July 14, 2011
(Editor’s Note: This is the last of a two-part series on the Baylor Sports Ministry Team’s third trip to Nairobi, Kenya and the impact made by the group of 47 through clinics, extended visits and construction projects.) Click here to read the first part of the series.
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Having gone on the 2010 mission trip to Kenya with a tightly-knit band of 28, Terrance Ganaway admits that he was a little apprehensive when the group grew to 47 this year.
“Initially, I was opposed to the big group,” said Ganaway, a senior running back with the Baylor football team. “When I think of mission trips, I think about getting away from something you’re used to and getting away from your team, even though some of your teammates go there. And I thought at first it was a little cliquey. But after about three or four days, we started breaking out of our groups and sharing our faith with each other and really help people in need.”
With strength in numbers – nearly triple what Baylor Athletics Chaplain Wes Yeary brought with him in 2009 for the first trip – the Kenya Sports Ministry Team was able to add construction projects and send out separate teams during their trip to Nairobi in May. On one of the days, they did two separate soccer clinics, one for basketball and one for volleyball, all at different locations.
“For Walter, that was making connections with three different groups in Kenya that he can continue to communicate with,” volleyball player Jordan Rice said of Walter Machio, a local leader who works with Michezo Afrika. “And it was just because we had that many people that could separate into that many groups and accomplish all of that at the same time.”
When we went to the slums, I met this little boy named Amster. He was the first kid I saw and the one that has had the biggest impact on me so far. Amster was at the camp today, and I got a chance to work and out with him again. I have learned so much from him. In a sense, I have learned what the word love really means. Amster has very little in life, and yet what he gets he gives selflessly. Today, after we held our camp, he asked if I had any water. . . . Amster took two sips and starting passing out the rest until it was all gone. I gave him a T-shirt, and he gave it to a boy who asked for it. I gave him bracelets, and he gave them to his sisters. Even though Amster is in need, he seeks first to give to others. He doesn’t have things to take for granted– Sophomore soccer player Karlee Summey (Saturday, May 21, in team blog)
More than the two previous years combined, this year’s Baylor group was able to make a lasting impact with construction projects. They built a much-needed fence at the Kizito Orphanage; made repairs and built chicken houses at the Liberty House, which local pastor Boniface Mwalimu operates to help transition children from the streets of Nairobi back to their villages; rebuilt a home in the Mukuru slums that was destroyed by fire; and poured concrete for a floor at a home in chigger-infected Murang’a.
Murang’a was where last year’s group washed the hands and feet of villagers who had been infected by chigger bites most of their lives. This time, they were able to start something that will hopefully be a long-term cure.
“There were so many of us that some of us had to back out and find something else to do,” said junior receiver Lanear Sampson with the football team. “But it was cool to see how some of them just went over and started talking to some of the grownups or things like that. And then you had LP (basketball player Lindsay Palmer) being goofy and dancing with them.”
“Andrew Sumpter came in and said, ‘Man, I’m so jealous that y’all go to do so much,’’’ Yeary said of Sumpter, a Baylor receiver who had been on the two previous trips. “I think the work that we got to put in and the opportunity to reach so many more was because we were able to split up into teams and go do things in separate areas.”
The numbers also paid off in making visits at the same time to the Laganta Women’s Prison and the Nairobi West Men’s Prison. Last year, the group had only made it into the men’s prison.
“I loved going to the men’s prison the year before,” said Brooke Biddle, a senior with the women’s equestrian team. “But this year, going to the women’s prison impacted me 10 times more. I don’t know what it was, but the women were so excited. Some of them weren’t the best at the sports we were playing, but it was so funny to see. There was this one older lady that was just so into basketball. And if the girls weren’t doing it right, she would stop them and make them do it over. She was just so into it. And it was cool to see how excited she was getting about it.”
In addition to playing sports with the women prisoners, the group also got to witness a style show put on by the inmates.
