Thursday, November 21, 2013

Running Tired...

I am tired.  All of our programs work on a January-December cycle so we are nearing the end of another year of hard work.  It seems this time of year I need more sleep and find myself yawning more than normal! When I was up country last week I could see it in our staff too-everyone is moving a bit slower, many of our staff are getting sick and everyone is trying hard to push through this last month.  When I came back home I could see it in the staff here in Monrovia too-even my boys are tired and looking forward to a break from school!  This is the time of the year where the rubber meets the road-can you push through and finish strong through the exhaustion?

How I feel...
 What I need to remind myself...
Yes, there is still a month left of trainings, programming, reporting and assessments.  There is still work to get done-and I can't give in and start shutting down.  Sometimes to keep moving forward we need to take a look back and see what has been done-how far we have come, to know that the finish is getting closer!  
 Looking in the review mirror to see how far you have come-helps us push to the finish.

It's like when you are running and you are so tired-the end is in sight but all you want to do is literally crumple on the road and sleep on the ground.  But, when you think about your training, how far you have come and how you will regret quitting when you are so close to the finish-you can't help but to keep running-no matter how tired your legs are.  
The last couple of trips to projects I have had the opportunity to see many of the amazing things that God has allowed us to do this year-the lives that have been changed and the hard work our staff have put in.  Here are some highlights (photo's by Joni Byker and Theresa Blankers):

Well technician Ju and community members with their new well

Community Development Facilitators (CDFs) Andrew and Henrietta in Ngalhun 1 where they live teaching Bible and health lessons.

Literacy classes-teaching women to read, write and do math.

Amara from our sheep and goat program distributing animals to community members.

Cpt. Roy filling up the chopper with Christmas Shoe boxes-taking them out to the jungle to...

kids like this little girl! :)

It's time for the final 'kick' in our race to the finish. It's time to see how much work has been done, to see God's faithfulness throughout the year-and now kick it up a notch to finish strong.  In Hebrews 12:1 the end of verse says "...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." It's a great reminder to keep on the road that God has us on-persevere not matter how tired we are!

Right now I am in the middle of training for an ultra-marathon.  No, it's not a sanctioned race-but something that I have wanted to do for a while.  Run farther than a marathon.  So in January, co-worker, friend and fellow runner, Alisa and I are going to run from Voinjama to Foya.  Anyone that is familiar with this stretch of road knows that not only is it 43.75 miles/70km-but it is very, very hilly!  One of the biggest differences between training for a marathon and an ultra is the back to back LONG runs.  For example-last weekend while in Foya, our training schedule called for a Saturday run of 3 hours followed by a Sunday run of 3:40min. It's long, slow running so I don't get caught up in how fast I am going it's about time on my feet and finishing.  In those 2 days of running I covered 33 miles and burnt over 3300 calories in 6:40 minutes of walking for 3 minutes running for 12-whew!  Our longest back to back runs are a 4 hour run followed by a 5 hour run at the end of the month.  The idea is to get your body adjusted to running when you are tired, when your legs feel like jelly and you mentally have to find a whole other level of motivation.  After a long Saturday run, I soak in a cold bath, eat and drink as much as I can, nap and try not to think about running again the next day!  But you know what?  My body is adjusting-the training is working and just like work, even though I think and feel like I am tired I actually can keep pushing and finish stronger than I thought.
Mile and hour who knows what on my long Sunday run...

I may be tired going down hill to the finish-but there is always someone else with a bigger load heading up hill that is just as tired!

I am so thankful for all the amazing things God has done through our projects.  It has not been easy, but He promises never to leave us-He is with us until the very end.  It is up to me to keep moving forward, find another gear, start my final 'kick' and not give up when the finish line is so close.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Thanksgiving and cabbages...

Many of you may remember some past blog posts about our CMP (Church Mobilization Program) program.  It is one of the programs that I have raised money for through running the London Marathon.  Well, some exciting things have been taking place this year in our CMP program in the South East county of River Gee.

