Thursday, July 29, 2010

Banquets and Next Year's Race

The Monday after the Ironman race is always an adventure. People who aspire to race in next year's Ironman Lake Placid begin lining up at midnight or so. One group slept in an 8-person tent in line to sign up. Pretty good thinking, I guess.

Our team of volunteers helped the mass of people (1000? more?) get registered. We operated 15+ computers and assisted the Ironman staff with the registration process. To decide who was best suited for the job I said to folks from our church and from the mission teams: "If you are good at shopping online, you can do this job very well." To which one lady said, "I'm going to go home right now and start practicing!"

Next year's registration started at 9:00 AM, and was over a little after 1:00 PM. At noon EDT online registration began. By the time we were done, the race for next year was sold out. It's a very popular race.

Monday morning also is when folks view and purchase their race photos, get signed up for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii if they qualified, enjoy the Awards Banquet for lunch, and more. And, it gave our team a good opportunity to say goodbye or "see ya next year" to friends that we have met. At the Awards Banquet my friend David Hall, pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church (MD) gave the invocation and NCM/LPBC's own Lisa Smith sang the national anthem.

After the Awards Banquet, there were a few odds and ends to be done. After that, it was time to rest for a bit. Later, our family had dinner with the team from Oak Grove.

On Tuesday, the church needed to be cleaned up a bit because another mission team was on the way. Traveling from SC, Rock Spring Baptist Church arrived just in time to attend the Volunteers Banquet and then provided the man-power to help us clean up the 1000+ chairs and 200+ tables that needed to be loaded on the tractor trailer. They were just the shot of adrenaline that we needed. We wrapped up the banquet clean-up in record time. The Lord knew what He was doing by sending them to us on Tuesday. They will be doing ministry in E-town, along hiking trails, at the Mirror Lake beach, and at Uihlein Nursing home this week.

At the Volunteer Banquet, my friend Perry Fowler, pastor of Kennesaw (GA) First Baptist Church gave the invocation and Jeff Gray from NCM/LPBC sang the national anthem.

Some of the highlights of the banquet included:
  • Really good food (five food stations, great desserts, coffee and more)
  • Deserving aid stations and other volunteer areas were recognized for their great work before, during and after the race
  • Local athletes were recognized and applauded
  • Race Director Jeff Edwards, Volunteer Captain Coordinator Kathy Pfohl and other local dignitaries spoke and expressed their thoughts on the race
  • Some of our NCM team won some of the giveaways as numbers were drawn from a box
  • Aid Station of the Year: Bike Aid Station #2 Keene (led by NCM's own John & Karen Ferrara)
  • Captain of the Year: Cora Clark
  • Captain of the Year: Derek Spain
  • The 2010 Ironman Lake Placid highlight video was shown
It was surprising that they gave two Captain of the Year awards this year. I was really humbled to receive one of them. Ours was truly a team effort. I feel like a coach whose team wins the championship and then he gets the award for coach of the year. Without the incredible North Country Ministries team, I would have never gotten the award. I'm humbled and grateful.

The award of Captain of the Year means that my wife Kim and I now will have the opportunity to travel to another Ironman race in North America to enjoy the race and meet wonderful people there. Perhaps we will be able to connect with a local church there too and get them connected to Ironman in their area. We have a few to choose from, so we will look at the calendar, consider our options, pray, and make a wise decision. Kim and I love to travel.

Ironman, see ya next year!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Clarifying God

Ironman Sunday began early for me, doing a little last-minute organizing of tshirts that I would be giving to part of our volunteer team on Sunday. My plan was to put the 30+ shirts in my hiking backpack so I didn't have to carry around a box all day. Altogether our group was over 300 people on race day, but most already had their shirts.

Then I prayed for the NCM bike aid station crew as they left the church at 6:00 AM to head down to Keene.

I headed down to the parking lot on Wesvalley Rd, walked from there to Colden Ave, and connected with some of our Road Marshals who were ready to start serving.

On the way, a friend who works closely with our ministry and with Ironman called with a bit of an emergency - the person scheduled to sing the national anthem didn't show up! I quickly called Pastor Jeff from our church to see if he happened to be at the beach, so he could scoot to the microphone and sing. He didn't pick up his phone. (Turns out he was watching the start at a different spot on the lake.) I looked to my left and saw a family from our church, and asked them if any of them wanted to sing the national anthem. "No kidding!" I said. Callie said she would if they really needed her. They hurried to the beach, but before they got there Ironman had gone to their "back-up singer," one of their staff members. It's cool when someone is ready to use their gifts to serve even when called upon in an instant. Thanks, Callie, for being willing.

