The title closely resembles gifts that some cultures believe in giving to the new bride and groom, hoping to bring luck to the newlyweds; it also has some similarities with this writing. My parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. God willing, I may get there one day. I realized my involvement in bringing justice for the young girls being sexually exploited in Cambodia has been a gift to me and is a commitment like a marriage and will be a lifelong process.
These thoughts came to me on two different days: December 24 and December 31. They came to me as I ran down what I call my 'ravine'.
I have three different types of runs. The treadmill run is not a lot of fun. This run is like work, but it serves a purpose. This run strengthens my legs and changes things up a bit. It also helps to build speed and helps me in overcoming obstacles when I run a race.
The day of the race is the next type of run. I used to look so forward to this day. At each race my father prays 'that I run for God`s glory.' Lately I have had some very real struggles to finish some of these races. I feel like I am the rope in a spiritual tug of war. I feel like I have to hold my hand on a stove for a long period of time. At first I did not know what to expect. Now I know I hold my hand willingly, not because I enjoy the feeling but because I believe a higher purpose is being accomplished by holding on and finishing each race. I believe that young girls are being moved closer to their spiritual freedom. How better to show God`s glory than seeing young girls rescued from a life of sexual slavery?
The next run is my outside run. I look forward to these runs no matter what the weather. I believe the 'Wisdom' that is mentioned in Proverbs is searching during these runs. To my good fortune, sometimes Wisdom finds me on my long runs, and that is when I write what I see.
My ravine is a stretch of land that starts in Mississauga, winds through Etobicoke and ends up on the border of Brampton. These two days, December 24 and 31, were my long runs. Combined, I ran over 28 miles; I finished in just under four hours. I am again training for a marathon. I was excited on the 24th because, after four months of slowly increasing the mileage, and building a solid foundation, I was starting to stretch out my long runs, hoping to continue increasing my runs until hopefully I will be able to run 26.2 miles on May 6. I am running the Goodlife Marathon in Toronto to try to bring New Life in Cambodia.
This day I think of the events in my life that brought me to this point. I realize again how strange is life, how your whole life can change in an instant. I think back to the event that changed my life. More than six years ago, I went to church for a service at Thanksgiving. I left church shaken, as Lisa Cheong of an organization called Ratanak International, talked about girls as young as my daughters being sold into a life of sexual slavery in Cambodia. Tears fresh on my cheeks, I left church very determined to do something to change this.
Four years ago, I started running down this same ravine as a form of cross training in my exercise program. After a few months I thought, 'why not run a marathon for Ratanak?' Looking back now, I realize how naive I was in both areas of my life.
Currently two million children are sold into sexual slavery every year. The money generated is in the billions. Add to this a very real, very frightening spiritual adversary who fights hard and dirty, not willing to relinquish his grasp on these children.
My original course was approximately five miles. I ran this every day on old shoes without any knowledge of proper training or even simple ways to allow my body to heal itself through rest. Not surprisingly, I was injured and had a very stressful few months leading up to my first marathon.
If you decide to become involved in any form of being an advocate in this area, you will have coyotes of the two legged variety, and coyotes of a very supernatural level stand in your way to oppose you.
Heading down Burnhamthorpe to reach the ravine, tears start up in my eyes. I am not thinking of any of the many heartbreaking stories I have read. I am not moved to tears at an amazing story of rescue for one of these girls. My tears are falling because the wind is very strong and it is whipping into my eyes right away. Heading onto the path itself, I think of the setup of my ravine. A creek is on my left; for the most part I run in the middle of a long forest.
Being taken out of your comfort level is a sobering thing. Before hearing of the plight of the children in Cambodia I had very little knowledge or interest of many of the world`s population and their problems. I now know of child soldiers, starvation, and the AIDS epidemic in Africa, bonded labour in India, many of the world`s population lack of clean drinking water, and the numerous wars and corrupt governments which lead to misery for many of the world`s most vulnerable people, women and children.
I saw all the world's problems represented by the seven miles of trees I run past. This was very overwhelming, so I wondered what can one very ordinary man do?
I narrowed it further down to one particular tree. This is a huge, thick invincible looking tree. My earlier naive efforts were much like taking an axe and striking the base of this enormous tree over and over again. I realize I have to become wiser. I then thought when given an opportunity I should strike at a limb. By hitting limbs, I will have more success. I saw where cutting off a limb is the rescue or keeping safe of one girl, and it is also weakening the tree.
