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Note: This is a follow up article from CFAITH Affiliate Pastors Russell and Cyndi Kalenberg, briefly describing the experience, challenge, and excitement of participating in a race around the world in the CBS reality TV show, "The Amazing Race." The Kalenbergs were eliminated in the fifth week of competition.

Some have asked, "Whatever made you and Russell agree to run the Amazing Race with CBS productions?"

Well, it all started in January of 2001 when Russell began teaching a series on "Enlarging Your Territory," based on 1 Chronicles 4:10. It reads: "And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, 'Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!' So God granted him what he requested."

This scripture went off in both of us—that God wanted to enlarge our territory for ministry. We began to pray for doors to be opened to reach the lost in this end time harvest.

Before we knew it, June came around the corner and we celebrated our twentieth anniversary for both our church and ministry. Feeling the need to do more and to "get out of the box," I encouraged Russell to apply for the CBS show, "Survivor." With his great outdoor skills, I felt it was a way for him to "let his light shine" while I stayed home and took care of the church.

I downloaded the application for him and flew off to Mexico on a mission's trip. I arrived home ten days later to find out that he had made a video and sent the application off to CBS.

A Harley-riding preacher caught their eye, and before we knew it we were in Chicago for the semi-finals. Shortly after our return home we received a letter saying that he was not chosen. We left it in God's hands, knowing that we only want His will and that this door was obviously closed.

Sometime after the events of September 11, I received a call from a sweet lady from CBS productions. She said they had viewed Russell's "Survivor" audition video and were interested in both of us applying for "The Amazing Race."

Before we knew it, we were being flown out to Los Angeles, California, for the final interviews. After three days of interviews, intelligence, and psychological testing we were flown back home to await their decision. After background checks and medical histories were completed, we were given the big answer—YES!

Church Support Was High
Our church members were so supportive. But because of our liability contract with CBS, we were not allowed to tell them where we were going. We could not tell them we were going on a mission's trip, even though that's how we truly felt about it. To us it was an opened door to share the love of God with millions of viewers, plus with the other teams.

We told them, "We have been given an all expense paid trip with one condition—that we cannot share any of the details of the trip until an appointed time following our return. But we guarantee that it will be a lot of fun for this church and an opportunity to minister to many."

We lined up guest speakers and ministers for the Sundays we would be gone, and then off we went with their wonderful prayer support.

On January 2, 2002, Russell and I were flown to Las Vegas, Nevada— the Amazing Race starting point. We were about to embark on an adventure that is hard to put into words.

Knowing that we agreed to be video-taped and "miked up" 24 hours a day, we were determined to not to let the Lord down. Our eyes were not on the money, but on each other.

We knew we could face this challenge together. Our prayer was that we would NOT let the challenging elements force us out of our "love walk." We knew it would be difficult to handle the jetlag, physical challenges, lack of food and sleep, as well as deal with the other teams. We also realized that if, in the process of trying to win, we lose our witness…then we have lost far more than a million dollars.

A Brief Summary
It would take a book to give all the details of this journey, so for now I'll give you a little summary.

The first leg of the race in Brazil took three days to complete, even though the edited version people see on TV is just a one-hour episode. I learned the hard way what the word "rappel" meant, praying within myself all the way down the 600-foot cliff. Each episode brought more adventure from climbing up mountains to hang gliding off of them.

If I had known this trip was going to be so physical, I would have sent one of my three grown sons with their father. They could have done some real damage on this race! But Russell was so patient with me, carrying my backpack the entire way. My job was the "travel agent," getting us through the airports, buses, taxis, and trains, etc.

By the third pit stop at Cape Town, South Africa, things began to get very tense between the teams. Normally pit stops are twelve hours in which you get very little, if any sleep.

Because the "Grannies" were a day and a half behind, we would now be put up in the Winery for a 36-hour stop. By the time we checked in, some teams were well on their way to drinking the Winery dry. To top it all off, we were taken to the attic and told to pick out a thin mat and choose our place on the floor next to everyone.

To say it was hot and smelly with everyone and their backpacks is an understatement. A couple of the teams, including Russell and myself, were trying to get some sleep, while others were partying into the night. At about 3:00 a.m., Will, Chris, and Alex came stumbling up into the attic using unnecessary language.

Not wanting to be stepped on, I spoke up and told them I did not appreciate their language and to please pipe down. It didn't seem to phase them until Russell stood up and took control. You could have heard a pin drop.

The next morning, some teams thanked us while two other teams thought we owed them an apology. But by dinner that evening, we were sharing our testimony of what Jesus has done in our lives with four of those teams. I could see the excitement on Russell's face as he was sharing and knew we were in the right place at the right time.

We Never Quit
The fourth leg of the race took us to Namibia, Africa. This was our favorite leg because it was our first one-day leg. The sand dune was Russell's favorite as he literally pulled me up the steep dune. Sliding down the dune was a big rush. I learned the hard way to keep your mouth shut as you are flying down a sand mountain!

The fifth leg would prove to be our last. On an all night flight into Bangkok, I met a wonderful lady who drew a map for us to find the first clue box. Once there, we chose to walk to the water taxi to find the bird market. We learned that you can ask the right question to the wrong person and be sent down a road of confusion.

Three water taxis later, we finally met a man who knew what he was talking about and made our way to the right water system. By now we realized that we were most likely hours behind the other teams, but quitting was never an option. "Winners are not those who never fail, but those who never quit!" Even when you are faced with a bat cave filled with bats and two-inch beetles, you have to press through and complete the task.

After a very exhausting day of no food and little water, we made it to the famous mat only to hear Phil say, "I'm sorry, you have been eliminated." If someone could feel disappointment and relief at the same time, that would have to be the best description.

The Experience of a Lifetime
The love we felt for each other was so strong. We knew we were pushed to the max and yet the world could never put a dollar amount on what we walked away with—each other.

Psalms 27:13-14 says, "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!"

The aftermath of "The Amazing Race" has been filled with the goodness of God. Everyone has been so encouraging with letters and emails sharing how they were touched by the love we have for one another.

It's the Love of God that truly grows daily for each other as we keep Jesus Christ first place in our lives. We are the "light to the world" according to Matt. 5:14, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

Let me encourage you to "get out of your box" and reach out to a hurting and dying world. Jesus needs to move through you. Don't compromise, because the world is watching your every move. They need to see "the real," not a fake.

Together we can run this amazing race called "life" with God's Amazing Grace! You WIN if you just don't QUIT!

Copyright © Living Word North
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Cyndi Kalenberg
Web site: Living Word North
Russell and Cyndi Kalenberg pastor Living Word North (formerly Agape Christian Center), founded on June 7, 1981. In January of 1983, A.C.C. started services in Brainerd. In October of 1984 we moved into our first building, where we remained faithful and grew over the next eleven years. Living Word North held it's first service in it's present sanctuary on June 3, 1995. Our hearts desire is to minister to the whole family; spirit, soul, and body. We understand that a church is only as strong as the families in it. There is a major attack in the earth today, but with the Word of God on our lips and the Love of God in our hearts, we can stay united and strong. Then we will be able to reach out into our community and the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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