MRI, the next one being in January and I have no doubt the next one will also have a positive outcome.
My hair has grown back and my skin has returned to its original state of looking and feeling great, I know it sounds vain, but overlooking the things I used to take for granted is a thing of the past and I appreciate what I have each and every day. You never know what tomorrow will bring!
Each morning when I wake up I thank God for another day!
Good times become good memories, bad times become good lessons
2. Testimony: Arthur and Linda Renney:
The Cup of My Life Retreat: Testimony by Erika Nordin (Thorpe)
I went on retreat, 19 – 21st March 2010, the weekend before Peter and I were married. The retreat was in Benoni at the Carmelite Centre and the theme was “My Cup of Life”. Before the retreat we were told to choose a cup from home that held some special meaning for us. We were then to bless the cup with the following blessing:
“Loving GOD, bestower of life and abundant love, we pray your blessing on these cups and upon ourselves. Make of these cups a sacred vessel as we pray with it every day. May these cups become our teacher, helping us to find our way to YOU. May these cups hold many messages of YOUR wisdom and YOUR comfort. May these cups connect us with life and create in us a generous heart. May these cups draw us ever closer into loving oneness with YOU. Amen.
Before we gathered the Friday evening for our first session, Mieke, my friend told us that she had forgotten her cup at home. It was ok I told her, I have two cups – one for Peter (my fiancé) and one for me. At first she was reluctant but eventually took one of the cups. I was sad. I prayed so much over these cups. I wanted the cups to be filled with blessings from GOD. I could not pray in all areas of the retreat for Peter, but in the sessions where I could I did. I had enough faith in Jesus to know that He would not let me down with or without my cups.
On Friday evening I danced with Jesus again, during our meditation session. At times I was pulling Jesus by his hand, saying “Kom kyk hier, kom kyk hier.” He came willingly. Then I danced again, this time as a child, my two golden pony tails, tied above my ears, bouncing up and down, all over and in my face. I had the most beautiful ballerina outfit – lilac. I was holding Jesus by the hand and spinning around and around and around. I danced and jumped and turned around and I was safe. I knew that I would not fall, because Jesus does not hurt, He loves. He is my best friend and someone I trust. I could hear him roar with laughter as He had as much fun as I did.
After the meditation session Mieke brought back the cup. She was not comfortable using someone else’s cup. She took one from the kitchen which she used for the rest of the weekend. Needless to say, I was delighted.
On Saturday morning while praying in the labyrinth, coming towards the end, I heard a voice saying to me: “I AM YOUR FATHER.” At first I could not understand the message because I know that God is my Father. I know that God knitted me together in my mother’s womb. He is my creator. This puzzled me – what is God saying to me? When meeting up with Susan I said to her that I needed to go to the chapel. We went. While sitting in the chapel I asked the Holy Spirit to help me with the meaning of the message I had in the labyrinth. After a while I heard the same voice saying “I WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU LIKE A FATHER SHOULD TAKE CARE OF A CHILD.”
Is this then GOD’s promise to me as in Genesis 1:15 – “I AM WITH YOU AND WILL WATCH OVER YOU WHEREVER YOU GO, AND I WILL BRING YOU BACK TO THIS LAND. I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU UNTIL I HAVE DONE WHAT I HAVE PROMISED YOU.”
I was facing a lifetime change. I was getting married the following weekend. I am moving away, I am saying goodbye to my closest and dearest family and friends. I was going to a place unknown to me. I will have to find a new church, community, friends, and a job.
I went and placed our cups at the foot of the cross. The cross was in the garden on a little hill. Praying by the Holy Spirit that it would be filled to overflowing with love, guidance and protection.
Saturday afternoon’s session was more relaxed. Time spent with JESUS is more precious than anything in this world. Allowing Jesus to be so close to you, closer than your best friend could ever be.
The Sunday morning’s session was all about brokenness (chips, stain marks or cracks etc). That we should forgive those who did wrong to us and repent and ask for total forgiveness and ask Jesus to mend our broken hearts, minds, bodies and souls. We were given a plaster to put on the inside of our cups and pray every time we looked at them that we would be reminded of Jesus’ great love for us. That He died for our sins. That we are already forgiven and all that He wants is that we love, honor and worship Him. He will take away all our brokenness, our pain, our loneliness and all our sorrows. That we are forgiven, and that He loves us more than anything in this world.