The CMP program in River Gee is focused on educating the local churches' response to those living with HIV/AIDS.  HIV/AIDS is a real issue in Liberia-however, one that is hard to measure.  The reason being that once sick, many people will not get tested in fear that if they are positive -the stigma that may follow would be too much to live with.  In a county where rural health education is limited, many see HIV/AIDS and other diseases as a curse from a witch and not as a disease that can be transmitted.  When patients do get tested the health officials have to take confidentiality procedures to ensure that the name of the patient remains anonymous.

Many victims are left on their own-to go to a local health clinic for their treatment, to find food and to draw their water.  Weakened by sickness leaves them living in extreme poverty with no one to care for them.  But, our CMP program is hopefully changing that.  Through our training, church/community members are educated on what HIV/AIDS is and how people can become infected.  It is amazing to hear the beliefs that some people have on how HIV/AIDS is transmitted!!!  And it is amazing how these beliefs can be erased through education and discussion.

The training is just one aspect-through the training our facilitators work with the church to pick a 'seed project' that will meet the physical needs of these vulnerable people group. In River Gee the church has started cabbage gardens.  The cabbage seeds are planted in a little nursery...

Little seeds are planted in a nursery bed...

When they get this big and all crammed together the get thinned out.

 CMP facilitator Marcus (on the right) and a local pastor/CMP participant thinning out the little cabbage plants.
"Ahhh we can breath and grow!"  All the little cabbage seedlings with room to grow.
When the cabbages get a certain size and start to out-grow the nursery they are transplanted to a plot of land that the community has given to the church to use.  The CMP participants are responsible to clear the area and make sure that the cabbages are planted carefully, weeded and cared for.
Growing cabbages!
So what does cabbages have to do with people living with HIV/AIDS?  Well, the church harvests the cabbages and takes them to the local hospital/clinic where they can be given to not only people HIV/AIDS patients (that would be too obvious who had the disease) but others who are sick and can't farm or work for their food.
I love this program for many reasons, but one main reason is seeing the church physically and spiritually respond to those in need.  If you look in Acts 2:42 onward, we are given an account of the early church-I really love this passage- it's such a beautiful picture of what the church is supposed to be-look at these key verses:

42:All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing meals, and to prayer...
44:And the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 
45: They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
46: They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.
47: All the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of people.  And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
When I visit our CMP projects in River Gee this passage of scripture is fresh in my mind.  Even though the local church has very little compared to our churches at home-they are coming together to care for a group of people that would be left to suffer on their own.  There is a long way to go for sure-but much like the cabbages that start off as a little seed-the seed can grow to something that can be used.
As us Canadians head into Thanksgiving weekend-I would challenge you to maybe 'thin out' your pantry and take some of that extra food to the local food bank or the Salvation Army so they can give to those are in need.  Much like the judgement the victims of  HIV/AIDS face here-let's not judge who we are giving it too or why they need it. But give in the same attitude found in verse 47:"all the while praising God" and look what happened!  48:"And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being SAVED!"
Happy Thanksgiving everyone-enjoy your time with family and friends!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Deep Thoughts while Running...

One question that many distance runners get asked is, "When you run for that long what do you think about?  Don't you get bored?"  Oh my word -Bored?!  I NEVER get bored-my mind is usually off somewhere thinking about something.  So, I thought I would share some random thoughts I have had during my runs lately.  I say random, and yet, these thoughts have helped me clear my cluttered head, put a smile on my face when I am tired and pushed me to expect more of myself and my running.  

Love this...

Thought #1--"I can't believe how many of our SP peeps are running-it's great! They really kicked butt in the marathon and 10k last month.  Cool to see people set a goal and reach it-I love seeing that.  I wonder how the experience has changed them...maybe it didn't?  I should ask...I wonder who will run a marathon next?  We have 4 SP women that have run marathon...that's impressive!  Women are good runners"....(thought fades out to women and running...)

