Tracy Rivas: Trust over fear

tracy-rivas“I’ve always believed that God calls us to give our time and talents, not just our finances, for Him to use,” Tracy said.

And she puts her money where her mouth is.

After two years of watching her husband, Mitch, run the half marathon in LA, Tracy decided to join him. Expecting to sign up for the half marathon, a surprise event change pushed Tracy into the full marathon distance instead. “I could not run a block without feeling like I wanted to die,” Tracy said, “Our team members were all in middle-age-ness and it was a huge step for me because I didn’t know how I was going to do it.”

img_2089Well, just six weeks from race day, Tracy discovered a lump in her breast. She needed surgery that would prevent her from running and take her out of the race. “No one would fault me for saying I was going to quit. I just had this sense that I really needed to trust God that I could follow through on the commitment I had made and trust that it would take care of itself,” Tracy explained. Impressed and surprised by her faith, the surgeon scheduled Tracy for after the marathon so she could still run. The lump was benign. 

“The next year, I knew I could trust God with something even bigger, and that’s why I set the fundraising goal,” said Tracy. John Huddle, TWV staff in LA, challenged her to set a $10,000 goal. “I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach—I thought I might throw up. It meant relinquishing complete control,” she said.

So Tracy set a $5,000 goal—bigger, but still attainable—and began to bargain with God. “If I email my principal and she gives me 5 minutes at the start of our faculty meeting, THEN I’ll raise my goal,” she thought. She got 5 minutes. “Okay, if I make this presentation to my fellow teachers and someone donates, THEN I’ll raise my goal,” she thought. She got a $100 gift before the meeting was out, and $600 before the school day was out. “This was God saying, ‘You have to trust me,’” Tracy said. And she increased her goal to $10,000.

img_1562Tracy closed out that year raising over $14,000, matching what her donors gave with the profits from her Etsy shop (trusting that God would provide the money they needed for a new car in a different way—which He did). And you know what? The next year she raised over $12,000. (While Mitch raised over $10,000 and her 13-year-old son, Wyatt, raised over $2,000!) And this year, she’s aiming to do it again. But it’s not easy. She’s a busy teacher and mom, some days so exhausted she’s not sure how she can make it all happen and afraid that she won’t be able to do it again.

But still she says, “It’s easy to trust that God can work when the answer is already a foregone conclusion. But when the answer is a huge question mark, well, that’s a different story. How easy it is to walk away from opportunities to experience a deeper level of trust just because we are afraid.” 

Tracy, what an inspiration you are through your example of faith and trust leading you on this incredible journey. We are so encouraged by your willingness to be an advocate for clean water, even in the face of huge question marks. Thank you for taking these steps of faith and sacrificially giving your time, talents, and finances for the sake of others. 

Olivet Nazarene Swimmers: Water 4 Water

Olivet Water 4 WaterThis August, a team of students from Olivet Nazarene University took to the waters of Lake Michigan for kids in need of clean water.

Here’s how it went down:

  • 10 swimmers
  • 40 miles
  • 2 days
  • 150 lives changed through access to clean water

Two years ago, an Olivet swimmer was moved by the purpose of Team World Vision, but unable to run a marathon because of his training schedule. So he dreamed up a new event that he and his swimming teammates could do on their own. They called it Water 4 Water, a relay-style swim across Lake Michigan. 

This year, a group of Olivet swimmers decided to bring back the event and carry on the tradition. So they swam a 40 mile relay from Michigan City, Indiana to New Buffalo, Michigan, and back to Michigan City.

Austin Bennett, a junior at Olivet who led the effort, said, “This was a cool opportunity for us to be able to make a difference with what we do every day. We swim so much. This is a cool opportunity for us to branch out and do something really different with our talents.”

Trust us, this was no small feat to pull off. The team needed to coordinate boats, drivers, safety measures, housing and food for 10 swimmers over the course of two full days, all while keeping a focus on fundraising.

Team member Todd Sutter said that trusting God was the biggest lesson he learned through the whole process. “There were a lot of logistics that needed to be figured out, praying through the summer that we would be able to pull it off,” he said. “The weather was perfect. The boat situation came though. The housing came through. God provided for us. He leads us in the right direction.

The team has so far raised enough money to provide clean water to 150 people in Africa. But they’re not done yet. Austin and Todd dream of what the event could become: doubling the number of people involved and the amount they can raise, swimming a farther distance, and getting more college swim teams engaged. Stay tuned to see what can happen in 2017!

