Friday October 18 was Anti-Slavery Day.
I found this out at about 8.00 p.m. by going on The Ratanak International website,
they included a quote from Abraham Lincoln "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free - honourable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth." I spent a large portion of this day driving around downtown Toronto, unaware of the special status of this particular day as I am sure most of the people I came in contact with. This in itself is a bit sad, far sadder to me is the fact how little this day would mean to a person currently living in slavery.
Ironically enough on this day I was driving around downtown to pick up my racing gear for a half marathon race in Toronto.
"Marathon runners have a shelf life slightly longer than a fruit fly." is a quote I came across a few years ago.
Seeing two family members currently dealing with leg injuries is a daily reminder of how easy it would be to have my running end. This Summer I decided to participate in different races and see some parts of the World my family has not been to, while I am able.
I am an advocate for as long as it takes for the Children in Cambodia, this will last longer than my running career, although running in my life has and continues to bring about awareness for this cause.
The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon was to be one of these races. Lining up at the starting line I have many thoughts.
Some people run away from problems or unpleasant memories or experiences in their lives. Running for me has became the opposite. Running for me has brought me into a world I never knew of, or could even imagine it`s existence in my wildest nightmares. Running has brought me face to face on a daily basis with the dark world of children in Cambodia held as sex slaves. Running has allowed me to try and make a positive difference in these children`s lives.
Ratanak International held a conference many years ago named "Slaying the Giant - Ending Child Sexual Exploitation." I was a volunteer at this conference. There is a story from the Bible that most are familiar with. It is a story of a boy facing a Giant (David and Goliath.)
1 Samuel 17:48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him; David RAN QUICKLY toward the battle line to meet him.
When it is all said and done in my life I hope it can be said that I ran into battle facing this Giant of Greed, Exploitation, and Evil that holds young children captive; not fearfully, or begrudgingly; but as David I hope it can be said that I ran as fast as I could and for as long as I could for The Children in Cambodia.
I think of some of the sacrifices my family allows for me to run. Training for a Marathon is a very selfish pursuit, although my hope is that something beautiful comes out of these races.
Gloria my driver: I am terrible with directions and you seem to always be the one looking up maps and road closures even in strange Cities. Much like our life together you have never failed me once.
Katarina: Today you have a touch of the flu, looking at your eyes I felt guilty about the early start. Hearing you shiver in the car made me feel even worse. Yet you came and expressed pleasant surprise at my time and remarked "you are fast Dad."
Isabella: The people familiar with my blog are waiting for your response. Isabella did not ask me if I was going to win (first time ever.) Yet when I actually ran faster then expected having my family miss me at the finishing line. Isabella asked Gloria "Do you think Daddy won?"
As the race starts I say my Father`s prayer for me. "Lord may I run for your glory today."
3 km mark I think of the time 9.00a.m. in Toronto which would be 9.00p.m. in Cambodia. As I run through the streets of Toronto I think of the streets in Cambodia where regular tourists, and Aid workers will not venture out at this time. I think of the other tourists, the sex tourists, and the pedophiles who are roaming the streets at this hour. I see a little face of a girl I don`t know yet I know her story. She is like a lamb being led to the slaughter amongst the wolves. She is in Cambodia, she is terrified, she is defenceless. I am overcome with emotion and I do what I can only do at such moments, I pray. I pray that God protects this little girl for the length of my run today, that she will not be harmed for the next hour and a half or so.
6 km mark The courses direction changes and the wind that has been a cross wind for the runners is now directly against us.
Bolder now I ask that God would protect this girl for the rest of the night.
13 km mark The wind is now at my back, but a series of small hills start.
I think back to the girl and ask that she is to be protected not just for tonight, but for a whole week.
20 km mark Most people may find this funny but I realize I am going to finish as I always have doubts about my ability to finish a race right up until the end. Being even bolder I ask that God somehow supernaturally takes this girl, protects her from any who would harm her, and brings her to a place of rescue so that she never, ever has to wander these mean streets again.
21.1 km The finish line and what a pleasant surprise. I ran my second fastest race ever. For those who ask for numbers I finished in 1 hour 38 minutes and 15 seconds. Well, well under pace for a Boston Marathon Qualifying time.
For quite some time the word freedom has been in my thoughts. Lately it has made it`s way into commercials.
I thought to spend some time looking up some thoughts and opinions on this word from some leaders of the past as well as three people from the present. Mark Buchanan a Christian writer said he has been told "he writes beautifully." But Mark went on to say he feels he lives life messy.
A few people like my writing on this blog and send me nice comments after each post. This makes me feel a little guilty because you are reading about a few edited moments of a few months of my life when everything comes together just right and sometimes, something very nice comes out. My day to day life is far removed from these writings and listing my pettiness and flaws would be longer than my actual blog writing.
