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Iditarod Originated as Life-Saving Mission

One of the most unique sporting events in the world did not begin as a sporting event. Each year riders and their dogs race more than 1,000 miles for several days through the Alaskan snow from Anchorage to Nome for Iditarod, the famous dogsled race. But the genesis of Iditarod was something very serious. In 1925, hundreds of children in Nome had been exposed to diphtheria. At this point in history, children around the world died from the highly contagious disease because widespread vaccinations had not yet been introduced. The only serum to combat the disease was far away in Anchorage. To get the serum to Nome quickly, it was first carried by train to Nenana. Then teams of riders (known as mushers) and their dogs, strategically placed along the path, carried the serum to Nome via a relay. More than 150 dogs and 20 mushers were involved in the heroic efforts, which became called "The Great Race of Mercy." With passion and intensity, the mushers hurtled the 300,000 units of life-saving serum across the Alaskan countryside, arriving in Nome in only 127 hours— a record that has yet to be broken. By combining the right medicine with radical effort, hundreds of lives were saved.

While the Iditarod had an amazing origin, it is now just another sporting event. The teams race a similar path, but the motivation is different. They still tie sleds behind dogs, but they are not racing to save lives anymore. The same is often true of our churches. If we are not intentional, what was once a life-saving mission can become much less. As a church we can gather people and go through the motions of Christian discipleship without a sense of the life-giving message and mission we have been given. The race is on, and the stakes are high.

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