Lopez Lomong knows what it's like to run for his life. But these days, the U.S. 2012 Olympics track athlete competing in the 5,000-meter race on [August 8-2012] is running not from terror but for joy in the Lord.
The 27-year-old Lost Boy of Sudan captured the world's attention at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he led the U.S. team in the opening ceremony as the flag bearer and met President George W. Bush. Preparing for this year's London Olympics, which commences July 27, Lomong says he fully realizes his record-breaking accomplishments serve as a platform to share his story.
That story starts in 1991, when Lomong's home village of Kimotong was attacked by rebels in the second Sudanese civil war. "I was 6 years old when I was abducted at church, which met under a tree," Lomong told Christianity Today at his training base in Portland, Oregon. "They ripped my mother's arm from me, throwing me and other boys into a truck; they blindfolded us, then drove us to a prison camp that trained rebel soldiers."
With 80 other boys, Lomong was crammed into a hut, where he survived on sorghum mixed with sand; the boys were beaten with a cane by militia when they needed to use the bathroom, which sent the message that they dare not escape.
Until Lomong did three weeks later, with the help of "three angels," a story he recounts in his new autobiography, Running for My Life (Thomas Nelson). "They were three older boys, 14 or 15, who knew my family from our village, and they said to me, 'You're going to see your mother.'"
On a moonless night the four youth slipped out of the room, crawled on their bellies, and slid through a hole in a fence.
"The savannas are very tough. We ran for three days—my legs and feet were bleeding," said Lomong. "When I wanted to stop, my angels carried me."
Lomong didn't end up in his home village to see his mother, but instead the four boys hobbled into the United Nationssponsored Kakuma refugee camp near Nairobi, Kenya, where Lomong remained for 10 years. His three friends vanished after two weeks.
"I have been back and keep asking for them. They brought me from harsh wilderness to the Promised Land, then disappeared like angels," Lomong told CT. "They are my inspiration for what I am doing now. God was with them to help me."
At Kakuma, food was sparse and refugees rummaged through garbage for scraps. To play soccer, boys had to run one lap around the camp—18 miles—in order to limit the numbers on the field.
If running saved Lomong's life from one circumstance, writing saved him from another. When he was 16, the priest at his church announced that 3,500 boys out of the thousands from Kakuma had the chance to relocate to the United States by writing an essay about their lives. Lomong prayed that God would make his essay stand out, penning it as a prayer.
He started his essay about church, where he was first abducted, and ended with church, where he learned of the opportunity for freedom.
His story was selected. Lomong was moving to America.
About the same time, Robert and Barb Rogers of Syracuse, New York, read a notice in their Catholic church's bulletin regarding an upcoming meeting about finding foster homes for the Lost Boys of Sudan.
"I was looking for ways to tithe my time, and I felt God called me to do something about this need shared by the Catholic Relief Services," said Robert Rogers. "But my wife said I was out of my mind. I added that I was also out of town and that she had to attend the meeting."