Entering Cleveland Browns Football Stadium on May 19 at 6.00 a.m. a song plays that I have not heard for a while.
A rite of Spring is about to take place, I am about to run a Spring Marathon to benefit the exploited Children of Cambodia. I picked Cleveland out of many other Marathons, I had no particular reason. Negative thoughts are all around me and I wonder if this will be the year that I cannot finish?
Back to the song "Let it be" by the Beatles I listen to the lyrics and shake my head no, for something in these words has struck something very deep within me something, I cannot explain.
Let it be, let it be, let it be to me refers to the young children of Cambodia who have been sold into sexual slavery and to me the words are let it be to the problem and let them be to the children themselves.
Later on I hear "Whisper words of wisdom" in the same song. To me they become the worlds words of wisdom. A friend read my original thoughts on this moment and wrote me her thoughts. I quote from her now and these exact thoughts were running through my head as I lined up with more than 22 000 other runners at the starting line.
"We cannot let it be. We will not let it be. The world`s words of wisdom are: Let it be. You can`t make a difference. It will never change. It`s too big. It`s too ugly. Who cares about those who are half a world away? And to this we say NO. Sometimes NO is a beautiful world.
In Cambodia I am told there is a saying "Same same but different." During my training for the Cleveland Marathon this year I thought of this saying.
Although I was able to complete a marathon the previous year I realized that every year I am starting all over again. Any physical benefits from the previous year are long gone and I must start right back at the beginning.
Mentally which I believe is half the battle is also a very hard process. During the recent Chilly Half Marathon my stomach was really upset to the point of almost illness and I thought of stopping. At the 16 km mark this came to a head and I was so grateful for the fact I had 5km left at this point and not 26.
The air in Cleveland is very hot and the wind is against me right from the start. The start is uneventful, in fact a fellow runner and myself laugh as with so many runners on a narrow roadway we both take about one minute to move the 200 feet to the official starting line.
4 km mark I am sweating and the time I see on the timing clocks by the side of the road cause me concern as I seem to be running much slower than I ever have before. I laugh again as I realize Cleveland doesn`t use the Metric system so I have actually ran 4 miles, and I am on pace.
I saw many signs during the race one in particular caught my attention. " Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever." Harsh maybe, but to me it strikes a chord as for the first time I run with a sign on my back; a friend designed for me.
The sign says "Running 42.2kms To Bring Dignity For Cambodia`s Exploited Children" And for me anything short of completing 42.2kms on this day is a failure, this of course puts a great deal of pressure on myself but I am reminded of the word of Ratanak`s Director Brian McConaghy at a seminar speaking on behalf of the children in Cambodia. "We cannot take a girl who has been rescued from a life of slavery, place her in one of our programs and than tell her after a period of time sorry the funding ran out we no longer have no room for you." Brian went on to say we have to commit to these girls until they are healed, however long, however expensive. I feel the same way about finishing a Marathon. I doubt if anyone would decide not to sponsor me if one year I quit at the 30 km mark, but for now I am grateful I have not had to face this problem.
6 mile mark I feel the sign coming off my back and I place it in my hands and think I may have to carry it for the rest of the race.
8 mile mark I cross onto Lorrain and 35 West. I have wondered what my reaction will be at this part of the race for this area has been in the news quite often in the last two weeks. Lorrain is the street that all three girls in Cleveland were kidnapped, one very close to where I now run. That means the house these girls were kept for over ten years in somewhere very close by. Sad for such a waste of these girls lives I pray to the one who can bring true healing to these girls, and I am grateful that I have picked this Marathon to run for girls being held in similar conditions as these girls faced many miles away in Cambodia. I originally thought I may sense evil in this area, but I noticed the people of Cleveland have started raising funds for these three girls, already $480 000 has been raised, I think of the story how Amanda Barry after ten years of slavery still had hope for a rescue, she still had the presence of mind to take her chance for help when it came, I think of the neighbour who helped her, and I realize Evil has it`s day but Goodness will always have the final say.
11 mile mark the former sign on my back slips away from me, briefly I thought to go back for it but is very hot today the temperature will reach 87F or 31C. I think to myself again I must finish this race. I believe I carried someone`s 11 miles today, possibly another day or another event such as the upcoming Ratanak 5km walkathon others can finish the process of carrying this person the remaining 15 miles.
13 mile mark and surprisingly my time is about where I thought it would be, although I was hoping the wind would relent a bit because it had been against me the whole race, and in fact would not stop until the 18 mile mark.
15 mile mark I pass a Old Pentecostal Church who have taken their Worship service outside and their huge speakers shout out the words to "Lord I lift your name on high, how I long to sing your praises, I`m so glad your in my life." I change the next words from "I`m so glad you came to save me" to I`m so glad you came to save them! I shiver and repeat these words many times over the next mile.
18 mile mark the day seems to get even hotter (in fact it is) I see many runners stopping to walk, in past races I have tried to encourage these runners to keep going, today I lack the strength to even speak, one runner lies down by the side of the road. The words "Let them be" come into my head and I have no response or even thoughts I just keep running.
22 mile mark I finish my last drink from my own water bottles and walk for 30 seconds to try to catch my breath, runners are stopping quite often as this is really too hot of a day to run a marathon on. I am pretty sure if this was my first I would not be able to finish.
