Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Ratanak 2013 5km Walkathon

This writing is going to start out like an acceptance speech at an awards ceremony.

Thank you God:  For we can control (or try) to so much of our lives, but the Weather is in Your hands.  Booking an outdoor Event 8 months in advance requires Faith and You did not let us down.  This does not mean in the future we will not have bad weather days for this event, however it was so nice to not have to check the hourly forecast in the days leading up to this years event.

Thank you Ratanak International in particular Brian McConaghy:  You have invested 23 years of your life in establishing the good name of Ratanak International with your involvement in changing the lives of the Cambodian people, Ratanak International is a name that is mentioned as a leader in battling overseas child sexual exploitation. Brian is a man who meets with Canadian politicians regularly giving advice on best how to combat this problem.  It was an honour to represent such a reputable organization.  I hope we represented this Organization well, and lived up to your trust.

Thank you Paul:  You put my face on every piece of publicity for this event listing me as the organizer, yet without you we would not have even had the first event, let alone be going forward with the certainty of making this an annual event.  Symbolically enough when I was to say these words to you at the starting line you were tying up the loose ends of some last minute registrants at a picnic table behind the scenes well away from the start and all the activity.

Thank you Toronto Core Group:  I will not mention names because for sure I will miss some, but you designed posters, got sponsors, publicized this event, prayed for this event, volunteered the day of, and came out in large part raising funding and awareness.

Thank you participants:  For without you we do not have an event.  Thank you for your patience, and grace, this is a work in process, and we came a long way from last year, and realize we have a few more things to work on.  I was most encouraged by not knowing more then half the people, in fact it will be interesting to see how many new people showed up at the Event.

Planning such an activity relies on so many people outside of your circle.  We seemed to have more then our share of excitement leading up to our event.  Paul went to pick up the pylons, only to have the person he had communicated with not in that day so Paul had to convince someone else to lend us the pylons, thankfully we did not have to ask Janice for her  "prize" pylons.

I had a three day adventure trying to get someone to return my call about a very important matter.  Finally I had to email a Supervisor to get a response.

Lara went to pick up the Coffee on the Saturday morning only to have the lady she had been dealing with not in as well that day.  Lara must be a great talker as we ended up with our Coffee.

I save the best (worst) for last.  Arriving at the Park Paul informs me that he wants to use my Van to put the Ratanak Banner on.  This started a three vehicle shuffle with the table, chairs, ice, water and Volunteers for the mandatory water station at the 2.5 km mark.  Picture next a Magician with the three shells trick, you know how they put an object under one shell, shuffle them around and when the Magician lifts each shell the object is gone.

Substitute vehicles for shells, and the only key to a locked gate as the object, and myself for the Magician.  Yes for the first time in my life on this Earth I misplaced a key.  At work I am reading a book called Don`t sweat the small stuff (it`s all small stuff) sorry but all the steps I had accomplished in the previous weeks reading this book came undone at this moment.  What followed next was the most stressful 20 minutes of my life, checking, re-checking, praying, almost hyper ventilating, and then Prayer was answered for in the middle of a 5km distance I found the lost key, ran the 500 metres in a time Isabella would have been impressed with and started the process of driving my two volunteers, my sister Linda, and my Mother to set up the water station.

I am known as a slow driver; not this day.  Linda told me a few times to slow down, at one point going over a wobbly Bridge I thought I heard her praying.  The best moment had to be when a 60 something year old man out for his morning jog, enjoying nature with his ear phones in could not hear us approaching.  My Mother said honk and I did, however I was not used to the Horn as it was not my vehicle and I really blasted it.  This startled the poor guy into jumping (no exaggeration) at least four feet into the air.  I still laugh when I picture this moment.  We finally ended up setting up the table and this man and myself had a laugh as I explained my situation, and found out we had ran in a few of the same races.  Later on My Mother talked about these same races with him and gave him some Ratanak International information.  I have to chuckle again thinking what if he comes to a core group meeting?  What is his story going to be like when Jessika asks him how he found out about Ratanak`s work?

