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SJO grad and spiritual runner Jolee Paden, appointed director of operations post

Jolee Paden, who graduated from St. Joseph-Ogden High School in 2012, recently accepted a new role that will take her to the other side of the planet. Her new title and role as Director of Operations for Southeast Asia FCA will take her to Malaysia in a leadership role that offers an extraordinary opportunity to experience other cultures and promote the Christian organization's mission of leading "every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church."

She wrote on Facebook:

This wasn't in my "plan," but what good thing ever is? It is hard to imagine leaving my DC fam for now, but it is clear to me that God is moving me into this new opportunity. I would love to share more with you if you want to hear it!

Of course, we had to spill the beans on this SJO grad's amazing journey.

In Malaysia, she will be working with the Vice President of the Southeast Asia to pioneer and strategize for sports ministry across the 11 countries of this region for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

"Much of my role will include recruiting, hiring, training and mobilizing staff in their countries," she said via an email interview. Her territory covers Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. "I will be doing a lot of traveling across Southeast Asia and frequently coming back to the States. In many ways, I will create a bridge between these two places."

While at SJO, Paden ran both cross country and track for the Spartan program. Her best time in the two-mile distance was 12:02 and she cruised the three-mile course to a career best 18:49.

She said the lessons along with her relationship with her teachers and coaches in high school help paved the way for her to enjoy an exciting career. Many of her teachers were special but one stood out in the conversation.

"The feedback from Ms. (Susan) Pensinger in my English and Journalism classes challenged and encouraged me," Paden said, who later wrote and published her first book while a sophomore at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. "We still keep in touch today with letters here and there."

Then, there was running Coach John McDannald.

"(He) invested in me as first a person before the athlete," she said. "In FCA, we train on 3-Dimensional Coaching. Coach McD was training me to be a 3D Coach before I even knew what that meant.

He used running as a tool for learning about our ourselves and life."

After volunteering at the Champaign-Urbana FCA Power Camp over the summer, she helped launched FCA at SJO her junior year.

Paden is glad she grew up in the tight-knit community of runners and friends in St. Joseph. "I'm grateful to have grown up there and continue to have those roots to always go back to in places and people," she says. "My community in SJO continues to be a vibrant source of support for me -- relationally, prayerfully and financially."

Jolee Paden runs the course at the 2011 Cow Chip Classic. Helping the Spartan girls win this year's team title, the senior distance specialist ran the three-mile course in 20:04 finishing in second place in the Number 2 runner race. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
Sometime later this year near the later part of 2020, Paden, who graduated from college back in 2016 with a dual degree in Business Administration and Recreation Leadership and Sport Promotion, will move to her new home in Malaysia. With a population close to 30 million, the country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Fifty percent of the population are Malay, with a large number of Chinese, Indians, and indigenous peoples, who are the minorities. Islam is the country's established religion, but the constitution there does grant the freedom of religion to non-Muslims.

"I will be working with the Vice President of the Southeast Asia to pioneer and strategize for sports ministry across the 11 countries of this region," Paden said. "Much of my role will include recruiting, hiring, training and mobilizing staff in their countries. I will be doing a lot of traveling across Southeast Asia and frequently coming back to the States. In many ways, I will create a bridge between these two places."

To hit the ground running, Paden said she has regular ZOOM meetings with her new team in Southeast Asia. She is looking forward to meeting everyone in person.

"I am both nervous and excited to be in a completely new environment and culture," she said. "You learn new things about yourself in new places, and I believe this will be no different. Also, I have heard the food is amazing."

She her tenure with FCA at George Washington University in January of 2018. Almost 20 months later she transitioned into the Collegiate Director role where she was responsible for building and maintaining relationships across the eight universities in the Washington, DC, area.

"During my time, we launched a new FCA student ministry at GW. The students now meet weekly in a large group and small group Bible studies based on sports team. I volunteered as an Assistant Coach with GW cross country and track team," she said. "Before the season ended this last spring semester, I took on a Character Coach role for the Howard University softball team."

Jolee Paden runs to a 14th place finish at the 2011 Spartan Classic. Paden crossed the finish line at 11:48.0. Host St Joseph-Ogden finished third in the overall team standings with 164 points. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
With her promotion and shifting focus on her new roll in an office over 9,200 miles from St. Joseph, a new George Washington FCA staff representative has taken over her responsibilities and now oversees the George Washington chapter working with a group of helpful local volunteers.

After high school, Paden's running career blossomed. As a collegiate runner Paden competed in both cross country and track & field. She earned All-ODAC Second Team recognition in three consecutive cross country seasons from 2013 to 2015. She was also named to the USTFCCCA All-Academic Cross Country Team in 2014 and was honored as Royals Athlete of the Week that year.

It was during that time she penned her first book, Spiritual Runner: A Runner After God's Own Heart and self-published it in July 2014. She even created a website to promote the book.

"I just finished my sophomore year of college," she stated. She explained how the idea started much earlier while she was in high school. "But, I did most of my writing during my spring 2014 semester abroad in the Middle East.

Rather than going through an extensive publishing process, I decided to self-publish. It was more about the words being written than any publicity or attention it would get."


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