Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Perspire and Inspire

It's crunch time.  It is the last few weeks before I take a second 'stab' at the 26.2 miles that wind their way through the beautiful city of London.  Yes, the London Marathon is in 24 days-19 hours and 14 min.  My runs are long these days. The workouts-intense. I find myself in a constant pool of sweat-gross I know, but at this time of year it is also the hottest and most humid. To get me through the long runs and painful strength training sessions-I have been thinking about what inspires me.  I talked a lot about inspiration last year during my training and the race-but I have some new thoughts that are 'running' through my head as I run and work out-here are some of the things and people that are inspiring me through this crunch time:

  • Our staff.  We are finishing our first quarter of activities in our projects-and it hasn't been easy!  But they keep on keeping on-it really is a miracle that we get things done considering all the obstacles-very inspiring!
Taya, Nancy, me and Mercy-The WASH staff (them not really me!)always working hard to bring clean water to our beneficiaries.

  • This little girl in the picture below-I can't remember her name (sorry!)-but she is from Pallakwelleh a village we have done kids Bible school and she was part of it.  I don't see her that often because during the day she works on her family farm...hello, inspiring!
Special prayer time with a special guest!

  • CMP/HOPE pastors-because I am running to raise funds for this program-I have had the opportunity to see first hand how these pastors and community leaders are caring for their communities.  One person can make a huge difference - sounds cliche-but trust me I have seen first hand the truth in this statement!

  • Kids running club:  I know this is a little random but they do inspire me!! They have been working hard to learn how to pace and finish with a kick.  The other week I challenged them to do the 1.6 mile big loop of ELWA between 13:30-14:30.  Anyone who runs knows that to run a specific time is hard to do-but they did the lap in 14:40! So close-and I must admit I was really surprised I didn't think they would even come close to the window of time I had allotted...I know, I know-me of little faith in  my little runners!  Disclaimer: Mother about to brag about  son.  Felix finished 4th on that lap-what you have to understand is that Felix never finishes a lap-he takes the short cut half way around or doesn't go at all-and that's ok I don't want to force him to do a lap (which then leads to a hatred of running) but he doesn't get a Popsicle at the end ( terrible mom!)...However, on this day-I don't know what clicked-as I saw the kids coming I saw Taylor, Nicole and Reed-and there-could my eyes be deceiving me?  Was Felix-he ran his little heart out!  After crossing the finish line he grabbed his side and started to cry-I was so proud of him-in pain he still pushed to the finish-and he got a Popsicle.  Inspiring...

  •  I am constantly inspired by God's creation.  Maybe it's because I grew up in some of the most beautiful places in the world-the Yukon and the mountains of British Columbia-but I love nature.  Being able to run beside the ocean inspires me-the power of the waves makes me feel stronger in some weird way.  Maybe it's that the Maker of the ocean-also made me-and even loves me.  If that doesn't get your inspirational juices flowing I am not sure what does or will!
My 'track'-amazing...

  • I am inspired by every woman out there-that also finds their sanity in running-being able to get a run in between dinners, laundry, working, and just the constant mom 'stuff' is not easy! 

  • I am inspired by the women of Liberia-no one, NO ONE works harder! Getting water in the morning, starting a fire, getting kids ready for school or a day on the farm, working until dark...some going to classes late into the night...

  • David (the young boy mentioned in the last blog) who is getting better a little bit each day.  I am hoping to see him next week.

  • God's Word has always has inspired me-recently someone shared with me a special verse: "I run the path of your commands, for You have set my heart free"- Psalm 119:32.  When I run I do feel free-I don't feel bound by anything-this verse has made me think of the greatest command-Loving God and your neighbour-when you follow this command your heart IS free to love and serve. 

  • I am continually inspired by the people who support me in why I run.  I think of the Pecknold family- I have known for a loooonngggg time :). All the people who have come on a team or visited us- to see and be part of the work we are doing here.  And of course family and friends -who have to listen to me talk about running. all. the. time.

This is not a complete list of course-but these are the inspirational little thoughts that are getting me through a long run or just getting my butt out the door to run!  The Marathon is now 24 days 18 hours and 24 min away. Time to get inspired and get out there and RUN!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Knowing when to stop...

