NASHVILLE (BP) – In addition to being a day to eat delicious food, Thanksgiving is one of the most popular running days of the year, with thousands of people competing in “Turkey Trot” races before gobbling down their meals.
For the last 10 years, Liberty Baptist Church in Appomattox, Va., has instead hosted a “Lottie Waddle” running event to raise money for international missions and reach out to its community.
Rusty Small, lead pastor at Liberty Baptist, said the church noticed many in the community would travel out of town to participate in 5K events.
The church decided to host its own running event at the church campus, initially just to offer an exercise opportunity. Considering the time of year, the event quickly became a great chance for Liberty Baptist to raise money for missions.
“Since Thanksgiving is really the gateway into the Christmas season where Southern Baptist churches promote the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we decided years ago to name it the ‘Lottie Waddle,’” Small said.
“The Lottie Moon Offering is not a nice extra add-on for Southern Baptist international missions, it is critical in order for Southern Baptist international missions to be funded.”
Every year at Christmastime, Southern Baptist churches participate in the Lottie offering, which helps support the work of thousands of International Mission Board missionaries around the world. Every penny of the offering goes overseas for ministry purposes.
Small said the “waddle” portion of the event’s name simply communicates the event is open to people at all running skill levels to complete at whatever pace they would like.
Participants pay a $10 entrance fee. Around 50 or 60 people participated in this year’s event, raising hundreds of dollars which will all go to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Small said the event has grown in popularity since its inception, and a considerable amount of involvement comes from people outside the church congregation.
This year, the race was split about 50/50 between members of Liberty Baptist and visitors from the community.
Small views it as an opportunity for the church to raise awareness about missions.
“It’s not just about raising money,” Small said. “It’s also an opportunity to educate those within our church and those outside our church about how we raise funds for international missions.”
Liberty Baptist has a particular affinity for the missionary legacy of Lottie Moon, as she was originally from Virginia and is buried around 45 minutes away from the church in Crewe, Va.
The church even ordered a cardboard cutout of Lottie Moon for people to take pictures with and to help tell her story.
“That sparked up a lot of conversations about who that lady on the cutout is,” Small said.
“We get to tell the story of this lady from Virginia who went to China to share the Gospel, and who in some ways almost gave her life in missions. It’s a big education opportunity.
“People who come to the event come back the next year and invite a friend to tell them about Lottie and the race. I think the biggest benefit of the event is having these conversations.”
As Lottie Moon Christmas Offering season gets into full swing (Dec. 4-11 is the official Week of Prayer for International Missions), Small encourages churches in the SBC to take a proactive role in communicating the story of Lottie and continuing SBC missions.
“I think many Southern Baptists are still not aware of who Lottie Moon is, so we have to tell that story,” Small said.
“Secondly, many Southern Baptists are still not aware that we have more than 3,500 international missionaries. People typically don’t give to things that they don’t understand, so I think we have the responsibility to tell the story of Lottie and SBC missions, and not just assume that people know.”