First Third Conversations

Running into a Winnable Game

By Pastor Nancy Lee Gauche, Children, Youth and Family Ministry Program Associate at Luther Seminary

There is a remarkable story about a person named Anne Mahlum.  Anne is a runner and she passed by a homeless shelter every morning on her daily run.  She began to develop rapport with the men outside on the corner. What started out as waves and smiles from a distance became more intimate as they developed a comfort level with one another. And one morning a simple idea stopped her in her tracks.  Anne at that moment started to create a winnable game!

She called the shelter and explained her idea and with the astounding support from the community and the media, Back On My Feet was up and running. The first run took place in 2007 and the organization has grown in reach and depth since then.

So what does this have to do with confirmation?  At the First Third Event Monkey Business, we began the process of creating a “winnable game” around confirmation.  To imagine a possibility and take it through a process. 

When my girlfriend told me about this organization called “Back On My Feet” and her desire to start a chapter in Minneapolis, we talked about the “winnable game” process.  This is an example of taking a problem…homelessness…and creating a winnable game.  This is an example of the process of winnable game.

More on Anne’s story and direct quotes taken from…

Back on My Feet is a nonprofit organization that promotes the self-sufficiency of homeless populations by engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem.

Back on My Feet envisions a community where all members have the support and motivation required to move towards self –sufficiency. Every major city has a homeless problem and while providing food and shelter are very important basic needs, something is missing. We work to rebuild, revive and re-energize individuals. It is only when we have self-respect and self-confidence that we are truly able to move forward. Back on My Feet focuses on helping our members find a road of happiness, hope and opportunity, which includes a stable job and a place to live. This is our goal and we will get there one step at a time.

This is a pretty creative vision, possibility and philosophy, but after the idea came the strategy:  Back on My Feet teaches critical work and life skills, such as discipline, leadership, and goal-setting that helps lead participants toward a road filled with hope, happiness, opportunity and prosperity. The organization’s comprehensive program includes connections to BoMF’s job training and workforce development partners and offers assistance with education and housing expenses. The member benefits of Back on My Feet are not free – they are earned through the currency of attitude, commitment, teamwork, respect and perseverance.

Anne is often asked, “How does running help the homeless situation?” 

To solve any problem you have to get at its core. We have all been on rocky roads in life and some people have unfortunately found themselves on a road without a home. BoMF does not provide food for the homeless nor does it provide shelter. While those are very important basic needs that all human beings deserve, we provide a program that teaches people to believe in themselves because it doesn't matter if you have 20 homes or 0 homes; if you don't have confidence in yourself it's very difficult to move forward.

So translation?  I’m not comparing confirmation to homelessness, but I am using “Back on My Feet” as an example of possibility thinking and the creation of a winnable game process.  Wherever you are in the process of the winnable game for confirmation, it is important to shift your questions, ideas, and stuckness around confirmation into some kind of process that is moving forward toward the outcome of mature Christian young people. 

Just like Anne used running, her passion, to get at a problem, maybe you have a passion that you can connect with your winnable game.  Use it! Then work the process.

Engaging in prayer around this has given me hope in places where I’ve been hopeless. The prayers we wrapped each of our coaching times around…I’m still praying some of those prayers and a few new ones as well.  So in this Easter Season, I’m praying this prayer:

I Praise You for this Resurrection Madness

Lord of such amazing surprises

as put a catch in my breath

and wings on my heart,

I praise you for this joy,

too great for words,

but not for tears and songs and sharing;

          for this mercy

               that blots out my betrayals

                    and bids me begin again

                         to limp on,

                              to hop-skip-and-jump on,

                                   to mend what is broken

                                        in and around me,

                                             and to forgive the breakers;

               for this YES

                    to life and laughter,

                         to love and lovers,

                              and to my unwinding self;

               for this kingdom

                    unleashed in me and I in it forever,

                         and no dead ends to growing,

                              to choices,

                                   to chances,

                                        to calls to be just;

                         no dead ends to living,

                              to making peace,

                                   to dreaming dreams,

                                         to being glad of heart;

               for this resurrection madness

                    which is wiser than I

                         and in which I see

                              how great you are,

                                   and how full of grace.



       Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle, Innisfree Press, Inc. 1984.

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