I ran the Little SU 50K race this weekend. It was a beautiful day out in the Alaskan wilderness with breathtaking views of Mt. Susitna. It was also clear and cold with temperatures hovering in the negative single digits which made running in the shifty, dry snow even more challenging.
At around Mile 20, I hit the proverbial wall. I had been running for a good 4 hours or so and my body was starting to give up. My brain and all my muscles were screaming, “What on earth were you thinking signing up for yet another one of these crazy races?!” My pace had slowed to a steady shuffle at that point with my head down, just watching one foot go in front of the other, trying to find the most solid part of the snowy trail packed by bikers, skiers and runners in front of me.
Just then, a biker passed me and said, “You’re doing a good job! I can’t imagine running in these trail conditions. You got this!” and moved right along. Those words made such huge impact on me. I felt a smile come to my face. I lifted my gaze to catch a glimpse of the rider pulling-away and in the process, I realized again the beauty that was all around me. I straightened my back and felt my strides lengthen and my pace pick up once again.
Words of Affirmation
Late last week, a small group of Alaska United Methodists who work in public health sent me this open letter to share with you, their fellow Alaska United Methodists:
Dear United Methodist Siblings across Alaska,
We know it has not been easy to be the body of Christ during this time of Covid-19. Thank you for your faithful diligence in learning how to create and participate in worship online; to create and participate in discipleship groups, and committee meetings online, in being leaders in making and encouraging mask use and other mitigation measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for your faithfulness in seeking to DO NO HARM and DO GOOD by ceasing in-person gatherings during the times of widespread community transmission. Your sacrifice HAS made a difference.
With vaccines rolling out to some of our most vulnerable, and infection rates across the state dropping, your willingness to refrain from gathering is helping your fellow Alaskans. We are not yet out of the woods, but the needle is moving in the right direction, and a part of that is thanks to your willingness to sacrifice in-person gatherings the last ten months. Hang in there just a little bit longer, because we can see the Light at the end of this long dark tunnel, and the day is fast approaching when we will be able to safely gather again.
Thanks for helping to do your part of Loving Neighbor as self as together we stand strong against COVID-19.
Your fellow Alaska United Methodists,
Sarah Aho, MPH: Epidemiology Specialist, State of Alaska
Rebekah Porter, RN, MSN, MPH: Nurse Epidemiologist, State of Alaska
Elizabeth Ripley, President & CEO, Mat-Su Health Foundation
Heather Harris, MPA: Director, Anchorage Health Department
Sandra Woods, MS, DrPH, RN, Nurse Educator
A Word of Thanks
Friends, today, almost to the day, marks the 11th month of our pandemic response. Next month will be an anniversary of sorts, one we may not necessarily want to celebrate but certainly need to take mental note of. We have been doing this for almost a year now: Worshipping online; keeping our sanctuaries closed to all but a few who “produce” worship; keeping our buildings closed except for essential services; adopting mask, sanitation and social distancing measures; meeting and caring for each other via Zoom; worshipping outdoors; reimagining what ministry and life together looks like during this time – all in the name of doing no harm and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.
And while the vaccinations seem to be working in driving the daily cases and hospitalizations down, we still do not see the end clearly in sight. In race terms, we still do not see the finish line yet we know that we are closer to it than we were a day before.
And so as we push on, putting one foot in front of the other, almost running completely on fast depleting reserves, trying to will ourselves from day to day, week to week, I am thankful for the words of Sarah, Rebekah, Elizabeth, Heather and Sandra essentially saying: “You’re doing a great job!” I join my voice to this chorus in saying: Thank you! I appreciate all that you have done, the sacrifices you have made, the challenges you have risen to, the pivots you have so quickly taken, and the grace which you have given each other during this time. I see you. And more importantly, God sees you and says, in the words of our Transfiguration text last Sunday, “You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.”
May these affirming words give us the strength and the encouragement to finish this race set before us. And may all who come behind us find us faithful.
Your fellow disciple,
Alaska Conference Superintendent
P.S. The 5 original signers of the open letter are giving us the opportunity to sign-on to the letter, as a way to affirm and encourage each other. Here’s a link to do so: https://forms.gle/YSptdwdKQLGLeCd49