Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Commitment-part 2..."Why I run"

So let's continue our talk about commitment...We have talked about making commitments and how it is a little easier for us to commit to something when we are passionate about it.  In fact-you commit to reading this blog...hmmm can I ask why?  I am guessing it is more than just reading about some ALMOST 40 something crazy, running, mudsling'n mama right?  Let's hope so...

Here is the deal-and as I write this I am scared crudless (trying to keep it PG here) about the commitment I have made...again...the last time I made this commitment it took me on a journey of pain, suffering, tears, loneliness, joy, thankfulness, strength, weakness and more JOY again.  No, I am not going to write another PhD (hit me with something really big if I do), no, I am not going to dip into the adoption pool again and no I am not taking on another job (a dozen is more than enough ;).  I AM however, going to run another marathon...yes, you read that right-even I can't believe it!

The SP UK office was short a runner-and although I was to take a year off-they asked me if I would commit to running again for SP at the London Marathon.  I found my mind saying "Yes, of course!" and my body saying "WHOA hold on a little second there grey matter-do you not remember the PAIN I put you through on April 17th?"  But there I was, phone in hand telling Andy, "It would be an HONOR to run the marathon again for the people of Liberia..."

I have never given birth to a child so I am not even going to TRY and pretend to know what that is like.  But I am sure like the second time you have a child -you know what it is going to be like-how painful and yet joyful it will be-and as my sister has told me "you just keep praying, just get me through this day and to tomorrow!"  Obviously, I have run a marathon-so I know full well what I am getting myself into-which has led me to a place I have visited before.  The town of "What the heck are you doing?" Population- me- and well, if you have uttered these words since reading this-then set up your tent cuz you are a resident!

This commitment, again, has drawn me back to the title of this blog-'ybevruns'.  Why do I run?  Why am I running a marathon again?  How can I get that running mojo again?  As I thought through these tough questions I was looking through some pictures-and I saw it...the Bev who runs and the Bev who does not run...

The Bev that does not run:                          The Bev that runs!

Let me show you some more....
No run Bev= STRESS... 
                                                            Running Bev= NO stress...

And just to really drive the point home to make me realize what running for OTHERS does for me...
Umm....someone needs to go on a run...

The Bev picture above (  This Bev is: tired, gets angry way to fast, is a pessimist, doesn't smile as much as she should, starts to feel sorry for herself, feels ugly, feels like a dumb jock, gets way to selfish, doesn't see a beautiful ocean out her window-only sees the rain and the yucky seaweed...we really don't want to be around this Bev-and I am sorry for those who have to be!!!

I like this Bev better...(the one on the left :)

Now this picture is the Bev who took that run-and continues to run.  She is:  full of energy, lots of smile lines (NO they are not wrinkles!), laughs, is more concerned for others then herself, bakes for people, encourages, is humbled and grateful that God allows her to run, that He brought her to Liberia, He has given her the most amazing two little boys, amazing family and friends, this Bev looks outside the window-rain or shine-and her breath is taken away at the utter beauty and power of the ocean and God's creation.  This Bev, she commits to something and sticks to it. I think you would like her...

I run to be this person-to be a person of gratitude for being able to run- a person who takes her eyes of herself and serve those that God puts in my path every single day.  If I didn't run for these reasons I would be that other, crusty Bev.  This is why I have committed to running the London marathon again.  This is my commitment: To run for those who we serve, the men, women and children of Liberia -still recovering and rebuilding after war.  The need is still here-running the last marathon did not 'fix' all that was broken here in Liberia during the 14 year civil war. 

There is more work to do, more training to be done, more people to serve, more commitments to be made...I know many of you committed to helping last year-and for that you will never know how grateful I am.  But maybe there are some that did not-or maybe you want to commit again-I don't know-but if you do, (link is below) please understand that you are not making a committment with me-but with people of Liberia who struggle every day to make a better life. 

Today is the first day of my commitment to the 2012 London Marathon-to serve the people of Liberia-I feel better already :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Commitment -part 1...'s a big word.  One that should not be handled lightly.  Commitment freaks me out-or as Taya stated "It's my least favorite word!"  For many of us we feel like this turtle when we hear the word commitment:


But we can't avoid commitment-life is about commitment, you commit to relationship, to jobs, to sports teams, to faith-we actually make little commitments every day that we think are just normal decisions!  But then there are bigger commitments that we make that may mean us having to change or go out of our comfort zone. Example, working overseas-I people say A LOT -"I would love to go overseas and work or do what you do...-but it's a BIG commitment!"  To which I answer, 'Yes, yes it is'.  Now, I am not saying that those who say that are just scared of commitment-no, what I am saying is that we often say things we would like to do-but when it comes to committing to it-we get a little shy-scared-doubt comes crashing in like a huge wave over the beach of our brain-we scramble to think of any reason to NOT commit.