Thought #2 --"I love my new shoes.  New running stuff is the best.  I like how shiny they are.  I can't imagine having them and not using them...I need to be careful not to get so caught up in the cool running gear-and yet, be a crap runner.  Sigh...I may have a cool new Garmin (gift from hubby and buddy :)) and new shoes and even a new running shirt (that keeps me cool-temperature cool) but unless I use it to help me be a better runner and stay healthy it's just a waste of money.  Hmmm...kinda like when people have a new well or new latrines but don't use them.  Unless we use things for their purpose-it's just piece of equipment sitting gathering dust and roaches...Or when people have Bibles but don't read them and take it seriously! Whoah, Bev settle did the love of my new shoes get me so worked up over behavior change and judging...sheesh!" (shaking head...)

My new running toys: shoes bought on sale and the watch a gift :)

Thought #3--- "What am I making for dinner...ugh. (A constant thought for most moms!) Man, I am hungry.  I need to eat less sugar. I love chocolate.  I should cut out all sugar in my diet.  Wait...that's crazy talk.  I will allow myself sugar in my coffee and chocolate.  Wait-that is the only sugar I really consume.  Never mind...I am running that should counter the sugar I eat. Great justification Bev...nice try."

 So true...

There are 3 nuggets for you.  Yes, the last one is just a shallow thought while I plod along-and some are random thoughts that go a bit deeper.  And then there are the thoughts that cause me to take a deep breath of joy- seeing others run, seeing the people I work and live with-who I love - set a goal and reach it.  Through the endless miles of training-through injuries and tiredness, they push through a finish something they never thought possible.  Running has great health benefits.  But in our busy life having uninterrupted time to clear your head and think or just let your mind wander while running can be one of the best unknown mental perks of running. Running boring?  NEVER!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Running...a team sport

Running is usually an individual sport.  You don't need anyone else, really, to run.  You are responsible to put one foot in front of the other mile after mile. However, to be a good runner, and for sure a great runner-you need a team.  A team to support you with words of encouragement of motivation and sometimes a cold water bottle and a package of sticky GU...

With the Liberia marathon/10k coming up in a few weeks and others doing running plans-SP staff have been out in force running laps around ELWA and lots of miles on the road out to the airport.  Alisa and Elizabeth are running the Liberian marathon along with one of our Liberian staff -Josiah (along with other friends/family of SP Steve and Matt and maybe Jamie? :)).  Kendell and Joni are sticking to a half marathon running plan-and Kendell will be running the 10k (Joni is will be at Danielle's wedding as will I!).  It's been great to see everyone running together-and if they don't run together-encouraging each other along as they run.  

As for me-well, I am running but not as far as everyone else!  There's a change eh?  I am running with the boys-and trying to get them into a habit of running but still making it fun.  But for now - my role is crew chief for those on their long 18 or 20 mile runs or 10 miles.  Today was a big day for the marathon runners as they had their 20 mile run.  Kendell and Joni had their longest run they have ever done. Ninety minutes straight-roughly between 9-10 miles.  

We all talked throughout the week about the 'plan' for Saturday morning.  The miles were clocked and posted along the road-and even though we were up late last night-at 5:30am with the cooler packed full of juice, electrolyte drink, fruit, GU's and water- I got up to drive out Alisa and Elizabeth out to their starting point. I headed back home to ELWA to pick up Joni and Kendell and drop them off at the furthest point so that the runners would run towards each other making a little bit easier for me! :)  Here are a few action shots of the morning...

 Cooler ready to rock and roll..
 Getting read for the first water stop for Kendell and Joni

 Water, GU and bathroom break...

God created us as relational beings-so it would make sense that we would naturally take an individual sport like running and want to share and experience it with others. Everyone of the runners commented on how much it easier it is to run with 'someone' -Joni even said if she ran alone she would probably just stop!  

 Elizabeth aka 'Boston' looking strong-oh!

