Hope Runs

In 1998 our family fell in love with Ethiopia and a little girl named MeseretWe met “Messie” through Compassion International’s Child Sponsorship program in Ethiopia when she was 7-years old.

Ten years later, we sensed God leading us to adopt a little girl from Africa who needed a forever family. But this is all we knew: she would be an orphan in Africa.

Where in Africa, we wondered? It only took a day or two for God to lead us back to the same place our hearts had  been for ten years: Ethiopia. And in 2009 when we traveled to meet Aster, He orchestrated the details and timing so  we could also meet Meseret and her family.

I remember thinking: How did we get to this place we never expected to be, in the middle of a story we never thought would be ours?


Recently I was beautifully reminded how God takes us places we never expected to go and writes a story we never thought would be ours. Over Spring Break, I started reading Hope Runsabout the life of a Kenyan boy named Sammy and young American woman named Claire, and I couldn’t put it down. Today I’ve invited Claire to share {their story} with us…

“This is the story I was meant to tell: A story of Africa, that didn’t start on her soil.

A story birthed on a dreamed-of trip around a changing world. A trip of cheap, bumpy airlines and too-heavy backpacks and endless cups of sweet black tea and hundreds of books and running, running, running as far as the eye could see. 

A story meant to end when two twenty-something girls summited a Kenyan mountain peak at the end of a year away.

But that story never came to be.

Instead, a good God intervened miles from the mountain and kept one girl’s feet on solid ground, far from the peak that sought a climber.

And this God told that girl in a whisper of breath, with one word repeated again and again: stay.

Stay in that cheap guesthouse she was supposed to be at for just one night before the climb. Stay, because the orphanage that owned the guesthouse would now own her heart. For a year, at first, and then for many more after that. Stay. 

And in this story, the real story, she did stay.

She stayed and began to run. She ran with fast teens and slow tiny ones, she ran with anyone who would let her, and even with those who would not.

"Hope Runs"  Nyeri, Kenya.  May 12 and 13, 2007.

image by J. Carrier

She started a nonprofit, Hope Runs, to keep up the running, and the 170 children at the orphanage where she lived liked to laugh that she ran slower than anyone they had ever known.

And then there was the boy. Because without the boy, the story wouldn’t be much of a story after all. He was there, in the first hours of her first day at an orphanage she never knew she would live in for a year. And he stayed, by her side for the year, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, always taking pictures of what his life might be.

And when it came time for her story to move on, to move wider than Africa and to embrace other things, it was time for him to come with her. It was time for them to live a story together. For him, a new life in a far-off land.”


Hope Runs: An American Tourist, A Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption is the emotional story of an American tourist, a Kenyan orphan, and the day that would change the course of both of their lives forever. It’s about what it means to live in the now when the world is falling down around you. It’s about what it means to hope for the things you cannot see. Most of all, it’s about how God can change your life in the blink of an eye. It’s about two people whose lives were transformed by meeting one another. 

Enter to Win a Copy of Hope Runs: Let us know why you’d like to win a copt of “Hope Runs” to read this summer, and maybe a friend you’d give a copy to. Also, we would love for you to help us share this amazing story of hope with  friends and family –  via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or email. Each time you share it, please  leave a new comment letting us know where you shared it and you’ll be entered to win again and again!

sammyAbout Sammy:
Sammy Ikua Gachagua had lost his father to illness, his mother to abandonment, and his home to poverty. By age ten, he was living in a shack with seven other children and very little food. He entered an orphanage seeing it as a miracle with three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and clothes on his back. When Claire Diaz-Ortiz arrived in Kenya at the end of an around-the-world journey, she decided to stay the night, climb Mt. Kenya, then head back home.

ClaireAbout Claire:
Claire Diaz-Ortiz (@claire) is an author, speaker and Silicon Valley innovator who was an early employee at Twitter. When she entered an orphanage in Kenya, she saw it as little more than a free place to spend the night before her mountain trek. But God had other plans. In her new book, Hope Runs: An American Tourist, A Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption, she shares the unexpected place she found herself and the story God wrote that she never imagined would be hers. You can find out more about Claire and connect with her at ClaireDiazOrtiz.com.

About Renee

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, story-teller, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also a wife, mom, friend, daughter and author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book that became a best-seller and has been published in six languages, with over 150,000 copies sold. Renee is speaks around the country at women's events and and serves on the writing team for DaySpring’s inCourage blog. For twenty years, Renee served in leadership at Proverbs 31 Ministries and as former co-host of the ministry's radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.


  1. Jill Kuiper says:

    I would love to win this book as a good read. These types of books are always uplifting and inspirational. Thanks for considering me.

  2. Can’t wait to read this book. I found myself in a pit, we had just moved to a temporary location, feeling alone and depressed when after praying to God and asking for a friend. When out of the blue and now long time friend I found myself with a girl friend that happened to be a marathon runner and she was going to help me train for my 1st 5k. She ever so gently pointed me to Jesus and helped me back on my feet. I can us reading this as a summer book club, can’t wait!

