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You’ve heard it said, “New year, new you.”

What if I told you that goal is too small? What if you and I were made for so much more than self-glory?

In view of all the reasons I run, and with a goal of getting uncomfortable, in 2015 I’ve made it a goal to take something 1) I personally enjoy, that is 2) a noble pursuit, and 3) make it less about me connecting it to a bigger ambition. Last year, as part of a noble pursuit of health and fitness, I attempted a sprint triathlon, enjoyed the training and was pleased with the results.

Since triathlon—like all other pursuits—can easily morph into a triple event in self-actualization (look at me! 3x), I have to fight against that urge and make it more about true global needs. Instead of asking God to make my dreams come true, I’m learning to let those dreams die to see His dreams come to life. 1

Team World Vision | Triathlon

So, this year I’m swimming-biking-running with Team World Vision to help provide clean water for communities in Africa. The needs are real, but there is something we can do!

$50 = clean water for 1 person

Will you donate to provide clean water for 1, 2, 3, or even more people in Africa?

Clean WaterTogether we can help change lives in Africa across Ghana, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia.

- – -
The Race: On June 21st I’ll swim-bike-run in the Clackamas Cove Triathlon (you’re welcome to join me). 2 Last year was my first attempt at a triathlon; this time I want to not only place first in my age division, but more importantly: reach this goal of providing clean water for 30 people in Africa? Will you join me?

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

Links:

Thanks for your support!
—Jeff

  1. My body ‘needs’ many things, including being daily punished into godly submission to Christ (see 1 Cor. 9:24-27), yet more than that: everyone needs clean water!
  2. An aside: the Clackamas Cove Triathlon is not officially connected to my fundraiser. Their good work in the Oregon City community focuses on local charities.
 

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.
 

Words in Africa: “I am not a white man; I am a child of God.”

(It would take a 600-page book to describe the emotions encountered in merely our first six hours today. It all came so fast I could not pause to cry until now. Let this brief post serve as a tiny glimpse into one significant encounter amid many on day one in Jinja, Uganda, East Africa. Today though March 20th I am here visiting friends and missionaries with Next Generation Ministries » see NGM Facebook page.)

Met so many wonderful people today, day one in Uganda. And they each invited me into their daily adventure of embodying beauty and embracing brokenness.

Sometime in the middle of today, amidst many errands and meeting with a number of people, we were delayed on return from a newer “modern hospital,” the conditions of which could not possibly pass inspection for a makeshift day clinic for the homeless in America.

But we are not in the States, and this is the best care poverty can buy in Uganda. I’m told it is a vast improvement from government-funded healthcare (a statement validated as an understatement by a later evening visit to Jinja Main Hospital; more on that in a future bite, I hope).

Today, at Al Shafa Modern Hospital Limited a lady walked up with her under-nourished, famished, and deeply I’ll daughter. I think the girl is five years old. We encouraged her to enter the clinic and admit her child, to which she replied in Lugandan that she has no money and has lost all hope. This child clearly needed a blood transfusion and it seems malaria wants to steal the life of another beautiful child.

Against all hope Saluwa knew she had to daily decide between one small shared meal for the family or getting life-saving medical help.

If only someone cared for her and pleaded her case. Continue reading

 

Let’s get uncomfortable!

“Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.”1

That’s a keen insight from long-distance runner Dean Karnazes. His words apply to all “adventure,” really all of life, as running and training can be a good metaphor for the real “endurance” events we call daily life. The ordinary, common, everyday activities are where we need the will to persevere and willingness to get uncomfortable.

In short: We can either be comfortable and stagnate or stretch ourselves—become uncomfortable—and grow.

We tend to think that comfort leads to happiness. It doesn’t. “Happiness” comes from growth, a deeper joy than temporal circumstances. In comes in part from making commitments and keeping them. We find a measure of joy in making progress, and especially joining others in their development. When we persevere, we grow.

Let's run up those hillsFor me that means hitting the pavement in search of some hills almost every morning. In reality, running is the easy part. It’s the other “endurance” events of life where we must embrace the uncomfortable: relationship tensions, hard decisions, confrontation, adversity, setbacks, each new challenge an opportunity. This is essential if we are to reject apathy.

I wonder if one reason 80%+ of people fail on their New Year’s resolutions is they remain committed to their own comfort. The love of comfort keeps them from a better adventure. People embrace apathy, which is a slow death. And a love of self-comfort keeps them for pursuing health and wholeness for the sake of others. If we are to benefit—and better yet: if others are to develop under our care and leadership—we must get uncomfortable. Seek out a measure of adversity, and train for the real adversity than will inevitably come your way.

“Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity.”2

  1. Dean Karnazes in an interview with Outdoor Magazine, published online December 2006.
  2. Timothy Keller, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.
 

I am an adult, and I can eat whatever I want whenever I want, and I need someone to take this power from me.

Newsflash: I’m an adult, and I can eat whatever I want whenever I want, and I wish someone would take this power from me.

Every year during the 100-days-of-holidays1 I eat too much sugar and salt. Salty things are my favorite, as they are for one of my brothers. Probably because salty snacks make me feel worse at a slower rate than sugary things. (Make that high-fructose-corn-syrupy things.) If there is a bowl of pretzels, or nuts, or jerky, out on the counter, it will be consumed faster than it took you to read that last paragraph.

So I run.2

Well, that’s not the only reason why I run 5-6 days a week. I really enjoy running, so there’s that. And other good and somewhat terrible reasons too.

But during the holidays—from Thanksgiving, to Christmas, to parties such as watching football on New Years and the like—I snack too much. Even loved ones get me salty and/or sugary gifts and say things like “I know you like these,” and “you don’t seem to gain weight.”

Wait a second. Yes, I like these, a lot. A lot too much. (And I gain plenty of weight during the holidays, but who’s counting besides me?) The snacks aren’t the problem. The problem is I eat them too fast. Why can’t I restrain myself?3

In any case, I turned to my wife yesterday and said what she was about to say: “How about you hide these from me? Can you hide these from me?” We agreed that I would have an appropriate ration, after I have forgotten about them.

Snack bag

The point is: sometimes we need to give people authority in our lives to help us grow into maturity. Sometimes we don’t have the willpower or motivation or even aptitude to make healthy decisions. This can be in areas of food, relationship, social media, exercise, or even growing spiritually. I’d say especially all of those.

Continue reading

  1. Actually, I count 107 days from 10/31 spanning through 2/14. Those are the sugary holidays.
  2. I exercise about an hour a day. Running stats: In 2014 I bested my year goal of 1,420 miles by more than 200 miles, and was out running for more than 250 hours total, plus another 102 hours on the bike.
  3. John Owen writes, “Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.”