I remember vividly my flight into Nome, Alaska. After flying from Mobile to Chicago, I had enjoyed a pleasant Delta ride into Anchorage. There, I was surprised to learn that the flight into Nome was being delayed by weather conditions. Three hours passed as we waited impatiently.
Finally, we heard this announcement: “Folks, we are ready to board your flight. We are going to try to make it into Nome, though if the weather gets worse, the pilot may have to bring you back to Anchorage.” The word “try” made me more than a little nervous. But nervousness soon turned to fear when, after what seemed a short flight, the pilot asked us to fasten our seat belts and said, “We are going to try to land in Nome.” There was that word “try” again.
Snow was all I could see out of my window seat so it was obvious we were landing in the midst of a snowstorm. In a moment like that, if you have never prayed a prayer in your life, you will then, and I was praying hard for a safe landing. About the time we should have felt the wheels touching down on the runway, the pilot gunned the engines and aborted the landing. Quietly, he announced that he would fly around a bit and then “try” another landing. All on board were applauding when the second attempt proved successful. I have never been more thankful to feel the wheels touch the runway.
I was in Nome for a preaching mission sponsored by all 10 churches in the small town. It was a unique experience. I enjoyed a meal in the home of a gracious Eskimo family, got to ride on a dog sled and discovered what it was like to be in broad daylight at 10 p.m. It was there that I learned about the Iditarod Dog Sled Race which begins in Anchorage and ends in Nome. The Iditarod occurs every March as the mushers — what they call dogsled drivers — use teams of dogs to pull their sleds a 1,000 miles while competing for money and other prizes.
The race takes eight to 14 days to complete, with dogs being forced to run about 100 miles a day. Many people are rightly concerned about the cruelty suffered by the dogs. Since the first race in 1973, more than 150 dogs have died during the Iditarod.
What interests me is the way young adults are willing to accept the challenge of running a team of dogs in this race and other races like it. The race is run in the bitterly cold wind and snowstorms and on dangerous ice, in temperatures as low as 60 degrees below zero. Already, some 50 young men and women have signed up to compete in the 2022 Iditarod, scheduled to begin on March 5.
Though some young adults are unwilling to work these days, there are thousands of others across the world who are dedicated to winning races like the Iditarod and the Olympics. They are willing to make great sacrifices in order to win money or a gold medal. These young adults remind us that youth love a challenge; that should inspire those of us who are followers of Christ to work more earnestly to recruit our youth for the greater challenge of serving Christ. We must continue to urge our youth to get connected to Jesus and join with us in running life’s greatest race, the race that requires our all in order to share our Lord’s mission to bring all people into the Kingdom.
So, as long as I have breath left, I plan to use it to challenge young people to accept the challenge to live for Jesus by loving God and loving our neighbors to the end that all people, and dogs as well, may live in a world of peace, justice and kindness.