Austin Spence is a religion student in his sophomore year studying at Belmont University. Spence is passionate about his major in school but also is proud to be a part of a Christian ministry called Young Life that serves middle school, high school and college students. Spence is also in his last few weeks of training for his first marathon in Nashville on April 30.
Spence is moved to pour into others in the same way that his own mentors have poured into him and also desires to be exercise-inclined, whether it’s running, competitive sports, or Frisbee with friends.
What are some of the things that captivate and move you?
“I think one of the top things is being able to give people joy. I think a lot of that is what I do in Young Life. That’s one of the factors that allows me to step into being real with students.
Feelings of accomplishment are definitely another thing that captivates me. I love to feel accomplished, whether that’s in sports, learning a song, or anything else. There’s nothing like being able to see something I worked really hard on and then being able to sit and be satisfied with it.
Also, I want to mention I was captivated by the view of the Annapurna mountains when I was in Nepal while on a Young Life mission trip; I was able to see God’s glory and the creation and to be able to sit in that was something that really swept me off my feet and physically silenced me—which has never really occurred before.”
Why do those things give you life?
“With giving people joy, it’s the idea of giving out what I’ve already received. I feel like I get a lot of joy from others, and it’s selfish to keep that bottled up inside me if I have the capability of doing good for them. In that sense, it’s kind of humbling to do something for someone else that’s already been done to you.
In terms of feeling accomplished, there’s just that certain satisfied feeling—like for me after giving a speech in speech class or what I’m hoping to feel like after this marathon. The ability to look back and know that you were able to accomplish such things is kind of a big deal, and I put a lot of weight on that.
Then with seeing the views, I think we overlook the idea of nature and don’t think to stop and notice what God has already created. People look to find God in so many things, but I don’t think I’ve really done a good job of looking for Him through His creation and through nature itself. When He reveals himself in that certain way it’s almost overpowering to a point where I can do nothing but just praise Him.”
What are ways you seek to make an impact in the world around you?
“I think, first and foremost, is just [being a part of] Young Life in general. I think that’s directly putting me in a spot to impact youth. Being a role model for the kids that necessarily don’t really have someone to look up to, whether they admire the fact that I’m a Christian or not, is so important to me. The least I can do is just be someone who shows them love. I’m also studying the Bible which is not really sought after in colleges and in the workplace, so I think through that I’m showing that I still find joy and am happy with what I’m doing.”
What is Young Life all about?
“Young Life is a high-school Christian ministry that is centered around finding the furthest-gone high school kid- the one who doesn’t talk to anyone or the one who is the most popular but deep inside is still broken. So we try to reach as many people as we can so we can share the gospel and create relationships. We meet with kids at high schools, we hang out with them, we go out to eat with them, and we create these relationships with them. We also invite them to come to “club” where we sing, dance, and play games for a while and at the very end we get to share the gospel with them. This is how we invite them into the life that we’re all living and the life that we desire them to know and love as well.”
Tell me about your journey with Young Life.
“I got started in Young Life when I was in high school. I had leaders pour into and show me that people can be genuine and nice. They showed me that they’re with you until the end, and they want the best for you. I had a mentor like that in high school which really paved the way for me to see what Christianity was. He really showed me how much of a leader I can be. That encouraged me to be a leader as well.
Not only do I want to do the same thing for others that he was able to do for me, but I really want to do something that’s above myself and for the glory of God instead. Getting started with Young Life was mainly to be able to share the Gospel with kids in a way that they won’t hear in church. It’s definitely where I find my ministry and where I feel accomplished. It doesn’t really matter whether I’m talking to a lot of kids or whether or not a lot of people are coming to club—that’s not where I find my value, I guess. I find it in the fact that I’m sharing the Gospel the best that I can and just loving these kids and desiring for them to know Jesus”
What role has exercise and sports played in your life?
“First and foremost, I’ve always loved sports. At Belmont, many people are blessed with musical ability, but I’ve definitely been blessed with athletic ability. I’ve loved sports all my life. Growing up it was always for the feeling of accomplishment. I loved to play; I loved working hard.
My main sport was soccer, but I also played lacrosse, basketball, tennis and swam in the summers. It was fun, and I got to do it with friends a lot. I think that’s all continued throughout my life so I’ve never had a problem with body image or anything like that until I got in college where I wasn’t playing sports everyday. I’m still eating the same way, but I wasn’t playing or running as much. I had to stay in shape somehow, so I decided to start running.
The main benefit is keeping my body in shape. But secondly, there are days when I’m just in an awful mood and need to get away and blow off some steam. Running is definitely one of the easiest ways to do that. And I know my body image isn’t everything, which is a good thing to keep in mind when I’m eating like three bags of potato chips and jelly beans… But seriously, fitness doesn’t take over my life to a point where I’m unhealthy. Through exercise and sports, I’ve always had a way of bettering myself whether it’s in my mind, as a team player, as a leader, or just physically.”
Tell me about the marathon you’re training for.
“The marathon is April 30, and I signed up and started training last fall. Trevor, my really awesome close friend and mentor, decided to run and train with me as well. Training with someone else been not only helpful to be with someone while you’re running to continue to spur you on, but it also opens up a lot of doors to talk with one another and just be real. During the week, we run 4-6 miles and save long runs for the weekends. We’re going for a sub-four hour marathon. which is around 9:15 per mile. We’re not necessarily eating the best that we could. But on the days we don’t run, we’re usually playing racquetball or something fun to keep our fitness up.”
What do you feel this accomplishment will do for you?
I think it will continue the feeling of being a competitor, since I haven’t been able to play sports for a while. I think crossing the finish itself on race day will probably be something that Trevor and I will share together for a long time. But, also I think the biggest thing is that feeling of accomplishment—and this will be a huge one! It’s not something we’ll be boastful about but it will be something we endured a lot for.
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