Now in his third year as Baylor's first full-time Athletics Chaplain, Wes Yeary has a daily walk in faith. The Kenya Sports Ministry Team's 46-person trip to Nairobi, Kenya, is more like a huge leap.
At an estimated cost of $3,300 per person, this year's two-week trip had an estimated cost of over $150,000. And fund-raising efforts were ongoing right up until the May 4 deadline, when - as if on cue - the goal was met.
"Each year, the group has grown and the amount gets larger," said Yeary, who led a group of 16 on the first trip to Africa in 2009 and 28 last year. "And yet, through the Lord just working in the hearts of people, it's been amazing how we get to our deadline and (the money) comes right in. Never any time before that. One year, I'd like to see the Lord get that done in January.
"But I think that's part of the beauty of the whole experience is trusting and sharing. Each year, our group has grown, so we've had to raise more money. And yet the Lord has provided every time. And the response of the Baylor family has just been phenomenal. It really is a team effort."
On Sunday morning, a group that includes 37 current or former Baylor student-athletes began a 30-hour trek that will take them from the Baylor campus to the George Bush International Airport in Houston, then to Dubai and finally on to Nairobi.
"Each year, I'm just as excited for the first-timers, knowing the type of experience they're going to have and the impact that it can have on their lives," said Yeary, who's joined by Kim Scott and Tom and Kristen Hill as leaders. "And then to share in the excitement of those returning, that have such an eagerness to go back, especially after the experience they had the first time. And then with the size of our group this year, it gives us opportunities to do some new projects that we couldn't have done in the past."
Making their third trip, along with Yeary and Scott, are Melissa Jones and Lindsay Palmer from the Elite Eight women's basketball team and football's Bryan Swindoll. Jones was a late addition to the group when she wasn't selected in last month's WNBA Draft.
"Last year was our second time to come back," Yeary said. "And MJ and Bryan and Lindsay and a couple of the others that were returning for the second time had a whole different approach - just the confidence they had and the comfort they had with what they were doing and where they were. And the rest of our crew just followed in that."
That experience was evident when the group ministered to the street children that local minister Boniface Mwalimu helps feed.
"When we went out there the first year, the kids were sitting on a wall, and we talked to them and then sat on the other side of the sidewalk," Yeary said. "And then Boniface spoke to them and meditated for a little while and then he paired us up. The second year, MJ and Andrew Sumpter and Lindsay, they just went straight down that line and were shaking hands and hugging. So the rest of the group just followed in. After a little while, Boniface looks over to me and said, `We don't have to do anything.' They were already in full conversation."
One of the projects this year is to help rebuild a Community Center in the slums of Mukuru, which was destroyed in a devastating fire three months ago that left two people dead and nearly 3,000 families displaced.
"We're going to focus on the Community Center within the slums that all of them can use. I'm excited about that," Yeary said.
Also included in the itinerary are visits to Kizito Children's Care and men's and women's prison units; the street children ministry, where they will feed them at 5:30 in the morning; several sports clinics; a soccer game against the Kenyan National team and volleyball game against the Kenya Junior National team; and building a chicken house and goat pens at the Liberty House, a rehab facility started by Mwalimu to help the street children get back to schools and villages.
"In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote the words: `No eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has even imagined that which God has in store for those who love Him,''' Yeary said. "And I know as a follower of Jesus Christ that I've got something beyond this world here. I know this isn't all there is. . . . But I've also experienced in my own walk that God leads us and directs us to things that are really beyond our imagination or anything we could have dreamed up."
At the end of the trip, before a Safari, the group will visit Mountain Park High School in Nakuru and conduct a football clinic as part of the Kenya Project started by Gideon Robi.
"We're going to go a day early to be able to work with that school," Yeary said. "They've actually started American football, and it's all new to them, although they've had some football coaches that have gone up there and done some things. But this will really be fun for our football guys and for them. Our football guys are going to get to do their thing instead of jumping in with soccer or basketball and actually teach."
The Kenya Sports Ministry Team will return to Waco on Sunday, May 29. During the next two weeks, they covet your prayers for their safe travel and the chances they will have to spread the Gospel to some who have never heard.
Here is the roster for the Kenya 2011 Sports Ministry Team:
Soccer (15): Larissa Campos, Carlie Davis, Caitlin Fennegan, Hanna Gilmore, Michelle Hagan, Taylor Heatherly, Brittany Hunemuller, Betsy Kyle (grad student), Dana Larsen, Kathryn Ludlow, Selby Polley, Staz Salinas, Lisa Sliwinski, Karlee Summey, Natalie Woodham
Club Soccer (2): Jessica Loyd, Liz Sauer
Club Volleyball (1): Taylor Shockey
Grad Students (2): Jenny Barroso, Lindsey Short
GA Trainer (1): Casey Lougheed