After getting the first crew of Road Marshals in place, and the bikers started screaming down the hill, I headed to church for Bible study and worship service.

We had a great Sunday school lesson on "What the Bible Says About War." It was week 3 of that lesson. I read a great article recently entitled "Did Jesus Teach Pacifism?" that pointed to some key Scriptures to discuss. I love our church family. We don't shy away from important, challenging topics. The Bible has the answers! Several members of the mission teams joined us for Bible study.

Sunday morning worship was great! We had a great crowd of people who were hungry to worship God, to encourage one another in their faith, and to dig into God's Word. LPBC church family, mission team members, and guests worshiped the Lord together. I was finishing a three-part series on "Becoming a Fully Devoted Follower of Jesus Christ." Week 1 was "Glorify God." Week 2 was "Get Connected!" This week we were seeing that the Bible tells every Christ-follower to "Go Serve." A fitting message on Ironman Sunday. You can hear audio of each message at our Sermon Podcast site.

After worship I dropped Kevin off downtown. He had been able to use his SeaDoo during the swim portion of the race, with a lifeguard on the back of his watercraft. He found out at the last minute that Ironman wanted him to use his boat in the race. I dropped him off to take care of some details with his boat. Thanks, Kevin, for serving.

Folks from churches throughout the Adirondacks and the mission teams served in four primary areas on race day:
  • Bike Course Aid Station
  • Run Course Aid Station
  • Road Marshals
  • Athletes Food Tent
These folks served alongside some volunteers who signed up online or last-minute who joined us at these sites. We had a ton of fun all day and all night - serving, encouraging, and praying for people. We started at 6:00 AM, and ended after midnight.

Thanks everyone for serving!

Earlier in the day, as I was driving to my post after church, I came upon a lady who had broken her ankle on the side of the road while cheering on her husband. In her enthusiasm to cheer for her husband, she didn't notice where she was walking. She had stepped off the road at a big drop-off. Her ankle was broken badly and she was in lots of pain. Some nice folks had stopped to help her, we put her in my truck, and I drove a short distance to the state troopers who were helping with the race. They called an ambulance. The EMT's did a great job of helping her. One state trooper and I had a chat about the Good Samaritan. I prayed with the lady who broke her ankle. I was late getting to my spot, but Nick covered for me. Thanks to all these guys for serving.

Many of the folks from our team, including me, had a chance to see people that we have gotten to know this week and/or over the years. It was wonderful to cheer on all the athletes, but even more meaningful to cheer on someone you know personally. Many of the athletes allowed (some requested!) our team members to pray with them as they came by us at the places we were serving.

Near the end of the race, at 9:30 PM, I performed a wedding on the Mirror Lake beach, at the exact spot where the Ironman race had begun. Bryan and Melissa, two Christ-followers from NYC, were both in the race. Several weeks ago they contacted me about doing their wedding after they finished the Ironman race. They both completed it (strong!) and their family and friends joined us, along with my son Andy and our friends Charlie and Cam. Charlie played guitar and Cam helped out with some logistics. The wedding really honored Christ. May God bless Bryan and Melissa as they are now joined together as husband and wife.

One funny part to the day was when I was trying to post an update via Twitter and Facebook about our day. I was trying to say that the day including Serving, Encouraging, Praying, and Glorifying God. However, the spell check on my phone changed the word "glorifying" to "clarifying" at the last minute. So my post ended with "Clarifying God."

I guess in a sense that's one thing that serving is - clarifying God.

By serving, we show people what a Christ-follower does, so then we can tell them who Jesus is and how He wants to save them.

Thanks everyone for serving!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pancakes & IronPrayer

The two biggest highlights of today were the Pancake Breakfast and the IronPrayer (aka, Ironman Prayer & Celebration Service).

Pancake Breakfast

The teams arrived early to the Finish Line at the Oval to help set up and begin cooking pancakes. After a great devotion by Pastor Todd from VA, we prayed and then got everyone ready for their jobs for the morning. People chose a job based on their spiritual gifts: those with serving gifts did the cooking, cleaning up, pouring juice, and the like; those with speaking gifts ate pancakes and talked to people all morning.


We had some wonderful conversations, catching up with athletes and their families that we see each year, as well as meeting new friends. Our team members let everyone know that we will be praying for them and serving in various ways on race day.

And the pancakes were great!

We added fresh fruit to the pancake breakfast this year, and people ate up the oranges, apples and bananas. Those who arrived early were able to pour authentic maple syrup (straight from the trees of the Adirondacks, produced by a family from our church). The fresh fruit and maple syrup complimented the pancakes wonderfully.

