On the second Saturday in August my hometown of Upham, North Dakota, almost doubles in size! Now, before you get too bewildered, the population of Upham is around 120 people.
So why do these extra 120 or so people come to Upham, a town with only a mile-long block of paved streets? They come to attend and take part in our annual Turtle Races, and 2018 marked our 39th annual race.
The Turtle Races are the brainchild of Muriel Burlog who used to run a little café when our population was around 300 folks. Who knew this little event would still be going on with such enthusiasm today?
In a typical race, 10 turtles (all turtles are caught from local rivers then released following the races) are corralled within a circular cylinder. Once the cylinder is lifted, the turtles are off to the races.
The first turtle to cross the finish lines wins that heat of the race, and it competes with about 20 other turtles that won their heat. The turtle that wins the final heat wins the championship, and its owner is awarded a trophy.
Before the races, we hold games and other fun events for the children, and my church, New Hope Lutheran Congregation, serves a community dinner for all.
Slow and steady wins the race
It can get pretty exciting to see which turtle will go the fastest, but usually slow and steady wins the race.
It’s that way in life, don’t you think?
It seems we’re always in a rush. In a rush to get the job done, in a rush to get through the grocery store, in a rush to lose weight. Rush, rush, rush.
But, turtles don’t rush! God’s word tells us to be steady, diligent and determined for the race set before us.
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a, NIV)
Our walk on earth mirrors this verse in Hebrews. God has a lot to say about the race we are running. Those turtles, slowly making their way to the finish line, are keeping their eye on the prize. And we need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. God is running a race right alongside us, helping us persevere.
Each day will be different; some will be easy, some hard. Some days we may need to walk and other days run like the wind. And much like the turtle, there will be days that we need to crawl or even let God carry us.
But fixing our eye on Jesus by being diligent and persistent will bring us success. Jesus is the one who will see us to the finish line.
Lisa Plorin of Upham, N.D., is president of the Women of the ELCA’s executive board.