  3. I would like to win a copy of “Hope Runs” not only for myself but to share with my daughter and a friend of hers that graduated from college today. All three of us have experienced the abandonment of fathers who never or to this date been a father. Sad to say, the person who was entrusted to love and care for me, never did and today he showed up at my daughter’s college graduation as if things were on good terms. When he started his toxic ways towards her in 2010, I knew it was time to separate and he was not going to change. The person I had her by showed up today also and tried weighing her down with guilt and if she was his parent. And last but not least the young man we rode to the graduation with expressed his desire for his father to be at his graduation and it was a trying day for us all. A lot of males, but so few fathers!

    • So sorry for the hard parts of this day for each of you. A day that should be filled with celebration. Im celebrating the love of your Heavenly Father who will never leave or forsake to envelop each of you with a deep sense of His love, strength and delight in who you are to Him!!

  4. Rebekah VA says:

    I would love to read this book as I spent some time in Zambia working at a couple of orphanages and schools several years ago. I loved walking around the compounds there with both young children and teens, just spending time with them. I would also love to gift this book to my brother and sister-in-law. They are both big time runners and I love giving them books that have an inspiring story and message while still relating to their love for running.

  5. Rebekah VA says:

    I pinned the Hope Runs image from this post to my Read board on Pinterest!

  6. Suzanne says:

    I would like to win this book because I need hope and I need a way out of a serious bout of depression. Anything to help me get closer to Jesus and keep my faith going at this time.

    • Praying these promises for you tonight Suzanne.

      He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
      out of the mud and mire;
      he set my feet on a rock
      and gave me a firm place to stand.
      Psalm 40:2, NIV

  7. Renee — your post title grabbed my attention because I run, and, well, my name is Hope. Adoption is part of my story, and Africa is a place that captures my heart and imagination. I’d love to read Hope Runs and have a dear friend whose story as an adoptive mom would make this book a great gift for her, too.

  8. I would like this book to read and be reminded that God is always in control and we need to listen to His voice. When we do, amazing things will happen!

    • It’s such great story and reminder of how God works behind the scenes in our lives to provide and connect our hearts to Him and others!

  9. Diane W says:

    This book really peeks my interest! I would love to read it. I love to run!

  10. Janet Daniel says:

    Hi Renee! That was a truly touching story. I would love to receive a copy of the book to read and also share with my daughter because she always gives others Hope! I have a very dear friend who raised a son who she adopted as a small child. I will share with my family as well.

  11. I would love to read this book! I would love for my kids to read it too. Our youngest graduated early from high school and has moved out already. So we are experiencing an “empty nest”. I have been studying more and reading my books I had no time for before 🙂 I always tell my kids that God is our hope and with Him all is possible…

    • I can’t wait to have my boys read it too. They are 19 and 16 and it will be such a great read for them too. But my husband has first dibs 🙂

  12. Annette D. says:

    Our family also did an international adoption – ours lead us to China in 2001 to pick up our wonderful Elizabeth who just turned 14 and graduates 8th grade this month!! She is SUCH a blessing in my life. I love reading stories of how God works in our hearts to expand our families… I would love this book and would love to share a copy with families I know who are either considering adoption or have already adopted.

  13. Shared post on Facebook 😉

  14. Colleen Kennedy says:

    Because reading this “excerpt” resonated with my own heart and dreams. Thanking God

  15. I would love to win a copy of this book because I love to read, hear and experience about how God works. It sounds so motivational. My adult daughter loves to run and mentors a group a elementary school runners and I know she would treasure this story and I will share it with her.

  16. I shared the information on Pinterest on my “Good Books” board.

  17. Margaret says:

    It would be great to read a story about hearing from God, trusting, understanding and obedience.

  18. Love to share this story with a friend. We don’t get to see each other much anymore, but at one time we were in a book club together. As she is a runner i know it would appeal – as would an excuse to get together to talk book, God, and catch up.

  19. Shared this on Facebook….sounds like an inspiring story to read

  20. I would love to read this story for the following reasons. First because I think it would be good for my soul. Reading about it brought tears to my eyes. Also, I feel as though God may be nudging me to tell my own story in some way shape or form. So I have been actively seeking out examples of others who have done so lovingly and successfully for courage and inspiration. Thanks Renee!

  21. Michelle Renee says:

    I’d love to win this book because I’m at a point in my life where my husband and I have followed God’s Call to serve Him, yet it is unclear to me what my role is at our new Call’s location. I desire to serve The Lord with gladness as well as support my husband and our family as he serves.
    I would share it with my cousin, who has drifted from The Lord and has the seed still planted within her, but it needs nurturing to continue to grow in her heart once again!
    What a neat thing you’re doing! Thanks for providing this opportunity to win!

  22. Carrie Palmer says:

    I would love to win and read such an inspirational story! What a beautiful example of God’s special plans for His children. I’d share this book with a dear friend who has been trying to grow their family through adoption and has hit some bumps in the road in the process. I believe she would thoroughly appreciate this story. Sounds awesome!

  23. Kristin Sparkman says:

    Please consider me for this book. I am reading Rhinestone Jesus right now and my heart is being drawn to Kenya through that book and so to read about another individual doing good in that country would be wonderful.

