Coming together from across Latvia, over 100 Seventh-day Adventist runners aged from four to an astonishing 93 years old, took part in the 27th Lattelecom Riga Marathon on Sunday, May 14. Besides promoting physical exercise, however, they had one purpose: to witness!
Standing out boldly in light blue T-shirts, the Adventist runners made a special impression with the slogan “Don’t Follow Me, Follow Jesus” on their backs. That was the primary purpose of their presence, for people to notice Jesus.
It was a beautiful sunny day in Riga, Latvia’s capital, something that prompted citizens to get outdoors and enjoy the city, traffic-free, while running 6,000 or 10,000 meters, a half, or a full marathon (21 and 42 kilometers, respectively.) Throughout the race, runners reinforced the special message of following Jesus they wanted to transmit.
“We believe that other runners noticed this sentence, and only God knows how these hearts will be changed with this thought, namely, what it means to follow Jesus,” said Andis Āriņš, outreach coordinator of the Riga First Adventist Church. It is his department that took the lead in arranging the participation of Adventist members in the race. The T-shirts also advertised the church website, giving an opportunity for more follow-up with those who desire to do so.
This marathon will also be memorable for the Adventist church members in Latvia for another reason—they worked together and started the race together as one team.
“I’d never taken part in a marathon before,” confessed Mārtińš Subatovičs, assistant pastor at the Riga First Seventh-day Adventist Church. “I hadn’t run for quite a while. I’m not a keen runner, but I took part in the event because this is an outreach project.”
With Adventist health principles in mind, Latvian Conference Youth Department director Daumants Kleimanis saw the event not only as a way of promoting the holistic Seventh-day Adventist lifestyle but as a means of following Jesus’ advice to be visible like a city set on a hill. Other tired runners confessed afterward that they enjoyed the exercise,but also the special sense of unity and joy that came with running together for Jesus.
To watch a report on the event, visit a video report at “Don’t Follow Me, Follow Jesus.”