Committing to something is like taking that extra step from saying you want to do something to DOING it.  Here are some examples:
  • Saying you want to have kids and then actaully getting pregnant-HELLO COMMITMENT!
  • Introducing your once "friend" to now introducing them as your boyfriend/girl friend (this can still be awkward for some people).
  • Applying for the overseas job-and then getting the job and THEN committing to actually going!
  • Thinking about going back to school to committing to registering for classes
  • Saying you would will like to help the poor to committing to go to serve or give to the poor..
  • Being interested in that car or house to committing to the bank-signing the loan for the car or house.
  • Saying you always thought about running a marathon...and actually committing to training and running 26.2...
You get the picture-there is a big difference to saying and doing and that diffrence is your commitment.  I will admit I am that turtle up there at times-you may not think so but I am.  However, I have found that the more passionate I am about something the easier it is to commit to it-you may be thinking DUH-of course!  So the next question would be 'what are you passionate about' ahhhhh this is where it gets a little more personal.

So where am I going with all of this commitment talk?  A couple of places...first the committment that our staff has, SP Liberia has and I have to serving the people of Liberia.  It is not something to be taken lightly-for some of us it has meant moving away from family, friends and our culture.  For some it has meant working in areas that are challenging, for the villages we work with it means committing to doing extra work to better their lives and community.  But when we do commit-wow the rewards can be life changing!!  For example in our fish pond project-let these pictures demonstrate what commitment of many can do!

SP staff and community members committing to building a fish pond-take up to 6 months of hard work!

A finished fish pond...6 ponds.

The harvest from one of the ponds!  The reward of commitment to a better life-the fish is for the community to use to help the vunerable or sell to buy things like roofing for a church or community building.

When we commit to something -we must be prepared to put in some hard work-but as we can see by the pictures-there is a great reward for hard work!

My last blog entry on fight or flight talked about what are the things that we are willing to stand up and fight for.  Commitment falls into this same column-what are you will to commit to and then stand up for?  I guess there could be discussion on what is first-fight or commitment or commitment then fight?  Hmmmm...I think (for what it's worth HA!) that it is commitment-we make a conscience decision to commit to something then we fight for it.  You may think it's the other way around-and that is ok. 

The next blog entry "Commitment part-2"-this one is a little more personal...and no I am not having a baby or adopting another child! (I know some of you will go there!) Commitment-as with the last blog entry about fighting for something-think about what you have committed to so far in your life...what are you willing to commit to and at what cost? 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fight or Flight...

It's 2:40pm, 1981...I am watching the clock-my ears waiting for the bell to ring.  What am I going to do?  I was passed a note a few minutes before "meet me after school for a fight!".  Do I run home as fast as my little legs and NHL running shoes can go?  Or do I put up my dukes and say enough is enough-no more calling me names-no more teasing me about my looks...ENOUGH!  Fast forward to 2009, Randall Street Monrovia.  A man sticks his hand into my side cargo pant pocket to take my wallet-what do I do scream and run away in fright?  or stand up and fight...

Taya and I have just having fun-she would kick my butt!

Well if anyone of you know anything about me you know the answer to both of these scenarios-which by the way are true stories.  When threatened, the body produces a whack of adrenalin, your heart rate speeds up, blood flows in super speed to your muscles getting ready for your response to either physically fight or run away.  Now I know that we don't experience these extreme situations very often-at least I hope not!  But there is a time when our decision to fight or flight has bigger ramifications than just us getting punched in the nose by a big grade 3'er or getting your wallet stolen.

I am talking about when we decide to fight or run away from serious issues that impact the poorest of the poor everyday.  We see and hear about people suffering with disease, famine, war whatever it may be-and when we do, whether we know it or not, we make a decision.  Turn the channel, say a legitimate "that is terrible", or we say "that is terrible I need to do something about what I have just seen or heard".  Fight or flight...

