Friday, 13 June 2014

Ratanak 2014 5km Walkathon

Revelation 1 13 and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were a blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars. And out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword, His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

An artist started trying to paint this description of Jesus. After many unsuccessful attempts he gave up as he could not capture the image properly on canvass.
This spirit/man/saviour/Son of God surrounded the events at Erindale  Park in Mississauga June 7 2014 as we took part in the third annual Ratanak 5km walkathon.
I am in so far over my head, as I will try my best to describe the events leading up to and the actual day itself as I update this blog.

While running outside in the winter as I prepared for the upcoming Ottawa Marathon I came up with the unusual number of $20 052 as our goal. Trusty sidekick Paul who actually organizes about 80 percent of the walkathon, and gives me 100 percent of the credit came up with a neat little thermometer on our web page that would roll up each time a donation was made. 
I had no stress about reaching this goal as this goal was unrealistic for an average group of people without any major business sponsorship. I knew if this goal was to be reached it was far out of our hands and into God`s.

That is not to say I did not have my moments of  doubt. The Tuesday before the walk I felt like Peter did while walking on the water with Jesus. I started looking at the waves and wind and started sinking a bit. The thermometer was at about $8 000. My math was off a little bit in my last writing as I ran in the Ottawa Marathon, unfortunately this time it was right on. I calculated the goal was over $12 000 away with 4 days left. $3 000 dollars a day seemed impossible and yet I knew I had to trust God.

1 Samuel 13 9-13 tells the story of Saul worrying about how long Samuel was taking as Israel prepared for war.  Saul offered up the burnt offering which was only reserved for priests. Samuel appeared and chastised Saul for doing an act he was not supposed to do, the end result was Saul lost his kingdom to David.

Waiting is hard! I wanted to re email potential donors, potential sponsors, politicians, corporations, media outlets etc. And so I waited for I had a sense something was at work far greater than I or my amazing organizing team could even begin to imagine.
I shared with some people that I had a sense of when you go outside and you can feel the dampness, you sense the rain is coming although you cannot see it you feel it and you know rain is on the way.
I felt this about the event, that we were going to have something far beyond what we could ever hope for happen.

Wednesday I thought to myself how smoothly things were going on my end, in fact I was ahead of schedule. The person responsible for lending me the key for the gate at the park had responded and I had set up a meeting to pick up the key.
No frills (our sponsor) had a sale on water and I had been stockpiling water all week and had just purchased my last case.

Friday morning beautiful wife Gloria and myself picked up the rental van from Thrifty (thank you for the great price when I mentioned it was for a charity event) We then proceeded to shop for the snacks provided at the walkathon. After finishing in the fruit and vegetable section Gloria turned the cart towards the checkout. I remark "we are not finished." As I think of a friend who will go unnamed (pylon lady) and what her reaction would be at a table without some sweets.
We are home at 10.30 a.m.  I so wanted to surprise Neil Boron on his 100 mile walk from Buffalo to Mississauga and finish with him, yet I realize I am stressed and overly tired. Later on this day we have a live broadcast for WDCX 99.5 at the Twin Fish restaurant in Mississauga, starting at 3.00 p.m. Tomorrow morning is the big day, sorry Neil I choose to relax while I could.

2.40 p.m. My brother Randy calls with a question about the walkathon. I abruptly brush him off as I have somehow lost my wallet, (memories of last years lost key) and driving a rental van without my license does not seem like a good idea. I find my wallet and drive to the restaurant.

What an amazing day. Ann (the owner) is so kind and has such a servant`s heart. So many people were coming to Neil with donations. What struck me most was a lot of the donations were cash. Ratanak International is a registered Canadian charity. If a person makes a donation providing a mailing address they will be sent a receipt that can be used at the end of the year for tax purposes, also they will be sent a thank you note. When you give cash there is no record of you, and we cannot acknowledge your kindness. But like the story in the Bible of the widow who put everything into the offering. God sees and will reward you.
Two girls sing a song and give Neil the money they have raised. Neil calls me over and I am choked up a bit as they are so small that I think of what girl`s their size in Cambodia are going through at this moment.