The Starting Line

My Speech for the starting line got lost in the vehicle shuffle so I had to wing it.

I mentioned two of the markings I had set up on the course the previous night were  pink ribbons.  I had purposely picked, as for me pink is the colour for a young girl`s innocence, and though we could not give the girls in Cambodia a lost childhood back; Today was for them, Today was about them.  I was going to mention that Today was a day of joy, it was to be a day of celebration, as so many times the Volunteers in our group face difficult stories with no happy ending.  Three times during the previous week the same scripture came to mind.  I am not worthy enough to pray these words, they were going to be a Benediction to encourage the participants.  Now they will used to encourage the readers.

Isaiah 61:1   The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon you,

because the Lord has anointed you

to preach good news to the poor,

He has sent you to bind up the broken-hearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

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.


I then went on to explain a few rules and asked for the people who were going to run to start at the front, people who were going to walk/run to line up next, and for people who were just going to walk to line up last.

First person in line I see is Isabella my 11 year old Daughter.  If you are new to my blog Isabella has been quite Honest about my Marathon results, giving most of you some laughs at my expense.  My friend Linda Ruth was impressed about my Cleveland Marathon result and asked me about Isabella`s reaction.  The day before the Marathon my family came face to face with three Kenyan runners in our Hotel`s lobby.  Isabella must have lowered her expectations somewhat as she ignored the two men and asked me if I could beat the lady?  I suggested we look up her winning time from the year before, we found out she had ran a 2 hours 30 minutes marathon.  I informed Isabella I would most likely finish one hour behind this lady and the "Isabella look" I am used to of hope slowly disappearing came over her face.

Thankfully the start of the walk was uneventful and I was encouraged at how many people knew me that I didn`t know.

The first two finishers were students from Charlene`s class.   Charlene may be the "original core member” as I think Lisa Cheong and herself started the group up, and here she is still involved so many years later, in fact bringing a new generation to involve themselves.  Next was our first aid Lady Mary`s sister and Mary`s niece.

Next came Isabella and my Wife Gloria.  Earlier in the race Isabella had to stop running from a stich in her side, and told Gloria to go on without her.  Gloria told her "this day is for not leaving little girls behind, and I am not leaving you behind."   Ultra-competitive Isabella nudged out competitive Gloria for fifth place.

A little further down the way came my 13 year old Daughter Katarina with Gloria`s Mother (Nona).  Katarina has my families’ most natural running stride and if she wanted to could have finished much closer to the front, possibly winning, but walking and spending time with her one Grandmother, and visiting her other Grandmother at the water station were more important to her on this day.

I reflected later on what pride I took as a Father, the day before Father`s day in watching my whole family take part in such a special day.  I have to think that God our eternal Father must feel much the same way when He looks upon us who are His children when we work for His Justice on the earth.

Ecclesiastes 10 vs 11

11 The race is not to the swift

or the battle to the strong.

In my time as a Volunteer for Ratanak I have seen many people come and I have seen many people go.  Some go to other Ministries.  The issue of sexual exploitation of Children in Cambodia is deep rooted and will not go away overnight.  It is something that requires a perseverance that only comes from God.  In my experience God picks people with unrelated skills and gives them a task to complete.  I was thinking just Today of how many people that have came through our group who have stated as one of their assets "Events Planner", not a slight at all on them but I find it interesting that Paul and I get chosen to put on an Event.   Rachelle Kearns is a great Artist and yet she puts on an amazing Art Auction to benefit Ratanak although she confessed (she was, and still is terrified of public speaking.)

Brian McConaghy has said many times his skill set is useless for his role.  Lisa Cheong used to sell stocks to stockbrokers, now she is on the frontlines of helping the young women who were the former child victims of sexual exploitation gain a new chance at life.  I could go on, and on.  I guess when you take a task so far out of your skill set that actually succeeds you have to give God all the Glory.