There was a rally in Toronto the last week in September for freedom. Lotto 649 has a commercial "Just imagine the freedom" where a person who has won the lottery is shown enjoying various forms of extravagance.
Many billboards around the City I live in have Wind Mobile "true mobile freedom."
Freedom 55 has been a slogan for a long time in commercials for a financial company, last year I heard a man in my gym bragging of his 15 years of financial freedom as he lived out his retirement.
Freedom for my Daughter may have came the day when her broken leg healed and she said goodbye to her crutches and her cast.
Miley Cyrus was using her freedom of expression on the award`s show with her provocative dance.
Many recording artists use this same freedom when singing lyrics that many find offensive.
To a recovering addict freedom may be the day when they started the battle to say no to whatever they were struggling with.
The Pastor at my Church recently used 2 Corinthians 3:17 in a recent sermon.
17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Freedom is a word that is hard to define as many people have many different opinions on it.
The Dictionary definition of freedom is "the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint."
William Orville Douglas "The right to be left alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom."
Abraham Lincoln "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
William Wilberforce not a quote on freedom but a quote on slavery I like and take to heart. "You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know."
Now to the present three men, from different walks of life, all giving me excellent responses to my question on what the word freedom means to them.
Sunder Krishnan (Senior and Preaching Pastor) Rexdale Alliance Toronto
Sunder used to be a Rocket Scientist literally no jokes and turned from this career to be a Pastor. The wisest man I have ever met who teaches and dispenses wisdom with Love and Humility. If you are looking for a Church in Toronto you could do much worse than Rexdale Alliance.
Sunder`s answer 1 "The test in Genesis 2 implies the gift of freedom is unique to humans. The freedom to transcend instincts, which the animal kingdom doesn`t have.
2 True freedom implies limits and responsibility to one another and ultimately to our maker in whose image we have been made. God`s freedom is always consistent with His moral purity.
3 Freedom is not being able to do whatever we want but to want to do what we ought to do."
Neil Boron (former Pastor) Host of Lifeline a radio talk show on WDCX 99.5 F.M.
Neil calls all his listeners "friends of the show." Neil has been more than a friend to Ratanak International and myself personally as he has used his program numerous times to educate his listeners to the selling of young children for sex in Cambodia, and many other times challenged these same listeners to become involved in helping these children.
"The freedom I am most familiar with is the freedom Jesus supplies (freedom from sin, addiction, helplessness, etc.) and that kind of freedom was not free. It cost Jesus his life. The other kind is freedom from slavery, tyranny, etc. I have enjoyed that kind of freedom because someone (man tens of thousands) gave their very lives so I could live in precious (valued) liberty. It seems to me that the ability to extend freedom to others is likely to come at a great personal cost. From what I know of freedom personally, it surely seems worth the cost for others to share in this blessing!"
J.M. (Jamie) Blaine a writer whose book on his life of dealing with mentally ill people and seeing God in these people (Midnight Jesus & Me) is a book I enjoyed more than any other in a very long time. I highly recommend it.
"Freedom is peace and peace must be seized.
Freedom and peace can be different things to different people.
One man`s freedom might be hell to me.
I`ve met lifers in prison more free than the Pastor at the mega church.
Freedom is a condition of the soul of the mind and the heart.
Freedom is something I don`t think I have fully felt yet.
But I see it down the road & catch a glimpse here & there."
A logical progression would be for me to give my opinion on what I feel freedom means to me but I received an email last month that changed my thoughts.
The email was from Lisa a mentor who is living in Cambodia right now on the front lines of the battle for freedom of young girls in Cambodia and for some older girls rescued from a life of slavery as Lisa and her staff try to lead these older girls in wise choices for their futures. On her blog she called it Bitter Sweet Moments. Good news at the start of the email as 5 young women in a Ratanak program are to start University in October, this is no small feat and is great news as these girls most likely have faced abuse I could not imagine and yet in this impoverished Country are going to get a chance to be the leaders of this Country. People who have donated let this sink in and thank you as your money may have made it possible for these young women to continue to heal and to continue to distance themselves from their past.
Lisa than talked of meeting up with an old friend of hers, a little 12 year old girl S. who was out with her 8 year old sister. Lisa has known this girl for 5 years and had formed a bond with her although had not seen her in a while. S. told Lisa she was going to the waterfront. S. and her little sister were both dressed up and wearing make up. Lisa realized they were in fact being prepped to be sold later on that day. This devastated me as Lisa had blogged much of this girl and now before her eyes Lisa saw these young girls were being taken to the market literally. I thought of her young age 12, and her even younger sister 8. I pictured my Daughters ages 11 and 13 and this story really hit me hard. Times like this are hard, for there is such a sense of helplessness, and hopelessness. I mean what can I do?
