Archive for August, 2012

This is what a humanitarian looks like.

Lopez Lomong (right) Rob Rogers (left)

 

This Saturday, December 1st,  former Lost Boy and U.S. Olympian Lopez Lomong will be awarded the Visa Humanitarian of the Year Award in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The last time I saw Lopez was a few weeks ago in Auburn, Washington when he spoke to more than a thousand in attendance at World Vision’s Day of Prayer. Lopez was recounting all that had happened this year. I remember one night in particular, the night before the biggest race of his life. And he was smiling.

The race was the men’s 5,000 meters on Saturday at the Summer Games in London. He was surrounded by some of the most important people in the world to him, his girlfriend, Brittany Morreale and his mother and father, Barbara and Rob Rogers from Upstate New York. Barbara kept quietly repeating, “I’m so proud of him.”

In 2001, she and Rob brought Lopez over to America from a refugee camp in Kenya. At the age of six, Lopez was abducted by Sudanese rebels and taken to a holding facility where he was prepped as a child soldier. It was determined he was too small. Chances were that he would have been left to starve to death but three fellow captives, his “angels” as he describes them, helped him escape. After three days and nights Lopez was captured by Kenyan soldiers taken to that refugee camp where he lived for ten years, until the Rogers adopted him.

Soon they discovered he was the fastest kid in school, then the state and one of the fastest in the nation. He qualified for the US track and field team in 2008 and was the flag bearer for the Beijing Summer Games. Four years later, Lopez Lomong is at his second Olympics. Rob Rogers says in 2008, “It was like a dream.” But this time his dad says, “he’s here to win a gold medal.”

Michael Chitwood (Team World Vision) on left

That’s what his family and Team World Vision friends including Josh Cox prayed for.

Josh Cox (left) Michael Chitwood Team World Vision (right)

Cox is a long-distance runner, the American record-holder in the 50K and a four time U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier. Team World Vision is a fundraising program of international Christian charity World Vision that equips individuals to raise money for World Vision projects. Lomong’s 4South Sudan is a World Vision partner committed to finding clean water, health care, education and nutrition for kids back home in South Sudan.

http://lopezlomong.com/foundation/

me (on left) with Lopez

I was in London with Cox, Team World Vision National Director Michael Chitwood and Team World Vision’s Steve Spear. We were all there to cheer Lopez on. The next night he ended up finishing tenth in the race after leading as he headed into the last lap. A disappointing finish but not a demoralizing one. “I’ll be back,” he told me after the race. “I learned a lot this time around. I’ll be back.”

I thought about that response when I heard that Lomong had been honored as Visa’s 2012 Humanitarian of the Year. And I thought about the commitment Lomong has made to helping children back home and here in the States through his work with Team World Vision.

Something tells me he will be back. But then – something tells me he’s never left.

Thursday, December 6th, Lomong will travel to the Bay Area where he’ll run with at-risk youth in Oakland. That weekend, he’ll run in a half-marathon in Walnut Creek, California for Team World Vision.

Lomong’s new book is called “Running For My Life” (Thomas Nelson Publishing)

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