A Baptist marathon runner who has raised more than $50,000 during the past year for an African mission has set an ambitious new goal. She plans to run eight marathons in eight months in eight states in what promises to be a grueling fundraising initiative.
Amy Compston, a member of Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, Ky., wants to raise an additional $45,000 this year for a ministry serving people in the small town of Moyo, Uganda.
The 29-year-old founder of Amy for Africa ran the first of those marathons in April during the Boston Marathon, where she and her family and friends also distributed Christian literature to runners and spectators.
“It’s really amazing how God has blessed,” Compston said. “It’s been truly amazing watching Him work.”
With Bible in hand, Amy Compston shares the story of how she used running to overcome a former life of drug and alcohol abuse.
The African town that benefits from the money happens to be where former Unity Baptist Church Pastor Floyd Paris serves as a missionary.
Compston, a nurse in Ashland, has been a runner most of her life. But she didn’t envision it as more than a pastime until last year after she finished the Boston Marathon, overshadowed by a bomb that killed three spectators and injured 264 others.
Compston finished the race around 2:20 p.m. – about 30 minutes before two bombs detonated along the route. Finishing in the top 15 percent of female finishers, Compston was drained and exhausted.
She and her husband Chris, together in an area where runners go after the race, called their family – a group of 11 adults and 11 children – and arranged to meet them at a subway station, instead of the spot where they had been most of the day. It turned out to be a potentially life-saving decision.
A short time later, Compston’s family heard the explosions near the finish line where they had been standing. Compston and her husband were waiting for their family at the station when a passerby told them about the bombing.
“It was a moment of disbelief and shock,” Compston said. Her first concern was to make sure her family was OK. Dialing her cell phone, she quickly learned all of them were safe.
“When we saw on TV where the bombs went off, we were like, ‘… That’s exactly where we were at,’” Compston said. “God did protect us.”
Compston, who had helped hand out more than 1,200 Bible tracts in Boston with her family during their stay, said it was that week that stirred her to run for missions.
Compston followed last year’s Boston Marathon with a 50-mile Ultra Marathon in Nashville, Tenn., last November. She finished second among female runners.
Her athleticism is generating funding to care for Ugandan children as well as to provide medical supplies to several clinics and the hospital in Moyo.
“Amy is one of the many Kentucky Baptists who are using the gifts and talents God blessed them with to help spread the gospel at home and around the world,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention. “Amy truly is putting sweat equity into the kingdom’s work with these marathons. Hers is an unusual initiative and a wonderful example of the imaginative and creative ways Kentucky Baptists are supporting missions.”
Chitwood said every member of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) engages in missions with their tithes and offerings in their local churches, a portion of which goes to the KBC’s Cooperative Program that funds a wide variety of ministries and programs. Those initiatives include summer camps where 794 teenagers came to Christ last summer, campus initiatives in which 300 Kentucky college students were saved, and the work of missionaries throughout the world that resulted in more than 300,000 new believers being baptized overseas.
Between marathons, Compston, her husband Chris and co-founder Mark Maynard speak to church congregations and other organizations to help raise funds for the mission project. She shares with them about a time in her life she was running from the Lord. For about 14 years, she was involved with drug and alcohol abuse, despite being a regular churchgoer.
“I was just going through the motions,” she said. “I didn’t really understand what it was to be a true follower of Christ.”
Now running for the Lord, Compston, a mother of four, finished this year’s Boston Marathon in 3 hours and 39 minutes, far from a personal best because of pain in her right hip and hamstring. She still finished in the top 22 percent of women runners.
The slower pace, Compston said, allowed her to interact with other runners and the crowd that lined the streets.
“I think God slowed me down on purpose,” she said. “I was able to share my testimony and share this mission with hundreds of people.”
Amy’s husband Chris will join her on the remaining marathon runs to come between now and November.
To schedule Amy and Chris Compston to speak at your church or organization, call (606) 571-1031. Her website is www.amyforafrica.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger Alford is communications director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)