Thanks Water 4 Water team for giving us an amazing example of creatively using your talents for the sake of others. You fought through logistical challenges, waited out literal storms, and infected those around you with a desire to help end the clean water crisis. We’re thankful for your leadership and can’t wait to see what can happen with your vision and desire to serve those in need. 

Alva Thomas: 70-Year-Old First Timer

Alva ThomasAlva Thomas is not new to running. In the Army in the 1960s, he would run 20 miles in combat boots in the Texas heat as part of physical training. When he got out of the Army, he would run down the street and people would ask what he was doing. Marathons for average joes weren’t really a thing yet, and people thought he was crazy, so he stopped running. 

Then, 45 years later, Alva was diagnosed with cancer. “I would walk home from work and repeat to myself, ‘You have cancer.’ It took a month before I told my wife,” Alva said. When he was cancer free a year later, Alva completed his first Tough Mudder “in defiance and celebration,” he said. He was 68 years old.

That event reintroduced running into his life. So when he was sitting in church one Sunday—at 70 years old—and Team World Vision invited him to run the Chicago Marathon for clean water, he said, “Why not?” 

“I’m one of those people that believes if you have the ability to do something, there is no reason you’re not to do it,” Alva said. “After cancer, people would ask me why would I run at that age? I said, ‘Why not? What’s to prevent me from doing it? There’s no reason not to.’”

And with Team World Vision, he felt even more compelled. If running and asking friends for support could make a difference in the lives of people, Alva was in. “We’re running with a purpose. We’re running for them. We’re running for water, something that we absolutely take for granted,” he said.

Now at 71, Alva is running his second and third marathons with Team World Vision this fall — Chicago, where he lives, and Detroit, where we was born. “I will run until I can’t,” he said, “I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone, but right now there is no reason not to.” 

And to anyone who thinks they are too old or too slow or too something, Alva says, “Do one thing. Start out with the smallest step. Find something that is difficult or challenging and do it. There is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment in doing that.” And of course, be willing to say, “Why not?”

Alva, thank you for saying “Why not?” to running a marathon with Team World Vision, to running a second and third marathon with Team World Vision, for raising money for kids who need clean water, for being an encourager and mentor at every single group run, and for showing us what’s possible when we put others needs before our own comfort.

Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton: Beyond the medals

Ashton-BrianneThis week we have the incredible honor of inducting two Team World Vision teammates who are also Olympic medalists: Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton. In the last two weeks in Rio, Brianne took the Bronze medal in the Women’s Heptathlon for Canada, and Ashton took the Gold (for the second year in a row) in the Men’s Decathlon for the United States.

The best part though is that Ashton and Brianne are not only world-class athletes, but are also incredibly dedicated and generous advocates for kids in Africa. 

The couple learned about Team World Vision through U.S. Olympian, Lopez Lomong. After running the Hood to Coast Relay with Team World Vision in 2014 and 2015, they traveled to Kenya to see the impact of the money they helped raise and to meet their sponsored child, Philemon. Even with all of the traveling they do for their sport, this trip was different. “It completely changed who we are and how we approach our life going forward,” said Brianne.

Eatons in KenyaAshton described what he saw in Kenya like this: “If you think about the foundation of competition and what makes it great, [it’s that it] is based on fairness. I’ll use the 100 Meter Dash as an example. We all have to run 100 meters, and you use your abilities and skills and potential to complete that distance as best you can.” But he said what really hit him was this: “People in Kenya have the exact same potential as someone in another situation. The difference was that the setup of the race seemed unfair.” 

It was that observation, in part, that makes Ashton and Brianne so passionate about child sponsorship and being involved in the work that World Vision is doing.

“When you’re young,” said Ashton, “You don’t really understand it. You want to accomplish all of these goals for yourself. But as you get older you realize, ‘I don’t think it’s all about me.’”  

Brianne said it this way: “World Vision has put things into perspective for us. When you’re at the Olympic level, you start to think that winning the Olympic gold medal is all that matters in your life. By going to Africa and working with World Vision and seeing the bigger picture of the world, it brings me back down to earth and makes me super fortunate to be doing what I’m doing.”

And that’s why Ashton and Brianne consider Philemon an extension of their family, and are using their incredible platform in this Olympic games to encourage other people to sponsor children as well. (Sponsor on their behalf here!)

Eatons in Kenya pt2“This is what life is about—making someone else’s life better,” said Ashton. “We have learned and experienced things that will impact our [future] kids’ lives. And because of that, their kids. And [Phil’s] family and his kids. There’s probably not much else you can do in your life that will have that significant effect on the world.” 

