Going the distance for Christ

Published 12:10 pm Thursday, January 29, 2009

The 140.6–mile trek Chris Hartwiger plans to make Friday isn’t quite as long as the distance Daniel and Magen Davis plan to travel to their next destination, but then again they won’t be biking, swimming or running their way to France.

Hartwiger plans to do all of those things in his effort to complete a triathlon through Hoover. The money he raises along the way will sponsor the Davis’ own journey to become missionaries.

“It’s really just been in the last three years that I’ve had a relationship with Jesus,” Hartwiger said. “I feel that God wants other people to know what’s happened in my life, and it’s manifested into this.”

Hartwiger sat in church just months ago listening to a young couple profess their desire to help plant churches in Europe. Hartwiger and the Davises had never even met. Yet, Hartwiger knew immediately that he was being called to help them.

Both from Shelby County, Daniel graduated from Hoover High School in 2001 and Magen graduated from Oak Mountain High School in 2004.

The couple met while attending college at Southeastern Bible College. When they attended a missions conference last year, their interest was peaked by missionaries bringing the Gospel to France.

“I never had any desire to be a missionary. I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my home and being with my family,” Magen said. “But when God brought those missionaries into my life, he gave me a heart for it.”

The Davises know they have a big task ahead of them. About 54 percent of France’s population is either atheist or agnostic and approximately 35,000 towns in the country have neither a church nor an evangelical witness, according to Operation World.

Daniel said becoming a missionary was always a longing of his.

“It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but there is a need for it and I look forward to the challenges it will bring,” Daniel said.

One of those challenges includes working with a culture of people that for the most part already has a religious identity.

“They definitely are not a blank slate,” Daniel said. “They are well educated — have studied philosophy and history — and already have their own ideas about God.”

But Daniel said he’s passionate about discussing those topics and hopefully changing a few hearts and minds. Hartwiger meanwhile is passionate about getting them there.

He said this opportunity provided him with more than a chance to test his physical strength. It also allows him to proclaim his faith.

“I had been praying, “God, all this time I’m training could you use this for something good, not for just my own selfish reasons,” Hartwiger said.

The Davises need to raise $30,000 to cover the initial cost of becoming missionaries — money for transportation to and around France, the cost of language tuition and more. They must also solicit monthly support from churches and community members.

To learn more about the Davis’ goal, Hartwiger’s background as an athlete or to track his progress during the triathlon, visit chrishartwigerblogspot.com.