As part of the weekend we noted our blessings on pieces of paper and placed them inside our cups. By the end of the retreat our cups were full of little bits of paper. Our cups overflowed.
After the tea break we were asked the reasons we chose our cups and what the retreat meant to us.
Choosing the cups: I was given these cups some time ago. Some had broken, some had chips and eventually only two was left. I wanted to throw them out for a very long time but somehow I knew that someday they will mean something to me.
Meaning of the cups through my eyes: The cups are blue inside and on the outside. The blue then, as I see it, represents God. He is omnipresent. He is my creator. The two yellow flowers on the cups represent Jesus and me. John 3:16, 17 – “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. FOR GOD DID NOT SEND HIS SON INTO THE WORLD TO CONDEMN THE WORLD, BUT TO SAVE THE WORLD THROUGH HIM.”
Galatians 4:28 “FOR YOU ARE ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS.”
The white ring on the cups represents the Holy Spirit. Pray that the Holy Spirit will never leave us. That we will not grieve the HOLY SPIRIT.
Galatians 5:5 “BUT BY FAITH WE EAGERLY AWAIT THROUGH THE SPIRIT THE RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR WHICH WE HOPE.” That we should live by the SPIRIT.
Galatians 5:22, 23 “BUT THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, 23. GENTLENESS AND SELF-CONTROL.”
At the end of the retreat we went into the chapel and were blessed by the sermon that Vernon gave on repentance and forgiveness, after which communion was served. We had lunch together and then it was hometime. A truly blessed experience!
3. Testimony by Raymond Orchison:
Comrades 2010 “More than just a race”
“A mentch tracht unt God lacht” – Man plans and God laughs.
My build-up to Comrades was amazing: I ran some of the fastest times I’ve run since school. In January I ran 21km in 85min, in March I took 30 minutes of my marathon personal best set one year ago, crossing the line in 2h53min. I ran a very easy time on a very tough Long Tom 56km finishing in 4h28min in 19th position overall without walking at all on the route.
I was ready for Comrades, I had done the hill repeats, I had done the tack work, I had run the long runs, I had done gym on average four times a week. I had pushed myself in every aspect and it was paying off. I was ready for Comrades, this was my year. Everything had gone according to plan, all the stepping stones I had put in place along the way, had been reached.
In October I decided to see a dietician to get my body into shape and take off the excess weight I knew hampered me at Comrades. I had targeted Tough One, a 32km in November, wanting to run hard but not flat out as I was not 100%. This 32km would give me a good leap into January where I had targeted the Dischem Helpers run to my first sub 90min half- marathon since my school days. I achieved this goal with ease, finishing in 85 minutes. My next target was the marathon and with a previous best of 3h23 I felt that a sub 3-hour marathon was out of reach (although this time seemed to be a key to running silver) so my goal was to bring my marathon time as close to 3 hours as possible.
In January, with not much marathon training I ran a 3h03min marathon at Johnson Crane, surprising myself with the ease at which this was run. A sub 3-hour was definitely possible and I would target Vaal marathon to try and achieve this. This too would be my qualifying race. I ran a very comfortable Vaal marathon in 2 hours 53 minutes, running the last 10kms at 4 minutes per km pace.
My final plan and test was the 5km time trial. I ran hard at the Edenvale Time Trial on the 13th April, finishing in 17min46sec, again the fastest I had run a 5km since school.
The hard work had been done and it was now into the taper, a period of rest and recovery with some faster quality sessions thrown in to ensure a well-tuned machine for the day. A week into the taper I stepped on a large stone during a run, bruising the arch in my left foot. That saw me out for 4 days and the balance of the week taken very easy. After two weeks the pain in the foot had pretty much disappeared and I felt rested and strong. (Perhaps the foot injury was a Godsend, forcing me to rest?)
With two weeks to Comrades I was raring to go! I felt like I could break every personal best I had ever run. From the 5km time trial through to the 42km marathon, I felt I could easily knock off at least 5 to 10 minutes off my pervious best marathon time set only a few weeks back. But I would not test myself now, it was Comrades or nothing.