Now, after the games, Ashton and Brianne have big plans with Team World Vision. Ashton will be with Team World Vision this weekend for another Hood to Coast event. And in December they will host the first-ever “Legacy Getaway” with Team World Vision’s $10,000 fundraisers. They are also already planning their next trip to Kenya to visit Philemon and his family.

Ashton and Brianne, we could not be more proud to call you teammates and friends. We are inspired by your athletic pursuits, and we are motivated by your sincere and generous hearts for children in need. You are truly creating a legacy that will continue for generations, and we are so thankful for your voices on behalf of the poor. Brianne, HUGE congratulations on your Heptathlon medal. Ashton, HUGE congratulations on your back-to-back golds!

The Scheer Family: All In

Scheer FamilyIn July of 2013, Cory Scheer was in a life-threatening bike accident. Miraculously, he walked out of the hospital 2 days later, but, as you might expect, his life was never the same.

That same year, Cory started on a journey of running 12 marathons in 12 months, calling it “The Basic Needs Marathon Challenge,” raising money for 5 different charities over the course of the year. His incredible story—and his commitment to helping others through the telling of it—landed him a finalist spot in a Runner’s World Cover Contest in 2014.

That’s when Cory met Rusty, a Team World Vision staff person and fellow Runner’s World finalist. Passionate about helping meet the basic needs of children through running, Team World Vision became a perfect fit for Cory. The problem was, Team World Vision didn’t have an event in Cory’s hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. So Cory, with crucial encouragement and involvement from his family, helped change that.

Cory ScheerIn 2015, Cory and his wife, Jamie, volunteered to co-captain a team from their church–Pleasant Valley Baptist Church–and run the Kansas City Marathon and Half Marathon. In the first year, they had a goal of getting 100 people from KC to run and raise $100,000. Well, as Cory said, “For us, Team World Vision has been about continual exceeding of expectations. We think we’ve accomplished something, but then God does more.” In their first year, the KC team was almost 300 runners strong and raised $210,000. 

“Jamie has been an incredible volunteer,” says Cory. She is a physical and nutritional therapist and has helped lots of her teammates as they’ve trained for the race. “This has not just been about one person, we’ve truly had a co-captain model,” said Cory.

Scheer kidsAnd they haven’t stopped there. Cory and Jamie’s kids—Cailyn (13), Isaac (11), Evan (5), and Levi (5)—have been clean water advocates as well. The kids are always at group runs cheering people on, have volunteered at the World Vision 6K for Water, and even organized fundraisers for clean water at their school. “It’s important to us that any time we can model a life of generosity, we do it. And the only way our kids can learn that is to be involved and participate,” Cory says. 

This year, the Scheers are at it again. They are key volunteer leaders in Kansas City, spreading the word about how to run for clean water with Team World Vision. There are already over 600 people signed up for the Kansas City Marathon in October (2 of which are Cory and Jamie of course). 

As Cory reflected recently on the 3-year anniversary of his accident, he wrote: “By God’s grace and His grace alone, the “tragedy” has been transformed into a new trajectory. My family’s entire frame of reference has moved further away from entitlement and more towards gratitude. Had I not gone through this experience, I may have never connected with Team World Vision, an organization mobilizing thousands of people to raise millions of dollars to end the water crisis in Africa. The work of providing clean water goes on. We each have an opportunity, by God’s grace and grace alone, to create a new trajectory for those living in tragic circumstances.”

Thank you, Scheer Family, for your incredibly generous commitment of time, resources, and influence in order to help create a better world for children in need. You ALL have played an essential role in bringing Team World Vision to a new city, and with you, we stand in awe of the work God is doing as a result of your willingness to serve. Thank you for your leadership in Kansas City and beyond. 


Jon Lin: 10 Years and Counting

Jon Lin“It all started at Harold’s Chicken,” says Jon Lin. He was a high school teacher at the time, dealing with overwhelming stress, eating out a lot and not feeling great physically. But, he says, “As I was walking out with my half piece dark, I saw a flyer advertising the marathon and thought, yeah I could run a marathon.”

So he joined Team World Vision and started training for the Chicago Marathon in 2007, having never run more than 3 miles in his life. And when he crossed the finish line, he knew that he wasn’t done. 

Since then, Jon has boldly, yet humbly, continued to up his challenge level. He’s taken on many more marathons including NYC, and ventured into triathlon at the Steelhead Half Ironman and Ironman Wisconsin. And he’s done it all in the Team World Vision orange.