If a tree falls in the forest
Does anybody hear?
Does anybody hear?
Anybody hear the forest fall?
If a child screams in a brothel
Does anybody hear?
Does anybody care?
Anybody hear the child scream?
If a child screams in a brothel
Does anybody hear?
Does anybody care?
Anybody care that the child screams?
I realize theses girls' screams are not going unheard. Look again at the tree. It has a scar in its middle. In the Book of Daniel, it mentions a time that has been chosen for the overthrow of the godless ruler Belshazzar. It mentions he set himself apart from God - he has been weighed, found lacking and will be overthrown.
This tree has not been cut down. Notice the whole tree, including its root system lying in the water, not a natural occurrence. This tree is dead, never to rise again. The roots will never choke the life out of any other trees. The seeds from this tree can not start any new trees. This tree has been made an example of.
The tree in the water represents the tree of evil that holds captive and feeds on the sexual abuse of young children in Cambodia.
I believe all of us have a trail or a path to follow in life. I thought of all the men (white) who fly overseas to spend time in a poor, dirty Third World country and pay money to sexually abuse these children. I am not a psychologist so why anyone could derive pleasure from beating and than sexually abusing young, beautiful children is beyond me. I thought of how this may come about. I have heard many times in church pastors use the 'slippery slope' analogy, where by thrill seeking away from what God intends, you end up heading down a path far from where you started to a place you never intended. I believe this is the way satan uses pornography on people.
Paul Bernardo started as the 'Scarborough Rapist' before moving onto torture and murder. Colonel Danny Williams also escalated his perversion after starting with stealing women`s lingerie, moving again onto rape and murder.
What my former pastors did not mention is God`s 'slippery slope.' Sometimes by following daily steps of obedience we may end up in a place we had never thought of.
Brian McConaghy is the Founder and Director of Ratanak International. I doubt if more than twenty years ago he saw himself retiring from the RCMP to give his all to the people of Cambodia. Lisa Cheong started going on short term mission trips annually to Cambodia. I doubt she knew then that she would leave the world of finance to work full time in Cambodia.
Crossing the final bridge on the 31st of December, tears fall again. The prophet Isaiah had a vision in the temple and cried out:
Isaiah 6:5: 'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'
I realize again how great God`s love is for these girls, and how undeserving I am of the privilege of fighting for these girls. I also realize how close God is to these girls and when I involve myself in their lives how close He is to me. Cambodia was not always a place where children were bought and sold as product.
The Boston Marathon is one of the hardest marathon courses in the world because of a series of hills, including the legendary 'Heartbreak Hill' which is an enormous hill right near the end of the race. As preparation for running in last year`s Boston Marathon, I took to training by running a ski hill named Centennial Ski Hill in Etobicoke. In the late fall I noticed these fresh planted trees.
After the tree of evil I mentioned earlier is overthrown, something has to be planted to take its place. Look closely, some trees have bright tags or ribbons on them; other trees have a white plastic guard around them. These fresh planted trees are the children of Cambodia, some still to be born. The future of Cambodia is like these trees. The ribbons represent beauty and a marking or recognition that they have been chosen by God. The white guard protects the young vulnerable trees from being eaten by wild animals, and the colour white shows their purity in the eyes of God, not man. For the children it represents the Spirit that will guard and protect them. It will strike and chase away the evil that would seek to reclaim its land. The soil is not hate, but love. Not fear, but peace. Not rejection, but acceptance. Not despair, but hope. The children will grow straight and tall on this hill.
Jesus's first message was based on Isaiah 61. Once I had these words spoken prophetically to me.
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.
I saw verse 3 and 4 on Centennial Hill
3 And provide for those who grieve in Zion--- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated, they will rebuild the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
What I find most interesting is the original purpose of Centennial Hill. More than thirty years ago the City of Toronto used it as a transfer station for waste. Centennial Ski Hill where I run, and the beautiful park that surrounds it, used be an enormous garbage dump. The children being used sexually in Cambodia are considered disposable; they are looked on as garbage themselves. When they are no longer useful, they are thrown out and another takes their place. God is in the process of building His own beautiful Hill in Cambodia on what people consider garbage, the frail bodies of the children in Cambodia.