And yet while the pain for me is so real. I could not even begin to imagine how Lisa was feeling at this time.
I had a very restless sleep and due to a very hectic schedule could only go to the gym for a very short workout the next morning. The day before an older lady who tracks my running training asked about Tomorrow and when I told her it was a treadmill day she expressed surprise I would not go outside for my run as the weather was perfect for running this day. I explained my schedule and added the word`s I have never used before "Tomorrow I will run fast."
Contrary to what I originally believed as I started training for a marathon, running an actual marathon for me is a passive action as I usually run a certain pace for more than half the race and than I end up having to "hold on" to some degree. My second half times have varied from 6 to 13 minutes slower from my first half of the race.
This day I decided to be active and that I was going to attack the treadmill run in a way I rarely do or can.
After stretching quickly I am on the treadmill and set the pace to a 7 minute 47 second mile, faster than a Boston Marathon qualifying pace and a very fast pace for this early in my training. For some reason I think of a verse from the Book Of Job 39:18 speaking on the speed of an Ostrich
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider.
10 minute mark I have not broken a sweat yet so I speed up to a 7 minute 30 second mile, this run is going very easy which for my treadmill run is also usually not the case.
20 minute mark I speed up to a 7 minute 15 second mile. I notice my two wrist bands as I run. The one on the right is from last year`s walkathon and says Bring Hope! The wrist band on the left is from a Conference Lisa organized many years ago of which I volunteered at. It is Isaiah 1:17
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
I think of some of the words to a Mumford and Sons song
So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults and all my growing fears
But I will hold on hope
And I won`t let you choke
On the noose around your neck
And I`ll find strength in pain
These words resonate with me. Who wants to hear such stories? Who wants to watch the documentaries? Who wants to enter into this world of darkness?
Yet these stories fuel passion, contrasting the small victories gained are much sweeter. Sometimes hope is the only thing to hold onto, hope ultimately in these girls Creator and that He who has led us to these girls will not fail, but will ultimately have the final say. Hope is also raised when people join together and raise funding and awareness at different events. These girls are born with a noose around their neck, every abuse on their young bodies pulls the noose tighter. Possibly I can take up the slack on the noose when I run for them. I am not able to cut it away that is another persons work, but relieving some of the pressure is good enough for right now. Strength in pain refers to the fact I am experiencing pain means I am on the right track. Soreness and discomfort are a constant companion in training for a marathon. Actually pain and sometimes injury are the result in running in and completing one.
30 minute mark I speed up to exactly a 7 minute mile. I was going to go faster but caution reigned me in a bit as I realized my busy day would not allow me to take proper care of my body after the run.
My time I finish my 40 minute run at would be a 3 hour 8 minute marathon, my best marathon time ever is 3 hour 19 minutes.
The feeling in the pit of my stomach has not gone away but I feel I have done what I can for today.
The example in my life I thought of for that day on the treadmill is when we first bought our House. The backyard was full of a concrete path around the pool. My job one Summer was to break up this path, working on a budget my tools were a sledge hammer, a metal spike, and a strong back. Some of the concrete broke easy, some was very hard to break. The thickest pieces would take many blows from the sledge hammer to break. Sometimes I wondered if they would ever break. The surprising thing was the toughest ones would not give at all until it was their time. Yet when they broke it was not a little piece that came off, they were shattered, broken into many pieces.
My hope is that the girls who my friends hold dearest in their hearts. Lisa with S. Charlene with L. Brian with S. are key children in this battle, and yet when they are pulled free and rescued there will be a huge weakening of this evil empire. The fallout will be much like the concrete in my backyard. I picture a damn breaking and huge numbers of girls being swept away to their rescue as the key girls are pulled free.
My thoughts on freedom: I have only experienced freedom in every area of my life and although I do not understand or appreciate freedom fully. I know I have been greatly blessed to experience such freedom. A young girl in Cambodia can and will one day tell her story of starting her life in slavery and what true freedom means to her. Freedom is a gift from God and gifts are mean`t to be shared, not hoarded. Sharing freedom may mean giving up some of our rights, comforts, and privileges to reach down and pull up the ones in the world not able to experience freedom, sharing freedom may mean carrying loads when we would rather be doing something else. Freedom is a serious word and I hope to never use it in a trivial manner ever again.
I close with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. In Cleveland the last 3 miles of the Marathon were run on the freeway named after him. I thought I may have some inspiring words to write about finishing my race on such a historic land mark, but I was too hot, too tired, true to form I was in fact" just holding on." These words are from his "I have a dream" speech. What I find interesting is that he starts out talking about his dream of black people having equality with white people, he finish`s with a picture of the whole world. Possibly when Cambodia and it`s children experience freedom other Countries and their people around the world will follow suit.
"And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God`s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!"