In Liberia HIV/AIDS is real.  It is also shadowed in secrecy and stigma.  People who are told they are positive don't tell anyone-for fear of being ostracized by their family and friends-or even worse, the church...People run from those with this disease.

SP Blood drive to help those living with HIV/AIDS

Not so with the staff at SP Liberia who are engaged in assisting those affected with HIV in many different ways.  Our staff are fighting.  They are taking a stance and fighting for those who can't.  They help those who are too weak to go every month and get their drugs from the hospital, they make sure that they visit every family that is infected, they make sure that there is blood available for those beneficiaries who are in hospital struggling to stay alive.  My adrenalin starts to rise and my heart pumps when I think about our staff and the people we are helping who have been left for dead.  We will stand and FIGHT-we will not run and pretend that HIV/AIDS is not a problem or hope that a different INGO will take care of 'those' people.  No...that is not who we are called to be...EVER.

Last spring when I was at the Foya hospital we were visiting some of our HIV/AIDS patients.  This little baby caught my eye-a little bundle of "future" right there lying on a little mattress on the hospital room floor...

Beyond cute...

Will I fight for her?  For her future here in Liberia?  If she gets infected will I still fight for her-or will I run.  Run-turn the other way, turn the channel in my heart and mind-and fill my my mind with instant excuses to appease myself-  "There are so many-what can I do?", "It's ok someone else will take care of them"-I am not trying to be harsh-my intention is not for you to feel guilty as you read this.  But ask yourself,  "what do I stand for -what would I fight for?"  We all have our things that really get us going-child trafficking, women's issues, clean water..whatever it is -you know what tugs at your heart-God put that in you-and now it's up to you to do something... 

I run for a purpose-not to run away but to run to-I will run to the hard issues that we fight for here in Liberia.  It may be women's literacy, it maybe helping farmers with their farms, or teaching children about the importance of education-trust me there is a lot to fight for!  I am a runner who likes to fight...and I thank God everyday I am.

Stay tuned on how you can help 'fight' with us, here at SP Liberia...I have a little announcement to make!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

School or Starve...

The beginning of September brings the beginning of a new school year.  Here in Liberia, the roads of Monrovia are busy with little and big kids in their school uniforms heading off to school.  That is the normal scene here in Monrovia-but in the rural areas of Liberia, such as Foya or the Bokomu jungle this is not always the case.  Most children do not get the opportunity to go to school-but the reason is not always that their parents do not have enough money to send them (school is not free here), but it's because they are needed to work on the family farm so they can have enough eat.

Kids working on the farm (photo by Matt Powell)

Imagine you live in a rural little village in the Kolohun district (an area where we work).  You are the mom of 5 beautiful kids ranging from 2-12 years old.  Your family has a farm that is about a 2 mile walk outside of the village.  The area needs to be cleared (trees chopped-bush cut), weeds pulled, rice planted, rice harvested and the process starts all over again.  You need your children to help you on the farm-to get everything done so you have food to eat.You and your husband have to make a decision-what child do we send to school-which ones work on the farm...Imagine if you had to make that decision-what child out of 5 or 3, do I send to school-while the rest of them work on the farm?

This past week I was able to see many mom's in 'school' too.  Literacy classes are well on there way and new classes have started.  These are the moms that work all day on the farm and come at night to learn how to write, read, math and business skills. 

Learning for a better future...(photo Joni Byker)

These women at our CLP classes are the ones that were not chosen to go to school when they were younger.  They had to work on the farm or because they were girls were not given the opportunity to learn. 20, 30 for some 50 or more years later, here they are at a Literacy classes learning what they missed so many years ago. 

Many of our programs assist rural Liberians with income generation, better farming techniques and sustainable livelihoods.  These projects are helping rural families not have to make the tough decision of which of the kids gets to go to school.  These projects help families generate more crops and income which then eliminates the necessity of their kids to work on the farm.  Families can grow enough food to eat and have the opportunity of second incomes to send all their kids to school.

It is my hope that 20 years from now there will be no need for Literacy classes because girls are getting the opportunity to go to school today.  The projects that we are presently implementing are for the future of Liberia-for the children.

As I type this, my little sister is taking a huge step-after being out of school for 10 years and 4 kids later, she is heading back to University to take nursing.  I am super proud of her-it will not be easy-but like the women of Liberia she will juggle the demands of motherhood and school!  As for me, the past thirty minutes or so I have been procrastinating finishing the last chapter of my school work, my PhD.  What a blessing-what an opportunity you, your children and myself have to have access to education.  I will never take it for granted! 

