Eliza Fletcher was a dedicated runner from Memphis who had qualified for the Boston Marathon. Her devotion to running motivated her to get up early and train diligently.
Early on a September Friday morning, she went on a run to start her day. Perhaps you’re familiar with the story by now – she was allegedly kidnapped, reported missing, and her body found four days later. The Commercial Appeal reported a suspect had been taken into custody, a man who had been released from prison in 2020 after a lengthy term.
Fletcher and her husband, Richard, were active members of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis. The day after her body was found, the church tweeted: “… Please pray for her family and the Memphis community. We’re seeking shelter in the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort whose Son is the blessed hope of the resurrection and will at the Great Day heal us and our world…”
The Christian Headlines article said that the Senior Pastor of the church, George Robertson “…described Fletcher and Richard as ‘both very active and great leaders in our congregation.’” He added, “… what’s most important at this time is they have a very deep and profound trust in Christ, who they have leaned on throughout their lives and who has made a real significant impact on each of them personally.”
One week after her abduction, an event called “Finish Eliza’s Run” occurred. The Commercial Appeal reported:
“I know you need this, and I know Memphis needs this. I know we’re stronger together. And I know none of us are alone,” Charlie Hayden, one of the event organizers, said at the start of the event. “Start your watches, turn your lights on. Get your GPS, get your buddy. If you didn’t come with one, make one.”
Spectators lined parts of the 8.2-mile course, holding signs and candles. Memphis police blocked traffic on eastbound lanes of Central Avenue for the run.
“Running for those who can’t” was a common refrain throughout the morning. The story noted that running groups across the country remembered Fletcher during their early morning runs.
Eliza, also a mother of two, taught Pre-K at St. Mary’s Episcopal School. The article notes, “A video of her singing ‘This Little Light of Mine’ to her students went viral following her abduction.” The New York Post reported the song was used in her funeral service, sung by a children’s choir.
That article also stated:
An online obituary described Fletcher as “devoted” to her work and her students. “As with everything Liza took on, she nurtured and cared for her students with her whole heart,” the obituary said. “A strong believer in the importance of personal growth, she was not afraid to be vulnerable. To the contrary, she embraced it.” The obituary also said she “modeled the Christian life and trusted in her unwavering faith.”
Paul Batura of Focus on the Family wrote in The Daily Citizen: “America has become a more violent and dangerous place for many reasons – but especially because more homes and families are more broken than they’ve ever been.” He added, “Studies show rapists often feel worthless, suffer low self-esteem, are loners (both physically and mentally), and were sexually abused when they were young.”
Batura noted, “Eliza has found her rest with the Lord, but as believers, we cannot and must not grow weary while advocating for policies that will strengthen families and produce healthy children and adults destined to help and not harm. In the meantime, our hearts break for this family, and we call on Him to bring comfort where there is sorrow and grief.”
Eliza was running her race – training as a physical runner and running the Christian life. In response to her death, people took up the baton to “Finish Eliza’s Race.” We can ask ourselves: when someone we know and love is sidelined, who will pick up his or her baton? We can also consider if the legacy we are leaving will inspire others to emulate us and carry on what we have stood for.
One of the challenges of the Christian life is to model Christ in a manner that would motivate others to live in the same way we do. Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus to be imitators of God…and that can inspire to have that sort of confidence in our own walk.
In this troubled world, the answer to crime issues comes through the changing of human hearts. There are spiritual forces at play, and through prayer and biblical truth-telling, the Church can address cultural issues that are destroying lives. We can seize the baton, be responsible for acting, and respond biblically when we see the erosion of the expression of biblical principles.