About 1250 people attended the Pancake Breakfast this year. Families & friends of competitors, Ironman staff & volunteers, and of course competitors joined us for this annual event. We can't wait until next year.


At many Ironman races, local churches and ministries come together to host an IronPrayer service. The same is true in Lake Placid. Each year we partner with various ministries to have a top-notch program that includes great music, Ironman athletes sharing their personal stories of their faith in Christ and how that impacts them as an athlete, and a time of prayer for each of the athletes in attendance.

This year we partnered with FCA Endurance and 316 Athletic Wear to invite some excellent speakers. A huge thanks to each one of the speakers for keeping it real and talking about their authentic walk with Christ. You can tell that Jesus has really impacted these guys' lives! The theme seemed to be "live your life and run each race not for yourself, but for God's glory." Each athlete touched on that theme during their talk.

We always have a great children's program (including a bounce house!) in our church gym for the kids, and a nursery for the babies. I saw several kids after and you could tell they had a great time.

Altogether, over 300 people were in attendance at the IronPrayer service. Praise to the Lord. At the end of the service, right before the prayer time, I took a couple of minutes to explain the good news of Jesus Christ. Reading from verses in the book of Romans, I shared God's plan of salvation. Sixteen (16) people made professions of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior! That's something to get excited about! And one young man expressed his desire to follow Christ in believer's baptism. God is on the move.

Now we are getting ready for race day. We have folks serving in lots of areas tomorrow. In the middle of the morning, we will be having Bible studies and worship for those who can navigate the road closures to make it to church.

Three words for race day: serving, encouraging, praying.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Our teams served incredibly well again today. The Lord provided some divine moments that I'd love to share with you.

* Just as I was arriving at church for breakfast, I was informed that one of our team members was having excruciating abdominal pain. She had gone jogging early in the morning, but was now in need of medical attention. We prayed over her, asking God to heal her and to give them wisdom, and then loaded her in the car for two leaders to take her to the hospital. They called her mom to ask her to pray too. Amazingly, on the way to the hospital, the pain completely stopped! Praise God for answered prayer. She served all day long at ministry sites. What a testimony.

* The weather was rainy (again!) this morning. That put a slight damper on the sports ministry teams early on, but they were flexible and helped with other ministries until the rain stopped and they were able to get back to the ministries of playing sports with kids and teens. What a fun way to show people that God created us with these athletic abilities, and we can use them for His glory.

* The hiking team realized that many of those they were seeking to connect with got on the trails early in the morning, so when the team set up their table, the hikers were gone. And the hikers stayed gone all day. Some, however, did come down off the mountains throughout the day and our team was ready to serve them and share the good news of Jesus Christ with them.

* Our banquets team showed their flexibility when a logistical problem caused a long delay in their set-up (there were no table coverings until mid-afternoon). But as they were waiting for the supplies to arrive (the table coverings needed to go on before anything else could be done to the tables!) they took that opportunity to rest up, have some great chats with new friends from Ironman staff and other volunteers, and then be ready to knock out the job when the supplies arrived. It was a big success. Glory to God.

* The sno cones, balloon animals and face painting are VERY popular this year. Our team has done a great job of helping families have a great time at the Ironman Expo by providing these ministries. We are running out of supplies! We will adjust a bit and have a great day on Saturday.

* The prayer station is being visited by many, many, many people. These athletes desire to be prayed for. We are praying that God will protect them on race day, that He will help them to do their best, that He will bless them, and that they will know of how important it is to follow Christ eternally. Only two people have said "no" when asked if they would like to be prayed for.

* One of our team members at registration was speaking with an athlete who was very frustrated after a long trip with small children in the car traveling to Lake Placid. Our team member shared a verse of Scripture with this athlete, and his mood changed dramatically. The power of the Word of God to still our hearts and give us proper focus!

* Another team member at registration was speaking with an athlete who was very, very nervous about the upcoming race. Our team member offered to pray for her, and she left with tears of joy!

* Still another team member chatted with two ladies who were waiting for their friend to complete registration. As we chatted about the bike course, the subject moved to the IronPrayer service that we are hosting on Saturday. They had already heard about it, and are looking forward to being there. Praise God. He is on the move.

These are some of the wonderful divine moments of today. Our devotion in the morning focused on letting our lights shine for Christ, and watching for ways God "showed up" during the day. In the Bible, when God "shows up" on earth, the theological term for that is "theophany." Well, through His people today, God "showed up" in a lot of ways.

