I have a son out on a mission for our church. He has been serving for almost a year and a half.
He is in Missouri, and has spent time in a variety of places. He has seen a good mix of urban and rural areas. Sometimes in the more rural areas and in the smaller towns, he is and his missionary companion are allocated a car to drive because of the distances involved covering the areas they are assigned to. In more urban areas they ride bikes to get from place to place.
When he was first assigned to a biking area he was unaccustomed to riding everywhere for transport. By the end of the first couple days his legs were killing him. He was sore and tired, but the work kept them busy and on the go. He had no choice but to ride and ride and ride that bike. He had to find ways to convince himself to keep going.
He told me of how he remembered watching Finding Nemo when he was young and how he thought of Dory when she said, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” He told himself to, “Just keep pedaling, pedaling, pedaling.”
I thought of his experience when I faced some hard things the last few weeks. I thought of this when he told me of some difficulties he has been confronted with recently.
We all have hard challenges to deal with. We all have struggles that can test our faith and will to go on. Do we keep on pedaling or do we give up? We have all tasted defeat. When we face defeat do we pick ourselves up and try again or do we walk away or throw in the proverbial towel?
Being defeated is often a temporary condition…giving up is what makes it permanent. Giving up, giving in versus persevering through great difficulty makes me think of the Olympics.
The Olympics are upon us. I used to love the Olympics growing up. I remember looking forward to watching the games every time an Olympic year rolled around. My mom, siblings and I loved to watch swimming, and gymnastics, among many other sports.
However, over the years the shine of the Olympics has faded for me. The arrogance, showboating, and doping scandals ruin most of the Olympic sports these days. The only thing that makes me keep watching is the hope for stories or persistence, perseverance, and determination that seem to always go hand in hand with, and embody the spirit of the Olympic Games.
I recently read about one such story. It is of an 18-year old Syrian refugee and swimmer named Yusra Mardini who fled Syria last year. She grew up swimming for her swim-coach father in Damascus before the war and had even been selected for the Syrian Olympic team.
With life becoming unbearably dangerous, two fellow swimmers being killed, and the pool being damaged so she could no longer train, she and her sister and some other extended family fled war-torn Syria. Their exodus from Syria was fraught with peril. It took them nearly a month to make it to Berlin, Germany to seek asylum.
The most harrowing part of the journey came when she and her sister and 18 other refugees were crammed into a small boat that was made to hold only six or seven people. Shortly after the overloaded boat left Turkey headed for Greece the motor stopped working and the boat started to take on water. Most of the refugees on the boat couldn’t swim. She and her sister and one or two others in the group jumped into icy water and had to swim pulling the sinking boat toward land saving everyone’s life onboard. It took three and a half hours of swimming to finally make it to Greece. Exhausted she collapsed to the ground as soon as they reached land.
After arriving in Berlin she and her sister sought out a place they could swim again. After all, swimming was her life. They found a swim club and a coach willing to work with them. She found out a few months later that the Olympic committee had approved forming a Refugee Olympic team that would compete under the Olympic flag. Yusra was selected as one of ten athletes on this team.
Despite all her struggles and difficulties she kept fighting for her dream. She once said, “Losers quit when they fail, but winners fail until they succeed.”
Whatever your challenges are, be like Yusra and don’t give up; be like my missionary son and just keep pedaling, pedaling, pedaling.