When Spring Creek Assembly of God (Edmond, Oklahoma) Children's Pastor Terry Cuthbertson was diagnosed with testicular cancer last September, resulting in immediate surgery, it offered him the opportunity to reflect on his life. Like many, he knew there was so much he still wanted to do - not just for himself, but for the cause of Christ.
"During recovery, I began thinking and I knew I wanted to add to the story," Cuthbertson recalls. "I don't think I've lived a boring story, but a friend of mine was writing a book called 'Unthinkable,' and I realized I wanted to do something unthinkable for God - and perhaps inspire others to follow my example of doing unthinkable things for God."
After praying, Cuthbertson felt God gave him an "unthinkable" idea and a cause. The idea: run 1,000 miles in 100 days. The cause: A Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge (BGMC) project - Happy Horizons Children's Ranch, which is dedicated to the transformation and defense of abandoned and trafficked children in the Philippines.
Cuthbertson had read a BGMC news release that for $12,000, the ranch could have its operational expenses paid for an entire year. It was a pretty steep price tag for an individual person to raise, but he felt this was what God wanted him to do.
It's important to understand that for a wiry, lean collegiate cross country runner or ultra marathoner, 70 miles a week is within their abilities and training. For a children's pastor who runs some, but has more of a "solid" build, 10 miles a day for 100 days was, for all practical purposes, "unthinkable."
"It's really important," Cuthbertson says with a laugh, "that if you're thinking about doing something like this, that you really make sure you've heard from God. It takes a pretty heavy toll on your body, but if He's called you to do it, He'll give you the strength."
Cuthbertson began his 100-day, 1,000-mile effort on February 22, 2013 - running 5 miles in the morning and 5 miles in the evening. At the same time, he started looking for sponsors, especially corporate sponsors, as the $12,000 goal meant raising pledges of $12 a mile.
At first, he had some quick success as the first few people and businesses - including his dentist - he contacted were interested in sponsoring him. But then, things seemed to dry up.
"I was getting a little nervous," Cuthbertson admits. "I was up to 300 miles, but I wasn't getting any more businesses or people wanting to sponsor me. I began questioning whether to do this or not. Was this just me following some crazy idea or was it really God who gave me this? But then God spoke to my heart - it wasn't my job to get results, it was my job to be obedient and He would bring the results."
Cuthbertson says the self-doubts were complicated by shin splints (tiny fractures in the shin bones due to the sudden increase in running miles). "I had many people warn me that this was a crazy thing to do," he admits, "but I really felt God was in on this, but now I had to walk instead of run."
A couple weeks later, Cuthbertson decided to celebrate his 33rd birthday by putting in a 33-mile effort in a single day. That day, things seemed to start turning around.
"I got on Facebook and emailed my friends and told them what I was doing," Cuthbertson says. "I told them, if they planned to get me a card or gift or something for my birthday, to instead help support me and my effort for Happy Horizons Children's Ranch."
Starting at 4 a.m., Cuthbertson was able to complete the challenge within his 1,000-mile challenge by 2 p.m. and he raised more than $1,000. "My family and a bunch of friends were all waiting for me at the end of the block, cheering me on, as I finished," he says.
A local TV news team caught wind of Cuthbertson's efforts to fight human trafficking and did a news story on him. Slowly, the funds started coming in as the miles mounted - gifts of $100 and even $300 started arriving in his mailbox.
"Then Pastor Ron [McCaslin] called me up to the pulpit two weeks before the walk was over and gave me an opportunity to tell the congregation what I was doing and why," Cuthbertson says. "That Sunday they took up an offering, raising nearly $8,000 toward the goal."
But just when everything seemed to be in place, Cuthbertson's 1,000 miles in 100 days effort was almost derailed with just two days to go. On May 20, as he was running, the tornado sirens began to sound in Edmond. Cuthbertson says he made it home in record time that day, and fortunately Edmond was spared. He would later learn Moore, Oklahoma (just 20 miles away), fell victim to a massive EF-5 tornado and his in-law's home was destroyed.
On Wednesday, May 22, 25 people showed up to walk the last mile with Cuthbertson before church, putting a finish to his 100-day effort and finally giving his fatigued mind and body an opportunity to begin to recover.
"I'm proud of Terry's accomplishment for two reasons," says Marshall Bruner, Compassion Ministries coordinator for BGMC. "First, for his personal commitment to see the kingdom of God advance. Second, for being a positive role model to the children he leads as children's pastor, so they can see a living example of sacrificial giving to world missions. Terry is truly courageous, and I highly commend him for his outstanding accomplishment."
"As of today," Cuthbertson says with some amazement, "we have raised exactly $12,000! It's cool to think that we can take a big piece of the financial responsibility off of the minds of the children's ranch administrators for the next year."
Cuthbertson encourages youth and people of all ages to prayerfully consider following his example and doing something unthinkable for God.
"You don't have to go overseas," he says. "A lot of time the best thing we can do is figure out what we can do right where we're at. I may never go to the Philippines, but I can help the children's ranch right where I'm at, by not only raising money, but opening the eyes of people to the plague of human trafficking that's impacting the lives of so many women and children."
Nina, Cuthbertson's wife, expresses her pride in Terry's accomplishment and his willingness to get up early and walk late in order to preserve family time - yet also include the family when possible.
"We discussed this effort as a family, and I believe it was of God and what God called him to do," Nina says. "I'm very proud of him for doing this. It was hard at times - him being gone - but everybody was on board with it."
She also advises families to do "unthinkable" efforts that can include the children. She explains that on some walks, their kids went along with Terry. "The kids got excited about the walk too," she says. "It makes it that much better and easier when the kids can be (a part of the decision) and involved in some way."
National BGMC Director David Boyd congratulates Cuthbertson on his effort and observes, "Isn't it amazing that one person with a dream can lead others and together they can raise an immense amount of funds to bless kids on the other side of the world! Somewhere in the Philippines, there are girls being rescued who now have a home to go to because of your efforts."As for Cuthbertson, he's excited about what God was able to do through him for the children's ranch and for the healing touch on his life. "I'm nearly 9 months cancer free!" he says. "Praise God!"