CLAXTON — Passion meets missions for two South Georgia teenagers and their parents.
In the past three years Stephen and Thomas Scarboro, members of Eastside Baptist Church, have taken their love of running and biking to create “Miles for Missions.” Their efforts go toward raising money for the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for the International Mission Board.
Thomas, 16, has cycled 3,234 miles. “I was going to do the miles anyway,” he said. “I decided I might as well put them to something and help [educate others] about the [offering].”
Fourteen-year-old Stephen has run 924 miles, including two 10Ks and five half-marathons. “Through that I hope people can see me serving, but not me. I hope they see God kind of helping me doing that,” he noted.
Together, the brothers have competed in seven sprint-length adult relay triathlons, which typically include a ½-mile swim, 12 miles of biking, and a 5K run. They have also competed in several 5k and 4k events individually. Thomas has also taken part in three long distance bike rides – one of 100 miles – with their father, Stacey.
When international missions gets a face
Thomas said he hopes the work put in by his brother and himself will lead others to follow suit.
The exact dollar amount raised by the brothers is unclear, said their mother, Lisa. Some funds were given directly to the family to be forwarded to the LMCO. However, most were donated directly to the offering in the boys’ name through several local churches.
She related how meeting an IMB missionary family from Thailand brought the meaning of the Lottie Moon offering home for the boys.
“There was a year a lot of the missionaries were having to come home because giving had dropped off so much,” she said. “We thought the boys could take what they enjoyed doing – the swimming, the biking, and running – and use that for people to donate per mile.”
Her sons’ effort brought the Lottie Moon Offering to the attention of many. “A lot of people said they had never heard of it,” Lisa pointed out. So in addition to raising funds for the offering, the family came to see the importance of bringing international missions to others’ attention as well.
Thomas hopes his relationship with Christ is being seen in him. “I believe I am going to heaven, and that helps motivate me to talk to others about the Lottie Moon [Christmas Offering],” he stated.
His enthusiasm for biking carries over to helping the “3 Feet Please” campaign. Through it, Thomas and others encourage motorists to be mindful of cyclists. The teen’s part comes through managing the Georgia chapter’s Facebook page as well as Instagram account.
Thomas’s work also includes bike safety booths and magnetic decals for cars. “I don’t necessarily like to be in the spotlight, but I like doing the work,” he said.
Stephen has a computer-oriented mind, having written three cell phone apps. One, “EBC-SignIn,” is used by the church’s youth group. Another, “EasyTracking” is utilized by 4-H. Yet another that was for a former youth pastor is called “SFB Refuge.”
At Eastside Baptist he teaches classes for senior adults and operates the church’s Facebook Live broadcasts.
“If he’s going to do it, he’s going to get it done,” Lisa said of her son.
Behind the scenes, but active
Both teens are homeschooled. Stephen is in the 8th grade but doing 9th grade work. Thomas will finish high school this fall upon completing one final world history class. He hopes to get a business degree from Truett McConnell University and start a bike shop.
Stacy initiated the family into running, biking, and swimming around seven years ago when the youngest family member, James, was born. Soon, all family members were participating in group and individual events. Relay events with different combinations allow them to assign specific roles. In those, the swimming portion is usually done by either Stacey or Lisa with Thomas cycling and Stephen running.
The Scarboros have impacted their home church’s giving efforts, too.
“They are gregarious guys. They are very quiet and work behind the scenes, but very active,” said Eastside Baptist Pastor Matt Brady, who noted that giving has increased every year since the family began its missions giving emphasis. “It has carried over into the corporate giving of the church and they recognize these guys.
“These boys understand that when we allow God to work through our passions they become the tool God uses to reach our world.”
Brady believes the Scarboro family illustrates what the 21st century Church needs to see. Evangelism, he stresses, crystallizes a church’s focus.
“Think about two boys who get on fire for the Lord. They start raising money for missions and the church [notices]. Then people start going on mission, start getting saved, getting baptized, and tithing. They start doing more ministry. Then, they are able to give more. God never works on simple addition. He multiplied .
“This is the key to church revitalization. It’s not some scheme, program, or process. It’s about passion. And, these boys are exercising their passion.”