I care. And so I tri. (How did the race go?)

On the first day of Summer, which happened to be Father’s Day, I competed in a sprint triathlon here in Oregon City. Here’s a bit about how I did, and especially WHY I raced in this fundraiser for Team World Vision. Some of you gave (Thank You!), and many have asked “How did the race go?” Plus, a new and different race is just around the corner.

Team World Vision » triathlon

This was my second attempt at a triathlon, as I did this same one here in our backyard in 2014. As one who has endured some acute and chronic injuries1 since high school, I found a cross-training balance has improved my life in immeasurable ways.

AeromanOne of my brothers compelled me to start training as I observed his legit endurance. He’s competed in multiple cycling races and a few years ago became a triathlete. He’s conquered every distance up through Ironman2 and this Fall we’ll be there cheering him on at Ironman Arizona. (His new goal is to go sub-ten-hours, which means he will likely pass some pros.) We train virtually together from afar; swimming-biking-running has become an enjoyable triad, a shared experience for us.

This race was about much more than a triathlon, though. “Sprinting” for an hour or so was the easy part. The real challenge is the six kilometer plus daily hike women and children in East Africa have to endure just to get water for the day. Every day, multiply times for so many, hauling many gallons and dozens of pounds at once. All for un-clean water! It’s exhausting, dangerous, and yet this problem is solvable. Through the community development efforts of World Vision, partnering with countless local and national organizations, clean water can be accessible for the poorest of the poor. Lives can be rebuilt, children have new opportunities, women can flourish as made in God’s image. Their sufferings are ours to lean into, to be part of what God can do, if we will care.

Clean WaterIn Africa they say, “Water is Life.” About 768 million people in the world lack access to safe water.

Lack of clean water is the number one preventable cause of death in the world. Women and children often walk 6 kilometers or more each way, two to three times a day, to gather water that isn’t even safe to drink; for water that could kill them.

It was an extraordinary experience doing fundraising while training, gaining confidence each time I told others about why I wanted, scratch that, they needed to give. At first I was apologetic about it, and then I realized that no apologies are needed, and I couldn’t be ah-shucks about it: kids are dying and through us be given a whole new opportunity in life.

When I broke it down that $50 provides water for one child in East Africa FOR LIFE, then people started to take notice.

That’s why I tri-ed.

I’ve been asked: How did I do in the actual race?

I trained long and hard, enjoying it all. Besides thinking about and praying for the kids who will no longer thirst, the hour or two every morning is the highlight of each day. This was my second triathlon (sprint: 800m swim » 12mi bike » 5K run) so I am still a total newbie, especially on transitions, and I usually feel like I’ll drown on the swim.

Running with Heidi

Running with Heidi

The best part is how our kids got involved, cheering me on in training. Nearly all my training times are complete before 6:45 AM every day, so they usually don’t see me out there running, biking, even swimming. (They see me spent and sweaty afterward, though.)

But Dutch and Heidi asked me about it, and ask if they could “train” with me, so we’d go out front and run some sprints, or ride bikes a few dozen times up and down the block. Then it occurred to my wife Kari and I to connect our extra giving to this vital need. We decided that if I placed third overall we would donate $500, second place would be $1,000, and first place overall would have us matching the $1,500 goal.

Happy finish (& a leg massage)I was the first one to cross the finish line, by a few minutes, which made my family think I won it. (Our kids were so enthusiastic!) Alas, I knew the athlete — another pastor named Jeff as well — I passed to start the 5K run not only beat me last year by a good margin, but he started behind me in a different wave by at least 5 minutes. I kept thinking, somehow I need to gain 5 minutes in these 5 kilometers. If only I could have matched my personal best in a 5K to end the race! Fatigue set in and the mind games started. Don’t slow down!

Nothing topped this hug at the finish line …
Father-son joy!  We did it, son.