I had written out a Comrades intention statement, written as though it was the day after Comrades, as though I was looking back on the race. I wrote knowing that I had run the time I wanted which was well within the Silver cut-off time.
Into the final 2 weeks before Comrades, a sermon on Sunday and Comrades the following week. That Thursday saw me run my last 16km mid-week run, a run called Big-Fred, which is a steep 2km hill. I try and beat my time up Big Fred every week as I get stronger and stronger. This week, the last Fred, I would run hard, I would hit the hill hard and I would hold the pace for as long as I could. I ran up Fred in 9min13secs, more than 1 minute faster than my time a year ago.
After Big Fred it was off to the gym as usual, except something was different this morning, I felt tired and drained, like I wanted to sleep. I abandoned the rest of the training and headed for the mats were I would stretch, but all I wanted to do was sleep. In fact I think I may have fallen asleep for a few seconds on the mats. I headed for the shower and off to the office.
As I was sitting at my desk it suddenly felt as if someone had lowered the sun and I was burning up. My body started aching and my head started throbbing. I couldn’t believe what I was feeling. How was this possible when I had taken every possible precaution, washing my hands after using any equipment or shaking any hand. I had been taking Viral Choice and Viral guard and some other stuff the chemists take to avoid getting sick. But there was no doubt that somehow a virus had infiltrated my firewall and I was shutting down.
Without wasting any time, I was off to my GP. He gave me a 3-day course of antibiotics, assuring me that by Saturday I would be fine and that I could join the club once again on the road on Sunday. Thank goodness, I was worried that this was serious.
On Friday night I could hardly sleep. It felt like I had swallowed razor blades and with every swallow I would wake up in pain as I had never felt before. Saturday morning I phoned the doc. I was supposed to be better by now and he said that if I was still feeling that way I had a virus and there was nothing I could do but wait for it to work its way out of my system. According to the doctor I was still contagious and that meant that I would not go to the Chairman’s breakfast the following morning as there was no way I would risk passing this virus on to any of the runners so close to Comrades. They had all worked so hard.
That afternoon I spoke to Cindy, trying to come to grips with what was happening. I left the lounge and walked to my study fighting back the tears, feeling for the first time that I may well miss Comrades too. But I refused to mourn my Comrades, still a week away. I refused to believe that God would bring me this close and then abandon me. Again I placed Comrades in His hands.
Monday morning came, and I felt no better. My throat was too painful to swallow but at least I was getting some sleep with the painkillers I was taking. Off to the doc once again, thinking there must be something else because it felt like I had open sores down the back of my throat. Again he took a look and seemed concerned by the amount of swelling in the throat and so he took blood and sent it off to be tested for various illnesses including Glandular Fever. In the meantime he gave me a second antibiotic, this time a 5 day course.
I felt no improvement during Monday, but when I woke up on Tuesday morning I felt a little better and as I reached for my Black Berry to see what the Bible reading for the day was (I subscribe to an email list where I get send a verse every morning) I was amazed at the verse that lay there before me, John 5:6 “Do you want to be made well?” “Yes, Lord, I do, I want to run Comrades.” People have often shared with me how at specific times in their lives they had opened the Bible and a verse had spoken directly into their lives and situation. It had never really happened to me. God has spoken to me in many other ways but on this day, it was as though God had clicked send on that email.
I was getting better and there was still time before Comrades. Each day that week seemed to fly by and crawl at the same time. Time was waiting for no man and the big day was drawing ever nearer, yet this virus was taking it’s time in working it’s way out of my body, and I now had a blocked nose which felt like it was turning to a head cold. I kept clearing it with a nose spray and rinsing the throat with salt water. I would be going to Comrades and I would run, but I wondered if I would be 100% by Sunday and I had a question mark over running so soon after been sick. I did not want to risk my life or my running career.
Friday morning I would be joining thousands of other runners and supporters making their way to Pietermaritzburg. As the alarm went off I again reached for my Black Berry to check the verse for the day. Amazing, Psalm 31:14-15 “You are my God. My times are in your hand.” Again, as though God had hit the send button, a verse directed straight at me. I knew then that I would be running on Sunday. God had confirmed it and whatever time I ran, my race was in His hands.
