Crossing the Finish Line: In Honor of Orville Rogers

Crossing the Finish Line: In Honor of Orville Rogers

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Orville Rogers started running when he was 50 years old.

He read a book about the importance of aerobic exercise and started running the very next day. By the time he was 100, he had logged more than 43,000 miles. He earned 18 world record titles … after he turned 90. Not many have the years, or the stamina, to live the way Orville did.

A Race Well Run

Orville was inspired by two things when he was only 10 years old: his new faith in Jesus and the transatlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh. But it would be many years before he saw those passions merge.

After graduating from the University of Oklahoma and recommitting his life to the Lord, he went on to seminary to pursue a career in vocational Christian ministry. But when World War II broke out, he saw that God wanted his service in a different arena—the Army Air Corps.

“I never asked God for a long life, or fame, or riches.

And he’s given me all three. And I’m happy to be where I am.

I’m delighted to be where I am.”

— Orville Rogers

Flying soon became an integral part of Orville’s life. After serving his country, he flew for commercial airlines for the next 30 years. During that time, he met William Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

That fated meeting in 1965 propelled Orville into service with the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) for over 50 years. He ferried 46 missionary airplanes to places where they were most needed: 20 in the United States and 26 in South America or over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—quite a feat when some were single-engine airplanes!

A Life of Generosity

When Orville wasn’t flying, he was investing, and giving … to the tune of $35 million in his lifetime. He had been a generous supporter of numerous Christian ministries, including Seed Company.

“Save all you can, invest all you can, give all you can. I can’t pin it down any closer than that,” Orville said.

For everything in life—from giving to running to living out his faith—Orville’s advice was simple, and he practiced what he preached. “It’s not difficult to remain disciplined if you have a deep-set conviction in your heart that you are a child of God, saved by the efficacious death of our Lord Jesus on the cross. That’s the primary prayer of my life … that I would live well for Jesus as long as he gives me life and breath.”

As a token of their support, Nike gave Orville running gear that he proudly wore through the years. But he was particularly fond of a custom pair of running shoes designed by Dank & Co. for his 100th birthday. Inscribed on the tongue of the right shoe is the address of his favorite verse:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. — Hebrews 12:1–2 NLT

On Thursday, November 14, 2019, Orville crossed the finish line into his Master’s glory.

He was surrounded by family as he celebrated his homecoming, just two weeks shy of his 102nd birthday.

Thank you, Orville, for inspiring us—for running your race well and finishing strong.

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