Profile of Courageous Leadership: Diane Tirakis
I'm Diane Tirakis. I've been married to my husband Ed for 20 years. We have 2 kids. Lydia is 13, Will is 10.
I've always considered myself an ordinary Midwestern mom and wife. But one Sunday in 2008, God started my family on an extraordinary journey.
Our church, Wooster Grace, had just entered into partnership with Asia's Hope and was raising support for a children's home in Battambang, Cambodia. Our eyes were opened and our hearts broken as we heard the pastor speak about the Cambodian genocide and the plight of orphaned children living at risk of being sexually exploited. Both Ed and I were wrecked, and we made a financial commitment to the project that day.
In the weeks that followed, I couldn't stop thinking about what I'd heard. One afternoon as I was running, I asked God, "What more can I do?" And I felt like I heard God say, "You can run for me, for the kids." And He gave me the idea to gather a team of people to run the Cleveland half-marathon to raise money to support our church's Asia's Hope initiative.
We fell almost immediately into the enemy's line of fire. Each of us experienced weird and dramatic sicknesses and setbacks. One of our children began having horrible nightmares. Things around our house literally exploded and burst into flames. But instead of feeling scared, I got angry. I said, "Satan, you will not have my family. And you will not stop us from helping these vulnerable kids." it made me bolder knowing that the enemy was so afraid of the work that God was doing that he would target our little organization.
For that very first race, I had hoped to find 20 people who would each raise $500, a total of $10,000. On race day, we ended up with 50 runners — and we raised $35,000 to rescue and raise orphaned kids! I remember looking at this group of people and with a mixture of laughter and tears saying to myself, "Wow. God is so clearly in this. What does he want us to do next?"
Since then, we just kept running. And God keeps adding runners and he keeps adding kids who need our help.
To date, we've raised more than $200,000 for orphaned kids in Cambodia, Thailand and India. We've covered medical and legal costs, bought blankets and medicine, provided school fees and uniforms and have paid the salaries of dedicated indigenous workers who provide day-to-day care for kids who would otherwise face the danger of sexual and economic exploitation.
I really am quite ordinary. I'm not even a very good runner. I'm often surprised that God would pick me to lead an organization focused on running; it just seems so unlikely. When Team Hope started, I was a full-time mom. But God has revealed to me that I have leadership gifts, and I want to use them to my fullest.
This isn't easy. But when you know that you know that you know you're on a mission from God, you just keep going. You don't give up just because it's hard. And despite the challenges, this has radically transformed our lives. our kids understand that there are other children who don't have moms and dads, that live each day in danger of being abused and enslaved, so they're willing to sacrifice, to share their family — their mom and dad — and our resources to partner with Asia's Hope on behalf of orphaned kids.
When I lie down at night and dream, I see thousands of people running together to rescue orphaned kids from abuse and trafficking. I see large corporations and small businesses coming alongside us to sponsor races and underwrite projects. I see a world changed by ordinary people motivated by a need that is so great that no one of us can meet it alone.
Through all of this, I've learned that God is a lot bigger than any fears, doubts or uncertainties that we have. Ed, my husband, is the realist of the family. He'd even say that he tends toward cynicism. But this experience has revolutionized his faith as well. He's seen God come through time and time again.
And for all of us at Team Hope, we've gotten a new perspective on our lives, our possessions, our money and our talent. We think a lot about how we spend our resources, and spend it now with eternity in mind.
To anyone who finds themselves in my situation — an ordinary person whose heart has been broken by the suffering of orphaned and vulnerable children — I'd say, "Just get involved. Do something!" Even in terms of ministry, our culture defines success in a way that often produces fear, not faith. We fear failure because we think that we're always supposed to accumulate, to go bigger, to do more. But I've learned that Godly success is about daily obedience to God's will. So get involved. Start today. So what if you fail? At least you went down fighting for a cause of utmost importance.
To learn more about Team Hope International, visit their website.