Yet we were so stoked with the finish, and I couldn’t say ‘no’ to our kids (nor to those kids in Africa!), so we happily matched the $1,500 to make it $3,000 for clean water. That made the whole race so much more enjoyable. Announced at Renew Church that morning when I arrived late, thankfully not preaching a sermon that day. Best Father’s Day I can remember.

Official results:

Official times2nd place overall, 1st in age group

Swim 800m: 13:04 (+ half mile run extra transition)
Bike 12mi+: 36:38
Run 5K: 20:08
===========

Total 1:15:56

Afterwards a few of the sponsored triathletes I passed asked about my Team World Vision race kit and if I was “sponsored by World Vision.” Got to explain how it works the other way around (!) and share about the project.

Which brings me to another race I was just asked last week to join. This one is more ambitious, and I get to do the easy part of training and running, and you get the joy and challenge of providing life-changing water for more kids!

Team World Vision » Hood to Coast

The New Race: On August 28-29th I’ll be running, fundraising to provide life-changing water and resources for the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan. Working with the 4 South Sudan organization (founded by US Olympian Lopez Lomong, one of South Sudan’s “Lost Boys”), Team World Vision has ten teams participating in Hood-to-Coast, the world’s largest relay running race.

How about we aim to support 200 now?! $10,000 will provide water for TWO HUNDRED children FOR LIFE!

In joining a Team World Vision running team during the Hood-to-Coast relay, a total of 120 runners on ten teams are seeking to collectively raise one million dollars. Most of my new teammates are raising $10,000 each. Since I’m new to this party, let’s try to catch up. Okay?

Thanks for your support! » Please Give at teamworldvision.renewjeff.com.
—Jeff

(p.s., Many companies have programs to provide matching gifts.)

World Vision works with communities in desperate need to help provide things like clean water, nutritious food, education, medical care, and economic opportunity.

World Vision has the largest privately funded water initiative on the continent of Africa.

Clean water is a problem for which there is a solution. World Vision is the leading organizations bringing clean/safe water to communities in Africa in a sustainable way. When a community gains access to clean water:

  • Child mortality rates can be cut in half
  • Children enrolled in school can increase by as much as 80%
  • Women can begin working to provide for their family
  • Individuals and communities are changed in almost every way

  1. A couple challenging injuries include: a broken vertebrae at age 16 (never completely healed), and later ran over left foot in Jeep Wrangler a decade ago.
  2. An Iron-distance or official “Ironman” triathlon is 140.6 total miles in three legs: starting with a 2.4 mile swim, transitioning to a 112 mile bike ride, and then capping it off with a marathon. Yep, run 26.2 miles to finish.
 

Father’s Day Race to Give Kids Life!

In Africa they say, “Water is Life.” About 768 million people in the world lack access to safe water.

It is the number one preventable cause of death in the world. Women and children often walk 6 miles or more each way two to three times a day to gather water that isn’t even safe to drink, water that could kill them.

Through Team World Vision, $50 will provide clean water for one person for a lifetime!

Continue reading

 

Do adults ever play?

Calvin & Hobbes
 Source: Calvin & Hobbes 1

Last weekend a bunch of dads and daughters ventured into the great outdoors, endeavoring to build lasting memories together while camping, eating, s’mores-ing, fishing, playing, giggling, et cetera. The thing is, each of the fathers had to at one point recognize their ambitious plans for a great weekend had to step aside for the joy of whatever their daughter(s) wanted to do at that moment.

Plans that would need to be as fluid as the changing weather. And they were.

We didn’t catch any fish, though some newts became instant pets (before returning to their marshlands safely). Meals and bedtimes and dietary restrictions were merely guidelines, not rules. We had a ton of fun.

When the rain subsided, a beloved activity of this group of giddy girls was riding razor scooters and bikes around the campsite loop, with some rolling hills. It was a challenge to maintain speed all the way around. At least one of us dads needed to accompany, and I’m glad to say most of the dads joined in with their daughter(s) at one point or another. Since I’m no use in food prep nor in cooking a large-group meal, I instead volunteered to join these impromptu wheeled adventures.

