PASSING THE BATON
I’ve always been a fan of the summer Olympics and can’t believe it has come around again so quickly! My favorite events have always been Track and Field, and I love to watch the runners and others compete in the array of events.
I have been fond of the Olympics since I was a little girl. This fascination with track and field was the beginning of my own history as an avid runner.
I remember my very first track event. I participated in fourth grade in a relay. My identical twin sister and I were the fastest runners in our grade, and our PE teacher recruited us for the 400-yard relay to be run at the local track meet. My sister being the fastest — a little faster than me — became the anchor of our relay, and I came to learn that the second fastest was the one to start — that was me! I remember learning the strategy and protocol for relay running and baton holding and passing. The timing and precision were to be exact and it was always nerve-racking. Passing the baton correctly and smoothly with a firm pass off was the key to a successful race and victory! The passing of the baton in a relay race has been a great and meaningful metaphor in my life.
My twin sister and me on the 4th grade relay team (I’m the one in the blue)
This idea of passing a baton has been a theme throughout my own faith journey. My older sister passed her faith to me when I was only twelve years old and as I caught hold of the hope and love of Jesus Christ, I in turn wanted to pass it on to everyone. In college at the University of Washington, I began to pass on my faith. I became the Children’s Intern at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle and a Young Life leader at Roosevelt High School. I attended a college ministry called The Inn where I was inspired by a sermon the college pastor, Denny Rydberg, gave on “Running the Race.” I will never forget the message shared and the visual he held up to make his point.
Passing on my faith as a Children’s Leader with Denny Rydberg far right
From the pulpit he held a silver baton, the same type that a runner would use in a relay race. He went on to share the importance of running your race well for the Lord and passing your faith and hope in Jesus to those around you. His message was to run with perseverance sharing the good news of Jesus and keeping your eyes on the finish. It is a picture I carry in my mind to this very day. My goal and passion is to pass on my faith in Jesus to my children and now my grandchildren. This is also the passion behind The Anchor Gathering where we encourage one another and share the hope we have in Jesus with women everywhere!
His message was to run with perseverance sharing the good news of Jesus and keeping your eyes on the finish.
The relay race analogy has impacted me greatly as I continue to lead The Anchor and I am reminded of an event from a few years ago. Looking back now, I still cannot believe what happened and how the timing was so perfect. Several years ago, my husband and I were invited to the All Staff Young Life Conference in Orlando, Florida. We were all signed up and ready to go. My husband had been part of the Young Life staff for 18 years and this ministry is near and dear to our hearts so we never miss a chance to be together with Young Life staff… it is truly a family reunion.
Unfortunately, the night before we were to head out my husband’s back went out. We were going nowhere—we stayed home. I was so disappointed! Through others, I received updates of how things proceeded at the conference and what a special time it was including the amazing message shared by Denny Rydberg (the President of Young Life at the time). His talk was called “Running the Race.” Each staff member was encouraged and inspired by his message of passing on your faith and all were given a silver baton as a keepsake and reminder.
As I heard about the details of the conference, I wished I had one of those batons as a memento. What happened next is the amazing part of the story and, of course, happened with His perfect timing.
A year after the conference my husband and I were invited to a special Young Life event celebrating the retirement of Denny Rydberg. It was a very special tribute and time to honor Denny and all he had helped to accomplish for Young Life. To our surprise, on the last evening of the conference, Ron and I we were invited to spend time with Denny and his wife and another couple after the organized events had concluded for the evening. I sat next to Denny and shared with him how meaningful his talk on the baton was to me those many years ago in college and how it had inspired and spurred me on to share my faith with others.
I recollected how I had so missed not being able to attend the All Staff Conference and receive a baton. Here I was sitting with the president and talking as if we were fast friends—a treasured memory to thank him personally for all he had done and encouraged me with as a young college girl. It was an evening I will never forget.
The week after I returned home, I was stunned at the surprise I found in the mail. Denny had written me a personal note and tucked inside the envelope was my very own baton. He signed a card saying, “Katie, here’s your baton. Keep running well.”
The baton and note from Denny
Inscribed on the shiny silver surface was the verse, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I was so touched by his generous and heartfelt gesture. To this day, I have that baton placed on my desk as a reminder to press and pass on the greatest news and hope that Jesus brings as the anchor for our souls, firm and secure. This is my hope and prayer for all of us: that we can hold on tight to Jesus as our anchor and continue to pass our faith on to those around us and run the race well!