Running Toward a New Prize
TAUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (ANS) -- It seemed time had run out for
Nick Willis to qualify for the New Zealand Olympic team. However,
after failing at various meets in the US and Europe, the Michigan-based
athlete slashed past the required mark of 3.36.20, running 3.32.64
on a Saturday-morning, June 2nd, in Rome. It was the third fastest
1500-meter time ever by a New Zealander, and good enough to be
on the road to the Olympic Games in Athens.
Nick has always found running fast to be easy.
He set the national under-20 mile record at age 17, and came in
fourth in the world junior championship 1500m final in 2002.
The 21-year-old still remembers the shock
of losing his first race at the age of 13. Now he is proud to
be representing his country and feels its great that a skateboarding
kid from Lower Hutt can foot it at the Olympic Games in Athens.
Willis has big track shoes to fill
Lovelock, Peter Snell, John Walker
Nick grew up in a Christian family, but somehow
he had always been in a state of denial.
For the most part, I think, I always
believed in God, but decided that I had more important things
to concern myself with, he said. Why take things seriously
as a kid when I've got my whole life to become a Christian? Thats
what I thought anyway.
I guess that I never really had any
close friends who were Christians, to encourage me to attend church
with them. The party-lifestyle at High School seemed to dictate
how most people I was around, acted. Basically running, drinking,
hanging with my mates and meeting girls at parties was the core
of my youth.
After finishing his first year as a sophomore
at the University of Michigan, USA, Nick came home to New Zealand
for his summer break.
Things had ended in a sour way with
my girlfriend, and I was in a bit of a soul search, he said.
Having been away from home for a year, looked at things
through a much different perspective and took a lot more notice
at the way people were acting. My brother had taken a job as a
leader at Youth for Christ, and was also running a house helping
out Kids with alcohol and drug problems. His influence on me was
fairly substantial, and I realised that it would be a slap in
the face to his work if I didn't believe in what he was doing.
Arriving back in Michigan, Nick was plugged
into a group called Athletes in Action (AIA), Christians
who gather for Bible study, by his brothers good friend,
After having weekly meetings initially,
I started meeting one on one with the Head of the Michigan AIA
Division, Bruce Disnow, and also with his intern, John Moss. These
two men helped me open up and I decided to let Jesus into my heart
and I was born again in October 2003.
His decision to follow Jesus impacted Nicks
life as an athlete.
Knowing that God has the best intentions
in mind, it takes all the nerves away from a race, he says.
However, at the same time, when I have great success I don't
feel as jubilant in the victory, but almost a little embarrassed
with His grace in my life. The time I spend preparing for important
races, especially on race day, is probably my most intimate time
with God. I used to feel very alone getting ready for these races,
but now I spend most of my time reflecting on things with God.
I pray to be humble in defeat or victory, but mostly just thank
Him for such great opportunities.
Being a Christian also changed Nicks
lifestyle fairly dramatically.
The way I view and treat others, especially
girls, has been probably the biggest change in my life,
he said. I am still pretty embarrassed at how I acted before
giving my life to Jesus. Now I think a lot more before making
decisions, and God is chipping away the rough edges in my life.
God has already taken away jealousy and negativity from my thoughts.
I realise I am only at the beginning
of my exciting journey with Jesus. I have a long way to go yet
and I have much to learn. But with God all things are possible
and I know that in all things God works for the good of those
who love Him. If God is for me, who can be against me?
I just pray that I hope I can one day
be able to carry these spiritual times into more facets of my
everyday life and bring glory to God in whatever I do.
(Aged four, Nick lost his mother to cancer
before he got the chance to know her well. He loves his dad, a
Professor at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, and
the way he brought up his three kids, Stephen, Mieke and himself.
Nick is currently on an Athletic scholarship at the University
of Michigan in the United States.)
News Service is brought to you in part by Open
Doors USA, a ministry that has served the Suffering Church
around the world for nearly 50 years. You can get more information
by logging onto their website at www.opendoorsusa.org.
Note from Assist News Service:
This story was first published in Challenge Weekly, New Zealand,
and is used by their kind permission.
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