Pastor Jacob Heine was running the Dopey Challenge—a series of races at Disney World, consisting of a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon spread over four days—when, at mile five, his knee began to ache. He slowed to a walk, trying to determine if he should drop out of the race or soldier on. Costumed runners passed him by, and he noticed a large blue shape moving at his pace. He looked closer and recognized Stitch, the small, blue, hyperactive alien from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. Soon, Stitch and Jacob were walking stride by stride together. It turned out Stitch’s Achilles tendon had forced him to walk.
In the next 21.2 miles, Jacob would learn Stitch’s real name was Andy, and the two would strike up a friendship as only suffering through a marathon can enable. After the race, they went their separate ways, but not before connecting on Facebook. Months later, Jacob received a message. “You never said you were a pastor!” it said. (Pastor Heine is the Sole Pastor at Christ the Rock Lutheran Church in Rockford, Illinois.)
What It Looks Like
Over the next two years, Andy would message Pastor Heine on Facebook every few months with the kinds of questions pastors crave. The first one was, “Why do you think your religion is superior to all the others?” Pastor Heine’s simple response was, “All other religions require you to do something in order to reach their form of salvation. Christianity says that our God in Jesus did all the work for us so we can be sure of our salvation.” More questions followed, questions about how God could die, the power of prayer to make a difference, and who can be saved. Andy is not a believer, but he is curious about the Christian faith. May the Holy Spirit continue to work through his relationship with Pastor Heine.
How They Are In This Together
If you had asked him years ago, Pastor Heine would never have guessed that he would be running marathons. “I hated running as a kid. I only did it when I was forced to in gym class.” An injury in his twenties and the desire to speed his recovery is what got him into running. First he walked, then he ran, setting goals as he went. And this never stopped! As he met his goals, he set more. Now, he hopes to run marathons all over the world. The next one will be in New York City this November. Who knows what kinds of connections God will place in his path?
As most NYC Marathon participants do, Pastor Heine will be raising money for charity. He is supporting The Chapel School in Bronxeville, which is connected with the Village Lutheran Church. Their mission is “To Know, Live and Share the Love of Christ.” Funds raised will contribute to scholarships for students in need. If you would like to contribute, visit his donor page.
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