Listen: Carlos Aguilera chats to Katrina Roe about his 42 kilometre run across Lebanon. Above: Carlos on a previous Muskathlon run.
Carlos Aguilera will be the first to tell you that he’s no fan of running—but his passion for helping persecuted Syrian Christians is the reason why he is prepared to do a Muskathlon for the fourth time.
A Muskathlon – an endurance event in a remote area – is not like any other marathon. Carlos, who is a husband and father from Sydney, will join five other Australians in the 42 kilometre trek across Lebanon from May 13 to 20. Along the way they will be exposed to the first-hand reality of persecution, as they meet refugees and Christians in the refugee camps.
Carlos’ passion for helping persecuted Christians started when he travelled to the Middle East for the first time in 2015. The experience changed his life.
“My life was essentially transformed because of the people that I met,” Carlos told Hope 103.2 Mornings presenter Katrina Roe.
“Hundreds upon hundreds of people living in refugee camps, suffering, and they all tell us much of the same story,” he said, “They tell you about the time when their life was changed. They knew normality, they knew that they lived in a dangerous place; they knew ISIS was fast growing and fast approaching where they lived and they all tell you about the suffering they all went through and how radically transformed their life has become.”
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During his 2015 trip, Carlos heard countless stories of Christian Syrians being persecuted. He remembers the first person he met in the Middle East, a woman who experienced unimaginable suffering when she witnessed her husband being murdered.
“She was asked if she was a Christian, she said ‘yes’. She was asked if she was married. She said ‘yes’. She was told to point to her husband. The guy asking the questions went up to the guy and killed him-shot him right in front of her,” Carlos said,
“What I’ve experienced is suffering upon suffering that I didn’t know really existed in this world, this became the thing I can essentially do to help them out.”
Not everyone is willing to go to the Middle East but anyone can support the organisations that are on the ground, and that’s the message Carlos wants people to know.
“We want to make people understand that there’s something you can do; there’s a practical side to it.”
Offering Practical And Spiritual Help
Muskathlon is organised in partnership with Open Doors, a Christian organisation that supports the persecuted church. Carlos is passionate about what they do.
“They do phenomenal work, so I wanted to support them… their work is really valuable for a lot of people,” he said.
During his 2015 trip, Carlos personally witnessed the impact that Open Doors had when partnering on the ground, with the people suffering.
“I saw them distributing food packs, giving out clothes and giving out things that just support people, like sewing kits for women so they can make clothing for their children,“ he said. “They also distribute Christian literature; so that many of the Christians that are persecuted have something to hold on to— as hope.”
From Hand-Made To Hand Delivered
Carlos has done this trip before but this time around, cute little-crocheted toys will be joining him along the way. The inspiration for the toys came from Justine Shapiro, one of the other Muskathlon athletes, and a lover of crochet.
Justine’s own story is an inspiring one. Through her personal battle with anorexia nervosa she has developed a strong sense of empathy to help others and with a community of crochet lovers around the world; she has collected 150 toys that will be hand-delivered to Syrian refugee children.
“She [Justine] inspired me to do this task; she wanted to use that skill as a way to bring a smile on someone’s face,” Carlos said. “It’ll be a privilege to walk those toys into a refugee camp and hand them out to kids and in fact to be able to train people to make some toys and hand deliver their toys is a real privilege.”
Lebanon is currently home to more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees. The UNHCR estimates that 75% of all refugees in Lebanon are children and women.
// 4 months ago I had this idea that with the help of some other makers, maybe I could collect a few toys to take with me to Lebanon to donate to children living in refugee camps. A few toys. Well, as you can see, we certainly did generate “a few toys”. ⇻ These toys have been delivered to me from all over the world – Latvia, Austria, Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia – all with the sole purpose of putting smiles on little faces. ⇻ This evening I will get on a plane, with these little creations, to take them to their new homes in Lebanon. New homes that are desperately in need of love, desperately in need of the knowledge that they have not been forgotten. To all of the women who have been involved in this cause, you inspire me so much. I hope that you will carry this experience in your heart forever, with the knowledge that each and everyone of you will follow me on this journey to Lebanon. ⇻ God bless you all. You have made this happen. ⇻ There’s a limit to how many people you can tag in a photo so here are more names of those involved: @brabstar_ @ladiejanne @sasperko @mmbroady • • • • • #crochet #crochetinspiration #crocheting #humanitarian #crochetgirlgang #creativehappylife #crochetlife #calledtocreate #amigurumilove #makersofinstagram #crocheteveryday #crochetcommunity #craftastherapy #crochettoys #communityovercompetition #lovecrochet #knittersofinstagram #makerlife #handmadegifts #crochetlife #crochetforacause #crochethat #handmadewithlove #amigurumicrochet #knittinginspiration #handmadeisbetter #crochetlover #crochetersofinstagram #makersgonnamake #makers