Dear Family and Friends,
The boys were at it again! The spent their Friday night deep cleaning the church! I am more impressed with every single week! This week was so much fun!!! Sister Soriano had lots of FHE which were all such much fun! I love my companion! I love my area!!!!! This week we had Mission tour and yet again I was filled with such great inspiration. I felt like it was aimed mostly at me. It was just so amazing, this story was shared with all of us missionaries. I was able to relate it to me in the mission now :)
The story of John Stephen Akhwari has been replaying in my mind over and over again since I first read it just over a month ago. Each time it hit me, I always wished to get my fingers on the keyboard and write something about it. Strangely, I just couldn’t find words to describe it. So instead I went on and enjoyed another read of the story. Each time I do, I feel my heart bow in respect and appreciation. To the man of course, for his remarkable strength of character and spirit, but mostly to the lesson he has passed on. Just briefly, this is his story.
John Stephen Akhwari is a Tanzanian former marathon runner who represented Tanzania in the marathon at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. When competing in the marathon, Akhwari cramped up due to the high altitude of the city for which he had not trained. At the 19 km point during the 42 km race, there was jockeying for position between some runners and he was hit. He fell, badly wounding and dislocating his knee joint while his shoulder hit hard against the pavement. He however continued running, finishing last among the 57 competitors who completed the race (75 had started). Akhwari finished in 3:25:27, almost exactly 1hr 5mins after the Ethiopian winner. By the time he came to the finishing line, his knee bandaged and bleeding, there were only a few people left in the stadium, and the sun had set. A television crew was sent out from the medal ceremony when word was received that there was one more runner about to finish.
As he finally crossed the finish line a cheer came from the small crowd. When interviewed later and asked why he continued running, he said,
"My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”
My eyes get wet each time I read this story. It’s just incredible. I get inspiration from it.
Many writers and speakers quite often speak and write about how winning can manifest itself from defeat. My favorite winning line which is engraved deeply in my mind is that “winners are winners in defeat and victory”. If you learn from defeat, you win. Similarly, if you improve on your previous victory, you win, because in either case, you have made a forward step in life.
This story reminds me of a work training I had in South Africa last year, where I came last in the weekly assessments. And by last I mean my name was adjacent to the longest block of empty rows in an excel sheet. Yes, arranged in descending order of marks, there was no single name that came after mine. The way this news unfolded to me though, is not the typical way you wish to receive results of being last in a class. “Hey guys, results are here”. That is the instructor calling out from the front of the class where we all immediately assembled to see our results - excited. Each one’s eyes were looking at the computer monitor, scrolling up and down looking for their names. I remember scrolling to the middle of the screen and going back up coz I didn’t believe my name was that further down. Only to realize that it was actually further, further, further down! My feet went cold and I am glad I got the strength to pull one or two jokes about my position. Then, like a swift wind, I immediately left the room at the next chance to do that.
Well, like many of us would, I was disturbed by the news. What I did not do however was, get discouraged. Consequently, there was such a happy ending. I performed so well in the following assessments that at the end of five weeks, I was the best performer, and I happily received my well-deserved prize.
My story is nothing close to Akhwari’s, but the underlying lesson is the same. Out of 75 people who started the race, John was among the 57 who finished it. Remember; "He finished the race". How many times do we give up in our many races in life? The outlook in our race may not be promising but we won’t know what will unfold at the end of the race until we run to the end - will we? Unlike Akhwari’s marathon race, the end of one race in life is the beginning of another one. And obviously, we won’t get the chance to experience the next race until we finish the previous one. We would rather embrace the race and keep running as fast as we can. Aiming at finishing and finishing only.
- Sister Garrish