In the Case of the Athlete

A spotlight on Lyssa Loeffler 

Lyssa Loeffler was my first roommate at the Institute for G.O.D. International. I still remember the pink capris and Chaco sandals she wore on the first day we met, and the bond we quickly formed. I learned quickly that she was a gymnast, her muscle tone and gait reflected as much, but I learned over the first semester that she possessed an even more impressive strength: a diligence which accompanied every task she faced. I don’t think I have ever seen her intimidated by a challenge. I think of her when I read 2 Timothy 2. Paul urges Timothy to fulfill the necessary work of following Christ, equating it with suffering, but then qualifying the suffering as something similar to a committed soldier, athlete, and farmer.   

2 Timothy 2:3-5 Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. In the case of the athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules.

Lyssa is an exemplary mother to many in our community. She takes care of her four kids with a constant smile. 

Lyssa's teaching style matches her own self-discipline. She expects students to walk according to the rules, to do the right thing, and to be diligent with one of the most important things a child needs to learn: how to read! 

The athleticism that marked Lyssa’s life transferred into her walk with Christ, and I think it’s something we all need to learn from (Paul apparently thought so too). Like a trained athlete, Lyssa competes according to the rules--she works hard to study God’s Word and follow it’s instruction. She doesn’t complain. She stays fit, in life and in Christ. When things get challenging, she still sticks her landing.

This year was one of the only times that I’ve seen Lyssa weak. (Now, Lyssa’s weak is like an average person’s normal or even good day.) Nonetheless, some unidentifiable health concerns left Lyssa in need of prayer and assistance. She called on her friends, telling them how she felt—exhausted, weak, and not able to do her full day’s work. Together, we prayed, lifting her up by helping to carry certain burdens, like offering playdates for her kids or making the occasional meal. She welcomed the help, but also continued competing on a balance beam of being a mother of four, a teacher at the Academy for G.O.D., and a wife to a much-needed and highly-skilled member of our organization—seamlessly. Despite her husband’s long hours, or the challenges of teaching young children at work and home, I never saw Lyssa get entangled in everyday affairs--like anxiety, or even a bad mood. There’s simply not room for that in the rulebook of following the Lord, so she didn’t do it.

Lawrence Ssemakula, who helps with the children’s program, was thrilled to receive the curriculum: “The curriculum has been so relevant and applicable to our children. It's very practical and the activities make learning very meaningful and full of fun as well. It's way beyond Sunday school classes, it's teaching children values that are needed in their daily interactions at home,community and school. They enjoy drawing pictures, singing and acting out things they have learnt. There's so much fun and the class is very interactive."

What truly touched me, however, was this one particular evening. I sat across from Lyssa at our East Africa team meeting where we discussed the finalization of individual projects we had committed to for those we serve in Uganda. Some expressed their difficulty in meeting the project goal they had set out to do. Others let the group know it was still “in process,” or that the project was bigger than they anticipated. Then Lyssa nonchalantly told us, “My project was helping our cooperatives offer their kids a biblical education. Alyssa and I created 25 lessons to be used in their Sunday children’s program. They were hand-delivered to the teacher last month.” She was the only one in the room that had already accomplished her task well before the August deadline. By August, she will send 10 more for a total of 35.

The children of our cooperatives in Africa are learning the same value lessons that are core to our curriculum at the Academy. It is truly a special thing for children to share a language about how they can please God! 

A few months before that, our African cooperatives shared with us that while they were grateful to be learning the Bible, they were concerned that they hadn’t yet figured out how to transfer the lessons of the Bible to be appropriate for their children. While the children are all in school, they were not receiving a biblical education, and their parents were concerned for their development in the faith. Because of Lyssa’s faithfulness, the children are learning the Bible, too. Each Sunday they have a special time together to learn what values set them apart, and how they can be pleasing to the Lord. It’s a very special thing to have a unique curriculum, custom made for your needs and taking into consideration your culture. What a gift!

A soldier, a farmer and an athlete understand hard work. The work is shared by a broader network, and there is some suffering involved, but when you’re a soldier, a farmer, or an athlete the word “suffering” doesn’t diminish your commitment to the task at hand. Lyssa’s diligence despite hardship is to me, an example of what Paul wanted from Timothy, and what God wants from all of us: Share in the suffering like an athlete. Don’t get entangled. Compete according to the rules.