There were a lot of theophanies today.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Serving at Ironman

Today was a wonderful day of serving people and sharing the love of Christ with people in the North Country.

Friends from Oak Grove (MD), Sunset Rd (NC), Rolling Hills (GA), New Bethesda (VA), FCA Delmarva (DE-MD-VA), Immanuel (VA), Kennesaw (GA), Lake Placid (NY), and more (AL, GA, NY, others) are working together as part of the North Country Ministries team.

In addition to the wonderful locals we got to spend time with, we met people from around the USA and from around the world. Some of us had the chance to catch up with old friends as well as meet new ones.


* Starting the day with the teams: a little exercise, worshiping the Lord through music, a devotion from God's Word, and breaking into ministry teams for the day

* Helping with Ironman registration

* Assisting the captain of the medical tent with a few duties

* Hosting a North Country Ministries booth - giving away free sno cones, balloon animals and face painting; inviting people to the Saturday pancake breakfast and IronPrayer worship service; and just having a great time getting to meet people

* Playing frisbee and other sports with students at the Lake Placid beach

* Setting up tables and chairs for a banquet for 2250 people

* Meeting people in E'town and inviting them next week's backyard Bible club

* Giving water, sports drinks, and carabiners to hikers at Pitchoff and Cascade trailheads

* Working to spruce up the E'town Social Center

* Driving some international students to Plattsburgh for shopping and more

* Helping a family from our church who is moving

Personal highlights for me included getting to serve with my dad, my sons, my sister-in-law, and my wife's sister's husband's father (figure that one out!). And getting to talk with my wife and daughter tonight on the phone - they are attending a Christian retreat for a few days in Blue Mountain, PA.

Quotes from some of our team about the day:

"It's not every day you need to drive an-hour-and-a-half (one-way) to pick up sports equipment to use for ministries. But it was worth it to meet the people we met today playing disc golf and other sports."

"We walked around town three times and didn't really see anyone. Then we finally met one family, and had a wonderful visit with them. We got to pray with them and really encourage them."

"Registered over 1500 athletes!"

"One athlete said, 'Save me some pancakes on Saturday!' Then he said, 'I will see you Saturday morning [at the Pancake Breakfast] and Saturday night [at the IronPrayer service]."

"Those tables and chairs are heavy!"

"A lot of people shared their name and race number with us so that we can pray for them on race day!"

"In the morning we played with some kids at the beach, and we saw them again in the afternoon. When we asked their grandparents why they came back to the beach they said, 'They were having so much fun with you guys.'"

"It was great to encourage the athletes as they came out of the water after training for the swim. They appreciated the encouragement and thanked us for praying for them."

"The kids loved the sno cones!"

"I looked after a golden retriever for one athlete while he went through the line for registration. We do whatever we can to serve."

"We are praying for many athletes to realize how much God loves them."

"One athlete introduced me to her family and wants to join our team by serving at the Prayer Station with us. She is a believer in Christ and is racing on Sunday. She was really encouraged by our ministry's presence at the Expo area and in other ways."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Geoffrey Smith: Rock climbing and ski pioneer

Geoff Smith is a good friend of mine. A great article was written about him a short time ago, and I wanted to share it with you. Here it is:

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Friends and Neighbors Column: Wednesday, February 3, 2010.

Written by Yvona Fast

Geoffrey Smith: Rock climbing and ski pioneer

Geoffrey Smith’s love for the mountains, skiing and climbing began in early childhood. When Geoff was a child, his father was stationed as a limitary attaché at the American Embassy in Switzerland.

His mom remembers when he looked up at the Swiss Alps at age 4 and said, “The mountains make my heart leap.”

He learned to ski before he went to school, and was skiing in the Alps in the 1950s before the era of ski lifts. Geoff’s life spans the modern ski industry.

Geoff was very sick as a child. When he was 10 years old, the doctors thought he had an enlarged heaert. This is when they discovered he had a rare condition, transposition of the heart and blood vessels, or a “reversed heart.” Geoff had heart surgery in 1959, and was told to stay away from athletics.

For a 10 year old boy, this was just not acceptable.

“At age 10, I made a vow to God, “If you make me healthy, strong and able to participate in sports, then I will serve you after I turn 30,” Geoff said. “God was faithful and kept his part of this vow.

When Geoff was a teenager in the 1960s, his father, a pilot and base engineer, was stationed at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Just 15 minutes south of Plattsburgh is Poke-O-Moonshine.”

After high school, Geoff attended the small, academic Bowdoin College in Maine. When he transferred to the University of Colorado in Boulder, a large university with 20,000 students, he brought eastern mountain trail ski techniques with him to Colorado. After graduation, he moved to California for skiing and climbing with friends. He managed to climb the Note Route on El Capitan in Yosemite in a storm-lashed six days, losing 18 pounds while on the mountain.

