12 Sept 2012 , Natasha Kim , CM reporter –
Run for the Nation is a Christian ministry that champion’s prayer as the key to unlocking God’s will for our nation and discovering how Christians can be a blessing to poor communities. It is the organizers behind RunNat Day, an annual Christian prayer run that will be held this coming October 6th, 2012. Besides Malaysia, this event will also be held in Australia, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar, the United States, Nepal and Pakistan! Unlike a marathon, RunNat Day is organised in such a manner where only three to five runners run a particular stretch of road for a distance of 5kms. While they run, they pray for the schools, churches, business communities, homes and government institutions that they pass by. The run is done relay style. In KL there are 200 unique starting points. This method enables runners to cover a combined area of much more than a marathon event can cover. In KL this translates to 1000kms!
RunNat has 4 objectives: to pray for our nation, to encourage our Christian youth to pray for our nation, to unite Christians across denominational line, and to bless communities through fundraising and community engagement.
Victor Chua’s Search for Meaning and the Birth of RunNat
It all started around 2004, when Victor Chua started thinking about God’s calling on his life. By this time he had started taking up running seriously (he took up mid to long distance running to help him cope with his asthma which he suffered from since he was a kid). In 2004, Pastor Tony Cassus prophesized over him that God was going to use him in administration. When he heard that, he did not think much about it, as he never saw himself as a particularly good organizer. Soon after that prophesy, he was asked by his church’s (FGAKL) leaders to lead the newly formed Sports Fellowship. That year the Fellowship organised an inter Home Fellowship badminton tournament. The following year it was futsal.
In 2006, the Fellowship organised a sports carnival with eight different sports at the Matsushita Sports Complex. A total of 4000 people attended the one-day event. The event in Shah Alam, managed to raise approximately RM 50,000 for charity. During that event, he met Pastor Philip Devadas and Pastor Chris Leong who were involved in sports ministry-using sports as a platform to share the Gospel. “I began to see that sports has a place in Gods Kingdom too”, says Victor. In 2007, they organised another sports carnival for the church.
One Saturday morning in May that year, he and a friend from SIBKL, Yoong Fu Yee, were running along Bukit Tunku as they regularly did. As they chatted about Malaysia, its imminent General Elections, and the deep concerns that they felt about what was taking place in the nation, Victor said that if they could talk about these things then they could also pray about them while they ran. That conversation developed into the ideas that drive Run for the Nation today.
Victor then went back to his church leadership and suggested a prayer run to pray for the General Elections. The leadership was very supportive of the idea and they gave him the green light to organise and promote it in the church. To his surprise more than 100 members signed up! That year they covered 160kms of Kuala Lumpur in prayer (the General Elections were held in March 2008 and is often cited as the trigger for the political tsunami in Malaysia).
That prayer run was intended to be a one off event. However in November 2008, against the backdrop of a deepening political crisis in the country, Victor and his friends started talking about the possibility of organising Run for the Nation on a national scale, to encourage young people to pray corporately for Malaysia. In January 2009, together with Pastor Philip and Pastor Chris, Victor approached the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia (NECF), to seek their help and to act as an umbrella body to the newly formed Run for the Nation ministry. NECF gave them their blessings and a letter of support was sent out to its member churches. Victor then formed an inter-denominational committee to organise and promote RunNat Day. By Gods grace, RunNat Day was held nine months later in October 2009 in all 14 state capitals of the country. It was nothing short of a miracle that they were able to do this! The RunNat Committee has held RunNat Day every year since then.
In 2010 RunNat partnered with GDOP Malaysia to galvanize people to pray together on the weekend of 22nd and 23rd May. A special Torch Run was organised to officiate the opening of GDOP Day at the Melawati Stadium where 10,000 Christians gathered. On the advent of Malaysia Days Jubilee Year, on 16th Sept this year, RunNat was once again asked to do a Torch Run but this time by the Council of Churches Malaysia at the same venue. 50 RunNaters were involved in this event.
The birth of RunNat GRACE & the SOR Campaign
On the 10th of October 2010 RunNat organised a special prayer run in Kuching. This initiative called RunNat Tour was introduced to promote RunNat to different cities. Kuching was chosen at that time because of the Sarawak State Elections. 17 RunNaters from KL flew to Kuching to run and pray with more than 60 locals. Before they left for Kuching, Alvin Lim, Malaysian Care’s Communications Director, dropped by Victor’s office and asked if RunNat could also encourage the churches in Sarawak to pray for the poor on that weekend in conjunction with the Micah Challenge 10.10.10 worldwide prayer for the poor initiative. RunNat accepted that task and went a step further and arranged to visit a poor family there. With the help of a small NGO called Meeting Needs, a busload of RunNaters visited a Bidayuh family of 5 that lived 30 minutes away from Kuching town, to provide them with provisions and to pray for them. Their eldest child aged 21 was epileptic and injury-prone, and as such the mother had to look after him around the clock. The youngest was 4 months old. The father was the only sole provider for the family earning RM500 per month. They lived in a shack without electricity. When Victor left Sarawak he could not get the family out of his mind, which was unusual. He felt a deep prompting to read the bible and other Christian literature on the subject of poverty. To his amazement he discovered many verses in the bible that showed God’s heart for the poor and on issues of justice. Then he was drawn to Isaiah 58: “..you fast, you pray to Me, you seek My face, but yet you still oppress your workers, yet you neglect the poor, you let the hungry go hungry, and you do not clothe the naked.” That chapter hit Victor like a bolt of lighting. He was convicted that Christians could do more than pray. Christians could also be the answer to the prayers of the poor!
The subsequent discussions with the RunNat committee led to the birth of RunNat GRACE (Greater Run and Community Engagement) and a campaign called “Sponsor Our Run”. Runners who sign up for RunNat Day are challenged to do more than commit to praying but to also use their run to support a poor family. RunNat approached a few churches and Christian NGOs like Malaysian Care and Harvest Centre to provide names of families that needed financial assistance. The programme is unique because runners get to learn about these families and choose one to support. It is also special in that practically the entire sum raised goes to the family it was raised for. Runners are then given the opportunity to visit the family.
In 2011, they raised RM50,000 for 18 families through the SOR Campaign. RunNat’s long-term goal is to get many more churches involved and to challenge their church members to raise funds to help the church’s ministries to the poor. RunNat has started engaging young people like Daniel Lee, their new Missions Co-ordinator, to help them realize this goal. Daniel said that, “In 2012 we are targeting 10 churches to participate in the SOR Campaign and we want to make a bigger impact this year.” Beyond that RunNat GRACE hopes to find new ways to be a blessing to poor communities not just in KL but wherever RunNat has a presence.
Today RunNat has a team of dedicated volunteers in Thomas Joseph (RunNat’s CEO), Eddy Wong and Kevin Ung (Directors), Keney Martin and Alex Au Yong (RunNat Ambassadors), Pamela Sandra (Administrator), Ho Weng Hong, Carrian Chong, Joey Lai, Davie Samuel, Lawrence Loh, Danny Lum, Ivan Chong, Sarah Lasung and many others including the leaders and teams in the different cities where RunNat is held. Those who are actively involved in RunNat see RunNat’s role in the area of discipleship.
Victor Chua says he often refers people to Romans Chapter 12 to encourage people to take part, “…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship-as a way of saying that the run itself is part of our sacrifice like fasting when you pray. He added that, “Many people said to me after the run that they didn’t think they could do it (finish 5km), but it was just amazing that when they didn’t focus on the run, but rather focused on the prayer they found the strength to continue and finish. It is so true that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!”
For more information about RunNat please visit http://runforthenation.com/malaysia/.