Daddy-Daughter Campout

The biking and scooter-ing were way more fun when it wasn’t raining, and that’s when one of the girls asked me how long the loop was. “I don’t know,” I responded, “how long do you think it is? Definitely less than a mile; maybe a half mile?”  She then asked if I had my GPS watch to “keep track.” Yep, it’s in my bag as usual. So I put on my Garmin, and we all started out again on our loops. There were the inevitable bumps and bruises when one of the riders did a yard sale over the scooter bars, yet those girls are tough and within minutes each time were back at it.

Later we figured out each loop was about a third of a mile, and one girl noted she had done twenty-five loops. A bit of math scratched out in the dirt led her to realize that day’s bike riding added up to more than eight miles around that campground. Whoa. Solid effort. That is active play.

 

I took a little flack from some of the men for “measuring” the play time. I quipped back that I had been the one running the loops with the kids, gathering the wounded, and bringing them back, while (some of) the other dads sat around. (Men can take jabs at one another like this, and still remain friends.) Yet the remark about not measuring has some merit, because an unmeasured life has significant qualities to it.

Like the Calvin and Hobbes comic above, we grown-ups don’t often go outside and play. Our lives are rigorously measured, with many goals and timelines, so when we get some down-time we seek out other ways to set aside responsibilities for a breather. (Ahh. Let me just sit here in peace.)

I wonder what happens to us adults as we lose our “childlikeness” (not childishness, which is foolish and immature, and many keep). Rather, like a child, when we do give ourselves permission again to be overwhelmed with a sense of awe and wonder when out and about in nature?

Why do we glue ourselves to gadgets to be amused, rather than go muse about out in creation?

(I’m not talking about the difference between using an exercise tracker versus playing “free” of any devices.) Continue reading

  1. Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson, May 12, 2015
 

Love: Fitness, Fatigue & Form

In recent months a few friends have asked me to help them get in shape. Mostly through “friendly” encouragement, but sometimes more directly (and firmly) as a coach would. Various requests came in the form of invitations to run together, so we formed the Arch Bridge Running Club (Tuesdays, 5:00 AM running in/between Oregon City and West Linn). 1 A couple of us are training for a triathlon. Mostly we’re just running buddies.

RiskOne friend — not a runner nor desiring to become one! — asked me earnestly one day in mid-January if I would help him get in shape. Sure!

It took 86 days for his verbal desire to become “day one” of action. This month he began the journey through physical fitness. His resolve is now taking the shape of a new habit. (Don’t give up. Habits are usually stronger than desires.)

The key for him? Probably many things, like being disillusioned with getting older and sedentary. The inspiration of others on the journey, and a commitment to eating healthier has helped. Probably, like me, saying “no” is a challenge for him, so that there’s little left for cultivating a whole life.

Yet the key factor was this: beginning a new routine alongside his wife. (Yes!) This meant saying no to the customized fitness plan I had sent him (85 days prior) in order to say yes to a better and more realistic plan. (Principle: It’s good to say no to your friends for the sake of your wife.)

Personally, I default to doing just about anything alone. Which is precisely why I must not do so. Sure, there are times of solitude, and out of six runs in a given week, five usually are alone before the sun comes up (though with Strava you’re never really alone). Tuesday mornings are a reminder that I am both known and needed, and not just because I’m the one who usually sets the week’s running plan.

Being known is about vulnerability, where others can see you as you are: whether fit and fresh or fat and fatigued. In physical terms that means getting up early, when no one else will (especially yesterday’s you), to hit the road or gym hard. It means showing up to give your best, while not looking your best. It means turning on screens in order to get needed sleep. It means running slower on recovery days, since that’s wisdom. It means asking someone significant to check on what you’ve eaten, what you’ve spent, giving personal access to someone to see the behind-the-scenes of your life. The same holds true spiritually, relationally, emotionally. This is the pursuit of wholeness, where we see God’s love at work it us, whether fit or fatigued. Continue reading

  1. The Arch Bridge Running Club is open to all, though for your enjoyment some basics and baseline fitness are needed: 1) Be able to run continuously for thirty minutes, 2) sustain sub-9:00/mi for three miles, 3) a desire to be challenged. There are no dues, nor t-shirts (yet).
 

