Thousands of people were powerfully impacted by the message of the cross on Sunday (May 31, 2015) as they witnessed Comrades Marathon runners carrying a 2,5m wooden cross along the gruelling 88km route.
Three members of Spirit Wind Running Club, Gauteng, took turns bearing the 30kg cross with a front runner putting it on his shoulder and a rear runner carrying it. The runners were backed up by eight non-running team members who handed out hundreds of small, replica crosses, to runners and spectators along the route.
Both the big cross and the replicas carried scripture on both sides: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:13), and “Pick up your cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
The Matthew verse proved to be prophetic for club mates Gerrie Bester, Roelf Craig and Andre van Vuuren, who acted in obedience to a vision from God to take the message of the cross to the international Comrades event so that the world could receive its message of hope, peace, everlasting life and forgiveness, and heed a call to return to covenant with God.
When the trio first started training with the cross it had wheels and each of them took turns dragging it. In April they entered the Loskop 50km race and right at the start they had an accident and the wheels broke off completely.
“We were in a bit of disarray for a moment as we had not even started running. This was until I heard the voice of the Lord speak to me and say: ‘Tell your team the scripture on the cross says Pick up your cross and follow Me and not drag your cross and follow me.’ We immediately improvised and carried it all the way to the end. We never put the wheels back after that….that was how it was to be carried,” says Bester.
Bester, Craig and Van Vuuren, respectively facing their 7th, 2nd and first Comrades each did their normal preparation for the big day, and they put in many extra hours of training with the cross.
Bester explains: “We would for example run 40km on a Saturdays as well as official races with the cross. In addition to this we did ‘testimony’ runs on Thursday afternoons – running with the cross through different business and residential areas silently bringing the message of hope of the cross where our Saviour Jesus brought us life through His resurrection. The testimonies we received were miraculous.
“During our practice runs people would stop us with words like ‘I was asking God while driving just now how I could ever overcome this mountain in my life. I stopped at the robot and saw the cross come by with the words I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). I got my confirmation from God to return to Him because in Him all is possible – thank you for your obedience, I now have hope…” WOW – How great is our God.
“Words like these made carrying the cross an amazing blessing and not a yoke or a burden.“
Commenting on the big day itself, he says: “The Comrades experience was, although very tough as a rule, one of smiles and laughter, tears, victory and yes disappointments – which also forms part of our lives as children of God — as the whole team could not finish with the cross. Needless to say though, God – true to character of never leaving or forsaking us – sent replacement athletes to help carry the cross further, and above all the Glory of the Most High God was seen and experienced by thousands as the cross was carried over the line – Mission accomplished : All glory to God! The message was delivered to South Africa.”
The non-running team also had amazing experiences as they handed out little crosses to runners and spectators.
Prayers for runners
“Runners who were at their very end put the small crosses as a symbol of hope around their necks and with tears running down their cheeks pushed on towards the end completing their races. The team prayed for many runners for the courage, strength and tenacity to bear forward in hope – the very picture of the cross of Jesus,” says Bester.
“If anyone ever doubted whether there was power in the cross, what happened on the cross of Calvary or whether there was power in the name of our King and Saviour Jesus Christ then I urge you to think again. The enemy did everything in his power to stop the team and hated our entire mission – but as displayed on Calvary the enemy lost and the King was victorious as the message was taken to the end.
“This Comrades was the mere beginning of many races and sporting events where the cross will bring the true message of life and hope in days months and years to come! This was not a once off thing. All glory to God.”