his was one tough run! The horizontal thrust of the wind was so strong that with every step, I had to flatten my trajectory to continue moving forward. Plus, a high tide had left the track strewn with sand and stones.

I was participating in a marathon on Ebeye in the Marshall Islands on Kwajalein Day, a holiday commemorating the liberation of the Kwajalein Atoll during World War II. Although I was a seasoned athlete, this was my first marathon, and I struggled. The lead competitor was running so fast that I had trouble keeping up. Behind me, another runner was hot on my heels. My heart was racing and my muscles were screaming, but I couldn’t give up. I was representing Ebeye Seventh-day Adventist School, and finishing the race was essential to my plan to reach my students for Christ.

My wife, Anne Bernadette, and I had served several years as missionaries in Hong Kong. We fell in love with mission service and decided to continue serving God in a new country. He opened the way for us to come to Ebeye Seventh-day Adventist School in the Marshall Islands, a vast mission field with diverse opportunities to serve Him.

One of the greatest needs of Ebeye’s people was health awareness. Because fruits and vegetables were scarce, the people’s diet mainly consisted of rice, meat, canned goods, and soda. The excess consumption of sugar and a lack of physical exercise had resulted in a scourge of diabetes.

My wife and I had been concerned about how we would promote vegetarianism. Once we recognized the scarcity of plant food, we wondered how to maintain this lifestyle ourselves. We expressed our concern to the former principal of the school, who showed us a tree planted in the middle of the staff apartment courtyard. The tree of life. Its leaves and fruit could be eaten, and its flowers could be brewed for tea. This tree reminded us that wherever God sends His children, He provides for their needs.

Unfortunately, such a tree had no value for locals, who appreciated meat and canned food more. So, we started Reeducate Your Tongue, a program that consists of planting a tree of life at each of our student’s homes and teaching them how to make simple, vegetarian cuisine from it and the few other plants that grow on the island. Participating in the marathon was part of our plan because we wanted to use it as a springboard to introduce our students to the benefits of healthy eating.

An honor ceremony for students who demonstrated academic excellence. Principal Ronny Guedia, second from right, his wife, Anne Bernadette, right, prekindergarten and kindergarten teacher; Raman Sathiyaseelan, second from left, former school principal; and Mrs. Tamar, Anne’s assistant
Ronny Guedia with his wife, Anne Bernadette, and their four-year-old daughter, Ronny Carmel

With nine miles left in the race, I wondered whether I could complete it. Suddenly, a question came to mind, a question I believe the Lord was asking. “Why are you running? Do you run to be the best or to represent God?”

The question reminded me of 1 Corinthians 9:25, which says, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (NIV).

This experience shifted my focus from my performance to seeking God’s glory. As a result, I felt a burst of energy and finished the race strong in seventh place!

Completing the marathon resulted in respect from my students. They saw what a healthy diet can do for the body and mind, and I could now more easily turn their focus to God’s physical and spiritual guidelines.

When the Lord sends us somewhere, He gives us the freedom to use the talents He’s entrusted to us and make plans to meet people’s needs. When we entrust those plans to Him, He strengthens us and uses them to bring Him glory.

Whatever “race” we engage in, let’s run to bring people’s attention to Jesus, the ultimate teacher and true source of happiness.

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Ronny Guedia now retired, wrote this story while serving as the planning director for the Office of Adventist Mission.