Journal entry by Vicki Bunke
Last weekend included my second and final “double header” of The Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour where I completed swim #10 and #11 of the 14 open water charity events that comprise the tour. On Saturday, Team Amazing Grace was in St. Louis where we swam a mile in Alpine Like at the Innsbrook Resort. That afternoon, I traveled to Denver where I swam a mile at Chatfield Reservoir on Sunday.
While at the airport Sunday evening waiting to board a plane back to Atlanta, I ran into a friend and former colleague, Chris Jones. After greeting me with a big hug, Chris asked me, “Are you tired?” I replied, “No, but I should be.”
Since May when I embarked on The Amazing Grace Swim Across America Tour, I have been asked that question quite a bit, “Are you tired?” My answer is always the same, “No, but I should be.” So why am I not tired? Why was I able to travel from Atlanta to St. Louis to Denver and back to Atlanta in 48 hours with a few open water mile swims in between and not feel tired? Why was I able to get 4 hours of sleep on Saturday night (really more like Sunday morning), swim a mile in an altitude that is 4000 ft higher than what I am used to, and not feel tired? Why was I able to arrive home at midnight on Sunday night, get up and go to work the next morning and not feel tired?
The answer I believe lies within the landscape that surrounded the Sunday morning swim in Denver. Given that I breathe only on the right side, my view while swimming along the shore was of the mountains. With each breath in between my swim strokes, I realized that it is impossible to look at the highest point of a mountain without also seeing the sky beyond. In other words, my eyes were lifted not just to the mountains, but to the heavens above. This early morning swimming viewpoint made me think of Psalm 121, specifically verse 1-2:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Although the author of Psalm 121 is unknown, when I think of the book of Psalms, I always think of David. During our visit to Israel in November 2018, and en route from Capernaum to the Dead Sea, we drove through the Judean mountains and by the site where David hid from King Saul. For over 10 years, David hid in the Judean mountains from a maniacal king who was intent on killing him. When David lifted his eyes up to the Judean mountains, he didn’t just see a beautiful view. No, he saw his life flash before his eyes. When David looked at those mountains, he saw despair and grief and darkness. Fortunately, however, when he looked at those mountains, he also saw something more. He saw protection. He saw deliverance. He saw safety in the cleft of the Rock. In those mountains, David knew the presence of God. That’s where he drew his strength and courage and fortitude.
That’s what I was thinking about as I swam by the foothills of the Rocky mountains on Sunday morning. I was thinking of Grace and David and Psalm 121. And when I emerged from the water, I looked up to the mountains and remembered where my strength comes from – and that is how I can keep swimming without growing weary. That is why I am not tired.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me, prayed for me, swam with me, and raised money with me along this journey. I have completed 10 of the open water charity events, and I have 4 more to go. A cancer diagnosis certainly causes individuals to look to the mountains and beyond for hope. Our collective team has just reached over $100,000 in money raised to help fund cancer research. My hope is that because of our combined efforts, there will come a day when cancer patients will say, “See those mountains right there? Those, right there. They were the place of my greatest despair and darkness.” But because of research funded by Swim Across America, they will add, “But I conquered them.“
Here is a video of this past weekend: Amazing Grace Tour – St. Louis and Denver
PS – Many people have asked me where they can get a Team Amazing Grace t-shirt. If you would like one, you can order one here: Team Amazing Grace T-shirt
When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
(“Shoulders” – for KING & COUNTRY)