The rest of the walk was uneventful and many people just stayed well past the finish to enjoy the day, to enjoy the experience.

Many times I have been thanked for having the Vision of the walkathon.  A vision is something that God gives and I am grateful for the amazing people who were able to bring this vision to reality.

These are my thoughts after running in The 2011 Boston Marathon

June 6 2011

500 000 people came to Boston.  $125 million dollars were generated.  At the recent Cleveland Marathon $18 million dollars were generated.   I dreamed of having that kind of support for Ratanak International.

I dreamed of one day set aside in places that have heard of Ratanak`s work.  In my dream I also see the girls from the NewSong Center in Cambodia taking part in their own walk.  It is to be a day set apart when people around the World walk or run in support of those who cannot.  A day that is coming!

I issued the statement on the Neil Boron show that if you can run a Marathon you can organize a walkathon.  You have to look no further then me to see this is true.  To this end there is a Group who came out to support us on Saturday but also to get a feel of which such an event looks like.  They are making plans to add another walkathon in a different City for next year.

There is such a heaviness that sometimes comes from being involved in this Ministry.  What I find most disturbing is that human beings are inflicting such damage to another human being (especially little children.)  Sometimes I am overcome with a sadness that can last for days when I think too much.

A week before the walkathon I felt such a mood coming on.  I thought to change up my music and put a worship cd from David Crowder in my Van on a long drive.  My mood lifted until song number 10.


Deliver me


Deliver me out of the sadness

Deliver me from all of the madness

Deliver me, courage to guide me

Deliver me, your strength inside me


All of my life I`ve been in hiding

Wishing there was someone just like you

Now that your here

I know that your the one to pull me through


Deliver me to loving and caring

Deliver me to giving and sharing

Deliver me from this cross that I`m bearing


Deliver me

Deliver me

Deliver me

Deliver me

Deliver me

Deliver me

As I heard these words an image of a young girl in Cambodia, being held in chains, held in captivity behind huge walls came to me.  I could see her but she could not see me, although she sensed there was someone wanting to help her, hence her sadness.

Interesting enough this song and this image did not have a negative effect on my thinking, as I thought there is going to be an answer to this.

A friend sent me these words  in regards to the walkathon "Clearly it will be a walk in the park physically, but Spiritually it will be powerful!"

The Wednesday before the walkathon I received an answer to the above song by a highly unlikely source.  As I worked out that day at my Gym a Taylor Swift song was played that as soon as I went home I looked up the lyrics.

I cannot tell you with certainty that this event took place on Saturday as a result of the walkathon,  more importantly to me is that you cannot tell me that it did not happen.




Because these things will change

Can you feel it now?

These walls that they put up to hold us

back will fall down

This revolution, this time will come

For us to finally win

And we sing hallelujah, we`ll sing hallelujah


So we`ve been outnumbered

Raided and now cornered

It`s hard to fight when the fight ain`t fair

We`re getting stronger now

They might be bigger

But were faster and never scared

You can walk away, say we don`t need this

But there`s something in your eyes

That says we can beat this


Today we stand, get off our knees

Fight for what we`ve worked for all these years

And the battle was long, it`s the fight of our lives

But we`ll stand up champions tonight


It was the day things changed

Can you see it now?

These walls that they put up to hold us

back fell down

It`s a revolution, throw your hands up

Cause we never gave in

And we sang hallelujah, we sang hallelujah



The image I had of the girl in Cambodia; I see her chains came off,  I see the walls holding her captive are knocked down and I see She walks out Free!   HALLELUJAH!

Thanks to the 100 people including 76 adults 10 students and 14 children (Paul originally estimated 100)  who walked/ran/danced for a total of 500 kms and raised the staggering total of  $12 932 and still coming in (well above Paul`s goal of $10 000.)

See you next year.



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