Neil interviews me and I mention I saw his walk in the light of a song by the group Proclaimers 500 miles. I changed a few words but mention Neil walked 100 miles willing to take on some pain to alleviate children`s pain and Neil would have been willing to walk 100 more.
Neil had told me at another event that he had been sexually abused in his youth. I told him this walk is bringing healing to children in Cambodia, healing to himself, and will help him become a voice and example for others who have been abused to help in their healing.

Dinner is excellent! Neil wants to pay (he provides) a white ticket to hand in to the restaurant as a way of tracking whose dinner is covered by him. By the time I leave I think Neil has provided a white ticket for every person in the restaurant. What a show of generosity! Many examples of kindness and selfless giving I see this day. One stands out the most. A man walks in with a vest on, and waits patiently to speak to Neil. Neil is making the rounds and talking to everyone. Neil notices the man and starts talking to him. The man`s name is Clive, he is a truck driver, he is on a 15 minute break, and he gives up his break to drive to the restaurant and make a very generous donation. As I witnessed this I think about people telling of seeing Angels. Clive was my Angel this night.
This thought came to me the week after the walkathon. Our goal was $20 052. 
The story of the boy from the Bible with his 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus feeding of 5 000 men.
5km walkathon/ Twin Fish restaurant, which is again the numbers 5 and 2. Jesus showing up at a park the next day in Mississauga and totally blowing everyone away.

At home I check, recheck my lists of duties for the next day. I make a big mistake by turning on the computer, as I check my emails I see a friend has had trouble donating to my participant name. I click on the 5km website to try and solve this problem and see the thermometer sits at over $25 000. I am so overjoyed I have trouble sleeping this night.

Saturday of the event. I wake up early pick up my brother Peter and arrive at the park. Paul is going over all the plans for the registration. Being the only runner in our core group I take Pete and start the process of marking the course. 8.10 a.m. I drive my Mother and sister Linda to set up the water station which is the turnaround point 2.5 kms from the start.

I arrive back into the parking lot and am overwhelmed by how many people I see in line. 8.45 I find Paul through the masses and tell him "we cannot possibly start at 9.00 let me know what time you want to start?" Paul tells me a politician is looking for me.
I invited three politicians, two confirmed, and one showed up.
Wladyslaw Lizon is his name (please don`t ask me to pronounce his name again.) I have butchered it at least twice publicly. Wladyslaw shakes my hand says some very complimentary things.  Not being camera shy he poses for a few pictures. Wladyslaw paid for his registration and even purchased a Not Forgotten shirt.

Wladyslaw invited me to run the Army half marathon run in Ottawa in September to support wounded soldiers, and told me to send him information on our event (as soon as possible) as he was going to try to mention the walkathon in the House of Commons. Later that night Jessika sends me the information and I pass it on not thinking much about it.

As I reflected back upon these moments I wonder. I picked the Ottawa Marathon for the reason my family had never been to Ottawa and I try to reward them for the amount of time that they lose their father as he trains for a marathon, with a family visit to a City we have never been to. I wonder did the prayers offered up to protect me as I ran on this course prepare Wladyslaw`s heart? Did my families walking outside the building he delivered this speech set something in motion? Did my running down the street across from The Parliament building in pain, and struggling to finish this race shake something loose in a world I cannot see?
I will never know.
Imagine my surprise coming home from work Tuesday and opening this link.

Another person I met was a principal from a school in Mississauga. She brought a organization to her school (Girls on the run) to help Grade 6 to 8 girls with their self esteem and also to learn how to run a 5km race. Unfortunately a girl in this group was having a birthday party the same day of our event and many of the members attended the party. The principal handed me a cheque and I remember my original thought for this day was "young girls in Canada walking/running for young girls in Cambodia who cannot." Next year I hope to have this organization use our 5km walkathon as the day of their event.

9.30 Mary calls the people towards me where I am to explain some rules and thank them for their participation. The crowd is huge the megaphone is not to my liking so I try to shout. Neil being an experienced radio guy tells me to stand on a picnic table. I thank everyone for coming tell them of the pink thread that I tied last year to a tree as a symbol of young girl`s and their innocence, and my belief that event`s like today may not give them back this lost innocence but can at the very least bring them healing, and a new start in life. I tell them the money from today will go to the Ratanak Achievement Program (RAP) which is a program Ratanak funds. All of the girls in this program have faced much abuse. In September five of these girls entered University. I relate how four young ladies in Cambodia all in this program, in the last week have been deemed healed enough to be reintegrated back into society. I finish with a quote someone left on my donor page late the night before.
"Larry as you pound out those running steps, remember it is the pounding of the little hearts of those children that you are setting free from Bondage-- Go with God.

