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Papua New Guinea runners conquer race of their lives on the Gold Coast


Celebration time! Runners, mentors and supporters of the Hope and a Future program with their medals after the Gold Coast Marathon. Photos: Supplied

 

BY SIMONE WORTHING

 

It’s just been the most amazing day for all of us, and God’s given us the strength to get through,” said Envoy Bill Hunter, head coach to the nine young people from corps across Papua New Guinea who had just completed the Gold Coast Marathon. “Today is about each one of us – you, the runners – and the mentors and support crew.”

 

The 42.2km run, part of the Hope and a Future program, took place on Queensland’s Gold Coast on Sunday 7 July. Now in its 10th year, the program is modelled on four key pillars – faith, fitness, education and leadership. It aims to give young PNG nationals – most of whom are already serving in their corps – the opportunity to develop into future leaders in their churches, families, communities, workplaces, and nation.


Mentor Michelle Watts and several of the PNG male runners enjoying the race.

Encouraging debrief

After the marathon, a recovery rest and a barbecue, the runners, their mentors, and the support team gathered for a time of debriefing, prayer and worship. Each of the young participants shared their stories of running the marathon and lessons learned, their personal journeys, and the deeply challenging and emotional experiences that had brought them to this point.

 

Commissioner Miriam Gluyas, one of the program founders who supports the marathon team each year, shared at the debriefing. “Sometimes, when we come to these nights, you tell us all these amazing stories and say how much we have blessed you,” she said. “The three best years of my ministry were in PNG – the people changed my life and have blessed me forever. Your footprints are left on my heart. You are amazing!

 

“When God gave Sharon (Sharon Callister, former CEO of The Salvation Army Aged Care Plus, who continues to be a mentor in Hope and a Future each year) and I the idea for this program, we dreamed of your futures. Now it’s your turn to dream about what could be. All the marathoners over the years are getting an education, most are getting work and are shining in their corps. We want you to dream and believe.

 

Mentor Sharon Callister and some of the female PNG runners during the race.

“The Gold Coast Marathon is one of the most inspiring weekends of my year. We have just heard the stories of each of the young people. Such hardship, such faith, such joy. It brings me to tears every time. Every young person completed the marathon; all will get an education, our IT department provided each of them with a reconditioned laptop, all will be developed as leaders, and their spirituality is just beautiful. I couldn't be prouder!”

 

Major Lynne Medland, Programme Secretary, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands Territory, who travelled with the team, told the runners that they could be so proud of what they did in the marathon.


Major Lynne Medland (left) with the PNG Salvos Striders.

“It’s incredible to think of what you’ve achieved,” she said. “In your training, you have gone through pain, hard work, leaving families, getting up 3am to run. You have supported each other and been a team. You’ve represented our country and our territory. You are all leaders in our territory, and we will continue investing in you and seeing you grow.

 

“Take the next step, not just in running, but in life. What is your next step? We want to encourage you in that.”

 

This year’s team of runners, proudly wearing their PNG Salvos Striders singlets, all completed the marathon within a five-hour and nine-minute timeframe.


Mentor Adrian Kistan with Michael, who became the fastest PNG runner ever.

“The fastest group so far,” confirmed Bill. “And Michael (one of the participants) is our fastest PNG runner ever, coming in at just three hours and 30 minutes.”


Bill also presented the ‘Most Valuable Player of the Match’ award to Kari, a young participant whose father had recently passed away, but who applied for the program as her dad had encouraged her to do, trained hard and completed the race.

 

Beautiful singing, worship and prayer concluded the meeting.

 

To read the personal stories from Michael and Kari, keep an eye on salvosonline.org.au in the coming week.

 

Leadership and outreach

This week, the PNG team will spend time at the Gold Coast Temple Corps for leadership training and hands-on ministry experience.

 

“It’s a good mix of leadership development, education, learning and ministry – as well as a rest day and some local sightseeing,” said Major Earle Ivers, Gold Coast Temple Corps Officer.

 

“The corps has really supported the team, from making meals and goodies, assisting with transport, prayer and encouragement. The Patchwork group also made toiletry bags for each participant and filled them with essentials.”

 

Gold Coast Temple quilters made toiletry bags for the PNG runners and filled them.

As well as the leadership development, the PNG team will be involved with an outreach group and Bible study at the nearby Tweed Heads Corps, will participate in Home League and learn about the funding of a feeding program in PNG schools, be part of the open rehearsal for the brass band, learn about territorial strategy, and share their testimonies and lead worship.

 

On Friday 12 July, the group will travel to Caloundra Corps on the Sunshine Coast, where Bill Hunter will meet them. They will visit Salvos Stores, join a park run on Saturday and on Sunday will participate in music and testimonies at Caloundra Salvos and God’s Sports Arena, plus a youth night at North Brisbane Salvos.


Envoy Bill Hunter with two of the PNG team – Michael (centre) and Tau.

The team will visit Brisbane Streetlevel Mission on Monday before returning to PNG on Tuesday 16 July.


The impact of the Hope and a Future program goes far beyond completing a marathon – as significant as that impact is. It helps take participants’ growth and development spiritually, personally and educationally to a level that transforms their lives, the lives of those around them, and beyond.


To learn more about some of the program participants, check out salvosonline.org.au in the coming week.


Mentors and runners enjoying a relaxing dinner after their big day.

Team Hope and a Future

Project Sponsor: Commissioner Miriam Gluyas 

Head Coach: Envoy Bill Hunter

Project Manager: Kim Sweeten 

Australian marathon mentors: Captain Brad McIver, Adrian Kistan, Michelle Watts, Stuart Watts, Sharon Callister  

Project support staff: Majors Heather and Kevin Unicomb 

Catering: Captains Joycelyn McIver 

The Salvation Army PNG: Captains John and Rose Raga  

 

Program participants:

Omis Diruza, Michael Gari, Jessica Kakpet, Tau Kila, Kari Maino, Greg Mave, Rawal Naba, Essau Nickolas, Parker Savi 

 

PNG marathon mentors: Sonya, Talu 

PNG Support Crew: Aika 


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