When we first heard about what Aaron Smith was doing with Run Free, we couldn’t help but take notice. Aaron, along with three of his friends, are running 210 miles across the state of Minnesota to advocate for victims of oppression and injustice. They are ordinary individuals, just like you and me, who are taking their energy, resources and passion and using them to serve others.
This is what stories of hope are all about.
The best part is: You can join them.
You don’t have to run, although you can. You don’t have have an organization, although if you’re interested in joining a team, we recommend you check out the links posted here. The point is that you can get creative with the resources you have, right now, for something other than yourself. The best part is, you can use something you already love to reach out and serve other.
Here is the interview:
Can you explain to us what you are doing with Run Free?
Myself and three others are running 210 miles across Minnesota in 10 days for victims of oppression and injustice. We are using our freedoms and opportunities to benefit those without freedom or opportunity. We are running so they can be free.
Where did the Run Free idea come from? Who cam up with the idea?
The idea came from a member of the Oaks Fellowship in Dallas, TX. Ross Fishburn read Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” He asked himself, “in what ways am I not acknowledging God?” He thought running. Here is the rest of the story.
Who is organizing the Run Free tour? And who are you partnering with?
Venture Expeditions organized the Run Free Tour. Venture Expeditions actively engages people in God’s story of justice. Venture uses endurance sports like cycling, hiking and running to help people “Benefit the World and Discover their Soul.” Venture organizes everything from cross-country cycling tours to one-week backpacking trips. Learn more.
What is the cause you are running for? How did you become passionate about this cause?
We are raising support for victims of injustice and oppression.
The cause is personal for me. I’ve met refugees living on the border of Burma. I’m even friends with a few. I’m compelled by their stories. Many have been forced from their homes when their villages where burnt. These refugees are victims of countless human rights violations like rape and murder. Some of the boys have become child soldiers. The idea that 400,000 to 800,000 refugees are living as stateless people on the border of Burma is crazy to me. They are confined in this small area of the world without freedom or opportunities. Read more about my friends in SE Asia on my blog.
The funds raised will benefit three organizations.
The first is the Venture Human Development Foundation in Thailand that works with refugees and people in rural communities. The Venture Foundation provides emergency food, education opportunities, worldview/Bible training and child protection resources. Through the Venture Human Development Foundation we hope to prevent various forms of injustice and oppression.
The second is International Justice Mission. IJM is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Learn more about IJM.
Last, we are working with Eden Ministry in Southern China. Eden seeks to bring hope to women who have been victims of sexual abuse and trafficking. Learn more about Eden.
Why are you running? Why not just raise money/awareness the old fashioned way?
Running across Minnesota is quite difficult and takes sacrifice. I hope my physical sacrifice inspires people to sacrifice financially. Give now.
Running also gives us a platform to be a “voice for the voiceless.” If we weren’t willing to run across Minnesota who would listen to us?
What are some of the unique challenges you face?
Currently my ankle is quite swollen. I also have heat rash and chaffing. Oh, and its been in the 90s with high humidity almost the whole trip. It makes running over 20 miles a day even more difficult.
What is the most encouraging thing that has happened to you?
I’m so encouraged by my team! They are always positive and encouraging. We have literally gone the extra mile for each other.
I’m also encouraged by our hosts! They’ve fed us, washed our clothes, given us opportunities to share, donated, sacrificed and more. We couldn’t do this without them.
How have people responded to what you are doing? Are they supportive? Do they think you are crazy?
Most people think what we are doing is crazy, even us! Everyone is supportive. Not everyone gives, but that is okay. People always have a lot of questions and say that our support vehicle driver is the “smart one.” That’s true.
As the founder of Venture why are you running in this tour as opposed to sitting in the office?
I believe in what we do. Also, there is value in me participating so I’m reminded of what our team members have to go through every year.
How would you encourage others to discover their soul in their everyday life?
Give as Christ gave. In your giving or sacrifice you will find life and meaning.
Philippians 3:10-11 says, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Another translation (NASB) says, “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and [a] the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”