Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lopez Lomong - Olympian and Lost Boy

"… animals could have killed us or people could have got us and killed us, but God was there to protect us."
(USA Today)

The Second Sudanese Civil War.

Lopez Lomong was abducted while attending mass at the age of six. After some weeks of wasting away in the rebel camp, he escaped with several older boys (his "angels") through a hole in the fence. And they ran.

As is clear from the post title, Lopez Lomong’s running ability is a God-given gift, but I get ahead of myself. The boys made it to a refugee camp, and there he subsisted on roughly one meal a day for ten years, all the while believing his parents to be dead. At sixteen, he wrote an essay for Catholic Charities detailing what he would do in America, given the chance. His story was so moving, the chance was given.

In 2001 Robert and Barbara Rodgers welcomed him into their home in Tully, New York. The transition was not without a hitch: Lopez was too shy to ask his adopted parents for help with the shower, lights, and other first world puzzles for the third world upbringing. Key to adjusting to his radically new setting was running. What was once comforting footfalls became high school cross-country, then a NCAA Division I education, the pros, and ultimately the Olympic 1500m. In 2008 he was voted by the U.S. team to bear the flag in the parade of athletes, and he is currently training for the London Olympics this summer.

Lomong is still very much attached to his roots. It was about a year after coming to the U.S. that he discovered his parents were alive. Now his monetary aid helps support the younger brothers he did not used to know he had. He is also a driving force of Team Darfur, an organization of elite athletes who are spreading awareness about the conflict, and pressure on the guilty powers. With 4 South Sudan he raises funds for clean drinking water, healthcare, and education.

Interestingly, some of the the mainstream media downplays his faith. However, USA Today was cool enough to share Lomong’s own faith-filled words with us: "(God) blessed me and gave me a lot of strength to be faithful and more determined with my life to overcome obstacles. He had a vision for me. He knew I would come to America and have family.”

More on Lopez Lomong:

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