Kelvin, Jared and I were up way before our alarm went off at 3:30 AM. We had barely slept 5 hours. But it was okay with me. However, because my wife wasn't available to drive us, I knew driving, to and from Lukenya, after running 20K wasn't going to be an easy task. Listening and dancing to Fantasia's I Made It while taking a shower, taking breakfast and thinking about the journey ahead made it bearable.
After a short prayer from my wife, it was time to hit the road. Unlike the 2016 edition when we arrived 48 minutes after the run had started, I was glad we had arrived at 6 AM. We therefore had plenty of time to pick our tags, network and check out our 'competition'. In 2016, I didn't have such a luxury since everyone had had a 48 minutes head start and by the time I finally started running, 7 more minutes had ticked off.
Running alone, and following hundreds of shoe steps that had erased the markings, was the hardest run I have ever run. And with my underwear and the pair of shorts I was wearing cutting into my fleshy thighs, my run wasn't a stroll in the park. By the time I crossed the finish line and fell into my wife's welcoming arms, there was blood gushing from my thighs and down my feet. My toes and heels were on fire while no amount of water could quench my thirst.
I used last year's run to reflect on whether or not I needed to continue working as a full time Lifesong Kenya volunteer with boys in juvenile prison. In fact, that is what I focused on throughout 2016. In the end, God spoke clearly to me, through a number of people, signs and personal convictions. I have already resumed my work as a full time volunteer and enjoying every challenge that comes with it.
I am now in a position where I am able to find and get clients for my online writing, reading club and the various income generating ideas I have. I am also getting a number of organizations and people interested in partnering and supporting Lifesong Kenya and its effort to empower boys from all works of lives.
Thinking about a tray of eggs and groundnuts
"James, what should be our strategy tomorrow?" Elisha had asked the night before.
"I expect a top position from Kelvin and you," I replied. "Jared will grow our network by sharing our work and vision for boys with those who will be willing to give him a listening ear."
"Alright!" Kelvin exclaimed.
"Above all else, let's all have fun and know this is for a good cause," I said. "This doesn't mean the run is going to be easy. Trust me, it is going to be painful, tough and you might even spill blood."
As I kept on running the face of the boys we work with and the young men God has brought into my life kept flashing by. Most of the time, I wished I had a pen and notebook or a laptop to record the ideas that kept streaming into my brain. I thought about Diamond and his upcoming case on Tuesday.
A lot has been happening ever since we met Diamond in juvenile prison. Because the court had given him a free bond, provided we find a school and a place he can call home, our biggest challenge was convincing his step dad to accept him back home. With Sister Bertina having guaranteed she was going to look into taking Diamond back to school, we knew meeting Diamond's step dad was what lay between us and Diamond's freedom.
One day, I got a call from Sister Bertina, "James, we have a problem," she said. "Diamond's step dad is dead!"
"Well, that is good news," I said, without knowing why I was saying this. "It means Diamond can now stay with his mom."
"Yes," Sister Bertina replied. "However, she cannot pay rent anymore."
"What should we do now?" I asked.
"She is asking for our help," she continued. "I know you still don't have a place where boys like Diamond can stay. However, I need your help walking with him as well as his mom."
"What about her?" I asked.
"She needs a tray of eggs and a tin of groundnuts so she can sell boiled eggs and roasted groundnuts."
"Okay," I replied. "I will work on that. You keep working on finding a schools for Diamond."
I also thought about Pistar who went to Bible College without having all the basic things he needs for his studies. Much as I had shared his needs with members of our ministry in church, I doubted whether anyone done anything tangible. It is my belief that helping others calls for faith backed by action.
It is then that I decided we were going to drive to Machakos. Having made that decision, and knowing how harder it was going to be after running 20K, I decided to go easy on the run. Seeing most of the runners I had overtaken a few minutes before, was a bit discouraging. However, visiting Pistar to see how he is settling down and doing without the basic things he urgently needs was more important.
Pistar had just arrived back at the college after hospital ministry where he had prayed, encouraged and played songs to patients. Compared to many of his classmates, his need for an official suit made him stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. His engaging and genuine smile just about made up for the material things he lacks. Hearing him play one of his inspirational song on purpose was a worthy reward for our trip to Machakos.
I also thought about thousands of orphans and their widowed mothers back in Luo Nyanza where I grew up. I don't know why this came to my mind. But it wasn't for the first time I was thinking about building an iron sheet and mud walled houses to 3 widows this year. I have thought and prayed about it more than once and because I still don't know what God wants me to do about this, I kept praying about the matter as I kept running.
My running has become more than a means to raise funds for our work with the boys we work with in juvenile prison and elsewhere. It has become a means through which I pray, reflect and listen to what God has to say concerning my engagement with boys and young men. As I continue recovering from the Lukenya Trails Run, I am thankful for the amount of money we managed to raise during this run.
I am also thankful that Elisha, Jared and Kelvin were able to join and be by my side. Their support, and of course my wife’s tremendous faith and support, enables me to continue working as a writer who spends his 9-5 empowering the boys and young men God keeps bringing into my life. It is the most wonderful place and position to be in and God willing, I will continue running and staying on course.