Athletes Put Hope in Motion for AIDS Orphans
- Wednesday, August 25, 2004
As Naomi Overton climbed toward the peak of Grand Teton Mountain, her eyes aimed up. And her heart aimed across. Across the United States. Across the Atlantic Ocean. Across Africa, to where millions of children have been orphaned because of the AIDS epidemic.
Overton found the Aug. 13 climb to be grueling and painful - the 40-year-old San Diego hiker lost toenails on both of her big toes - but understood the suffering would be temporary.
"I knew the pain I was experiencing would end when I was able to change into sandals," she said. "But those children wouldn't have that help."
Those children, however, now have more help and hope because of active adults like Overton and Steve Hawk of Oregon, who have participated a new program offered by World Vision that provides food, shelter and other services to AIDS orphans.
The program, called Put Hope In Motion, allows Americans to use the activity of their choice to creatively raise funds for the affected children.
Participants select any personal fitness or organized group event, such as a marathon, fun run or softball tournament, then register on-line (www.worldvision.org/phim) and design their own fundraising Web page. Next, they invite friends, family, church members or co-workers to go on-line to make a secure donation.
Finally, they take part in the event and follow with thank you testimonials and photos.
The AIDS orphans receive the blessing through World Vision, but they're not the only ones to benefit. PHIM participants testify to experiencing God's presence, power and peace while struggling to complete their activities.
Overton had already planned to climb Grand Teton when she heard God whispering in her ear to use her passion to serve His kingdom.
"I thought, 'Well, OK, I'm more a hiker than climber, but let's see what I can do,'" she said.
Her spiritual leanings were confirmed when she called World Vision - she sponsors a girl from Mexico - and heard about PHIM. The original trip to the Tetons had been canceled for financial reasons, but then circumstances changed to allow Overton to climb. She sees that as God orchestrating events to bring help to the hurting children in Africa and around the world.
Overton safely made it up and down Grand Teton, earning $1,950 from her nearly 40 sponsors.
"There was this aspect where it was really good to do this climb as a service to someone else," she said.
It also turned out to be good that the climb was so difficult. It helped remind her how much tougher the orphans have it.
"If it had not been so hard a mountain, that might not have struck me so much," she said.
Hawk expressed a similar sentiment. The recreational wind surfer took on the challenge of raising sail for a 17-mile journey up the Columbia River as part of the annual Gorge Games that take place along the Cascade Mountains.
The trek typically takes three hours, but lack of wind kept Hawk on the water for five.
"My hands took two weeks to heal up," he said. "I had blisters that totally cracked open and it cracked the skin pretty deep."
Hawk, like Overton, found that participating in PHIM helped him deal with the difficulty of the river event.
"I had some people donating on a per-mile basis, and that's what got me to finish the race," he said. "I'm not sure if I would have stuck it out otherwise. It made me really want to finish it."
Hawk, 34, raised nearly $1,500 from 37 donors for PHIM. But it wasn't easy. The wind died at the start of the race, an ominous sign of things to come.
"That's when I thought, 'Oh, man, this is going to be a struggle,'" he said.
And not just for Hawk. Of the 114 who began the race, 77 finished. Hawk was No. 77, but his story may be the most inspiring of all. Several times, the chase boat threatened to pull him from the water, but Hawk was too deep in prayer to notice. He also forgot to bring water, so he was dehydrated and hungry when he finally crossed the finish line.
"It was definitely an experience where you rely on God the whole way," he said. "It was a growing experience."
Suffering for a cause such as helping AIDS orphans gave Hawk a new perspective on recreation.
"There are people out there doing these Iron Man triathlons. They train so hard and so long, but it's all for them instead of for God's glory," he said. "This was a way to make it more meaningful."
Overton echoed those comments.
"In the process of Putting Hope in Motion through World Vision's program, God let me live out His design for me," she said. "As I did, it gave Him glory, brought me close to His side, and - I pray - will bless many others as well."
For more information, visit the Put Hope in Motion website.
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