Disciples News Service

Welcome of stranger leads to cooperative community event

By Rev. Jesse L. Myers, First Christian Church Bryan/College Station, TX

Rob Chandler was an avid runner when he came to First Christian Church of Bryan/ College Station in the fall of 2000.  During his seven years as the church’s pastor, he let it be known that daily runs provided some of his best time for prayer and reflection.  His passion for running was exceeded by his compassion for those in need.  Matthew 25:40, “just as you did it to one of the least of these… you did it to me” was known to be the guiding light of Rob’s faith and ministry.

During the summer of 2006, Rob found his passion for running to be helpful once again. A Ugandan student befriended by Rob and adopted by the congregation in 2001, needed to visit his ailing father back home.  Without any financial resources to draw on such a trip was impossible. Rob stepped forward and with his leadership the congregation organized a benefit run for Mark Musumba.  Held on the campus of Texas A&M University in July 2006 nearly $10,000 was raised, more than enough for the trip to Africa.  A significant gift was given his family and the remainder served as an educational fund for Mark, who graduated from Texas A&M in 2012 with a PhD in Agricultural Economics.  Today Mark is working to improve water resources in developing nations while completing post-doctoral work at Columbia University in New York.

But the story doesn’t stop there. 

The congregation was shocked to learn of Rob’s unexpected death during Easter weekend 2009.  While Rob had stepped down as the church’s pastor in 2007, he and his family remained in town and connected to the congregation. By early summer of 2009 it was clear that somehow the best of Rob’s generous faith needed to be reclaimed. Once again his passion for running and his compassion for those in need offered guidance. The 2006 Musumba run became our model.  Habitat for Humanity of Bryan/College Station was selected as the event’s beneficiary because of their methods and also because their work focused on needs felt in the neighborhoods surrounding the church.  Planning for the first Chandler Run/Walk began in August 2009.  A whirlwind of scheduling, resource development, and volunteer recruitment followed.  On a very cold December day approximately 80 people walked and ran on the campus of Texas A&M University.  Approximately $3,600 was turned over to Habitat that first year.

The Texas A&M Baseball team, and its head coach Rob Childress, became solid partners in year 2, providing Olsen Field as the event’s home.  Their participation offered inspiration for the name, “Run for the House.”  Last fall 150 participants joined with A&M student volunteers, church members and numerous financial sponsors from both the church and the community to raise $7,262.  During the past four years the Chandler “Run for the House” 5K Run/2K Walk has generated over $19,800 for Habitat’s local building activities. The event has become a labor of love and a hands-on outreach program for First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Bryan/College Station, Texas!