When he returned to the Adirondacks in 1976, he spent hundreds of hours at Poke-O-Moonshine, getting to know every crack of the cliff face.

“Once I hung on a rope for 10 hours scrubbing with a wire brush to remove debris,” he recalled.

Today, there are almost 150 established routes up the precipitous cliffs. Geoff pioneered many of them, including Fastest Gun, Freedom Flight and Sailor’s Dive.

Over the years, he has been an inspiration, guide and friend to many climbers. He and the Poko boys – local climbers mentored by Geoff – applied modern climbing techniques in unique ways. Even after his heart weakened, he pioneered the route Ancient of Days in 2002.

Geoff met his wife, Terri in 1976. They skied and climbed together and married in 1982. True to his vow to God, he dropped out of climbing for a while.

Geoff’s mom was a devout believer who loved Israel and the Jewish people, and had made eight trips to the Holy Land. Geoff had traveled there with her as a teen.

The newlyweds set off for Israel, where Geoff did work in political science at Jerusalem University College (then known as the Holy Land Institute).

“Living in this anthropological museum piece was a powerful experience,” Geoff said. “The final world conflict will be fought over Jerusalem.”

Their oldest son, Timothy was born on Jerusalem’s Mt. of Olives, and their second son, Silas, was conceived while they were living there. In 1985, when Geoff’[s parents became ill, Geoff and his family returned home and settled in Lake Placid, where he taught at Northwood School.

In the 1990’s, he worked with juvenile delinquents in the challenge-based state program popularly called “Hoods in the Woods,” using his outdoor skills, camping, skiing and rock climbing with these guys.

“One of my educational techniques was reading and discussing inspirational stories, like the biography of John Newton, who wrote “Amazing Grace,” Geoff said. “I wanted to inspire the teens, just as I had found inspiration in the mountains and in the God who walks upon them.

“Many mountaineers have experienced an unseen presence accompanying them on the heights. Even Ernest Shackleton, on his desperate crossing of South Georgia Island, recounts: "It seemed to me there were four, not three of us.” (Alexander, Caroline: ‘The Endurance, Knopf,’ 1998, p.169): ‘He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth – the Lord God Almighty is his name.’ (Amos 4:13) is one of my favorite Bible verses.”

For Geoff, a return to the Adirondacks meant a return to skiing and climbing. Despite his vow to God, work and family responsibilities, the compulsion to climb perilous rock cliffs in summer and ski down steep mountain slopes in winder remained strong.

“I took my boys up Marcy when they were very young”, he said. “At six and a half, Silas was probably the youngest to have ever skied Marcy.”

Aware that he was a walking/skiing miracle, Geoff took Scripture cards with him into the mountains to meditate, leaving them on summits and ledges where they would be discovered. He was a trailblazer, pioneering extreme backcountry skiing in the Adirondack High Peaks. He first skied Marcy in 1970. He has 70 winter ascents of New York’s highest peak, and is familiar with every turn, each rock slide and every streambed on the mountain.

He is most pleased with his solo first descents of many Adirondack High Peaks: Nippletop/Bear/Den/Dial, Colvin, the west face of Haystack and several slides on the west face of Colden.

One of his most challenging solo skis was the Triple Crown – Marcy, Colden and Algonquin – in 14 hours and 29 minutes. Another challenging first descent was Leap of Faith, a gully on the west side of Mt. Colvin. On one of his later trips, on the east face of Haystack during the storm of the century in 1998, Geoff was hindered from reaching the top by an exhausting two hour arrhythmia episode from his strained heart.

His last attempt to summit Marcy in 2006, with his 16 year old daughter Joanna and his son Silas, was cut short due to another long lasting arrhythmia. But Geoff says, “God is faithful, He is with me on the heights and in the valleys, on the rock on skis, and in my vow.”

This article is based on an interview with Geoff Smith. Yvona Fast can be reached at

Monday, July 5, 2010

No One Is Excluded

"Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

God does not parcel out salvation, deliverance, or wholeness to us bit by bit. God makes salvation completely available through Jesus Christ -- and not only to specific individuals, but to all who will receive and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior.

No person is excluded from the opportunity to believe and receive everlasting life. Jesus did not say that those who believe would receive a down payment on everlasting life or a promise of everlasting life that they would have to work to fulfill. They receive everlasting life, period.

"God's Way Day by Day"

To know more, CLICK HERE.

God Has Blessed America