Scott Van Daalen is one of three Iowa high-school students who ran across the state this summer to raise money and awareness for the ELCA Malaria Campaign and Imagine No Malaria, the malaria camapign of the United Methodist Church. Many thanks to Scott for sharing these wonderful reflections! You can read more about Scott and his teammates, Brad Wylam ad Ethan Wise, here.
It starts with an idea. This is how everything begins. This one, however, was ridiculous; a crazy idea hatched in the minds of three 17-year-olds. The idea was to run across Iowa this summer. It seemed like such a great way to chase adventure. But could there be something more to it than just adventure? It was then that we realized we could use this run as a symbol for something, something much bigger than ourselves. We decided we should consult an adult before we went head over heels planning the run. Conveniently, Ethan’s mom, Pastor Deborah Wise, happened to come downstairs. After we ran the idea past her, she pointed out to us that both the ELCA and United Methodist Church (UMC) were focusing on malaria.
A run to raise awareness for malaria sounded perfect, since we could include both the Lutheran and Methodist church [note: two Running From Malaria teammates are ELCA Lutherans and one is United Methodist]. After a well-thought-through 30-minute session with a map of Iowa, we had our route and stops planned. Deborah was kind enough to arrange a meeting for with us with Katie Dawson, the Iowa Coordinator of the Imagine No Malaria campaign (the United Methodist Church’s malaria campaign). After our successful meeting with Katie Dawson, we were excited and committed to Running from Malaria. [Note: they also had wonderful encouragement from Wartburg College students and ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod staff!] Since then, we haven’t looked back.
Running from Malaria was an absolutely incredible experience. It was truly amazing to be advocates for people impacted by this preventable and curable disease. Every single day, we woke up early (at least early for three teenagers during summer) and started the day running. The average day was about 15 miles. Once we finished the day’s running, the fun started. We would get into the towns, and we were able to speak to many people about malaria. In almost every town, we were able to speak to local media, to increase the number of people that we reached. This was definitely our 15 minutes of fame. People often speak of the small-town Iowa friendliness. We can confirm that! All of our hosts were incredible, whether it was taking us out for lunch, paying for us to go see a movie, or just letting us sleep in their beds!
I was told to use this blog post to brag about our accomplishments of the run, but that doesn’t seem very fitting. Instead I want to brag about our awesome God. We have a God that does the unthinkable. He worked through three average teenagers. We were truly able to do God’s work with our hands and feet. Doing his work, we were able to reach hundreds of people and tell them about malaria. We also we able to raise approximately $15,000! I repeat, we have an AWESOME GOD!
There was one central idea that started this whole mission. It is a fairly simply idea: I want to make a difference. This is something that countless people think, but what stops them? There is something I have realized in my short 18 years I have lived, and that is people think too little of their ability to make a change. People are always “too young,” “too old,” “not smart enough,” “too quiet,” etc. However, another thing I have learned is God doesn’t call the brave, mighty, or strong. God doesn’t call the equipped—he equips those whom he calls. When God told Moses his mission, he was so scared he had his brother, Aaron, be his spokesperson. All throughout the Bible, God calls those who are too young, too old, and too weak. God called people just like us, so why do we use those same excuses? I always thought I was too young to make a difference till I was all grown up. I didn’t think people would ever care what a kid had to say. I was wrong. I had been thinking about this a lot lately then I watched the movie Coach Carter. In the movie, one of the students recites part of a poem called Our Deepest Fear, by Marianne Williamson.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
“We are all meant to shine as children do.” A child does not fear what they can’t accomplish, but they dream of everything they can. Do something that is impossible for you to do by yourself. That way when it is accomplished, it is easy to thank God. -Scott Van Daalen