Ironman Athlete, MMA Fighter, Former Tennis Pro To Mountain Bike Up and Down Mt. Kilimanjaro
“Cycle Kilimanjaro” aims to raise $1.9 million for Treasures of Africa Children’s Home
Laguna Beach, California
September 9, 2016
An eclectic trio of athletes including ironman James Lawrence, amateur MMA fighter Tate Nelson and former tennis pro Rob Nelson want to become the first people to mountain bike up and down Mt. Kilimanjaro. The “Cycle Kilimanjaro” adventure, scheduled for early 2017, is designed to raise $1.9 million for “Treasures of Africa Children’s Home,” a ministry that cares for orphans and abandoned children at the foot of the famous mountain.
“Someone on Facebook suggested it was a death wish,” said Rob Nelson. “I disagree. I have every intention to summit and return alive! Lawrence may have to tow me on certain ascents but if anyone can do this, my confidence is in our team.”
In 2015, Lawrence accomplished an unfathomable test of endurance by completing the world’s first 50 full Ironmans in 50 days across all 50 States! An Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride followed by a 26.2 mile marathon.
“The 50/50/50 inspired me to break the limits of what people say can be done,” said Tate Nelson, a senior at The University of Alabama. “No different than the challenges that so many of the TOA kids face in life.”
The team chose the $1.9 million fundraising goal because of the altitude of the 19,341 foot tall mountain.
Treasures of Africa Children’s Home (TOA) is located in Moshi, Tanzania. The ministry provides loving care, nutritious food and an excellent bilingual education in a Christian family environment to orphaned and abandoned children. Founder Rita Langeland remembers observing the impact of the AIDS pandemic during her first visit to Tanzania in 2003.
“Though I had read newspaper accounts of the AIDS crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa, I was still shocked to see the human toll with my own eyes. The faces of children who had been orphaned touched me deeply. What kind of future could they possibly have? This served as part of the inspiration to launch TOA, and provide a safe, nurturing environment, changing lives, one child at a time.”
Rob Nelson learned about TOA when his child’s 5th grade teacher left Orange County to move to Tanzania to help Langeland establish Treasures of Africa Orphanage in 2006. “I’ve always had a drive to serve others, it’s how God’s wired me,” he said. “Especially a vision like TOA that takes the abandoned, the abused, and the discarded and raises them to one day make a difference in their communities.”
"To me, this ride is symbolic of what we want our children at Treasures of Africa to learn,” Langeland said. “We encourage them to dream big dreams about their futures and we teach them they can overcome every 'mountain' they face in life. These three brave men are taking on a monumental physical challenge in order to further TOA’s mission. We’re so thankful for their dedication.
”The story of Diamond has become the face of “Cycle Kilimanjaro.” As a newborn baby, Diamond was discovered abandoned in a pile of refuse in a rural area. She was brought to Treasures of Africa just a few weeks after they opened their doors in March 2007.
Diamond has grown into a beautiful girl with a very sweet spirit and a contagious laugh. This diligent 9-year-old is excelling in school and wants to become a teacher when she grows up.
Lawrence and the Nelsons are inspired by Diamond’s story. The trio are currently training and raising money to build TOA’s new campus. The Treasures of Africa Children’s Village will allow the ministry room to grow food for the orphanage and to construct the buildings needed to give more children like Diamond, a hope-filled future.
We can only imagine the anguish of a young mother in Africa who feels she cannot adequately care for her newborn son. Her desperation must have been overwhelming to do what she did on that day. Perhaps she was a single mother with no money and no extended family to help her. We don’t know for sure. All we do know, is that she bravely carried her bundled child to a local church in Moshi, Tanzania and stood in a prayer line. After waiting for a while, as a visiting Bishop prayed for those who patiently stood in line, she asked a nearby woman if she would hold her baby for a moment. Then she disappeared, leaving a bag of baby clothes and her child, in the arms of a stranger.
We are grateful to that mother that she didn't leave him abandoned in a field or other place where he could have potentially been harmed. Instead, she brought him to a safe place. She must have loved him dearly to take the care to do that. So many others, have not. Church leaders turned the child over to the Welfare authorities who in turn called Treasures of Africa Children's Home. Our pediatrician estimated the child to be three months old. He came to live at Treasures on April 13, 2016.
Baby Baraka James (Baraka means "blessing" in Swahili) joined our six month old J.J. (John Joseph) in the "baby room" at Treasures of Africa. We trust that these two boys will grow into great playmates. What began as a sorrowful situation, has been turned into a blessing for little Baraka James. He has been warmly and lovingly welcomed at Treasures of Africa.
Like all of the children at Treasures, we are praying for a "Forever Family" for him. But until that family steps forward, we will surround Baraka with faith and love, believing God for a great future for him.