 Alisa-hair and feet fly'n! Just after this point Boston and Alisa passed Kendell and Joni going the other way.
My notes...what time I dropped off each team member and what time I needed to get back to them with water, sports drink and GU.
Joni and Kendell are done!
 We all met at the Total gas station near the airport where Josiah, Alisa and Elizabeth finished!

 The serious shot...

 5 hours after getting up-we were all heading back home-stinky and tired!  (except for me of course!)

 In the end 120 miles ran by 7 people-10 water bottles and around 7 Vanilla GU's.
Driving back in the truck the smell of sweat and hard work wafted throughout and sunk into the seats. It was great.  No matter what the mileage, why it was being run-or that everyone ran their own pace and own time-we all finished together as a team.  God blessed us with great cloudy but cool weather-and overall no serious injuries. Super proud of ALL the SP runners - they work hard, run hard and now they will rest hard!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Battles in the War...

I know, it's been a while since I have updated the ol' blog.  If I was honest-it's not because I haven't wanted to write what has been happening over here-most of the time it is because I have no idea how to write what I have seen or experienced. Life has lots of little battles that we are engaged in everyday-recently, it has felt like I have been losing a lot of them! Much like running, every training run is a battle, some days you want to just quit or you feel that you will never finish the 'war' or marathon.  You get bogged down by injuries, work, heat and humidity or just plain tiredness!  But as I have learned recently, you just keep at it-always keeping in mind the war has been won..

It is easy here to get caught up in the battles that we loose- preventable needless death, oppression, gender issues, corruption, sickness..those are the bigger battles.  The smaller ones slowly build up-inconsistent power, internet issues, idiots in traffic and the list goes on.  I hate what it does to me-get's me down, angry, physically and emotionally exhausted-if you are not careful to recognize that you are riding on the 'struggle bus' you soon will be bumped off at burnout station...

God knows.  He knows all the battles before we even try to fight them-He has known forever and that's why He gave these words to Paul to write in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NLT.

"We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.  This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.  We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but NEVER abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.  

 I am a fragile clay jar.  It's hard for me to admit sometimes (ok, most times) but I am, and I let myself get crushed and how easily I forget that God, the sovereign Creator not only knows every single battle but He is the one where my power comes from! When I do win the odd one I know it's not because of my strength but the strength of the One who lives in me. 

 Little people that make the battles seem small...

We have won plenty of battles, Children protected and taken out of harmful living situations, springs built, children latrines constructed, women and men learning to read and write, an airstrip dedicated, -those are some of the bigger battles we have won.  

 Flying into Foya on the new airstrip!

 On the ground getting ready for the VP to cut the ribbon

It is a war out there my people and if we are not careful we can let ourselves be defeated by the battles that we loose instead of seeing that in the end with Jesus we have and will win the overall war.  The Spirit inspired words of Paul again tell us later on in 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NLT)

" So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever"

Those are not just words in in old book my people-this is God's promise.  Yes, you win some and loose some-but if we keep at it, get back up dust ourselves off, keep moving forward in the strength of Christ and 'fix our gaze' on that finish line we will see things with a new perspective.  The war has been fought and won-and I am grateful to be on the winning side of that war.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The mystique of a marathon…

 Mile 18 and feeling great!

A year ago today I was preparing to leaving for London to participate in my second London Marathon. Friends Joni and Danielle were with me and a couple of days later Elizabeth, Taya and Alisa arrived in London making the SP Liberia ladies marathon group complete!  Many of you donated, prayed, encouraged and supported me as I ran this great marathon the past 2 years-and for that I will be forever grateful. 

This year-in January I decided not run the London marathon.  I wanted to give others the chance of running this great event, one of the major marathons in the world, and I also knew that I would have a crazy busy Jan-March-and although I knew I would get my training in-it would be very hard to do!  However, deep down I also knew that for my next marathon-wherever that may be-I wanted to train harder to cut my time.  You see, I have a little secret goal in my heart and mind that I want to shoot for: Qualify for the Boston marathon...

 Stampede to the water station! 