The weekend flew by and on Saturday morning I took the last of the antibiotics and went for a run, my first run in 8 days, (could I even remember how to run?) I felt pretty good on the short 2km run, even though my heart-rate had shot up to 190bpm, after I started up a hill thinking it was shorter than it turned out to be. I figured the fact that I never died on that run meant I would be fine for the 90kms ahead of me the next morning. My legs felt very stiff and tight after the run and I thought it was a good thing I ran on Saturday to loosen then up before lining up at the start. I stretched them and tried to loosen them up and then stayed off my feet as much as possible the rest of the day.
I had run the route in my mind a hundred times I knew what lay before me and I knew exactly how I was going to get to halfway and in what time, that would set me up for my targeted finish time.
I woke up the following morning feeling good. I felt nervous, simply because this was Comrades, the culmination of months and months of training and hard work, but I also felt nervous knowing that I was still not 100% healthy. My nose was still blocked up and running like a horse at the local racing track, but I was confident that by running I was in no way putting my life or my health at risk.
My brother said a prayer for me, thanking God for this day and asking God to deepen my relationship with Him as He journeyed with me on the route from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. We got into the car and it was off towards the start. The closer we got, the more I could feel emotion welling up within me. I got out the car and fought back the tears as I said goodbye to my family and kissed my wife. I would see them along the route and I looked forward to that moment, unsure of how I would feel along the way.
I walked through the thousands and thousands of runners, the air alive with Comrades fever. I got into my seeding pen and sat down 5 metres from the starting line. I thanked God that I was at the start. He had made me well and while I knew I still had a post-nasal drip, I had been made well enough to take on this journey. The gun went and we were off, like a pack of hound dogs the runners around me set off but I held back, getting into my comfortable pace just as I had planned.
“Not too bad” I thought to myself, “feeling pretty good, only 88km’s to go now.” But it wasn’t long, a km or two when I started feeling my left knee, which was odd as I had not felt it in any of my training coming into Comrades. After a few kms of running, around 6 I think, I could feel that my legs were not normal. The muscles, especially my hamstrings and calves, were extremely tight. t I figured that I hadn’t run in a few days and it was cold. I was sure that they would loosen up soon enough.
About 16kms into the race I had been continually hitting my glutes and hamstrings, trying to wake them. A club member ran past me and asked what I was doing. He too believed the same thing I did, “They’ll loosen up.” I kept to my pace, feeling like my heart rate was comfortable and that my breathing was easy.
I came through halfway exactly as planned to the minute, on my watch according to my distance I had 3h30min, the halfway mark on the route saw me at 3h32min, I was well on track. But my legs were feeling “funny”. They had never felt like this before, getting tighter and tighter. Soon I felt the early warning signs of cramp in my calves and hamstrings and I stopped for a moment to stretch them.
As the morning went on, I became more and more aware that I had a very real problem in that these legs were not going to loosen and that I was in for a longer day then I had initially planned. But still I kept going, although very slowly at times. There were places and hills where the legs simple refused to go and I was forced to walk, giving the legs a break but not making it any easier to get going again. Eventually with about 15kms to go I walked into a physio station to get a rub down, hoping that that would relieve the stiffness and enable me to get going again. A 15km walk to the finish would take a very, very long time.
The rub down did nothing and I felt as though the legs had seized, I saw my wife and my brother with about 14kms to go and they were urging me, “Come on, keep going, dig deep, you can do it.” But I couldn’t. Comrades had asked some tough questions, and I simply had no answers, apart from, “I can’t, these legs simply won’t go.” As if by divine intervention, my brother said, “Come, there a cooler box up ahead.” A complete stranger on the freeway had a cooler box with some arnica oil alongside. My brother took some and began to massage my legs, getting deep into the aching muscles.
That was just what I needed and I was able to get a jog going again. It was slow, but at least I was moving. I said to myself, “You can’t stop, you have to run from here to the finish. If you walk you’re tickets.” But somehow I felt or at least my mind was telling me that running from here to the finish was wishful thinking. Anyway, for now I was going.
I knew there were hills still to come, 2 tough ones. I hit 45th cutting and said to myself, “Run for as long as you can into this hill” and then when I felt, “ok, you can walk now, ” I said to myself, “just a bit more, you can run just a little more,” and then when my mind said, “ok, that’s far enough, you can walk the rest,” I said to myself, “you’re almost at the top, only a little more left, you can run it” which I did, I ran the rest of the way to Durban. The last 2kms went on forever and all I wanted to do was walk, but I kept going.
