God’s Got His Running Shoes On

May 01, 2018 | Shelley Bacon

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord … will not grow tired or weary … but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength … they will run and not grow weary” (Isa. 40:27). Have you ever thought of God as a runner, running after His children, longing for them to run with Him, to be with Him, to be changed by Him? Students at Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) in Spangle, Wash., have.

When students speak about God to their fellow students, He shows up and changes lives. Each year UCA students are asked to nominate speakers for Student Week of Prayer (SWOP). This decision is not taken lightly, nor is the responsibility the student body has placed on the SWOP speakers.

Two juniors and 10 seniors, along with their sponsors Fred Riffle, Misa Barba, and Kyle and Stephanie Gladding, “went away to a quiet place to pray” as their Example did so long ago. Following this intensive long weekend SWOP retreat, these student delegates met regularly with their sponsors to study, pray, select topics and refine their talks. The soul-searching the SWOP speakers did was significant and life-changing for them. Now, their hope was that what God impressed them to say would be life-changing to the hearers.

The SWOP meetings began each evening with songs and prayer. Then the students presented their heartfelt messages, two each evening. Significant thoughts from the student speakers included:

  • “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be fake happy. I don’t want to have a fake purpose. I don’t want to live a fake life.”
  • “God is not limited by the walls we put up.”
  • “He doesn’t force Himself on us. All we have to do is stand in front of Him.”
  • “Imagine all of us as UCA, as a church, all our flickers together, becoming a blaze!”

Shine Alvarado’s talk ended with a quote from Isaiah 40:27. “Life, it’s like a race,” she said. “Keep putting one step forward, because God is ready to renew your strength. He’s here. Now. He’s ready. Jesus, He has His running shoes on. Do you?” At that, she took off her dress shoes and put on sneakers. The other SWOP speakers followed suit, standing shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm while singing the theme song, written by SWOP speaker Danny Stratte. Then the baptistery curtains opened, and junior Sasha Paago was baptized by Sid Hardy. Following Paago’s “resurrection” from the watery “grave” and enthusiastic applause, two freshmen responded as Hardy asked if anyone wanted to follow Jesus’ lead and give their all to Him through baptism.

God showed up at UCA and changed lives when students boldly spoke for Him during SWOP. He changed the hearts of the speakers as they prepared their talks. He changed the lives of the sponsors as they rededicated their lives to Him. And He changed the future for those listening as with open hearts they soaked in the messages and committed their lives to the One who inspired them.