Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong (with Mark Tabb) first caught my attention when I saw the commercial advertising the Olympics. “What an amazing hint of a story!”, I remember saying. I wanted to learn more about him. Was he a Christian?
Lopez Lomong was kidnapped at six years old by rebel fighters in South Sudan while attending church with his family. He inferred that between the South Sudan government and the rebels, the line between good guys and bad guys were barely discernable. In one chapter, Lopez recalls a conversation he had with some boys while they were imprisoned. The boys questioned amongst themselves if these were the rebels, why were they being kidnapped? Weren’t they on their side?
Three “angels,” boys older than Lopez from his village protected him and one night escaped with him. They ran through the desert of Africa for three days with bloody feet all the way to the border. What was amazing was how God provided water and food along the way, and not from any human source, but from the abundance growing in the wilds. They ran all the way to Kenya where Kenyan soldiers picked them up and brought them to a Kenyan refugee camp.
There, the boys had a little better care, but not by much. While United Nations workers ate well, the refugees in the camp were on food rations. Larger boys would troll the tents, bullying other boys to give them their food rations so the older boys could sell them outside the camp. Lopez and the boys with him in his tent cleverly hid their food. The biggest excitement at their camp was soccer and garbage day.
Garbage day came when the squeak-squeak of the wheel borrow would come, dumping the U.N. garbage into a hole. A lot of boys would dive into the melee looking for half-eaten food to salvage for their tent. I liked what Lopez said about this:
“We only ate one meal a day, but for me, coming into the camp at the age of six, I accepted this as normal. I never thought that life was unfair because I had to eat garbage. Instead, I looked at the scraps of food from the dump as a blessing. Not all the boys in the camp could do this. I knew some who chose to feel sorry for themselves, who complained constantly about their lot in life. What is the point of such complaining? After all the whining and complaining is over, you still live in a refugee camp. All the complaining in the world will not make your life any better. Instead, you must choose to make the best of whatever the situation in which you find yourself, even in a place like Kakuma.” (Page 39)
There was such poverty in Africa. Lopez recounted humorous memories of when he arrived in America for the first time. He said he used to think white people were white because of the cold climate in which they lived. Lopez also did not know how to turn a light off or on. He said yes to everything because he didn’t want to offend his new parents. Lopez thought he didn’t deserve the kindness and love his foster parents gave in America. America was such a new experience for him.
But what really got me was how proud he was of our country. His team mates on the Olympian Team voted for him to be the flag bearer in the Beijing Olympics. He met President Bush and First Lady, Laura. He was proud of his country and in many ways you could liken him to the Olympian, Jesse Owens who in the 1936 Olympic games was sent to compete against Germany. Lopez went against China who supported the bad guys in South Sudan like Germany supported the antics of Hitler.
For anyone who is losing a house to foreclosure, bemoaning that they can’t pay their bills, or can’t own the television their neighbor was able to buy, they should read this book. This is the story of a South Sudan Lost Boy who came to America and wanted to work hard. He didn’t take advantage of her or burn her flag or demand special treatment. Lopez Lomong models what America should be and how hard work, love, and determination can help make any dream a reality. After reading this book, I believe God wanted Lopez to tell his story. His story has God’s fingerprints all over it. I gave it five stars.
All proceeds from Running For My Life are going to the Lomong Foundation’s “4 South Sudan.” Together Lopez and World Vision are working to bring the needs of South Sudan to fruition.