So what keeps him coming back year after year? 

Well, two main things: 

First, “This has been a place of healing for me,” Jon said. Having grown up with a high value placed on success and competition, Jon says about his journey on Team World Vision: “I’m not trying to meet someone else’s standard, and everything I have done has been celebrated. It doesn’t matter if you win your age group or win the race or if you’re the last person crossing the finish line. It’s been so encouraging to celebrate growth and progress. It’s been a place where I don’t feel judgement or comparison.” 

Second, Jon said, “I felt like if I was going to keep doing this there had to be a reason.” So he did his research early on and learned that World Vision was doing great work in the field that he was excited to support. “The problem of clean water is a solvable problem, and coming from an engineering background, it irks me to no end that there are things that can be solved that are not being solved.” So with each new physical challenge, Jon has pushed his introverted self through the fear of fundraising and has been encouraged (and sometimes surprised) by the way his supporters have repeatedly come alongside him to work toward the end of the clean water crisis.

Jon, we’re so thankful for your quiet consistency over the last 10 years and counting. You have taken risks, stepped through fear, persisted despite injury, showed up for your teammates, and worked faithfully on behalf of children and communities in need of clean water. We’re grateful for you and who you are in this Team World Vision family, no matter where you live!

Brianna Hammond: Saying YES to the Unknown

Brianna Hammond“I was at place in my life where I needed to find a purpose outside of myself and my family,” says Brianna Hammond. “And Team World Vision clicked with me. It broke me out of being neutral. I had been living my life in a very safe space because it was comfortable. This made me become more of a risk-taker. I liked what it felt like to stand up for something that was important to me.”

That’s how Brianna, someone who had never been an athlete and didn’t know anything about the clean water crisis, describes her first LA Marathon journey. And it’s why she ran the next year. And the year after that too. It’s why she’s raised almost $30,000 personally, and why she became the captain of her church team that has raised over $250,000.

And even after all that, it’s why this year Brianna ran the 56-mile Comrades Marathon and found sponsors for 86 children. “I needed to take a big risk in my life,” she said, “I’ve never said yes to something I didn’t already know I could do. This was a place I could allow God to show his magnificence and strength in my life. I had to totally give it over to him.” 

So she did. As Brianna covered those 56 miles, she just kept putting one foot in front of the other, praying that God would not take away her pain, but help her endure it. “The children who were sponsored — they don’t get to quit,” she said, “They have to endure things no child should have to endure, no mother should have to endure.”

Brianna victoriously crossed that finish line with just 9 minutes to spare. “It was one of the best days of my life, seeing what God can do when we give him the space in our lives to do it. I had never allowed him to show up in that way.”

Ocean Hills teamNow Brianna is back in LA, ready for more. “I never want to reach my goal,” Brianna said. “If I get close to my goal, it’s going to get bumped up. What do I have to lose? There is always a need for clean water and always more that can be done.” 

She’s also excited to continue to lead her church team and encourage other people to take on big risks of their own.  “I hope there were some people sitting in the audience last year watching it all happen who have the courage to say yes this year. That’s where growth occurs the most, where we risk the most,” she said. “I love seeing the unlikely heroes that emerge because of hearts that are broken for the cause.”

Brianna, what an inspiration you are to our team! Thank you for leading so boldly and faithfully, and for being willing to take risks for the sake of others. And thank you for showing us what can happen when we allow God the space in our lives to show up in big ways. You have given hope and life to hundreds of children and we are so grateful for you.

The Classic Team World Vision Jersey

#ClassicTWVClassic Team World Vision Jersey: today we induct you into the Team World Vision Hall of Awesome in appreciation of your epic career. In the past 10 years, more than 25,000 people have pushed through boundaries and changed lives wearing your unmistakable orange.

You’ve boldly run on city streets and rural roads, oceanfront and forest paths, flatlands and mountains.

You’ve offered courage to your wearers to cover distances they didn’t think possible—6K, 13.1, 26.2, 87K, 70.3, 100, 140.6, 195, 3081.

You’ve been an armor of strength from coast to coast, through the hills of South Africa, and up to mountain summits. 

You’ve withstood sweat (lots and lots of sweat), blood, tears, rain, snow, and sun. 

You’ve been there for every training day, injury, comeback, and runmotional finish.

You remind each person who pulls you on that they are part of something bigger, that they are not alone.

And most of all, you are a beacon of hope signaling clean water and life to communities worldwide.