We have all seen those terrible videos or watched it on the news-someone is being robbed, beat up or is laying in the street hurt-and people are walking by, not stopping or willing to help.  When I watch it on the news I am in disbelief-shocked-and angry...I find myself yelling at the T.V. "What would happen if that was YOU! And people were walking by YOU! How would you feel!"  There are other words I throw in there-but you get my point...But then there are other situations when it is not as clear if you should stop and help someone.  I have heard in some places that thieves will pretend to be hurt on the side of the road and when someone stops to help them a gang of thieves jumps out and attacks/robs the very person that was going to help them!  What a messed up place we live in...

Here in Liberia-we face these situations a lot.  You see a person lying on the side of a busy road, people and cars passing by as if they are not even there.  Should I stop?  Maybe they are just drunk and passed out?  Maybe they are homeless and just sleeping?  Maybe...I try and justify why I shouldn't stop instead of asking for wisdom and discernment from God and then acting on it.  Many of our staff have stopped and helped many people-and on most occasions the people are grateful and thankful that we are true to our name -Samaritan's Purse.

For those of you who are not familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan-I encourage you to read it-it can be found in Luke 10:25-37.  A fellow SP staff member, who has studied this passage, shared with us last fall some new insights into this story that have helped me better understand "when to stop".  For example; The Samaritan man that stopped took a risk in stopping to help-there were thieves in the area and he was travelling on a dangerous passage of road.  The Samaritan got down and got dirty-cleaning the man's wounds and then lifting him onto his donkey.  He wasn't scared that the man might have a disease or that he was from another tribe or an 'untouchable' he got down and cared for him. The Good Samaritan committed to taking care of the injured man.  He took him to an inn-made sure the inn keeper understood that the injured man needed care and then left money to cover the costs-he even returned to pay any additional costs that the inn-keeper might have incurred.

The roads that we stop on...
(Photo: Joni Byker)

Earlier this year I told you the sad story of baby Eveleen who died.  We made the decision to stop and help this little baby, but that doesn't always mean that a person will survive.  Alisa took a risk, got down and got dirty and committed to help this little life-but sometimes that doesn't guarantee that a person will live or not be hurt.  Recenlty, we have been faced with another decision 'should we stop or not'...once again Alisa has brought to our attention a little boy of 12 suffering with seizures, his mother has abandon him, no one to get him to a hospital for treatment.  When Alisa picked him up to bring him to the Foya hospital he weighed 17kg...that is 35lbs...12 years old. 

I was talking to Alisa on the phone about this situation, how God had provided funds to help him through some friends, how it just happened that Alisa was in the village and saw this little boy and now here we were and I asked her "Alisa are we ready to commit to this boy?"  Without hesitation we both agreed that yes, we need to commit and follow through for this little boy.

I could give you numerous other examples of how our staff 'knew when to stop', take a risk, get down and dirty with the suffering, and commit to help in whatever way we could.  There is our CMP staff helping protect a spring for a community, CMP staff helping a family whose house burnt down, recently our Foya staff helped a community who were victims of a fire; or stopping to help a woman who was walking to a clinic-suffering through the pains of pre-mature labour.  The list goes on and on.  Knowing when to stop, taking a risk regardless the situation, getting down and get dirty no matter who it is or what they are suffering from and then commiting to make sure they are not forgotten. That is what our SP staff are doing everyday.

Following through on our commitments...
(photo: Joni Byker)

Knowing when to stop-my hope and prayer is that I, you and everyone would have the love and wisdom to just stop and help.  That we wouldn't, like I do sometimes, try and justify why we shouldn't stop.  Take a risk, get down and get dirty and commit-you never know when it will be you, laying on the road hurt or on the side of the road with a broken down car, hoping and praying that someone would just stop and help (remember we live in a country with no road side service and no 911!).

