Churches, runners unite for women/unborn children

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PENSACOLA – Nearly 500 runners gathered in below-freezing temperatures to participate in Run for Life, an annual 5K run to support Safe Harbor Pregnancy Medical Center, which serves women facing unplanned pregnancies.

“The race magnifies God and rallies local churches to support Safe Harbor,” said Deedra Miller, the organization’s executive director. Safe Harbor’s mission focuses on the sanctity of human life and sexual purity and seeks to empower individuals to make “healthy, life-affirming choices,” she said.

Micah 6:8 members Richard Murray, Dr. William Lyle and Todd Leonard, president, gather for Run for Life 2024.

“This only happens by our commitment to the power of the gospel to transform hearts, which is woven in the tapestry of every service we offer. Without the local church, Safe Harbor would not exist,” Miller said.

Florida is easily accessible to many Southern states, and it is a state where abortion is still legal up to 15 weeks gestational age. Safe Harbor leaders have seen many women travel to Florida seeking abortions. In 2023, 1,681 client visits resulted in 770 pregnancy tests, 593 ultrasounds, 276 gospel presentations, 45 professions of faith and 183 mothers choosing life for their unborn children.

Run for Life, in its 11th year, is held on the Saturday preceding Sanctity of Life Sunday and was born in the hearts of the men of Micah 6:8 Ministries of Pensacola. “Our formation was inspired 14 years ago by George Grant’s book, “The Micah Mandate,” and our mission coalesces around the cultural pillars of life, marriage and religious liberty,” said Todd Leonard, founding member and president.

Church groups join together to run the race and raise money to save the lives of unborn children.

A group of avid runners were meeting weekly at a local coffee shop to run a 5.5-mile course, stopping each time to pray outside a nearby abortion clinic. “We were weary of just discussing the issue and wanted to, as my hero, Teddy Roosevelt, famously said, ‘Get in the arena,’” added Leonard. Seeking to bring awareness to the issue of abortion and raise money to help educate women to choose life, the group created Run for Life with all proceeds benefitting Safe Harbor. Overcoming challenges of when and where to host the event, unpredictable weather and logistics of timing the race, Run for Life eventually found a home base at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola.

“When we moved the race to Olive, we started to see some stability around the process, organization and fund-raising,” said Richard Murray, Micah 6:8 member and Run for Life organizer. In the past two years, the race has raised about $30,000 and, in its entirety, has raised more than $75,000. It requires about $1,000 for counseling, ultrasounds and other medical expenses incurred to save the life of one baby.

Micah 6:8 men unite in prayer before the 2024 Run for Life to support Safe Harbor Pregnancy Medical Center.

The race relies on sponsorships of churches, businesses and families to help with expenses and is a family event with multigenerational participants running or walking. In addition to Olive Baptist, several other Pensacola churches, NorthStone Baptist Church, Faith Baptist Church, Marcus Pointe Baptist Church, Upper Room Church and Smyrna Baptist Church, sponsored the 2024 run with generous donations.

“The run is a fun and unique way for our church family to come together and stand for a cause that’s bigger than ourselves. As a church family, we see the eternal benefit in teaming up with the other Run for Life participants to attempt to make a difference in the lives of those with no voice,” said James Johnson, pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church.

In January, with temperatures around 30 degrees, race participants gathered in the Crossroads building at Olive Baptist for pre- and post-race festivities, including words from Dr. William Lyle, an OB-GYN who travels the country speaking to churches on pro-life topics.

The run is a fun and unique way for our church family to come together and stand for a cause that’s bigger than ourselves. As a church family, we see the eternal benefit in teaming up with the other Run for Life participants to attempt to make a difference in the lives of those with no voice.

James Johnson pastor, NorthStone Baptist Church, Pensacola

Tim Hunter, minister of young adults at Olive, gave the opening prayer before the race and stated that he tries “to rally around this event” and was encouraged to see more than 100 Olive members participate.

“We believe the culture will change when the Church stands for the unborn and other issues of the day,” added Murray. “Protecting the unborn is the first step to getting back on track. We are all made in the image of God, and the destruction of that is the goal of Satan.”

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