Good Friday, the forgotten holiday.

Good Friday is the forgotten holiday that speaks honestly (and brutally) about your past while inviting you do bury it with Jesus.

He died in our place, bringing us back to God. 1

We gather in reflect in the dark, without the cultural decorations (and relative obligations) of Easter Sunday, for each day needs the other. Without the resurrection Jesus’ death seems heartless, yet, through the cross the eternal life He offers carries the weight of God’s love.

When He cried out, “It is finished!” Jesus accomplished far more than we’ve ever dared to imagine.

I encourage you to find a Gospel-centered local church and participate in a Good Friday gathering, sharing this day with others near the foot of the Cross.

If you’re in Clackamas County, please join us as four Oregon City churches collectively contemplate His words, work and worth in the Cup, the Garden, the Trials, and the Cross. 

GOOD FRIDAY

 

  1. 1 Peter 3:18
 

Update in Uganda: Hurry home, Sharon.

Happy to see everyone! Surgery on Saturday was successful. Can we go home yet? Getting up to speed in her new wheels, a gift from NGM. Sharon lit up when she learned she could move around like this.

Happy to see everyone! Surgery on Saturday was successful. Can we go home yet?
Getting up to speed in her new wheels, a gift from NGM. Sharon lit up when she learned she could move around like this.

From March 10th to 20th I am in Uganda visiting friends and missionaries with Next Generation Ministries (NGM) » see NGM Facebook page. Below is my attempt to summarize the story of Sharon and the care she is receiving. Click any photo to see it enlarged. 

A week ago we met Sharon, the nine-year-old girl who was run over by two motorcycles (called “boda bodas”) in Jinja, Uganda. After being admitted to Jinja Main Hospital in about five minutes, she laid in agony on a bed in the women’s ward for three days. Without treatment. Doctors and nurses did drop by, but only caused her pain.

Looking for a creative outlet, Sharon and I took turns drawing everyday items. She's so bright.

Looking for a creative outlet, Sharon and I took turns drawing everyday items. She’s so bright, and ready to go home.

So, by the time Ugandan friends and colleagues of NGM learned of her situation, a change needed to be made. You see, children’s bones heal quickly, and if those are left untreated — let alone treated poorly or wrongly — she would have significant challenges in the future.

I’ll let you get up to speed on her injuries, the terrible care received, and the generosity of many to help enable a better future for Sharon by reading Words in Uganda: “There is no hurry in Africa.” Also, many have contributed to her medical costs (which may sum as much as $4,000 USD). » You may join in this good cause on this GoFundMe page.

sharon-surgery-x-ray

Steel plates put in each arm, to be removed in about six weeks.

Fast forward nearly a week and here we are: well, here is where Sharon is. Home, that is. Continue reading

 

Words in Uganda: “There is no hurry in Africa.”

From March 10th to 20th I am in Uganda visiting friends and missionaries with Next Generation Ministries » see NGM Facebook page. Below is my attempt to summarize the story of Sharon and the care she is receiving. Click any photo to see it enlarged. 

Wednesday morning began as planned: run before sunrise, being the bookmobile to deliver a favorite book as a gift to Olivia (more on her soon). It was another gift brought from the States and intended for her one day that on this day proved the key difference.

Rose nursing Olivia back to health, visiting morning, noon & night.

Rose nursing Olivia back to health, visiting morning, noon & night.