During my long 20 mile run this past weekend I was faced with "knowing when to stop" in a very different way.  Around mile 17.5 I had some pain on the top of my right foot-the more I ran and walked the more my pain went from a 6/10 to a 7/10 and was increasing.  I was grateful for Kim (SP Staff) who was running those last couple of laps with me who encouraged me to stop and ice my foot.  As I hobbled to the porch of the SP staff house Joni also encouraged me to stop and ice my foot before I did real damage and wouldn't be able to run the marathon.  I did not want to stop.  I wanted to push through the last 1.5 miles and finish the 20 miles that was on my training schedule.  However, I heeded the advice and wisdom of my friends and stopped, iced and rested.  I am so glad I did! Knowing when to stop-whether it is to help someone or to help you from doing further damage is something that I don't do enough-and from watching the news-it's something that this world doesn't do enough!

I am so thankful that I am surrounded by friends and SP staff that DO know when to stop-they are making a huge difference in this country and the lives of everyone they come into contact with.  Including their marathon running co-worker!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learning from the past...

Many of us sit around with friends and family telling fun stories about our past.  Or sometimes we talk about tough times in our past and how we got through it-as I get older I find saying "what I have learned over time..."  Really, what I am saying is (I am getting old!) I have learned so much from my past- the tough times, the failures and the successes all of these have impacted who I am today.  But there are times when the past can trap us, make us feel like we can't move forward. Failures from the past can paralyze us in moving forward and stepping out in faith.  Learning from the past and letting the past control us are two very different attitudes.  One liberates us to move forward the other imprisons us in a fear of the future.

The last few weeks my boys, Isaac and Felix finished and presented their very first 'research report'.  Since I was allowed to help them pick their topic and since I LOVE history (history major in Univ.)  I gave them a couple of books on WWII to look through to find something to write on.  Felix picked Pearl Harbour and Isaac to my surprise, picked Adolf Hitler...(I have read Mein Kampf scholarship history Gr.12!).  As I helped them through their reports I was reminded on how the past can impact us.  Even though both Germany and Japan were defeated and suffered great loss under harsh leaders, both of these countries learned from their past and have recovered-moved on and have become strong nations.

Liberia, during the war suffered under poor leadership; leadership that exploited Liberians, full of corruption and sent this beautiful country into years of pain, war, suffering and sent it down to the depths of the human development index-to be rated as one of the poorest and least developed countries in the World. 

A reminder of the destruction of the war

Bullet casings from the war were a common sight when we first arrived in 2005

With the end of the war-the long road of recovery commenced.  I remember when I first arrived in Liberia-hearing our staff talking about how they are 'tired' of fighting-that they had 'learned' from the past and they did not want to go back.  I am very grateful that this attitude has remained constant wherever we go to do projects.  The participants in our HOPE/CMP program have learned from their past and are using those lessons to move forward.  Yes, their communities experienced terrible things in the past 20 years-but they are moving forward. 

They have all learned the war is not the answer.  They have not let the past imprison them into doing nothing. They have not let the atrocities of the past fester into bitterness and revenge.  They have learned that revenge and bitterness was part of Liberia's  past-and they don't want to repeat it. Ever. Again.  Instead they are learning what it means to be a caring citizen of their community, how to help the vulnerable, how to Biblically love each person-no matter who they are or what they have done. How to prevent hunger, oppression and greed from sending Liberia back into war.  This could be some of the most important training that we do.  No matter what happens, the same God that got them through the darkest days of the war-will see them through the challenges of their bright future.

Learning from the past and moving forward: Our CMP/HOPE participants.

I am fighting my past right now in my training. After my first marathon in Dec. 2008, I suffered with an ITB injury that kept me from running for close to 4 months.  In London last year-many of you know that I was struck with a very painful hip injury.  As I head into the heaviest month of training I find myself frozen in fear from past injuries and failures (not breaking a 2 hour half marathon).  The things I have learned from the past races have made me train smarter, stretch more and know when to rest.  However, at times I have let the fears of injury or failure overpower the fact that I finished every race I have entered! I learned that God's strength will get me through.  Him in me-And that made me stronger-that made me confident that no matter what happens the same God that got me through the tough painful moments of running is the same God that will see me through my tough training month-and ultimately 26.2 miles through the streets of London on April 22nd.

Learn from your past-and move forward in confidence-this is what I see happening in our projects here in Liberia.  This is what I am learning from our CMP/HOPE leaders-they inspire me move forward in freedom and anticipation of the future of this country!