The Lost

OK so my kids are really excited about this song about Peter Pan right now. “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. Sweet little song … and not a Kidz Bop song thank ya Lord. We listen to it daily this week and it’s inspired them all the get out their Jake and the Neverland Pirates toys and make up all kinds of Peter Pan story games. They’re having so much fun with it because the Peter Pan story they know and understand is the Disney version which goes, “There is a magical boy who can fly and he is childhood! Wonderful and free! Come and play with him before you return to your warm, safe home and your loving parents and move on to puberty! Wheee!”

But the real story is much darker.

J.M. Barrie wrote a character, Peter Pan, a boy who would never grow up based on a real boy in his life who could not grow up – his older brother who died accidentally just a few days shy of his 14th birthday. It is my understanding that J.M. Barrie’s mother was so bereft at the passing of her older son that she took to her bed in a state of deep depression, and I can understand why. Enduring the death of a beloved child is said to be the worst horror anyone can endure and I hope that we all somehow – impossibly – sidestep it. J.M., only a child who wished to comfort his mother, came to her as she lay in bed dressed in his dead older brother’s clothes. He whistled like his older brother had whistled to try to make her feel better. Can you imagine? This poor family.

And so one day this writer as a grown man created a world where children go, Neverland, where they will never grow up. Because they cannot.

Because we are who we are in Western culture we trivialize this idea. We Disney-fy the idea of children who are “lost” and turn them into children who stubbornly just don’t want to grow up. The reality in in this world is so many children are lost forever and cannot be recovered. They die. They leave this life forever and they are frozen in time. They cannot grow up, even if they wanted to. Even if they were loved and cherished and fought for they are separated from their parents on this mortal coil.

There is a 50 percent child mortality rate in communities in Africa that do not have clean water for children under the age of five. Some of these children die long, slow deaths from diarrhea or dysentery or guinea worm, their parents helpless to stop it because they simply do not have the access to clean water they so desperately need. It is not because they don’t love their children as much as you or I do. It’s not because they are lazy. It’s not because Jesus loves them any less than anyone else.

If it was you in those shoes you would pray every day that the people who had the power to do something for your child would do it.  And for us in the US it only takes a few clicks. I just donated and it almost made me angry how easy it was to donate $50. You would walk hours a day for water – carrying your newborn baby like my hero Jen Kipsang and then praying and fighting and leading and teaching in your community while you waited for 30 years – even if it was dirty water.

Can we just fix it? This is something that we together can actually fix.

Who we are and what we do

So. I am back at it – training for a full marathon and fundraising $10,000 for clean water in Africa through Team World Vision. It’s been 2.5 years since I broke my leg, and about 2 years and 2 years and 7 months since my last half marathon and fundraising effort.

I have never run a full marathon as a mother of three. I haven’t run a “real race” since recovering from a fractured tibia. I have never raised $10,000.

I am scared to death.

Many people in our circle know us as Johnny, the Team World Vision guy, Manda his wife, our kids Sydney, Elijah, and Lucy. We are Team Huddle. It has been so long since I’ve done this that it now occurs to me that there are people in my life who are just learning about who we are and what we do (and I guess more importantly WHY we do what we do).

So I guess a re-introduction is in order.

Hello. My name is Manda. I’m 36 years old, wife of 12 years, mom of 3, and the last thing I want to do this March is run a marathon.

It’s not that I don’t love running. I do. It’s not that I’m inexperienced – I’m technically not! I’ve run two full marathons and several half marathons (three? maybe four?). But it’s been one of those years. I’m feeling older than I ever have. I haven’t worked out in, uh, years. I eat my feelings a LOT. I have this weird dry-eye problem right now that I’ve Googled way too much and I can’t wear my contacts and it’s making me nuts to have to wear glasses. My kids are growing up and raising them is HARD. I have one in 3rd grade – we are trying to mold her into a citizen and dude, that’s no JOKE. Then I have a kindergartener¬† who is just trying to learn the basics in school while still playing LEGO 24-7 (dude, sorry, you have to learn how to read. You will definitely use that one later in life I PROMISE). And then we have a Threenager. You know the type: begs you for a waffle, then once she is served the waffle is crushed that it’s not cereal. Tantrum ensues. Rinse and repeat 34 times and then throw in potty training. FUN TIMES.

And did I mention we just adopted a puppy? OHMYWORD SOMEONE STOP ME.

For 12 years I’ve been married to an amazing man who is absolutely heartbroken for the poor, is called to serve the people of Africa, is a pastor in Los Angeles, and also works for this amazing nonprofit called Team World Vision for the past 6 years which leads people like you and me (well, let’s hope there’s someone else out there like me who is feeling OLD with a lot of KIDS and is still stress eating her way through the Halloween candy post-election, can I get an AMEN?) into running marathons and raising money so that our brothers and sisters in Africa and their kids can get clean water. Did I mention that he hates running? But he runs marathons, gets up early in the morning to run, and runs 40 miles here and there, and attempted his first ultramarathon in June (and will most likely re-attempt it this June and oh by the way that one is 56 miles help me Rhonda). ANYWAY.

We are crazy, weird people. We are the people standing at the edge of the water saying “Come on in the water’s fine!” and let’s be frank, the water is the swelling ocean and it’s crazy and dangerous and cold and huge and amazing. You don’t want to miss out on that, scary as it is, and if you need someone to encourage you into it Johnny’s the guy who’s gonna get you in there and you’re gonna love it. And me? I’m already bellyflopped in with water up my nose because that’s just me.

Well, here we go then. Nice to meet you.


I have this backpack that I carry with me always. This year has been a big one, high highs and low lows. My bag is full and now it has become burdensome. I know I must set it down and take some things out. 