As I entered the stadium I knew that I had missed my goal by more than 30minutes, and I was bitterly disappointed, but at the same time as I ran onto the grass I knew that I had done my best on the day. I would lift my hands both in victory, but more so in praise, thanking my God, my amazing God for carrying me all that way. I was not 100% fit and my nose ran the entire way (it was the only part of me that ran the whole way) but He had carried me, I was in one piece and I would not end up in the medical tent. The Bill Rowan medal consists of 2 pieces of metal, a bronze piece and a silver piece, and that was exactly how I felt, both disappointed and happy at the same time. It was weird feeling. I had taken 40minutes off my previous best time, but I knew that I was capable of better.
No two Comrades marathons are the same and the last 3 races had been just that, a race. This Comrades was a journey and as I look back over my journey one week down the line, I realize that God was very much in control. I realize that I needed to get sick one week before Comrades because God had some amazing lessons to teach me. Had I not got sick I would have probably run the time I wanted, or come very close, but I realize that I would have missed out on some amazing life lessons, which God could only have taught me in the way things panned out.
In the week that has passed I have realized that I have to both train and overcome the mind. When difficult situations come, be they on the road of Comrades or on the journey of life, and those difficult questions are asked of us, if we do not have an answer the mind will simply stop us in our tracks and prevent us from seeing God’s hand at work. We will not be victorious. I know now that somewhere between Botha’s Hill and Pinetown the pain in my legs caused my mind to will me to stop, to throw in the towel, but I also know now that it is possible to overcome that evil. That mind-set seeks to destroy us and prevent us from reaching out God-given potential. That mind-set is not of God and we do well to focus on Him and learn to defeat it. The Christian journey is a fight, it’s not easy and there are many moments that leave us stumped in life. We must have an answer and I believe that the answer lies in the strength that God gives us to overcome. It’s the same strength that kept Jesus on the cross in our place and it’s the same strength that will carry us though any pain we may face.
If we live our lives trying to please others we will not have an answer for those difficulties. On the road I remembered all the people I wanted to show I was capable, all the people I wanted to prove my worth to. When the pain came, I realized that I had nothing to prove and that “showing” them was not an answer, “showing them” was suddenly not that important. That would not carry me to the end. Once I came to that realization I had to start digging for an answer, I had to find something deep within that would keep me going. In the end I wanted to finish, I wanted to finish in the best time I could on that day, I wanted to prove to myself that I could face defeat head-on and still find something within.
I am already focusing on next years Comrades, I’m already beginning to plan my path to that event and I believe that when 29th May 2011 comes around, I will be in a far stronger, far better place than I was this year.
God has been with me every single step of the way. For me, running is more than just running, it’s a spiritual discipline, a discipline in which I am able to connect with God in a very real, raw way. The lessons that I learn through running and the lessons God teaches me on the road make me a stronger and better person.
Am I disappointed that I never reached my goal? Of course I am, but I wouldn’t change the outcome of this years Comrades for a 1000 silver medals. The lessons I take away from a God who cares enough to teach me, are invaluable!
Testimony: Arthur and Linda Renney:
Testified at 08h00 morning sermon and 18h30 evening sermon – Sunday 30 May 2010
Arthur: Good morning everyone. We are so pleased to be able to share our testimony with you and it is such a blessing to do so, because God’s people need to be reminded that our Saviour is alive and he is true to his word that says ‘He will never leave us or forsake us.” We just need to always trust him….and his word also tells us to testify and spread the good news so thank you to John for affording us this opportunity.
Our struggle started 16 months ago. I had my own business – an asset finance consultancy which was running successfully for 9 years. Then the recession in the economy happened and my world seemed to fall apart as my business failed. I was faced with unemployment and the stress of how I was going to provide for my family. At the same time our 22 year old son was also struggling to find proper employment. Every day we scanned the newspapers and the internet and submitted our CVs, to no avail. The longer we had to do this, the more demotivated and worthless we started to feel. No one out there seemed to want to give us a chance. I found myself falling into depression. I also had to face the fact that my skin colour and my age were both against me and to me there just seemed to be no hope. Thank goodness Linda was blessed with a good job, but again it was not easy knowing that she had to carry the whole burden of providing for our family.