 Mile 1 got to start somewhere right?  Only 25.2 more to go...

Yes, I know what that means.  At my age-I need a 3:45 time to just qualify-that is a full hour and 9 minutes less than my London marathon time last year!  Mercy!  But there is something about the historical mystique of Boston-the great stories that come out of this monumental race. Unfortunately, this year another story has come out of this sacred race for runners.  

Last week I was (in a very animated and passionate way) talking to Kendell about how excited I was that last Monday's Boston marathon was going to be on TV over here in Liberia.  He tolerates my rambles about running in a very supportive "uh-huh, interesting..." kinda a way.  After listening to me go on and on about marathons and Boston and how I want to qualify - he asked "What is the big pull or desire to run a marathon?"  After I gave him the 'look' that only a wife can give-I explained to him-one athlete to another-the amazingness of a marathon.  Running a marathon like London or Boston-I get to line up at the same starting line, run the same course and cross the same finish line on the same day in the same event-as the world's best.  I think it is the only sport that can happen.  I can't play in the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup (how awesome would that be! :)  Or play a round at Augusta with Tiger.  BUT I can run in the same race as defending London marathon champion Wilson Kipsang and Olympic marathon champion Tiki Gelna and other greats like Ryan Hall, Kara Goucher and many others.

 Danielle with the 'Sasa'!

That is the mystique of a marathon- no bomber can take that away from any of us runners or fans.  This year I will watch the great London marathon and reminisce every turn, bridge and land mark as if I was there.  Pointing out where I first saw Taya holding the Liberian flag, Joni taking pictures-and where I heard Danielle and Alisa shaking the sasa with all their might with Elizabeth cheering-the hugs and high-fives from all the girls and the great fun we had.  
 Taya on the lookout for SP runners!

The simplicity of running-how we were born to-is to beautiful and good for us on so many levels to be threatened or feared by those who want us to live paralyzed in a security bubble.  No way, not me-I live and serve a God to big for that-who has made me to run-who has made me to dream that even little, over the hill me, with His strength can one day qualify for one of the greatest races in the world.

Can't put into the words the joy capture in this photo!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

boys in the bush...

  (picture by Joni)
Last week it we had some special visitors come to Foya.  Not only did we have some youth from our home church in Salmon Arm come, but we also had the SP school kids (Kauffeldt/Laird boys) come up to Foya for a special school field trip.  It was like Youth quake Foya style!  It was great having all the kids together bumping along on the roads to projects.

For me-I love when my boys come up country with me. From the time we arrived in Liberia in 2005 my boys have tagged a long with mom through the jungle of Liberia by road and over the jungle by air.  Just like running, being in the field is something I love doing with my boys.  

 One of our trips back in 2006-broken down in Grbanga!  Are they not sooo cute!

As they get older they understand more about our projects and love being with our staff helping out.  But more importantly, I want them to grow up and realize that serving others is a key to what God has called us all to do.  I want them to be able to see beyond themselves and see the needs of others, whatever it may be.  I want them to love others and be a reflection of Jesus who loves them so much He died for them on the cross.  This is the most important thing I can teach them. 

Here are a few pictures of their time up in Foya...
Isaac was acting in the "Wash your hands" skit-he is sick with runny tummy!

 Showing kids how to wash their hands properly.

 At the protected Spring-making sure he obeys the law of no shoes in the spring!

 Isaac next to a little sleeping baby that he wanted to hold...

 I have no idea...but he loved the little baby's foot!

The boys acted in a skit, illustrated how to wash hands the right away, played games at the Active Fellowship program and visited the piggery with it's new piglets.  

Love this shot of Felix playing the classic 'steal the bacon' (by Joni)

 As my boys get older I find myself wondering what the future holds for them.  I know my time with them is limited to about 18 years and then they will go out on their own-making their own decisions and forging new relationships. As a mom I hope and pray that the things we are doing together now will resonate throughout their life through serving others and making the most of the opportunities that God places in their lives.  Although I love them so much I know God loves them more and has great plans for them!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Monitoring the Heart...

