Authors: Lopez Lomong
Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #ebook, #book, #Sports
Running for My Life
This true story of a Sudanese child refugee who became an Olympic star is powerful proof that God gives hope to the hopeless and shines a light in the darkest places. Don’t be surprised if after reading this incredible tale, you find yourself mysteriously drawn to run alongside him.”
AND AUTHOR OF
Lopez Lomong’s story is one of true inspiration. His life is a story of courage, hard work, never giving up, and having hope where there is hopelessness all around. Lopez is a true role model.
FOR MY LIFE
One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields
of Sudan to the Olympic Games
WITH MARK TABB
© 2012 by Joseph L. Lomong a/k/a Lopez Lomong
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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Scripture quotations are taken from
, New Living Translation. © 1996, 2004, 2007. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189.
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012937358
Printed in the United States of America
12 13 14 15 16 QG 6 5 4 3 2 1
To my families in America and in South Sudan who have
always believed in me. And to all the children left behind—
may their voices be heard through my words.
y eyes were closed in prayer when the trucks pulled up. I heard them before I saw them. When I looked up, I saw soldiers pouring out of the back of the trucks. They appeared nervous, as though they wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible. “Everybody down!
” they shouted as they ran into the middle of the congregation. I knew our country was at war. About once a month my mother and father grabbed me and my brothers and sister and ran for shelter as bombs fell in the distance from airplanes that flew far overhead. But I had never seen a soldier until this bright, summer Sunday, and I had never expected to see soldiers invade an outdoor church service.
The soldiers continued running and shouting. Our priest tried to reason with them. “Please do not do this now,” he said.
The leader of the soldiers ignored him. “We’re taking the children!” he screamed.
I did not know what he meant by that. I would soon.
My parents dropped to the ground, pulling me down with them. I huddled close to my mother’s side. She wrapped her arm so tightly around me that my ribs hurt. All around me people screamed and cried. I started crying too. My mother tried to calm me, but she was as frightened as I was.
Suddenly I felt a hand on my back. I looked up and saw a giant man standing over me. When you are a little boy, every adult looks like a giant. His gun was slung behind his back. A chain of bullets hung across his chest. My mother pleaded with him. “No, no, no! Don’t take my boy!” The soldier did not reply. With one hand he yanked my mother’s arm off me while picking me up with the other. He dragged me past the giant tree at the front of our church and toward the trucks. “Hurry up. Let’s go!” he yelled. All around me, other soldiers herded boys and girls and teenagers toward the trucks, all the while yelling for everyone to speed up.
I turned around. My mother and father were off the ground, chasing after me. Tears ran down their faces. They were not alone. All across our church parents chased their children, weeping and wailing. “Please do not take our children,” they begged. “Please, please, we will do anything you ask—just do not do this.”
One especially giant soldier swung back around toward our crying parents. He waved his gun in the air and screamed, “One more step and we will open fire!” I could not see what happened next. I felt myself being picked up and thrown into the back of one of the trucks. I bounced off another boy and landed on the hot, dirty, metal truck bed. The truck was full of children from my church. A green canopy covered the top and sides of the truck bed, so I could not see out. Suddenly, the tailgate slammed shut and the truck lurched forward.
I did not know it at the time, but my childhood had just ended.
I was six years old.
The truck bounced down the road for three or four hours, but no one said anything to anyone else. I was too scared to start up a conversation. I guess everyone else was too. At first we all cried, but eventually that stopped. Instead we rode along in silence, everyone wondering what was going to happen to us.
The metal truck bed burned my bare feet. I tried standing on the tops of someone else’s feet to cool mine off, but he pushed me away. It was so hot inside that truck. The soldiers had tied the canopy down tight on every side to keep us from jumping out. Unfortunately, he tied it so tight that no fresh air could squeeze through. The summer sun beat down on top of the truck, making it hotter and hotter in there. The light coming through the canopy gave everyone a green tint. Road dust seeped in through holes in the bed, which made it even harder to breathe.
Sweat poured down my face and stung my eyes. My clothes were soaked. The dirt in the bed of the truck turned to mud from all the sweat pouring off so many children crammed into that small space.
This was my first trip in a truck or any kind of car. In my village, everyone walked wherever we needed to go. Everyone but me. I did not walk. I ran. My parents named me Lopepe, which in our language means “fast.” As a little boy, I lived up to my name. I never did anything slow. When my mother sent me to get water, I raced down to the river with my five-liter tin can and ran back as fast as I could. When she needed salt, I ran to the neighbors’ to borrow some and raced back so fast that it was almost as though she had the salt right there in our hut. Even though I ran everywhere, I always imagined traveling in a car or truck would be even better. But sitting in the stifling heat in the back of the army truck, I dreamed of running back to my village and into my mother’s arms.
Bouncing along in the truck, I noticed a couple of kids lying down. I don’t know if they fell asleep or just passed out. Either way, I knew I didn’t want to lie down on the hot, dirty truck bed. It was not just the heat. I didn’t want to spoil my Sunday best shorts and shirt my mother had put on me before we left our hut for church. I still did not fully grasp the fact that my life—the life of racing my dad to our farm and playing with my brothers and sister and going to church under the trees every Sunday—was over.
Eventually the truck’s brakes squeaked loudly and we came to a stop. I did not know where we were. The back canopy flew open. Finally, a breath of fresh air. Four or five soldiers jumped in. One grabbed a boy, threw something around his head, and then dropped him down out of the truck. Before my mind could process what happened to the boy, a pair of hands grabbed me. Everything went dark as the hands wrapped a blindfold tightly around my head. It was so tight I could feel my pulse throbbing in my temples.
All at once, the hands lifted me up and tossed me through the air. Another pair of hands caught me before I hit the ground. These hands then pulled up my right hand and shoved it against a shirt in front of me. I then felt a small hand on my back, which I knew had to be the hand of another boy. “Hold on to the kid in front of you and do not drop out of line!” someone shouted.
The line started to move. I did my best to hold onto the person in front of me. From behind I heard a soldier yell, “Keep up,” which was followed by a loud
and a yelp. Although I did not see it, I assume someone was smacked with the butt of a rifle for falling out of line. I tightened my grip on the shoulder in front of me and jogged to keep up. I did not want to be the next one to get hit.
Marching along I felt like one of my father’s cows. When my father brought the cows in from grazing in the fields, I used to run alongside with a stick and help herd them into the pen. We had around two hundred cows, which made us very wealthy in our village. I didn’t realize that we were actually quite poor. People with money in South Sudan sent their children to school in Kenya, far away from the civil war that started decades before I was born. Wealthy people did not have to worry about their children being kidnapped en masse and taken to God-knows-where. War is always far worse on the poor than the rich. Always.