Many thoughts pass through runners’ minds as they progress through 13-mile half-marathons. “You can do it,” “Just put one foot in front of the other,” “Your ankle is not broken; keep going,” etc. While such sentiments were not foreign to the mind of Trey Holmes in the midst of running the Cowtown half-marathon this past weekend, his primary focus was elsewhere. Before the race began on that early Sunday morning, Holmes prayed that God would give him the opportunity to share the Gospel with his fellow runners. Before Holmes reached mile 12, God did.

Holmes, associate director of recruiting at Southwestern Seminary, was one of a number of Southwestern students, faculty and staff who participated in the Cowtown 40th Anniversary, Feb. 24-25. Clad in “Preach the Word, Reach the World” T-shirts, these Southwesterners strived to represent not only the seminary, but also Christ.

“I’m not going to kill a half-marathon or get first place,” Holmes says. “So I was there to rub shoulders with people and try to be salt and light even just with logos on my back and a verse on my cap.” (In addition to his Southwestern shirt, Holmes wore a cap with John 3:16 printed on the back.)

Around mile eight, Holmes realized that he and a fellow runner were “leapfrogging” each other. That is, one would get tired and need to walk, granting the other an opportunity to run ahead. This latter runner would then get tired as well, allowing the former to pass him.

This went on for several miles, and by mile 12, Holmes decided to engage his fellow runner in conversation. Holmes learned that this runner, though currently living in Dallas, was originally from Kenya. Holmes shared that he himself had previously visited Kenya, teaching at a Bible college there and preaching at a youth camp.

The two proceeded to talk about Holmes’ activities and the specific places in Kenya where he had been. Eventually, Holmes said to him, “You sound like you’re familiar with this. Are you a believer?” The man answered affirmatively.

Acknowledging the ambiguity of the term “believer,” Holmes clarified his meaning. He said, “Man, here’s the deal: I was there to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ—that He died for our sins, was resurrected, and He’s coming again.”

Holmes recalls the runner’s response: “Absolutely, man. I believe Jesus is the only way.” Holmes then realized that the witnessing opportunity God had granted him was not with an unbeliever in need of salvation, but with a fellow believer whom he could help in living out Proverbs 27:17—“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

As they finished the last mile of the run, the two spoke about the differences between being a believer in Kenya and being one in the United States. In Kenya, the runner explained to Holmes, when people come to faith in Christ, they trust God for daily needs such as food, clothing and work. “Here in America,” he continued, “I don’t worry about where my next meal is coming from. I make enough money that I can pay my rent, I can get my food.

“So now my faith is different. I have to be reminded to spend time with God daily and trust Him for larger things.”

At that point, the man and Holmes both articulated that, despite the circumstantial differences, believers everywhere share the same faith in the same Savior. With the finish line fast approaching, Holmes encouraged the man to continue seeking and trusting the Lord as he grows in his relationship with Christ.

Reflecting on the experience, Holmes says he is grateful that Southwestern provides opportunities to be out in the community and share the Gospel in such unconventional ways. “Like, to live it out and to communicate it,” he explains. “And I’m grateful that Southwestern gave me the opportunity to do it there.”

Garrison Griffith, community brand ambassador at Southwestern and coordinator for Southwestern’s involvement in the Cowtown marathon, says conversations like these are the reason Southwestern involves itself with the Fort Worth community. “We seek to be a light for the Gospel everywhere we go,” he says.

“Whether it be over lunch at the chamber of commerce or during a run through the cultural district, we hope that our Southwestern family is actively proclaiming the Gospel to all whom they encounter. When we meet fellow believers, we hope to encourage them in their ongoing relationships with Christ; and when we meet those who do not know Jesus personally, we share with them about the unwavering hope we have in Christ Jesus.”