Clair Diaz-Ortiz | Hope for the Unseen
While on a much anticipated, off-the-cuff adventure trekking across the world, Clair Díaz-Ortiz formed an unlikely bond in one of the most unlikely places. After graduating from Stanford, Clair set out on a quest to see the world and unearth treasures only obtained through accidental discovery. Her adventures were too numerous to count, but included running a marathon in Madrid, hiking to Mount Everest’s base camp, skydiving, debating the merits of international missions with friends in Tuscany, and devising misshapen plans to weather numerous logistical hurdles in foreign lands and languages. Along with her longtime friend, Lara, she was determined to explore the world. Their exploits were marvelously exciting, wonderfully unplanned and generously difficult. The journey was enticing. Obligingly, Clair craved for more.
When she arrived in Kenya, the plan was to spend the night at Imani Children’s Home, an orphanage at the base of Mount Kenya, before she would scale the mountain the next day as a finale to her year-long adventure (and nineteenth country). In an instant, Clair’s plans were enormously thrown off course. It became apparent that God had other plans.
After spending time with the orphans at the children’s home, Clair knew something had changed. It was a moment like none other; a near epiphany, but with more questions than answers. She felt something changing and asked God to let her see.
“If you have put this place in my road to change me, please open my eyes so I can see,” she told Him.
What she understood was God directing her to spend the next year at the orphanage. Through sincere love, dedication and a willingness to see beyond what the eye can see, Clair developed relationships with many of the children, but none more special than with Sammy Ikua Gachague. What transpired was nothing short of the fusion of hope, faith, family and friendship. Even after the two parted and Clair returned to the United States, she continued to feel the tug of Sammy and Imani Children’s Home on her heart. God continued to pull on her heart strings and Clair made official what was already evident. She and Sammy were family and she would bring him to the United States as his guardian.
In Hope Runs, Clair and Sammy deliver a powerful memoir of two tremendously different lives becoming intertwined and forever changed through the divine will of God and the true nature of love. It’s about allowing the possibility of more to be a possibility.
Additionally, while staying at the orphanage, Clair and Lara started a running program (of which Sammy participated), encouraging social interaction, personal health and education. What developed was Hope Runs, a nonprofit continuing to help other youth in Kenya today.
HOPE Magazine was able to speak with Clair about her transformational story and the hope she discovered one day on her way to climb a mountain. Here is a bit of that conversation:
Clair’s thoughts on Hope Runs:
Hope Runs is a joint memoir about the strange journey we’ve taken together. From meeting Sammy in his orphanage in 2006, to spending a year living in his orphanage and starting a non-profit organization, to ultimately bringing him to the United States five years ago, the book is a joint story of our now-intertwined lives.
How did you end up at the Imani Children's Home?
When I showed up at Imani Children’s Home to stay for one night, I was not at all prepared for all this. I went to stay for a night, stayed for a year, and experienced something life-changing.
You are very open about your Christian belief and relationship with God. From a spiritual standpoint, how have you grown through your experience(s) in Kenya, your relationship with Sammy and just being a missionary in general? How have the experience(s) challenged, tested or tried your faith?
My faith is essential to the decisions I make every day. It fuels me, energizes me and directs me on a minute-by-minute level. My life with Sammy has tested me. More than anything though, it has proven the power of hope that exists in all of our lives.
What is the intended "Hope" in Hope Runs?
I hope that this book brings hope to others. Whether it’s seeing the hope in your own life, or the hope you can bring to others. Hope Runs aims to extend more hope to you and your community. What is Hope Runs current status and how can readers support?
Hope Runs is a small nonprofit that is still operating in Kenya today. We support athletic programs and college scholarships for AIDS orphans, and love the work we do! For more information, check out HopeRuns.org.
How is your relationship now with Sammy?
Sammy and I are closer than ever. He’s currently spending a year in Kenya as he works to find a scholarship at a U.S. university so he can come back here for college. It’s been a challenge, but we’re praying.
What advice would you give to missionaries hoping to make a significant difference in other countries?
We all have the chance to make huge changes in our lives and the lives of others when we go on mission trips. Even if you can’t move to Africa, you can learn immensely on a short journey anywhere.
Hope Runs, the book, is available for purchase on Amazon.com and other major retailers wherever books are sold.