25 mile mark I hear the roar of the crowd and realize I am almost finished and than my heart goes out to a fellow runner for I see a runner being taken by stretcher to an ambulance, one mile to go and he must have collapsed, what a bitter pill this will be for this man to swallow. I keep running and cross the finish line and see my time is a little off of what I had hoped for, and yet I am satisfied. The Boston Marathon is not possible for next year and that is okay as I will now wait and see what other door will open for next year.
I meet my family at our designated spot and from a distance they congratulate me (I say from a distance because I think I lost 10 pounds of water and Love has some limits for young girls) Hugging your Father at such a moment is not one of them.
This is like a bonus track on a CD these are some of my thoughts from my winter training.
Running down a Ravine all Winter for over three hours of times allows for much thought. A recurring thought I have is for all of Cambodia`s children to be set free from the bondage of Sexual slavery. How this is to happen I don`t know, when this will happen again I don`t know, but I do believe it will happen.
In the Bible there are three examples I draw strength from:
David faced Goliath a nine foot Giant who was an experienced solider and defeated him. Joshua faced the walls of Jericho and saw them come crumbling down. Gideon face an enormous army of soldiers and defeated them. In each story they were asked to use something unusual going into battle. David used a sling shot, Joshua marched around the walls for 7 days and had a trumpet sounded, and Gideon used torches and lamps. In each example the enormous enemy had a weakness, a crack in their foundation that was not visible to the human eye, but was seen by God.
This is a picture of a tree fallen over one night before I ran. Before it`s fall I would not have even noticed it as it was one of many trees. These fallen trees always represent to me the forces behind the exploitation of children in Cambodia, in that one day they are there enormous and look impossible to defeat, and than one day they are like this tree, dead and exposed for everyone to see. My weapons against this evil for now are my shoes, shorts, and shirt I use when running a full marathon
Not to say that I am to be responsible for bringing about this fall, this is God`s fight. But I believe there are cracks in place that I can`t see, but in time this evil will be thrown out as every other evil regime has in the past.
Stairs and bridges are structures that allow us to go places we otherwise would not be able to get to. I have many examples of this when I run down my ravine. In life sometimes I feel this is also true.
These are some of the lyrics from a song called Minds Eye by the group DC Talk
In my mind`s eye
I see your face
You smile at me and show me grace
In my mind`s eye
You take my hand
We walk through foreign lands
The foreign lands of life
I have never been to Cambodia. I have never seen the children I advocate for in person. Yet, as I involve myself in their lives from a enormous physical difference I believe God takes me and allows me to see these children up close in a spiritual dimension. The closest I ever get for now is training for and than running a marathon.
This next words are used from a Pink song. I don`t always agree with Pink, but I like Pink. As Pink is authentic and real, Pink does not hide behind a mask. Too often my fellow church goers and myself are not as authentic as Pink.
There is a 16 year old girl in Cambodia. It is the middle of the night and she is exhausted but she cannot sleep. She is in a program that is set up to help her overcome a difficult life. She has been is such programs for the past three years, she is "one of the lucky ones" She was sold at eight years old and endured five years of Hell until she was rescued. She sighs so deeply to herself, thinks about the pills she has stored under her bed, and wonders if it would not just be easier to take them and end her pain. She had thought she was making progress, but today in the Market she saw a face she would never forget. She saw a man from a foreign Country her first abuser, and all of the hard work of the last three years came undone in this moment. She thought of the unfairness of life as this man was free to go and ruin other lives while she was a prisoner in her own body, in her own mind.
There is a man three thousand miles away from this girl. Something is wrong he senses it and knows not exactly what it wrong but he senses an urgency he has never experienced before. He senses hope is going fast and when hope is gone all is lost. This man has no idea what to do, he feels helpless but goes to his room to pray. This a "hail Mary" prayer the type of prayer where we acknowledge our smallness and helplessness and wonder what good will come about but praying is the only thing that can done so the man utters this words doubting they will have any effect but he feels he must do something.
Give her just a reason
Just a little bit`s enough
Just a second she`s not broken just bent
And she can learn to love again
It is in the stars
It`s been written in the scars on her heart
That she`s not broken just bent
And she can learn to love again
Again the man repeats these word unknown to him the girl joins in
Give her (me) a reason
Just a little bit`s enough
Just a second she`s (I`m) not broken just bent
And she (I) can learn to love again
It is in the stars
It`s been written on the scars on her (my) heart
That she`s (I`m) not broken just bent
And she (I) can learn to love again.
The man feels a curtain being drawn over the girl`s life and through his exhaustion feels he has done all he can do and leaves his room.
1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face:
now I know in part, but then I will know fully
Some rewards are left for those who suffer most. The man will never suffer like this girl so in his life the screen goes blank.
The girl is fully awake as someone has entered her room and she knows not who but senses a peace such as she has never experienced before. This Man speaks to her:
I AM your reason
I AM enough
Just a second your not broken just bent
And I will teach you how to love again
Your face is in my Heart
Your name is written on the scars of my hands
Your not broken just bent
And I will teach you how to love again
The next morning the girl threw away the pills as she knew she would never need them again. Her life was not easy and her painful past would come back and hurt her at inopportune times. But she learned through her pain and her recovery that she was able to mentor and help the younger girls follow the same road to recovery.
What she could have never known was her role was to be later in life. Her story was so powerful coming from a victim of such a start in life it was used to bring sweeping change. She told her story many times to powerful Politicians from other Countries who were moved to tears at her honest, straight forward approach to the retelling of her story.
She was to be one of the biggest influences for ending the practise of selling children into sexual slavery in Cambodia.