These are not just random numbers.  These are the number of beats of  my heart at different times of the day.  I am a little bit of a running geek, I will fully admit, and I have a heart monitor that I can strap around my chest, tuck under my sports bra-and it syncs with my watch-and VIOLA my heart beat shows up on my watch.  A little heart on the screen beats from a small to large heart at every thump of this important muscle. 52-the beats when I am sitting on the couch ding nothing but moving my finger over my ipad.  71...walking around the house-doing a variety of things from laundry, homework with the boys to making dinner. out time! 

For a little experiment last week, I wore my heart monitor for the majority of the day.  I figure it's the week of Valentines why not check out what my little beater is doing and what causes it to beat faster and what calms it down.  Well...sitting at my desk with little activity-was only about 60-65 beats/min.  However, all it took was for someone to come into my office with a challenge or get an email that frustrated me and BOOM that heart rate jumped!  At times it jumped a full 10 beats/min within seconds!  Apart from the everyday of life-there are other things that really get my heart going-some good some bad.  

 My awesome little heart monitor at work!  58 beats/min at 3:55 pm on a Friday afternoon...

The good things would be like-seeing my boys after I have been up country, the excitement of seeing family after a long year in the field, the pride I feel for my friends and staff as the accomplish great things for God...The bad-could be anything from a taxi cutting me off or someone yelling inappropriate things to me as I run. And then there are world issues... for example Gender Based Violence-or GBV.  I can almost say that this issue almost drives me to the point of wanting to seek violent revenge on those who have hurt, beat, scarred young girls and women.  Don't worry I don't seek that revenge -I don't believe that violence should be answered with more violence.  But it gets my heart rate going-like really going-as in I am about to explode!  Although there are so many abuses against women in this world-yesterday (Valentine's Day) I was able to get my heart rate going in a good way to raise awareness for GBV.

Another organization organized a Valentines 5k run for GBV programs and awareness.  Yes, it was a great day and a great cause and I love running-but you know what made it even better?  I got to do it with my sons.  I got to run with my family and friends who all live in Liberia and see and hear women who are victims of GBV. We have a GBV program this year-along with our other Child Protection programs-led by Danielle and her great staff.

The 'unofficial' mascot of the run!

 I have stated many times on this blog that I run with a purpose-and one of those is to be an example to my two boys, Isaac and Felix.  Yesterday I was reminded that they are growing up so fast and as I ran with Isaac (who led for part of the race and turns 10 today!), I realized that they are not going to be around much longer!  When I saw Kendell and Felix cross the finish line I was thankful that my boys have a father who teaches them how to respect and treat women how God intended them to. To be men who seek after God-and learn about His love so that they may learn what real love is-whenever they are in a relationship with a girl (eek!).  That my boys are surrounded by 'aunties' and 'uncles' that are great examples-of respect and love for each other.
 Everyone after the race-well done!

I saw many of our staff, and was so thankful that we at SP take this issue seriously-that we have put resources towards helping those women that don't have a voice, that have suffered for years at the hand of a violent relationship, for those women and girls that have been raped and for the many women who have paid the ultimate price, their life.
 Alisa finishing strong-the first woman to finish!
 Next was Joni!  

 One of my new favorite pictures...Isaac did so well!

The Word talks a lot about protecting your heart-for many reasons. It talks about how much God cares about our heart and what we let in and out of it.  God wants our heart rate to rise and be active for change when we think about things that break His heart.  Gender based violence breaks God's heart-I am pretty sure of it-it's not what He originally planned for men and women. 

Tired but happy!

Running+great people+great cause= the above happy smiles! :)

If you have sons like I do, teach your sons the importance of respecting women-there is never a good reason to hit a woman. Never. If you have daughters-pray for them-that God would protect their hearts from those who would want to hurt them. What gets your heart rate going?  Hopefully it is running and great causes that you can be a part of!