We were thankful that we always had food on our table and had our home to stay in. However, as time moved on, our vehicles were repossessed one by one and we were hounded by the banks for payment on our bond and other commitments which Linda’s income just could not carry. When we received word from the bank that our home might be auctioned off we did not know where to turn. Our home represented our security, our achievements and so many happy memories which now could be taken away from us. We were devastated and heartbroken.
We have always been faithful believers but as things got worse we started questioning God and our faith. We could not understand why God was allowing this to happen to us and why God was not helping us or making things better for us. I suffered emotional breakdown as our eldest son relocated to the coast and got married, our youngest son left home to work abroad, my mother developed breast cancer, my father suffered three heart attacks and my dearest friend died.
Then one morning alone at home, I was weeping and praying and the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “Arthur the reason why things are not getting better for you and Linda is because you are not fully trusting God. You are both praying and going to church regularly, but you are questioning God’s faith and you are becoming angry with God because he is allowing all these unfortunate things to happen to you. In order for God to work in your lives and to answer your prayers, you need to surrender everything to Him. You need to take all your troubles and worries and lay them at God’s feet and know with your whole heart, that God will take care of them and you.”
I immediately phoned Linda at work and told her how the Holy Spirit had spoken to me and told her that we had to confess and that we have to surrender everything to God. We prayed together on the phone and that night we prayed again as a family and surrendered all to God. We trusted God and His word that He would not leave or forsake us and we knew in our hearts that God had a plan for us. We just had to accept that it was all according to God’s will. It’s amazing how, from that night onwards, a feeling of utter peace and calm overcame us and has remained within us ever since.
Linda: From that day onwards, even as things still went wrong, we continued to stay strong in faith and kept confessing that God knows the plan He has for us and that things were happening according to His will and we just had to accept that God would make things happen for the better when the time was right.
It was not easy. It was a tough, tough time for all of us but amazingly through all the difficulties, we found that our faith was becoming stronger. Thankfully we have a close, loving and supportive marriage and have stood fast and firm together over 28 years. As we continued to struggle, we became even closer. The lessons we learned and shared brought so much more value into our lives. We learned to put aside our pride, we learned to become humble, to become patient, to share more with others, to value so much more the things that money cannot buy. In the past it was always so difficult for us to let others know what we were going through, but with this struggle God led us closer not only to Him, but also to those around us who loved us and supported us. This really helped to keep us going. Arthur joined a prayer group, and we both attended workshops at the church. Being close to other believers also helped to get us through. Peoples’ love, care, support and concern were cherished and we thank God for the presence of these people in our lives as the power of prayer moved through our lives daily.
Every time that something negative happened it was just so awesome how God always came through for us. There were times when we had only a little money or food left for the month and amazingly a blessing would come in – when we received a letter from the bank stating that legal and auction action would be imposed on our home, amazingly an offer of purchase came in – our list goes on and on and things really got better…..This made us realise more and more that one cannot go through life without prayer and without having a relationship with God.
As we stand here today, we can confess that every negative aspect in our struggle has been transformed by God into a positive. Arthur has been blessed with employment and has been working as a Sales Executive since March this year. Not only did God give him this job but the job came with the use of a company car. Our son also got a job and has been working at ABSA bank since March. We praise and thank God everyday as our hearts overflow with gratitude.
Arthur’s mom is now in remission and is doing so well. She is strong again and his dad has also recovered well from his health setbacks. Arthur has become a new person, once again able to provide for our family and feeling that life has purpose once more.
The sale of our home was finalised on Friday and with the proceeds from it, we will be able to start a new chapter in our lives.
Arthur and I want to send a message out to you all today, but especially to those who are facing difficulties and perhaps find yourselves in a similar situation to ours: Don’t give up and don’t ever doubt our awesome God. Surrender all to Him and He will come through for you.
Keep your spirits filled with the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. Stay close to God. Keep your faith. Surrender all to God and let God take over. We believe that our testimony proves how God can work and transform our lives – He did it for us and he can do so for your life too.
We thank God for our many blessings – all the glory goes to God.
Thank you and be blessed.