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Siblings Do STL Challenge for Missions, for Dad

Moriah and Seth Respondek have raised more than $21,000 for Speed the Light to support missionaries and honor their dad.
When Lucas Respondek took his daughter, Moriah, to grade school gymnastics classes, he might have laughed if someone had told him those classes would one day be used to honor him or be connected to raising more than $20,000 for missionaries.

“We signed Moriah up for the gymnastics class because all her other friends were able to do cartwheels at the time and she couldn’t,” Tammy Respondek, Moriah’s mother, explains. “So, Lucas often took her to class and that’s one of the first skills she learned.”

Since that time, Moriah, now 14, has continued to be involved in gymnastics, which helped her to make the Jackson (Missouri) High School varsity cheer squad as a freshman.

But it was at a youth convention two years ago that God spoke to her heart. She saw a video talking about the One in One Thousand Challenge — doing one thing, one thousand times to raise $1,000 for Speed the Light (STL). STL is the Assemblies of God missions program for youth that meets transportation and communication needs for missionaries.

Moriah spoke to Danny and Tanya Wilson, her youth pastors at Bethel Assembly of God in nearby Cape Girardeau, about the possibility of her doing something like that for STL.

“I told her she loved gymnastics, so she should probably do something with that,” Danny Wilson says. “So, she decided to do 1,000 cartwheels to raise money for missions.”

Not to be outdone, Moriah’s brother, Seth, now 12, decided he also wanted to participate. As a goalie for his club soccer team, he decided to block 1,000 balls for missions.

So, with the full support and ongoing help of their parents, Moriah and Seth started getting pledges and preparing their bodies for the physical challenges that faced them.

But no amount of preparation could have readied the family for what it was about to face.

Lucas, 44, loved family time. He was active and involved in his family’s lives and was a continual source of encouragement. He also did what he could to help Moriah and Seth prepare for their individual STL challenges.

“It was two weeks before Moriah’s challenge, and when we got up that August Sunday morning, Lucas said he wasn’t feeling well,” Tammy recalls. “He started having chest pains, so we decided to be safe and go to the ER.”

Up to this point in his life, Lucas was by all accounts, active and healthy — in good physical condition with no history of heart problems.

After they arrived at the hospital and checked Lucas in, Tammy says she was already thinking ahead about how long it would take to fix whatever was wrong with him, when to go back to pick up the kids so they could see him, how long before he could go home . . . .

“When the doctor came out and said, ‘We couldn’t revive him,’ I went into shock,” Tammy says. “Revive? What did they mean, revive?”

As she struggled to comprehend Lucas’ death, one of the prayers she remembers praying is for God to make sure that her children’s faith was not hindered by the tragedy. When friends brought Moriah and Seth to the hospital, Tammy broke the tragic news to them there. But when she did, despite the tears and sorrow, an overwhelming peace suddenly settled upon her.

“It was the peace that completely passes all understanding,” Tammy says. “I knew in that moment, even though I did not like what was happening, that it would be okay.”

And it has been. Despite the ongoing heartache and grief that accompanies the loss of someone so deeply loved by — and vital to — the family, God has made His presence known in their household.

“I told the kids that if they wanted to back out of their challenges, everyone would understand,” recalls Danny Wilson. “But Moriah came back and let me know, not only was she going to do it, she was going to do it in honor of her dad and his memory.”

Seth agreed. Together, the two raised more than $4,000 each for STL last year as Seth used the help of a local college’s women’s soccer team to complete his goal.

“I don’t want the only reason that someone can’t go tell others about the good news of God is because they don’t have a vehicle,” he explains.

“I prayed desperately that they would continue to serve the Lord,” Tammy says. “God has answered my prayers. Moriah and Seth want to go to church more, they want to raise more money for missionaries, they want to read the Bible more, they want to invite more people to church — God has given them the bigger picture . . . they understand while here on Earth our job is to bring glory to God with our lives.”

Moriah agrees. She says that God has drawn them closer to Him and He has continued to place a call on her life to one day become an elementary school teacher.

Wilson says that the Respondeks have inspired other students to raise funds for STL and that last year, the youth group set a record, giving more than $13,500.

This year, however, Moriah and Seth have decided to take their efforts up to a whole new level. On March 30, Moriah did 2,019 cartwheels for her father and to raise money for STL.

“It took me about two weeks before I wasn’t sore,” she admits with a laugh about her 4½-hour effort. “My wrists and legs got pretty sore.” Seth will attempt 2,019 blocks once the college team returns this fall. He anticipates similar pains from blocking and crouching for about four hours. But together, the pair have already raised more than $13,000 this year for STL — more than $21,000 since August 2018. Their efforts have also resulted in Wilson already having to reset the youth group’s 2019 giving goal twice this year.

Moriah’s and Seth’s efforts can be placed at the feet of their father, for the life of encouragement he led before them; and their heavenly Father, for His continued demonstration of love and caring for each of them in the most difficult of times.

“They understand this is their way of making a difference,” Tammy states. “It’s also their way of honoring their father — I know he’d be very proud.”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.