  24. Hi Renee,
    Thanks for your post. I’m not a runner these days, but would like a copy of this book. Your post first caught my attention because I’m sponsoring a young girl from Senegal. She’s eight years old, has a family, but doesn’t attend school. I hope my monthly sponsorship will change that. And perhaps reading this will inspire me to run.

  25. Susan G says:

    Hi Renee,

    Claire’s story is so amazing. Amazing because God is the author of the story. I would love to win this book to read and pass on to family and friends that would love to read it too. I am in the process of praying for God to show me which children he wants me to sponsor through Compassion International. I think this book fits into my life right now quite perfectly. 😉
    Blessings to you!

  26. Would love to read this! Being a young widow that was left to raise 3 babies and then later a grand daughter for 5 years… often feel my dreams of adopting are shattered. The excerpt was a gentle reminder that our plans are not as we see but as God directs our heart.

  27. Hi Renee,
    I have read this book. It is wonderful.
    My copy is a digital one, so if I were to win a copy it would be to share with a friend so that they may enjoy the story as well. It’s a great one to share.

  28. Hi Renee,
    I would love to have this book! I run also, but more importantly I have two adult sons that want to get involved in missions. My family has been through a lot these past four years with my oldest son Arron and through Bible study and the Lord’s guidance we have seen Him at work in our lives. We never know the path God is going to lead us on and it can change in an instant. We have been praying for Him to show us where we are to go next. This book would bee a great example to my family and friends to show and teach that God can do amazing things in our lives when we least expect it and if we seek Him first for guidance. I will read this book.

  29. Maureen says:

    Thank you for your ministry

  30. Elaine Segstro says:

    This would be a wonderful book to read in the summer (also for my family) – about obeying God’s calling on your life – feeling that nudge and not ignoring it. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. Bless you!

  31. I would love to win a copy because God has been taking me on a journey I did not expect and at times difficult to follow. Its inspirational message of hearing and then following God is just what I need. I know a few ladies I would definitely share it with.

  32. I shared this post with my Facebook friends. I can’t wait to read Hope Runs! What a wonderful example of how God will use us if we will listen and obey!

  33. Christine says:

    I would love to read Hope Runs this summer because:
    a) My husband’s words to me recently were ” Where’s your sense of adventure gone?’ and I think reading about the challenge and vision of the story will reawaken that sense of adventure.
    b) My friend is suffering from lack of mobility due to a recent accident and I feel she would also benefit from reading the amazing story and have hope to ‘run’ again.
    c) God spoke to my heart two days ago with words that told me He was leading me into the best years of my life( I am in my late 50’s). All things are possible with God!!
    The adventures and vision of others can inspire and motivate us to achieve great things for God and the world. Hope Runs promises just that.. can’t wait to read it.

  34. Sounds like a very inspirational book. I would love to read this book and would give a 2nd copy to my church library.

  35. The book sounding like an amazing uplifting read….and who couldn’t use a book like that 🙂

  36. I would love to have this book to read this summer and to share with others. I work with homeless children and youth. My husband was adopted. We have two biological children and have to precious angels awaiting us in heaven, lost to a miscarriage. For all these reasons, we have talked about adoption for several years. Whenever I see stories such as this, I cannot express how it stirs my soul and inspires me. We feel called to something, just not sure what in regards to our command to care for the orphans, “the least of these among us”. We continue to seek guidance from our Heavenly Father for direction- what does it look like for our family? Do we adopt? Do we provide respite for homeless children that I work with in the schools? I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the widowed, orphaned, and hurting as a career but I do feel a calling to do more. This book sounds like it would inspire us!

  37. I am speechless. My daughter and I have recently decided to go our first mission trip to guess where – Africa – way out of our comfort zone and somewhere we never expected to go I am excited for the story God will write. I would love to read Hope Runs.

    So grateful for your blog and for your book A Confident Heart. God uses both to encourage me! I am humbled and blessed to be leading a ladies small group for the first time and we are loving every chapter. It is truly the highlight of the week as we look forward to seeing what God has for us. Thank you, Renee, for sharing your story!

  38. I would love to read this in the summer!!!!!!! And I plan to tell my friend who loves to read!!!

  39. Excited and anxious to read and learn the story of redemption! Our God is so good & faithful ☺️

  40. God amazes me. It was just on my heart again on Sunday about adopting from Kenya. It was just a flicker across my mind again of something God whispered to me a couple of years ago. Then, this email comes in, I don’t read it because I dont have time at the moment but something (Him) prompts me to save it for later. Just read it. I know that God has a plan and perhaps I need to read this book so I will order it on Amazon. Who am I Lord that you would speak to me?

  41. christelle says:

    I would love to win a copy to read with my 13 year old. We were trying to find some books that we could read together and later discuss this summer. I believe this would be a good read for us and a time to bond!!

  42. Linda N. says:

    Love the story and would so enjoy winning the book to read the whole account of how these two people touched each others’ lives so deeply.

  43. Heather says:

    Hi Renee! I’m Heather and I was hoping you would be able to answer a quick question about your blog! If you could email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com that would be great 🙂

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