In it I see some heartbreak. It will be messy to get all those shards cleaned out – jagged edges must be minded – and you can’t miss the small pieces or the bag will be permanently damaged. 

There is our new home and all the work yet to do. Some of the work is physical: a bathroom to finish, a fence to be built, trees to be removed, holes to patch. Some of it is in the soul: we have brought our little family to a new place for the first time and we must learn how to live in a new space. There are so many adjustments to be made and things to let go and new things to bring in. We need to learn the new neighborhood and get to know our neighbors better and it all can get sticky if you don’t keep up with it. 

The dust of Africa coats it all now. The dirt of Kenya is red and fine and chalky. It seeps into everything. It washes off easily and maybe that is the problem. There is so much of it you are almost delighted to find it again on a pair of shoes that will never be the same again. 

It’s one of those things I do not know quite how to start. But here is this bag full of stuff. It’s mine and it must be dealt with somehow. I cannot carry it anymore.

Where the rubber meets the road

As things go, tomorrow is Steve’s birthday, Feb. 8. The day we hoped he would be moving into his new apartment! And as things go … tomorrow is the day that construction begins again in earnest. We finally met with our contractor today (he has been tied up with other jobs and has been unavailable for the last few weeks) and he is helping us move forward with our plans to bring Steve home. Tomorrow the last bit of demolition is happening. And then we (well, the professionals) begin to put it all back together. We are still working on the timeline, but we hope and pray that it will be done by the end of the month (will you join us in those hopes and prayers?).

Forward movement requires fight sometimes. We moved into our new home, which was only about 80% completed, between Thanksgiving and Christmas (and through that I learned why most people move in the summer months! What an absurd time to move!). Our dear friend Howard, who graciously volunteered his expertise to re-plumb our entire house, lost both of his parents within six weeks of each other while we have been working on the house and apartment. This last month John has been laser-focused on Feb. 14 — the LA Marathon, which is his big Team World Vision event of the year. The fall and winter is, and always is, our busiest time of year. The punctuation of loss in the lives of our friends during this time has been so very hard.

On Friday, Feb. 4 it was discovered that our friend Midge passed away. She was 67 years old, on dialysis because she had zero kidney function and diabetes, and yet we were not expecting her passing. She just laid down in her bed and went to sleep and that was it. She was our church community’s fiesty mascot. Everyone knew and loved her. She was a dear friend. Her passing has been a difficult blow.

This, we find, is where we learn what we are made of — in our family that is how it goes anyway. When things are quiet and sweet it is wonderful, of course. We soak it in and declare naively each time that we have “finally” arrived at a place and peace and ease and expect it to stay! But then the storm rolls in as it always does. You come to the point in the road that leads upward. You see the rocks and obstacles in the path just ahead and can only wonder at what’s to come. And then you decide to stick, or you decide to quit.

If you’re wondering, we decide to stick.

If you would like to donate to help us meet our goal of $5,000 to make Steve’s apartment livable, we are currently $700 short of that minimum goal. We are also hoping to build a contingency budget of an additional $1,000-2,000 after checking back in with our contractor today. Any donation helps and goes directly to building this home! We love you all and are so thankful for your support and prayers as we fight for Steve, who turns 69 years old tomorrow. Would you consider making a tax-deductible donation in honor of his birthday and the new life that awaits him?

And to update you on Steve, he has been fighting (and winning!) too! He got approved for MediCare and recently received his benefits card! He did this all on his own! He is now working toward setting a date to get a surgery that will help him address his prostate issues and will greatly improve his quality of life. Having his home ready to recuperate in will be a tremendous blessing to him!


Our sweet Midge waving in the grey sweater and blue shirt. Steve is on the couch next to the bookshelf with the white and red hat. This photo is from Dec. 3, our first home church meeting in our new home.

How to donate through the GOMSC store

Thanks to The Gathering of Men Southern California, your donations for Steve’s apartment are tax-deductible! When you donate to a website such as GoFundMe, this is not always the case (they are usually considered “personal gifts” which are not tax-deductible. That is unless the GoFundMe campaign has been officially linked to a non-profit organization). The Gathering of Men Southern California is a registered non-profit organization with a registered 501(c)(3). Because they have recognized Steve as a special ministry, anything and everything given on his behalf is non-taxable. Pretty cool!

Donations for Steve can be purchased through the GOMSC store. At the bottom of the screen it asks for a “Quantity:” and then next to that is an “add to cart” button. The Quantity section represents a dollar amount. Just change the number “1” to the amount you wish to give and then click “Add to cart.” From there you will be taken to a “checkout” screen where you will see you have added “x” amount of units/dollars to “Apartment Fund.” From there just follow the prompts (you will need to create an account if you are not already a registered user) and enter your information to make your donation. You will then receive an email to confirm your donation!

Thank you so much for your support!

Fundraising total for Steve

As of Feb. 2, 2016 — Total: $4300/$5,000

Did you ever go to sleep on something at night wondering if it was just a crazy, stupid idea? And then you wake up in the morning and it’s blown up in the best way possible? This week, we did just that.

Thank you for reading and sharing Steve’s story! We are blown away by your encouragement, ideas, and partnership as we work this month to bring Steve home. We will update this tracker daily to reflect how much you’ve given financially to get us to our goal of making his apartment livable. Next week, with the help of friends, plumbing begins!

What a beautiful, messy, crazy ride. We love you all.

If you’d like to donate to help build Steve’s home, please follow this link to make a tax-deductible donation. Any amount helps.

(More instructions on how to donate through the GOMSC store.)

Running with you,

Manda and Johnny