Olivia is paralyzed from the waist-down after receiving a poorly administered spinal epidural from a student nurse at Jinja Main Hospital. Eddy was born healthy, but since walking in that hospital to deliver her son, Olivia has not felt her legs and feet. As a paraplegic from malpractice without recourse she’s been relegated to a wheelchair. Next Generation Ministries took her in as a daughter and is paying for her medical expenses and a nurse to visit a few times a day to cleanse her sores and nurse her back to health. More on Olivia and her determined hope in Jesus in a future post.

A couple totes of supplies made the trip from home, and a new wheelchair. Nate sent those as a personal gift, a deep embodiment of the motto of NGM as “a river of relationships connecting resources to needs.” While I contemplated riding the wheelchair myself to each plane (and practiced at home with the kids), instead it was checked as luggage. So too were three special foam pads that made the trip in a tote of various supplies. Olivia has not received her new pad yet, but her gift was put to great use for another she hasn’t met either.

It was those pads that became the makeshift transporter bed for Sharon, a girl we met only Wednesday. Her needs were many, but time was of the essence. Yet, as the saying goes, “There is no hurry in Africa.” Everything takes time, that’s just the way it is, and you have to respect the slower pace of life.

Monday afternoon Sharon, nine-years-old, was walking home from school when a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) 1 hit her from the side and ran her legs breaking one, followed by another boda boda that ran over her upper body, breaking both arms. (We can only guess how it all unfolded, as no one stopped to tend to her.) A true hit-and-run, doubled.

Sharon was rushed by friends and family to the free government-run Jinja Main Hospital where on Monday they admitted her in five minutes but neglected to care for her for three days.

Sharon’s X-rays shown both arms are severely broken. Metal plates will be needed to ensure they heal properly.

As word spread about her injuries, many from their church family visited to offer encouragement, prayer, and whatever funds they had. A young man named Sononi (pronounced Saw-nan), a follower of Jesus, visited the hospital and noticed how none of the staff had cared for her besides doing the admittance paperwork. So he asked what could be done and took her for X-rays. I can only imagine how painful that was for Sharon. At great expense to himself, Sononi bought the pain medication as directed, which we learned was not administered to her in all of the three days she lay there.

It is no exaggeration to say that the conditions of Jinja Main Hospital are the worst I have ever seen, and more deplorable than I could dare to imagine. Known as the pre-cursor to the morgue, this is where one goes to wait to die. And the “deathbedside manner” (as I discovered) shown by the staff and especially the doctors produced a great well of emotion in me.

All of us knew we had to step in, as Sharon’s young bones would attempt to heal themselves, and she had zero chance of recovery waiting for someone to care and do something. Her family is so poor it may have been an upgrade in residences to stay and sleep at the foot of her bed, for at least there were walls an a fan, considering this heatwave at the equator.

We visited on Wednesday, through Sononi’s contact with Chris, Ezra and Peter, and the scene was worse than imaginable.

But we could see a spark of hope arise in the family even those they were getting no communication and even less compassion from the official medical staff there. So Paul led the conversation with the medical staff, empowering the Ugandan nationals (Chris and Peter especially) to enter the conversation. Unfazed, Sharon’s mother Jessica had been praying around the clock, and when we arrived Hellen was there, a dear friend who proved to be a key part of God’s work in this situation.

When confronted by someone seeking the truth we each have a handful of ways to respond, and not many more: we can be humble and honest, or can shift into self-protection mode and either denydeflectdistract, or minimize. You’ve seen this with kids, with colleagues, and even yourself, I’m sure.

This pattern was clear among the leadership at Jinja Main Hospital. Under-communicate, deflect responsibility, shift blame, and pretend the problem isn’t that bad. If you’ve ever had medical care where the doctor sees you as a number and not as a person, you’ve probably sought different care. That wasn’t an option here for the family. At first my thought was, “We would never settle for this in America.” But then I realized my arrogant elitism (the solution will not come from the outside). The Ugandan people should not settle for this either and we must empower them to fight in healthy ways for change. All people made in His image deserve competent, compassionate care. Continue reading

  1.  boda bodas are motorcycle taxis that cover the streets from “border to border” of Uganda.