When I first saw this photo of the Korean peninsula I was intrigued. How can a place so full of light be in such close proximity to a place cloaked in utter darkness. A friend and co-worker from Seoul, South Korea has told me of her life in a very modern city filled with technology, modern design and commerce. How could a country that shares a border and a common history be so different? And what must life be like in a place so dark, oppressed and isolated?
I read Barbara Demick’s book, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, 2 years ago and it still haunts me today. It tells of the everyday lives of several people in North Korea, their struggles to live, love and survive. As I watch the news and see the rising tension surrounding North Korea I think not of the threat this country and its unstable leader poses to the world but of the ordinary people who suffer everyday, silently, in the darkness. They are the forgotten people who are hidden behind the voices of a legacy of dictators. They are the ones that are oppressed, starving, waiting. This book reminds me that all conflict and war that we read, see and hear about through the lens of policy, government and the media have a vast array of people, ordinary people, that are suffering and forgotten amidst the rhetoric. This book brings a sense of the humanity of the North Korean people and their need for truth and light.
It is a North Korean phenomenon that many have observed. For lack of chairs or benches, the people sit for hours on their haunches, along the sides of roads, in parks, in the market. They stare straight ahead as though they are waiting – for a tram, maybe, or a passing car, a friend or a relative.Maybe they are waiting for nothing in particular, just waiting for something to change. - Barbara Demick, July 2010
Summer is reading a good book under the shade of a tree. A good book… one that takes you to another place and time, grabs your attention and won’t let you go until you reach the conclusion, only to wish there was more to the fascinating story you’ve entered. But this story is no fairy tale, science fiction or distant world. It is true and continues to be lived today.
Running for My Life tells the story of Lopez Lomong an athlete that we will soon watch on television as he participates in his second Olympic games. He will run the 5000 as part of Team USA in London later this summer. But his journey as a runner began unexpectedly when he was just 6 years old, running for his life from the civil war in Sudan in 1991. His escape from rebel soldiers took him to a refugee camp in Kenya for 10 years living with other Lost Boys from Sudan. Syracuse, my hometown, was his first home in America joining the Rogers family in nearby Tully. Our community is home to many resettled refugees and his story is only one of many that inspire our community. His running has taken him to college, the Olympics and given him a platform and voice to help his homeland of Sudan and the people there.
Many times while watching the Olympics we are given a glimpse of the athletes before they took the world stage with their incredible athletic ability. Learning the stories of these athletes is one of my favorite parts of watching the games. Lopez Lomong’s story is certainly one of pain, suffering and hardship but all that is overshadowed by his tremendous drive, hope and selfless endeavors for the people of South Sudan. I was looking forward to the Olympics as a spectator. But now, I am a fan. A fan of Lopez Lomong. And not because I want to see him win a race and stand on a podium for a short time with a medal around his neck. I am a fan because he knows that the race set before him is one that includes much more than a gold medal. It includes a life filled with loving God, loving those around him and loving his homeland and it’s people of South Sudan.
Let the games begin!
To learn more about Lopez Lomong and 4 South Sudan go to: lopezlomong.com/foundation
This book was received free for two honest reviews. (After reading it, I would gladly buy it)