“While they’re in prison, I guess they’re able to sew and make their own costumes and stuff,” said Melissa Jones, a former basketball standout who will switch to volleyball in the fall. “And they come out, and they’re literally dancing in front of us and just having a good time. In that moment, you forget you’re in a prison. You talk to the guards, and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that person and that person are on death row.’ You can’t even fathom it. These people that you’re having so much fun with, and they’re about to die.”
"Until they reach a certain age, the women prisoners can even have their children with them, “so there are all these little babies running around in there,” Rice said.
“I was amazed when I asked them how it went, how many of them said it was their favorite day,” Yeary said of the trip to the women’s prison. “And it was just because they were so encouraged by the women in there. I know (Senior Associate Athletic Director) Tom Hill said that when they watched the Jesus film that they were just weeping during the crucifixion scene. Just the spirit and the love that was there was so strong, it was neat to hear the girls share that.”
At the men’s prison, the situation was very similar. While you’re playing basketball and soccer with the inmates, it’s easy to forget why they’re in such a dreary place.
“We had one guy stand up at the very end and recite John 3:16,” said freshman quarterback Bryce Petty of the football team. “That was just so cool to me. They don’t have a lot of people come to see them. So you just walk off the bus, and they’re so happy. It’s just so incredible to see them be so happy in a situation that doesn’t have the best of outlooks.”
“You’d think, ‘Well, they’re inmates, they’re bad people,’’’ Sampson said. “But as far as us, I didn’t feel like we were judgmental at all. I knew coming into it that a lot of them are in there because they have to steal because they don’t have anything.”
On one of the last days, before a Safari and the long trip home, the football players got their chance. After days of staying on the sidelines or leaving their comfort zone to help out with basketball, volleyball and soccer clinics, they led a football clinic at Mountain Park High School as part of a project through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“I was under the impression that they had this thing going,” Yeary said. “But we later found out that they had basically come out and done a four-day or maybe a one-week clinic, brought pads and everything and taught them how to play football. And I think they had only played like twice since then in the last year. As much practice as we do here, and we still mess up. So you can imagine. They’ve only played twice, so it’s still so raw. But the flip side of that is if we had done that in Nairobi, those kids wouldn’t have had a clue. When you break out a football there, they want to do rugby and kick it on the ground.”
Something as simple as throwing the football is completely foreign to the kids at the school.
“In America, the first thing we do is learn how to throw the ball. We’re picking up and throwing objects all around the room,” Ganaway said. “But over there, they start out kicking the ball. So just the fundamentals of throwing it, you really have to teach them how to wind back and throw. . . . It’s not something you can really learn overnight.”
Sampson, who worked with the receivers, said there were some talented players who would be “pretty good” if they kept practicing.
“But they’ve never done this before,” he said. “I think I told someone, it probably would be easier teaching 6-year-olds here than trying to teach 15- or 16-year-olds over there. We just had to be very patient with them, because we know their main sport is soccer. But it was a good experience, and it was just fun being around them.”
The hardest part for the Baylor group was leaving new friends behind. In a matter of days, they develop bonds with sweet, smiling faces that will be etched in their minds forever. Nothing has been etched in stone for next year’s trip back to Kenya, but Yeary said, “I don’t see how we can’t keep going, with the relationships that have been developed.”
The last hour of camp, Amster was a little down. I didn’t know what was wrong. So before we had to leave, I went to talk to him and asked him if he was upset about something. I gave him a hug, and he was crying. Amster did not want us to leave. Sometimes it is easy to doubt the effect of short-term mission trips, but today I saw the effect of them. I saw how much the material things don’t matter, and how much showing God’s love can affect someone – Karlee Summey
If you have not had the chance to take a look, go to the team’s blog at http://kenyasports11.wordpress.com to see the daily reports of how impactful the trip was for the Baylor Sports Ministry Team and the people of Kenya.
“Going into the trip, I know a lot of us who had gone last year were a little hesitant, since the group was so much bigger,” Biddle said. “But the trip is obviously not about getting to know people, it’s about going over there and doing God’s will and what God sent us over there to do.”