Category Archives: Africa

Sponsored by Love

I pulled out all my letters last night. I was sharing with some teammates about how awesome these kids are and how absolutely amazing it is that we can call them “friends” – that we can have any sort of relationship with them. I am moved to tears every time I read their letters, and this morning is no different.


Alice from Zambia

14 year old Alice recently wrote “I am very happy to hear that your husband Dan is a pastor. May Almighty God be with him.” – –  This is a 14 year old!

Then, I found my most recent letter from 11 year old Daniel, who will be here two weeks from today (!!!), and among meeting my whole family and visiting my home, he mentioned wanting to see a horse – and it messes me up because it’s so simple.

His mama Egla often writes to me too, which is just so special, because she’s a mama and I’m a mama, and we have that bond. She’s got the brightest smile in the universe. She begins her last letter with “We love you and your family so much.”

At World Vision, we talk about how sponsoring a child is a personal way to show God’s love to a child in need. And IT IS! The deep roots of generations of poverty are torn up when we share our abundant resources with children and their communities, and the future comes alive with hope for them when share our love and encouragement.

But as much as it is a personal way for us to show God’s love to them, God uses it as a way for Him to personally show His love to this American adult, who has all her physical needs met and way more “stuff” than I know what to do with. My poverty is spiritual and relational, and I need Jesus desperately.

He said whatever you did for the least of these my brothers and sisters – whatever you did for those who were hungry or thirsty or naked or homeless or orphaned or widowed – whatever you did for them, you did for me. Whatever we do to meet the needs of those who have less than us, we actually do it for Jesus. They represent Him.

And they write me letters and tell me they love me.

Do you get it?

We could all use a few more regular reminders that we are so very loved by the Almighty God. Imagine if we all knew and experienced that love just a little bit more, and if we would actually let it sink into our hearts and let it change us.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we have to do anything for God to love us. God’s love is not earned – it is free and unconditional. We don’t have to run races, give money or some sort of perfect life. He loves us no matter what. We know this.

But when does this knowledge move from our head to our heart?  When do we feel or experience it? How do we receive it? Are our eyes open to see it? Are our ears open to hear when he says “I love you”? Can we ever feel, see and hear that too much?

He communicates his love for us in so many profound ways.

Maybe the real question is, do we even want to receive it? Do we even care?

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Look into the eyes of a child. Hold their hand. Learn their story. Be their friend.

I’d be happy to introduce you.


RIP Timothy


On July 19, Daniel and I received the very hard news that one of our sponsor children in Bartabwa, Kenya passed away tragically in a flood. We are both heartbroken and without words. Please say a prayer for his family.

This is personal.

We are fortunate enough to have friends and colleagues in the area where our sponsor child Timothy lived and they have been able to help us piece together his story.

One of them was his teacher, Jan Kipsong, she too devastated by the loss of her favorite pupil. She told me that Timothy was a wonderful boy – he was joyful and had many friends. He used to look after his father’s livestock (cows, sheep and goats) and it was in the evening hours, as he was trying to cross a river to take the animals home from grazing, that he was caught up in the “hungry waters” of the flood. It is possible that their livestock did not make it across either, so on top of losing a child, they may have lost their financial security as well.

This is a recent news story from the area where he lives, very likely the same river.

Our kid’s job today was to take our pugs out to the yard and scoop food into their dishes.

Meanwhile, we live in a world where 10-year-olds walk alone for many miles and across dangerous waters to help their family’s survive. Ironically, Timothy lived in an area that lately has been ravaged by drought and famine – one far worse than what we witnessed in the 80’s – but when the rain finally came, it came too fast. A flash flood that should’ve produced hope and replenishment, instead wreaked havoc and stole an innocent life – from ALL of us.


In these situations, it is easy to wonder how a good and loving God could allow such suffering and tragedy.

I believe he doesn’t allow it. We do. People allow it.

Dan and I will be sending a financial gift to help the family and are working to shift the sponsorship to one of Timothy’s siblings. We want to walk as closely as we can with them in their grief, knowing that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” and we want to be close to Him.

You can help by sponsoring a child in Timothy’s community. There are currently 273 children in Bartabwa who are waiting to be sponsored. Child sponsorship is an opportunity for you to build a relationship with one special child and help their whole community have access to vital resources like clean water, nutritious food, healthcare, education, economic opportunities, and more. Let me know if you’re interested.

You can also make a one-time donation in honor of Timothy to provide clean, safe water his community. Development begins with clean water. Follow the link here to make a donation.…

We love you Timothy and we will continue to fight for you.



Drought: A prolonged absence of something. An extended shortage. Water related.

Last week was a recovery week for Ironman training – a prescribed period of reduced training intensity and volume to rest and replenish. Only 9 hours and 15 minutes of training was prescribed on the plan. Only 9 hours… I know, right?

I was thankful. It was going to be an extremely busy week at work. I hosted an event for 250 people on Thursday night to celebrate the beginning of the Twin Cities Marathon training season, and then flew out to Detroit on Friday morning to help with the Global 6K, where over 900 people were in attendance. So, with everything going on, I fully expected to miss some workouts and I was OK with that  – to this point, I’ve been super consistent, not missing a single workout for 3 weeks in a row.

What I didn’t factor into the equation was a) how exhausting event prep and execution is and b) how much even short trips wear me down. While my IM training was significantly reduced, I really didn’t rest much and sleep was at a minimum. My recovery week did not provide me with much replenishment.

So it’s Sunday night, and I’m staring down a new week of training, back to the full-on grind.