Classic Team World Vision Jersey, you have done your job well. Steady and relentless, always present, but never stealing the spotlight. If we could only know the stories of the thousands of life-changing journeys you have silently witnessed. Thank you for your service to Team World Vision. Though it is time to say farewell, you will never be forgotten.

Stay tuned for the upcoming reveal of the NEW Team World Vision jersey later this summer! We think you’re going to love it, and spoiler alert: it’s still orange.

Get your #ClassicTWV jersey through June 30 when it will be officially retired. ORDER NOW.

What’s your #ClassicTWV moment? Share it on Facebook and see your teammates’ memories by searching the #ClassicTWV hashtag.

Johgina Densmore: Creating “Aha Moments”

JohginaWhen Johgina Densmore heard about the World Vision 6K for Water in 2014, she had never run a race in her life. But when she read that the registration fee provided clean water to a child, it was a no-brainer. “I can’t even wrap my mind around the fact that there are places in the world that don’t have clean water.” So she took the plunge.

Johgina describes her very first race like this: “Crossing the finish line really was euphoric. I was 49 at the time and crossing the finish line was something I never thought I would be able to do. And the bigger impact for me was that this was really going to help somebody. I thought to myself, I’ve never done this before. But some kid has to do this every day. Some mother has to do this. So that helped me know I could get through it.” 

From that point on, Johgina talked about the 6K to all of her friends and coworkers and the next year brought a team of 15 people to the race.

While picking up their race bibs, Johgina’s friend started to cry. After the race, she told Johgina, “Thank you so much for inviting me. I didn’t even know.” And Johgina realized that one of the best parts of the 6K was seeing her friends be exposed to needs in other parts of the world. “I get to say, ‘Let me tell you what you can do to make a huge impact,’ and it becomes an aha moment for them. It’s the bib that matters.”

Johgina's Team“My personal mission statement is to help people grow,” said Johgina. “If I’m training leaders at work or at church, I talk about the value of people. So I think the same way with the 6K. It is about the value of life and the value of children.

This year Johgina took it to the next level again and invited her whole church—Apostolic Faith Church in Chicago—to participate. They are aiming for a team of 200! And all because Johgina went to her pastor and said, “If I can do it, anyone can do it. The cause is amazing—that a small registration can really make an impact on children.” 

Thank you, Johgina, for creating “aha moments” and being a passionate advocate for children in need of clean water!

If you’d like to join Johgina at the 6K for Water in Chicago this summer, register here! You can also do it in the Twin Cities or Northwest Indiana

Mike Donley: What if you did?

Mike DonleyMike is an actor, a musician, a playwright, and all around creative type. Athletics was never his thing.

So when someone at Mike’s church invited him to run on Team World Vision, he laughed in her face. “I’m 51, a cancer survivor, I’m so busy, and running a marathon could not be farther from my bucket list,” Mike told her. “I’ll keep giving, but running is ridiculous.”

She pushed. “What if there is a chance that when you run, the money you raise could be much more than if you just gave?” Irritated at her challenge, Mike grabbed the flyer and walked away. But two days later, he was woken up with the phrase, “What if you did?” (That NEVER happens to him, by the way, ever.)

Now let’s back up for a second. When Mike was 24 and newly married, he was diagnosed with cancer that led to lots of chemo and surgeries. At one point, a doctor mistakenly told Mike that he would only have a few years to live. “You make a decision to do all you can to survive,” he said, “You learn how to not give up and to rely on the prayers of others when you don’t have the strength of your own.” In a word, he learned resilience.

So as Mike considered that question—What if you did?—he summoned that resilience and decided to choose life again. But this time, he was choosing life for others.

By the end of the week, he was signed up for the marathon. And when people asked why, “I told them 100% of the pie was about clean water.”

“But as I started training,” Mike said, “I realized I liked how my body felt, that I liked training with a group of people I would have never met, that there was spiritual growth happening as I suffered through the training plan. There was this whole pie I had never even considered before. I was getting two pies for the price of one.”

As Mike told his non-runner story and shared his heart for the cause, people started to give. In the end, he raised almost $15,000 and provided clean water for nearly 300 people. “It was unbelievable,” he said.

“God is at the center of it all giving me the chance to do new things and I’m very thankful to use my body at this stage in my life.” It’s why Mike is currently signed up for his second Twin Cities Marathon aiming to raise another $15,000.

Mike, thank you for being willing to find out the answer to the question, “What if you did?” Water and life for hundreds of children, that’s what.