By Stan Friedman
CANTON, MI (November 6, 2013) — Getting some 120 people from Life Covenant Church to run the recent Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon wasn’t nearly as hard as member Anton Botosan thought it would be. Then they raised a lot more money than he expected for a water project connected with Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision.
The runners represented roughly 10 percent of the congregation, which has an average weekly attendance of 1,200 to 1,300 people, Botosan said. So far, the runners have brought in more than $118,000 with some funds still coming in long after the October 20 event.
The camaraderie that developed and seeing the changes in church members’ lives as they worked and ran together while raising money for the project led Botosan to say, “After my wedding and children, this was the greatest experience of my life.”
Now he wants to help other churches of any size take on a 26.2-mile challenge in their area. “I want to be a conduit and help other churches see that they can do it,” he said.
Botosan came up with the idea for his church after seeing people running for different causes when he ran in the Chicago marathon in 2012. A professional marketer, he put his skills to work pulling together a team.
Within months he enlisted members who would serve as group captains for church members and started signing up other participants in January. He was shocked at the enthusiasm, especially given that many of the people who joined the team had done little or no running, and only a handful had ever completed a 26.2-mile course.
“People don’t run because they can’t,” Botosan said. ‘They don’t run because nobody told them they could.”
Botosan said having Pastor Alex Rahill, who has done some long-distance running, participate helped with recruiting. But Botosan, who has been running for seven years, and others also were able to convince people that they could accomplish the daunting task, especially since they would train together. The training began for some people by simply running a quarter mile and working their way up to the longer distances.
Given the church’s large attendance, getting to know other people can be difficult. Over the months of training and encouraging one another, “The church became ‘smaller,’ ” Botosan said. “One hundred and twenty people became friends.”
The church supports numerous outreach and mission projects, and this one was perfect for galvanizing support, Botosan said. “It’s the perfect mix of compassion and personal accomplishment. You mix that with the power of community, and people learn about helping the least of these.”
Church members already are planning to run next year and enlist.
The Life Church group all ran as part of Team World Vision, which began in 2005 with just 95 runners at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. They are now the largest charity at that event, and have developed a presence at more than 20 other races across the country.
Since that first race, team members have raised more than $5 million for clean water projects. More than 5,000 people are running as part of the team this year to raise money for clean water projects in Africa.
Several members of the Covenant Offices staff ran in the 2013 Chicago race. A growing number of Covenant congregations are joining the team across the country. Members of several Minneapolis-area churches recently participated in a race and outpaced others in raising funds for a water project.
Botosan said he knows that some churches might also fear that participating in such a major undertaking would draw funds and attention from other church projects, but he counters that the opposite happens. “It doesn’t take a slice from the pie. It just makes the pie bigger.”
Botosan invites church leaders to email him for more information.