When I started writing a few years ago a small group of friends enjoyed my writing and asked me to forward my latest to them. In the last nine months I have started this blog Larry42km. The original group still receives the first notice of my writings, but in this time I have added a few more followers some of whom I let know of my writings.When I started putting my writings onto this blog I had no idea of how this system works but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Something in the program keeps a running total of views, lets me know the time a person looks at my blog, and even which Country the person is viewing my blog from.
Saturday September 22 I had a milestone and much like many things in my life until a few years ago I would not have even have known of the significance of this milestone. I had my 888th view. Yes, the Chinese number for good luck. I am not superstitious and I am not Chinese but I felt blessed that in a short period of time that many people have read about the work of Ratanak International, possibly some for the first time, and hopefully at least one person has made the decision to become involved in making a difference for the exploited children in Cambodia.That particular Saturday was meaningful in another way as the Ratanak Toronto Core group had our monthly meeting.
This was an exciting time as Lisa Cheong Country Director for Cambodia was sharing some of her experiences of the last year that she served in Cambodia. (Lisa is the person who started this group and is responsible for most of us learning about Ratanak International and it`s work.)Tears are a part of most meetings. Although done in as sensitive as a way as possible (without the media approach of shock value) the stories we hear about for example a five year old’s repeated sexual abuse is hard to stomach. I find the Documentaries equally as disturbing and really hard to watch. When the abusers try to explain away or justify their actions I am angry enough to physically hurt these men, but what really gets me is the victim`s and their families. They look so beaten down, so hopeless I usually cry at the unfairness of these people`s lives.
My 10 year old Daughter Isabella asks many questions. She always has and I hope she always will. When you ask questions you are not accepting the "status quo" of what the world tells you and you are trying to find your own answers. Some questions do not have answers that can be explained. One question Isabella asks me quite often of which I cannot explain is "Why do you continue to be involved in the girls in Cambodia lives’ if it makes you cry?" I would most rather do anything else than cry in public. Yet possibly these tears are what is used as the fuel for standing up to and confronting great evils in our lives.The first thing Lisa did at this meeting was hand out a bracelet to each person, a few people put them on with Lisa showing them how it was done. I somehow missed the instruction and put the bracelet in my pocket thinking I would figure out how to put it on at home.
The bracelet letters say Ratanak Int`l, the colour is green with yellow strands.
A small card tucked in to the bag that came with the bracelet saysThis item was handmade with Love
by girls rescued from sexual slavery.Your support is greatly appreciated.
Another card in the package has the words
3Strands jewelry includes a seed from the Sandlewood tree, native to Cambodia. These seeds represent the life of a Cambodian child rescued from sex trafficking. These same girls, as young adults, make all 3Strands jewelry by hand and are now ready to grow.I have the bracelet with me now; each time I read these words tears well up in my eyes. I feel like David in The Bible when he refused to drink the water after his three soldiers broke through the enemy’s line risking their lives because he said he was thirsty. I feel sort of unworthy in a way.
I do not know if I will ever wear this bracelet. I have thought of putting it with my running medals, for now it will stay in the bag.Lisa than talked about a new program Ratanak has been working on for quite a while. Ratanak with Lisa in charge has done a lot of hard work to set up a program for girls in Cambodia who are on their way to recovery from sexual slavery and want to have a chance at an Education, and are not quite ready to live on their own. Twelve girls will be accepted into this program. What I found so encouraging is that these twelve girls will be taken from other programs that have rescued children in them. I like this because now twelve girls who are rescued from slavery will be able to take the place of the former girls who are ready to move on.
I wrote down some of the words from a Document titled Client`s Right and Responsibilities I just wrote down the rights.You have a right for a safe place to live.
You have a right to express your feelings.
You have the right to be loved and accepted for who you are.You have the right to a clean bed and clean clothes.
You have the right to protection from physical and emotional harm, abuse and harassment.You the right to eat nutritious food
You have the right to receive medical care.You have the right to learn to read and write.
