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January 18, 2012

Boot Camp Can't Compare

“Push it! Don’t stop!” the man yelled in my direction. I start to run again.

I was miserable, and I blamed my sister. After all, she had the bright idea to buy my family these bootcamp sessions at the local fitness center. Her reason: to spend quality family time while getting into shape. I had no idea what I was getting into when I said yes.

On the first day, our trainer made us do The Beast — a workout so intense that I get tired writing it all down.

Another day, we carried rocks. But these were not simple rocks — these “rocks” were boulders weighing a third of my body weight. I struggled to pick them up. It was a lot of rocks, too. The group made piles with these rocks; we jogged up terrible, long hills with the rocks; threw the rocks and did push-ups; and when we thought we were finished, our trainer said, “Okay, now take the pile you just made and put it back. Don’t stop. Go!” 

He made us do this for up to an hour and a half. By the end of the day, my arms would be like wet noodles, my legs had turned to jelly and my stomach could scarcely hold my body erect.

If you ever attempt a “boot camp” like this, here are some tips:

  • Take a large bottle of water or Gatorade
  • Get a good night’s rest
  • Have a cup of coffee in the morning
  • Eat a healthy breakfast to keep you going

One day at training, a thought stopped me in my tracks — just long enough for my trainer to yell, “Pick it up!”

Why did I stop? Because I had never considered the countless Christians working harder than I was that day. They don’t have a good-intentioned trainer; they don’t have a good night’s rest; and they certainly don’t get a cup of coffee and big breakfast to boost their energy in the morning. In places like China, Vietnam and North Korea, Christians sentenced to hard labor might get only a meager bowl of rice and some dry bread.

Sweat dripped down my now-burnt nose as I sprinted up a 100-meter incline with a 25-pound bag. I am currently in my best physical shape ever, but I was struggling with the effort. I can only imagine what my brothers and sisters in Christ experience as they work for hours at a time.

I reached the top of the incline and did 25 shoulder presses. I needed a break, to put the bag down and breathe — in, out, in. Christians working in labor camps don’t have this privilege. If they pause, they are beaten back into working. They receive no rest.

Simply put, I have no understanding of what they endure. And yet many of them remain committed to Christ as they suffer for his name. One Chinese pastor even told us he was glad not to be released early, because he started a church in prison!

How do they do it? How do they work hours like this without energy, proper nourishment or even sick? I believe that it is solely the power of the Holy Spirit that sustains these believers.

I picked up my heavy bag and started again, but not without a prayer for my persecuted family. Pray with me as they suffer for their faith in Jesus Christ and stay faithful.