Tag Archives: AIA

Albert Martens: Polar Bear Marathon Has World-Wide Impact

by Albert Martens

In December 2017, the 6th Polar Bear Marathon took place in Churchill with 17 International runners. It was a challenging event this year because of the indirect effects of the railroad tracks not being in service.

We had Mohamad Ahansal from Morocco run with us. He is a long-time friend from the Sahara Desert, a true “son of the desert,” which is where I met him while running the Marathon des Sables four times. We also had three runners from Mexico, two from Germany, three from Toronto, several from Churchill, and two from Tadoule Lake.

A concern, of course, was to keep the three Tarahumara runners from Mexico safe and warm. The three, from the Copper Canyon, did really well. The father, Santiago Ramirez, ran 50 km in five hours and four minutes. Mario, son to Santiago, ran the full marathon, whereas Juana, daughter to Santiago, ran the half marathon. All were kept safe with no frostbite, even though it was -22 C with chilly wind.

The Athletes in Action dessert night in Steinbach, Man., went very well, with over 200 people coming. Some just showed up without registrations.

The Mexico connection to the Polar Bear Marathon is pretty huge. I was totally surprised to have this become such a big media event. A radio station in Toronto requested an interview with me about the Tarahumara runners. What is so special is that one runner from Mexico is a believer in Jesus, which makes the whole event of the running ministry more meaningful.

Many of you may have heard of the book Born to Run by Chris McDougall, where he writes about the Copper Canyon, the Cabello Blanco 50 mile ultra marathon, and barefoot running. Often the Tarahumara runners run in sandals and the girls run in skirts. Lorena Ramirez is another family member who is famous for her long distance running in Mexico. She could not be with us, because she was running somewhere else during that Polar Bear Marathon weekend.

David Peters was my translator for the Ramirez runners, and he came with me to Churchill to help. He has written more about what happened when the Ramirez family returned to Mexico. Their reception was huge, he says. He called it a “zoo.” The runners were met at the airport by media and government officials, and a press conference was planned with the governor at his palace. (The governor also congratulated them on his Facebook account.) Only then could they go home.

A scientist in Churchill had filmed the marathon and he put it on YouTube. This was picked up in Mexico and, in turn, shown on Mexican national television. David also informed me that Mario was given a house by the governor for all his accomplishments. Pray for Mario as his dream is to develop a Christian school for his Tarahumara people.

martens-albert
Albert Martens

I have a long list of people to thank for all the help that was given to organize the marathon in Churchill to the dessert evening in Steinbach. It was a massive event that influenced many people worldwide. Thank you. I greatly appreciate your continued prayers.

Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action. He has a long history of ministry and of long-distance running and combines the two in service to Christ.

 

 

Albert Martens in Churchill: The ministry of the Polar Bear Marathon

by Albert Martens

CHURCHILL, MAN.–The fifth annual Polar Bear Marathon in Churchill, Man., was once again an exciting experience.

Twenty-four runners were trying to figure out how they would manage in the cold. The atmosphere was full of suspense. It was hard to get their attention and communicate the importance of staying in a group of two or three runners near the accompanying vehicle. The excitement mounted. Will there be bears? The road was sleek with ice.

The Duke of Marlborough students came out to sing O Canada, and, after a prayer, one of the Rangers started us with a shot from his bear gun. Off we went, each runner with their escort vehicle. We were running east into the most beautiful red sunrise with a light wind on our backs and a mild temperature of -15C.

Two highlights for me were the awards dinner and the race’s documentary. It is always great to see runners share about their experiences at the dinner table. To introduce 24 runners and present them with awards, medals, and gifts (T-shirts, a soapstone bear carving, books and certificates) is a great pleasure. The Run the North documentary captures stories of runners, especially those of Tadoule Lake as it relates to their history with Churchill. At a premiere screening in the Churchill school, with about 110 viewers, the feedback was positive. One lady remarked to me, “The marathon is way more than just a marathon.”

What is the purpose of this crazy Polar Bear Marathon? It is a charity marathon in support of the Athletes in Action (AIA) work done in the Sayisi Dene First Nations community of Tadoule Lake, 250 kms west of Churchill. This work is dependent on volunteers and donations.

The Marathon has other “spin-off” effects like the networking of international runners and attracting many media producers. The real purpose is that of a Christian ministry. As an AIA/Power to Change staff member I am conscious of my calling to help other runners spiritually. Our mission statement reads, “Helping people know Jesus and experience His Power to Change the world.” Our faith statement includes, “The Lord Jesus Christ commanded all believers to proclaim the gospel throughout the world and to disciple men and women of every nation.”

How do we as Christians live out that directive? I found myself standing in the midst of 45 running crew and runners at the dinner table. I had prayed about this opportunity and prepared my notes. The Lord granted me peace and calm because I was obeying His voice and I sensed a lot of people were praying for me.

I shared what Jesus means to me and how my faith helps me and directs my life. I handed out my Christian book about running—Sand in my Shoes.

I want to speak up for Jesus at the opportune time and love, care, and pray for people. The Lord will take it from there. He is the One who gives life, who came to seek and save that which is lost.

 

Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action.

Northern Canada: ‘Camps’ were a joy and a win

by Albert Martens

NORTHERN CANADA—“How happy are those who fear the Lord—all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labour. How happy you will be! How rich your life!” (Psalm 128:1-2).

Our Athletes in Action Baseball “camps” in the three First Nation communities of Tadoule Lake (July 1-8), Pauingassi  (July 29-Aug. 4), both in Man., and Poplar Hill, Ont. (Aug. 14-20), were such a joy and “win” for everyone involved.

We did experience some very encouraging, happy and sad moments in our ministry in these communities. We enjoyed several moments of “fruit of your labour.”

A few fantastic highlights were:

To be called upon to do a double baby dedication for a young couple.

To hear the youth and children call upon us: “When are we playing baseball again?”

For the children to listen so attentively to Bible lessons and learn new songs from our workers.

To speak to several men individually at the men’s breakfast.

To pray with a young mother who had just lost her son in a traffic accident. She looked for us, and asked, “Where is Albert?” She wanted prayer and comfort in a very sad time of sorrow and loss.

To be able to encourage young runners in the community of Tadoule Lake to train for the upcoming Polar Bear Marathon. To connect Tadoule Lake Dene runners to Churchill using the avenue of the sport of running.  The Tadoule Lake/Dene has experienced a sad history with Churchill.  Just this summer an apology came from the Manitoba government in respect to the forced relocation of the community.

To continue to encourage men and women in these communities, building more personal and deeper relationships each year.

To be invited into private homes to discuss difficult questions about the gospel, about Christianity, and about the personal faith in Jesus.

To help out and assist in their community church services.

To give them some gifts, love and care for them, listen to their questions and try to help.

martens-albert
Albert Martens

During the past 12 years of ministry, there have been tremendous changes in lives. More and deeper relationships have developed. Continual communications throughout the year having an impact on the many lives of these communities. As well, volunteer lives have changed and grown in deeper relationships in the Lord Jesus.

Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action.