When I read the words I was grieved for how much I have taken for granted in my life of privilege as I assume these rights every day of my life, no one has to state them to me. Yet, how often instead of gratitude I seem to find things to complain or become upset about.
Hopefully I can look at my life in comparison to these Girl`s lives and harbour a Spirit of Gratitude, especially with Thanksgiving approaching.
When you see these pictures there is something common in all of them. The girl’s eyes are not shown, this is for their protection.Other people around the world who suffer and need help (AIDS victims, natural disaster victims, food and water shortage victims) have been victims of neglect, these people are victims and need help but more times than not we choose to look the other way and ignore their situations, instead of offering help.
The girls that are shown situation are different, in that they are also victims but of abuse not neglect. Someone has deliberately physically harmed these girls. In our increasing liberal world it is still a crime to sexually abuse a child. So when these girls are rescued they are actually in some danger as they are potential witnesses against the powerful men who have abused them. Their eyes are not shown for their protection.Sometimes I think their eyes are not shown for my protection. "The eyes are the windows of the Soul." What stories could the eyes of a young child whose life has consisted of being a victim of repeated sexual abuse tell me; possibly more than I could bear to hear.
Annie Lennox wrote a song Universal Child about looking into the eyes of a young child dying of AIDS in Africa. I think the meaning holds true for a young child of repeated Sexual abuse in Cambodia.Universal Child
And when I look into your eyes,so innocent and pure.
I see the shadow of the thingsthat you`ve had to endure.
I see the tracks of every tearthat ran down your face.
I see the hurt, I see the pain,I see the human race.
I can see you, your everywhere,shining like the Sun.
I wish to God that kids likeyou could be like everyone.
Lisa then showed the words from a quote by Agape International Mission again a Ratanak partnerDid you know that when you
pray and give toward one of
our rescued girls without everseeing her face you help rebuild
her dignity.You are giving a selfless love
that expects nothing in return.THAT is what changes a life.
Right now I would like to thank all of those who have contributed funds and prayers to my Marathons, and to the many people who took part in and contributed to the Ratanak 5km walkathon. I have thanked you, Ratanak has thanked you. The Children you will never meet thank you!On this note I get a sense that this year" I am going to go for it" for the Cleveland Marathon. By this I mean in asking for donations. Recently I was encouraged by some members of the Toronto Core Group and their boldness in asking for funds for the "Ride for Refuge" a bike ride where all money from this group went to Ratanak International. Be forewarned if you read my blog you will probably be sent an email in late April asking if you are able to make a contribution.
A few weeks ago Gloria told me she saw me running up Lakeshore Blvd in the Toronto Marathon nearing the finish line. I do not remember the exact quote but it was something like " I saw you were in a lot of pain and it did not look like you were having a lot of fun."She than told me it reminded her of another athlete she had heard about who climbed Mountains for his Charity and used the thought of the children`s pain and suffering compared to his and this image kept him going. For myself this is true to a point; as I think of how much pain that these children have endured, the many moments in training for and running a Marathon when I think of stopping sometimes a picture of one of them appears to me and I keep going.
This is such a moment a photographer captured in the Toronto Marathon. What I find amazing about this picture is my eyes. The same as the children in Cambodia you cannot see my eyes; they are closed as a result of a combination of Pain and Sun.The other day when I was running in my Ravine I saw an image I have seen before that will be my families, and my reward. One day my family and I will see a sort of unveiling; we will be able to look into the beautiful eyes of Cambodian girls that we do not see now.
Revelation 21 vs 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Family you sacrifice a lot for me as I train for the Marathons and I am grateful; this sacrifice has started already and only becomes greater closer to the Marathon. You have given me a "carte blanche” as long as my work involves helping the exploited Children of Cambodia.Beautiful Family we may not see these beautiful girls eyes on Earth but we will see them in Heaven, and they will know us by name.
Thank you for all you allow me to do.Larry