Neil then gets up on the picnic table and talks about many things and how he has been brought healing from his past abuse. A picture comes to mind and I see the actual act of abusing a child. It is so ugly, so vile, so degrading, so evil.
The many years of pain and suffering that affects some victims well into their adult years. I think of a song The Broken Beautiful and how only God could take what has happened to Neil and use it in a way that brings healing to many. Truly Beautiful!

As Neil was talking I thought of how I first came to know of Ratanak International. Eight years ago Lisa Cheong spoke in my church about young children sold into a life of sexual slavery in Cambodia. Something broke within me as she spoke. Lisa mentioned Isaiah 61 1-3 as her vision.

 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,
    to comfort all who mourn
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 the spirit of despair.
Today I believe Lisa`s vision is being fulfilled in Cambodia as we participate in Mississauga.   

I call the participants to the start line and am again overwhelmed by the crowd. A group of people start singing:
Let my people go!
Let my people go!
Let my people go!

I think of our walk compared to a military march. A walk is very calm, not impressive, or threatening, or intimidating. Yet as Moses walked across the Red Sea, as Martin Luther King Jr. walked for equality. Holding a child in slavery to be abused over and over again is the worst thing a human can do to another. We have one Cambodian person present that I know of, and yet this evil has united many who do not know each other from many different backgrounds in the belief that walking in this park will make a difference.
We walk enjoying our freedom, thinking of others who are not free.
We walk today and demand of evil people and the evil one satan himself. LET OUR PEOPLE GO!

The rest of the morning is kind of a blur. Our generous sponsors have donated amazing prizes which is a fun way to wrap up the day seeing those participants who have given of their time and money getting excited about the prospect of winning something.

I wish I could end this blog with the final numbers of participants and the total amount of donations yet I have a story to tell that happened away from the park, a story I am not proud of.

My responsibilities were over, it was about 7.30 p.m. I had purchased my dinner and was driving home looking forward to three things. One eating, two relaxing, three checking the website to see the final amount of money raised.
As I drove home something like scene from a bad movie occurred right in front of me. A young girl between the ages of 1 and 2 years old stepped down from the curb and walked directly into a busy street with four lanes of traffic. I scanned the sidewalk to look for a parent and saw no one.
Myself and two other cars pulled over. Another man got to the girl first, picked her up and carried her safely to the sidewalk.
We all were shaking, the woman were sobbing.
A neighbour came out and told us this happens all the time, her parents do not seem to care. One lady called the police and we waited.

The girls Mother came 15 minutes after we saw her daughter in the street. We told her the police had told us make sure she was to wait there for the police to talk to her.
The police came, took statements, thanked us and sent us on our way.

In the car I was angry at God for allowing me to see this scene play out. My thoughts "Why God why? Why today? Why now of all times? Can I not have one day without seeing a young girl who probably has a bleak future ahead of her?  Why show me this now?As I thought of what trouble awaited a young girl with no one to watch out for her. 
I want to go home and remember the sights, the sounds, the feel, and the taste of this amazing event today. I give you all the credit and glory for today`s success. But why now? Why today God?

Mark Buchanan says we rage at God loud and boisterous. He goes on to say God answers in a still, small voice.
Monday morning I think these thoughts.
When is it a good time to rescue a child? When you have the time? When you are not too busy? When you are not too slow? When you are not too happy? When you are not too sad?
This child was sent your way on this day at this time to be rescued.
It is always the right time to rescue a child!

In closing we had 300 participants. $41 598 was raised, $42 less than $42 000 which is a great number for a guy who uses Larry42km as a nickname.

June ? 2015 where will you be? Why not join us?

Wladyslaw`s words in the House of Commons.
"What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning with uplifting people who are there to raise much needed funds but also to raise the spirits of children so far away. It is a true privilege to support organizations like Ratanak whose work changes people`s lives."

It is always the right time to rescue a child.



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