“The kids absolutely loved it!” That was Lomax Assembly’s children’s pastor Cathy Newton’s take on the church’s first-ever triathlon for Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge (BGMC).
“Being the hands and feet of Jesus” is a phrase Newton uses to describe the purpose of church ministry, including children’s church. And recently a number of Lomax Assembly 6- to 12-year-old kids put their hands, feet, and entire bodies to the test of a triathlon as they raised thousands of dollars to help BGMC support efforts to share Jesus with kids around the world.
Newton, who was a teacher in the Clanton, Alabama, community, had also been serving as the part-time children’s pastor for the church for serval years. But this summer, she quit her job as a teacher and came onto the church staff fulltime, with a passion to reach kids for Christ.
“Now that I had more time to invest in the kids,” Newton explains, “I wanted to do something fun for BGMC on its annual Epic Give Day — something that the kids could put their hands and feet to, so they would remember what they were doing and why they were doing it.” The children’s church sees 50 to 60 kids in attendance each week.
When Newton presented the idea of a triathlon to lead pastor Erron Price, who has participated in triathlons himself, he was a ready supporter of the idea and, as Newton admits, a key resource in how to put a triathlon on. The local YMCA also came on board to provide prizes for the winners (scholarships to the YMCA program of their choice) and the pool for the swim while the City of Clanton provided the track for biking and allowed the church to use the city park for hosting the event and the run.
Newton says that the event was open to children ages 6-12, and through an agreement with the YMCA, any child within the age categories — not just kids from Lomax Assembly — could participate.
“We had 28 kids register, including 12 kids from the community, and 27 participate as one of the kids was sick,” Newton says. “And we had three categories: 6-7, 8-9, and 10-12 [boys and girls divisions].”
The race distances also varied by age as the youngest had a 25-meter swim, 1-mile bike, and a .25-mile run. The 8-9 category did a 50-meter swim, 2-mile bike, and .5-mile run. The oldest group did a 100-meter swim, 3-mile bike, and 1-mile run.
“There were those kids [from the church] who didn’t want to participate in the triathlon,” Newton notes, “but they were still here, lending their support and encouragement to those who did.”
In addition to each participant paying a $25 entry fee, which went to BGMC, kids were encouraged to get sponsors from local businesses, friends, family, and church members. When the total amount from fees, donations, and fundraising was tallied, Newton says they had raised $7,795.36 for BGMC!
Zeke Price, who just turned 8 years old, ended up raising the most, as he had over $1,150 in sponsorships — he also placed second in his race category. Truett Littlejohn, also 8, raised the second most, with $800, and seven others raise more than $200 each for BGMC.
Price says that it was exciting to hear people cheer for him during the triathlon, but he was astonished at the amount of money they were able to raise as a group for BGMC.
“I raised the money because I wanted other people to have the chance to hear about Jesus and go to church like I do,” Price states, and then adds, “Don’t be afraid to do what you can to raise money for BGMC — anybody can do it!”
But outside of a great event for BGMC and the kids, what Newton was extremely pleased with was the working relationships that were created between the church and businesses and the church and community members.
“The YMCA director has already told me that if we hold the event again next year, they want to get even more involved,” Newton says. “And there were parents of kids who don’t attend our church but participated triathlon, telling me that if we do it again, they want to be a part of it.”
Those in attendance also benefited from the donation of free servings of Italian ice from a business whose owners attend the church and enjoy supporting its outreach efforts. Other individuals and businesses also contributed — donating funds, gift cards for prizes, timing, and even medical services.
“Win, win, win and win! That’s what I think about this amazing event held by Lomax AG,” states David Boyd, National BGMC director. “The missionaries win because money was raised to impact the world; the kids win because they learned that their efforts can make a difference around the world; the church wins because the community learned about a church that believes in helping others; and God wins because souls will be in heaven — the price for their sin having already been paid by our Savior, Jesus.”
“We thank God for what He’s doing in and through the church,” Newton says. “Since COVID, we’ve seen a growth of people — new families, young families, diverse families — we’re so thankful for what God is doing in their lives, in our church, and in the community.”