SUMMIT, Ky. — Amy For Africa tries to follow the biblical instruction of going Wherever He Leads.
Last weekend, AFA traveled to the highest point in West Virginia at the Monongahela National Forest as Chris and Amy Compston completed the grueling 94-mile, three-day West Virginia Trilogy.
This weekend, only seven days removed from a 50-mile run during the second day of the Trilogy, they were running a 5K in “The Yard” at the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) in Summit.
Indeed, Wherever He Leads.
Many of the inmates at FCI Ashland KY, have become partners with AFA after the prison opened the doors for Amy to share her mission.
Jason Griffith, Mentor Coordinator, who in three years has developed one of the top mentoring programs in the federal prison system, embraced Amy sharing her grace story of overcoming 14 years of drug and alcohol abuse.
She informed the inmate population about the Amy For Africa mission that has become the major the fundraising arm for the United Christian Expeditions (UCE) in the Moyo district of Uganda.
The inmates not only listened but they acted.
A mass donation has brought in more than $500 with another $500 expect. And on a crisp Saturday morning in October, with the sun cutting through the chill, nearly 50 inmates ran or walked with Chris and Amy in the outdoor activity area inside the prison.
The 5K run for inmates with other citizens too was a first in the history of the federal prison system at FCI Ashland, according to Griffith.
The inmates did it right, too, with music blaring over loudspeakers and cones set up around an asphalt course, and a rolling timer at the start-finish line. They had water and bananas awaiting the runners at the end of the 5K run and an announcer to hand out awards.
There were even cheerleaders as AFA board members Mark and Beth Maynard clapped and yelled encouragement to the runners as they passed by grinning from ear to ear. “I’m sure it’s been a long time since any of these guys have heard cheers for anything they did,” Beth said. “It was good encouraging them and hopefully they could see Christ in us.”
When the race was over, the winners were announced and given juice boxes as a prize. The winning inmate, a 44-year-old from Cincinnati, finished in 17 minutes and 16 seconds and later asked if he could run for Amy For Africa when he got out of prison in four years.
“I want to run for your organization,” he said. “You’ve really made a difference out here.”
All of the inmates expressed gratitude for AFA’s commitment not only to the mission but their willingness to partner with them.
Amy and Chris coasted to a time of 23 minutes only five days removed from finishing 94 rugged miles in the West Virginia mountains.
“It was my favorite 5K, ever,” Amy said. “I really don’t like running 5Ks but if I am invited I’ll do this one every year.”
Amy said she wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything.
“I’m a little sore and my thighs are feeling thick,” she said. “But this was such a blessing. I kind of lost it (emotionally) when the praise music started playing and we were out here running with them. They have no idea what a blessing they are to us.”
Amy and Beth were the only women in sight at the all-male low security prison.
Eight different religions were represented at the event and the inmates didn’t have to donate to participate, although all of them did.
“My favorite part was after the race when we were able to casually talk to them,” said Chris who said he felt good running. “It was a good chance to meet them personally and hear some of their stories.”
The winning inmate, who sped through the course, has run a sub 3-hour marathon.
“I told him we could run Boston (Marathon) together,” Amy said.
The inmates have been sending individual donations along with the mass donation that was collected at FCI Ashland.
“We have so much gratitude for what they are doing for us,” Amy said. “They are a bigger blessing to us than we could ever be to them.”
Some of the inmates knitted small stuffed animals and clothing that the AFA team took to Moyo last May. They are continuing with that project through March of next year.
After the race, one of the inmates, who hadn’t heard Amy’s story, asked: Did you run in college?
“No,” she said. “I did drugs in college.”
That was her story then but this is her story now: “Wherever He Leads.”