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I have spent many days running through the hills of South Africa.
There is a point in my route where a certain hill comes into view and my eyes never leave it until I have passed. To anyone else, the sight of an overgrown hill may not mean much. But I know what lies beneath the shrubs and bushes.
This ordinary hill is an abandoned grave.
Very soon I will get on an airplane and go back home. Life, in most ways, will go on just as it did before I left.
But as I settle back into my American lifestyle, there is no way I will be able to forget seeing this abandoned grave on the hillside.
This hill has been a constant reminder of the bigger issue of AIDS in South Africa. When I see the hill I don’t just see a grave – I see stories.
Stories of mothers doing their best to provide for their children. Kids with dreams of becoming businessmen, social workers and teachers. Go-gos raising several grandchildren because AIDS wiped out their own children.
Buried in the hill are others who are no different than the people I have come in contact with everyday since I have been here. However, their story was cut short by the destruction of AIDS. And there is no way I can go back home and not do something for the people I have met and grown to love.
So, what am I supposed to do about this? How can I respond? Can I write a check? Yeah. Can I pray? Of course. But what will I do to respond?
Change of Heart
Normally I can justify my inaction with thoughts like,
Tyler, that isn’t your problem to worry about. Tyler, this problem is so big you can’t do anything to make a change. Tyler, you’re not skilled enough to go there. What could you possibly have to offer them?
All too often these lies have lead me into a life of passivity and blindness – especially to those struggling against HIV & AIDS.
Not this time. This time I am going to raise my voice.
If I’m honest, I know my voice against this injustice won’t solve the AIDS pandemic.
Honestly, that isn’t my hope.
My hope is that this conviction propels my life out of its comfortable bubble, and I show up on the front lines of the battlefield of AIDS.
And for me, the front lines are right at home in Indiana.
A Vision in the Strangest Place
What does that look like?
God has been knocking on my heart ever since I arrived here in South Africa. I expected this to happen while holding orphans or working with local youth. But it didn’t. Instead, it happened every night in the Light Providers library while doing my Insanity workout.
God’s pull has been simple. He has been saying, “Use this for me and my kingdom, and I will take care of the rest.” So I kind of half heartedly agreed – which can often be a terrible idea with God!
But since I said “yes”, every night in that library God has been filling and renewing a vision in my heart beyond this summer. It is simple, but something I believe can have a lasting impact.
Global Impact Through Tennis Shoes?
Over the last several years, I have developed a passion and a love for fitness. It has continued to take off and grow as I have progressed through college.
Earlier this year, my friends and I decided we would compete in a variety of races in effort to challenge our fitness. This fall, we will hit the road – from Wisconsin to South Carolina – to compete in mud runs.
So I figured if I am already doing all of these races, why not sign up with Team LSA and make a global impact? I want to capture exactly what is unfolding in our midst.
And I believe two completely opposite groups of people can come together and make a difference.
So I am buying a pair of training shoes here in South Africa. On one foot, I will have signatures from people representing all of LSA’s partner ministries. When I get back to the States, I will have all of those who run and donate to Team LSA sign the other shoe.
My race shoes will show how two countries from different sides of the world are uniting together to be a force for good and standing up in the fight against AIDS.
I really wish I could say where this is going to end up or what it’s going to look like, but I can’t. I really only have hope – that this will be used to glorify God and bring his kingdom one step closer to Earth.
Coming to South Africa I imagined the only way to truly make a difference was to be here holding an orphan or writing a check. But now I realize, that whether it’s pounding the pavement in Indy or trudging through the mud in Wisconsin, I can make an impact.
So my question to you is – will you sign my shoe?
- Pray about how God has been knocking on your heart to get involved with LSA and supporting their partner ministries in South Africa.
- Interested in learning more about how you can raise awareness (and funds) for Loving South Africa and their partners? Take the first step by contacting Team LSA today!.
- Decided to sign my shoe? E-mail me for more info on joining my team in one way or another - running, donating or praying!
About the Author: Tyler is a summer intern with World Next Door for 2012. He is currently studying Social Work at IUPUI. He has a hope to see social justice take place in this world through the transforming love of Christ. He loves working out, playing sports, and sometimes thinks he is still going to be a professional athlete. He also listens to Taylor Swift more than he cares to admit.