This is what I have to look forward to this week. 12 hours & 45 mins.

I feel
and alone.

It’s drought season.

I’m looking at the week ahead of me and questioning everything. To be honest, I don’t want to do it. The motivation is just not there. I haven’t received an ounce of financial support in 3 weeks, so what’s the point? I’m not doing this because I have a dream of finishing an Ironman. If people in Africa aren’t receiving clean water, why bother?

But I committed to doing this, and people have already given very generously. For that, I am so thankful. That is not lost on me. Not at all. But in these moments of radio-silence, when I’m not receiving those blessed emails or texts that scream “SOMEONE DONATED!!” … I feel alone. And the negative voices takeover. They say…

“Nobody cares anymore.”
“Nobody cares about your training anymore.”
“Nobody cares about YOU anymore.”
“Nobody cares about kids in Africa.”

“Give up.”
“It’s not worth it.”

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?

So I look to Jesus.
Because apparently he knows something about abandonment.
In the midst of unimaginable physical pain, abandoned by all but a few of his friends and followers, and facing his imminent death, when it would be almost impossible for anyone to think clearly, he called out to God, “Why have you forsaken me?”

And yet, through all of this, he endured out of deep love and devotion for you and for me. Strangely, he had hope. He knew that God was going to do something amazing. That, although he couldn’t see it and he certainly wasn’t feeling it, there was joy coming. He knew that because of God’s promise, there was resurrection and LIFE on the other side – for him and for all of us.

Mother Teresa saw these lonely experiences as invitations to unite herself more closely with Jesus in his abandonment on the cross and with the poor, who also feel abandoned.

Drought in KenyaIMG_5638

Speaking of the poor, there’s a severe drought in Kenya currently and it is affecting the community where my sponsor child, Daniel, and his family live. In Baringo County, household distances to water is now three times longer than usual (the usual is 6 kilometers, or 3-4 miles). What does this mean for Daniel? Is he missing school because he has to walk farther? How is this affecting their food supply? Are they being forced to drink dirty water again? Have they been sick?


Does Daniel’s mama, Egla feel abandoned? To have seen so much progress in her community since 2007 when World Vision began their work there, wide-spread development and growth, clean water flowing and her children thriving, feeling blessed and hopeful, and then this happens? The water goes away. Is she wondering where God is now?

There’s a lot I don’t know, but I do know this – if my family didn’t have clean water, I would do whatever it takes to get it for them, and I would be on my knees everyday, praying that God would provide somehow.

This drought has been declared a national disaster in Kenya, and yet, we don’t hear about it in the news. It’s a silent killer that’s easy for the rest of the world to ignore. But it’s taking the lives of nearly 1,000 children under the age of 5 every day. That’s more than all the war and all the violence we see in the news today.

It remains the #1 preventable cause of death.
The #1 preventable cause of mothers and fathers suffering through the loss of a child.

Today, I’m writing to Daniel and Egla, and I’m praying this prayer from Psalm 63 with and for them.

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.

And our faith – their faith being far greater than my own – will remind us that God is good and there is a joy coming, so we must endure.

Oh God, pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; Pour out your Spirit on your offspring, and your blessing on your descendants.

$250 will provide clean water for a family of 5 in Africa.

I heard the voice of God

He spoke to me through a woman on a hillside in rural Kenya. I glance at her picture and I weep.

Lemme back up.

Before I went to Kenya, I frequently found myself getting emotional at the simple thought of being with the people of Africa, but it wasn’t out of pity. I knew I would be completely overwhelmed by their beauty.

Jesus said “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”

I believed that when I was with the people of Africa, it would be like I was with Jesus and I’d be looking into the very eyes of my Savior. And it wrecked me. It continues to wreck me.

October 26, 2015. It was our first day in the field and I couldn’t wait. The days prior were cool – Safari in the Masai Mara and a race in Nairobi – but the people – that’s why I was there. We drove for hours on some of THE roughest terrain I’ve ever driven on. It was like you see in the movies – look out the window of our vehicle and there’s the cliff, straight down.

At last, we came to the top of the hill, and there it was – a World Vision water storage tank standing tall above the trees, a solar panel nearby and a school yard, brimming with the joyful sounds of children playing in the yard.

It was real.


Photo cred: Joseph Johnson

The community came out to greet us. They welcomed us warmly and made their formal introductions.

There was one woman I immediately connected with. She was lively and energetic. She walked with me arm and arm, chattering away – I couldn’t understand a word of what she was saying, but she was smiling. She was sheer joy.

But then she said something to me, and it was clear as day. She looked into my eyes and said “I love you”.

Sweet sister. I love you too, I said back to her.

jesus1.jpgIt wasn’t until later though, as we were debriefing as a team over dinner, that it sunk in.  “What you did for them, you did for me…”

She represents Jesus, and she said I love you.

This may have been the very best moment of my life. I never even learned her name, and maybe it’s better that way. I love her.

Through the suffering and through the voice of the poor, I am finally beginning to understand how God loves me.  It’s finally moving from my head to my heart.

If you desire to be close to Jesus, go to where he is.

And when you’re there, when you are able to interact with the poor – the people who the world considers to be the least of those among us,  instead of piously thinking about it as if you’re serving them, or even you’re serving Jesus, watch for how they respond to you.  He is with them. He is in them. It is him speaking through their response. Don’t miss it.

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Matthew 25:35-40

Africa is with me in much the same way that God is with me. Day in and day out, she is constantly in my thoughts.

My retelling of this moment will never do it justice.