Today as you pack lunches for you little ones or hit the books to study-think of the women and kids of Liberia-who face the tough decision of who goes to school and who doesn't.  Education or Food-I pray that soon these families don't have to choose one over the other. They are why I ran and will continue to run-their strength inspires me to push harder and further everyday.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The LONGEST day ever in Liberia...

Have you ever had those times in your life when the situation you are in is so ZEEDONKULOUS that you can't help but laugh-cuz if you don't you may cry?  Well I had an afternoon like that on Thursday...mercy-mama told me there would be days like this! 

The past week we have had a great team from our home church in Salmon Arm visiting-it is always nice having people from your hometown come to visit-they know people you know, your family, the best place for pie and can give you the scoop on the changes that are taking place back at home.  Well, they were here doing a 3 day- day-camp in Karpie and Kimbolou, 2 of the many villages we work in.  The road to Karpie and Kimpolou is, well, lets just say challenging...There are a couple very, very, steep hills that when they get wet-become slippery, snotty, ice rinks of red and black mud...

After a great morning with the kids of the Karpie and Kimbolou and handing out shoe boxes it was time to leave. One of our pickup trucks left earlier to return to our Foya base- which is about a 20min drive.  When we left we noticed our SP driver (of the truck that left earlier) walking on the dirt trail/road towards us.  My heart sank-either he was stuck or broken down...well I had one right!

The beginning of a long afternoon...

Aaron (the truck, not person-we name all of our vehicles!) had spun out trying to get up the muddy steep hill and slipped down into the ditch (see above photo).  Now the other truck you see, is Sapheria-which is parked on little log bridge-so you can understand the predicament we were in!  Sapheria managed to get around and up the hill to then attempt to pull Aaron up the hill...however, this was not meant to be.  After a lot of smoking tires-and noise-poor Sapheria's clutch went out-thus begun my longest day ever in Liberia...

To make a long story short-we had to wait for two more SP trucks to come and tow Sapheria-(clutch was burnt out) and get Aaron up the hill-it was stuck in the slick mud about half way up.  We took the opportunity to take some pictures while we waited...
Totally posing for the camera!

The next few hours consisted of this: Remember the trucks have names -these are not people I am talking about!
Jo, Alisa (whose flip flops got taken in the truck with the team so she went barefoot for the next 3 hours!) and I.
  • Pushing Aaron up the orange muddy hill
  • More staff from Foya base arrive -Joni, Alisa and I were already there and I sent the team back in another truck, Isaac (not my son).
  • Sapheria getting towed by Boaz (who does not have 4 wheel drive)
  • Esua towing Aaron
  • Boaz gets stuck due to the lacking 4 wheel drive
  • Staff push Boaz
  • Boaz can't tow Sapheria
  • Isaac -the truck-returns
  • Isaac pulls Boaz
  • Esua blow a radiator hose (which sounded like a bomb going off and scared the bajeebies out of all of us!) and it's fan belts bust off.
  • Esua is fixed
  • Staff push Esua-which is towing Aaron..
This went on for about 3-4 truck pulling another, getting stuck, breaking down, mud flying, sweat dripping...

Resting on Esau, which is pulling Isaac-which is pulling Sapheria...

When we were pushing the back tires spit up mud-as you can see my right side was covered!

Despite all the things that went wrong, our staff smiled, joked, pushed and took a bad situation and turned it into a time of bonding through a trial.  We worked together, sweating side by side-encouraging each other-and cheering when one truck would finally make it up a hill.  I was glad I was there-was it frustrating? Yes, of course, but I was with people who I love working with-who put it all into perspective for me.  We travel these roads and trails to get to people who need help, who have been forgotten by others because they dare not travel these roads-our staff go to places that are not always the easiest, rarely complaining, smiles on their faces-thankful for everyday. 

Finally, back at base-dirty, thirsty and tired!

I spent a lot of time in mud growing up as a miners daughter in the Yukon, who knew I would still be 'playing' in it 25 years later in Africa!  Running behind trucks-pushing them up hills made me very thankful that I do run to stay in shape! HA!  A long day turned into an afternoon working side by side with our staff to get a job done.  I am so thankful that I get to share these experiences with great people -great friends-and great staff... To say the least, I slept like a baby that night!