Zambia Reflections 2:26 P.M. CT, WEDNESDAY, MAY 28, 2014
As I look back and reflect on this mission trip here in Zambia I have so much going through my mind and cannot even believe how much has happened in these last two weeks. God is so amazing and has brought an amazing group here this year. I have learned so much. The kids and people here in Zambia have showed me what having true joy is all about. They have nothing, but that doesn't stop them from smiling and having full faith in Christ. They trust in Him to provide everyday. Now, that to me is beyond amazing. While I have so much more than them it's like they have so much more because they are so filled with joy and The Lord and don't rely on things to satisfy them.
Sharing God's Word to the people of Zambia has filled me with so much joy, because they are so willing to learn and soak up every word you tell them. When we would teach them the gospel balls they were so quick to learn it and not just keep it to themselves, but want to go out to their friends and community and share it and spread the word of God to anyone and everyone around them. Wow now that is so awesome! These people have taught me what true happiness is and just how to open up and not think about myself, but to think of others. For people to know you are a Christian and to share His word doesn't always have to be done with words.
With communication barriers its harder to share using words. So, with that being a difficulty I realized that sometimes the best way to share with someone is by actions and just showing love and kindness. These kids just want to be shown love and attention and this is when I let my guard down and got dirty and played with kids who are so dirty but so precious and most of all God's precious creations. Having them climbing on me like I was a tree was probably the most amazing thing to me. To see their smiles meant the world to me. That was when I felt God working the most, because loving them was so easy and fun. I don't think I have ever enjoyed being at the bottom of a dog pile, throwing kids in the air, spinning them in circles till they were so dizzy they couldn't walk, and being thrown to the grown so much.
I know I wouldn't be here if it wasn't in His plan for me. I don't deserve the love these kids have given me, but I am so touched and blessed that they chose to love on me and run to me like they have known me forever. God has made my heart so tender and He used these kids. But all together one of the biggest things I have learned in the last two weeks is to just say YES to Him every single day and He will do amazing things in you. Open your eyes and just know that there is always someone out there that has it so much worse that you and is STILL smiling after everything they have been through.
God Is Good!
Baylor Spirit Squad
Day 9 Blog 1:19 P.M. CT, WEDNESDAY, MAY 28, 2014
Today was our final day of sports clinics, and we definitely went out with a bang! We had the amazing opportunity here at Tree of Life to love, teach and minister to over 400 kids today! We split up into 4 different groups, soccer, baseball/football, volleyball and basketball. It was an amazing experience with some incredible kids! The kids, ranging from age 4-19 years old were so full of energy and eager to learn anything and everything about each sport.
At the end of the first session we taught the kids the gospel balls, what each color meant, and how it relates to each of their relationships with Christ. By the end of the second session, the kids were all teaching us what the colors meant! On the gospel balls we have the colors, a BU logo and John 3:16. It was amazing to hear all the kids recite the verse from memory, in unison, with such enthusiasm!
Last night, Mr. Kendal (president and CEO of Family Legacy) challenged each of us to ask a kid to pray for us. I can honestly say I've never asked a child to pray for me before, usually it's the other way around so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. During the third and fourth sessions today, Sam Ukwuachu and I asked our kids if anyone wanted to pray for us. It absolutely blew my mind listening to their prayers that were so genuine, thoughtful, and powerful!
As our time in Africa winds down, I am so grateful for the opportunity we have had to love and serve the wonderful people of Zambia but I truly believe that we are the ones that are leaving being transformed by the compassion and love shown to us by everyone that we have met during our time here, whether in Ndola, Kabwe, or Lusaka.
Words cant really describe how I feel after this day. We left Kabwe this morning and made it to Family Legacy in Lusaka after a short bus ride. We were welcomed by Greer, Clay and the rest of their Family Legacy team. We were treated to a delicious dinner and afterwards we took a tour of the town and different communities. We would come to learn how family legacy started and what the Tree of Life is all about. Greer described to us how the children at the Tree of Life come from homes full of violence and and abuse. The source of their problems starts with lack of education. 80 percent of Zambia is unemployed. Young girls who are uneducated have a choice of either getting married young and being entirely dependent on their husband or giving up their bodies to prostitution. And it is common in this society for husbands to frequently beat their wives. In addition, HIV and aids is widespread. Zambia has the 8th lowest life expectancy in the world. So this is a world that children are born into here in Zambia. Family Legacy intervenes in the lives of single orphans (orphans who have lost one parent), Double orphans (children who have lost both parents), social orphans (children who's parents have simply abandoned them, and serial orphans (children who have lost a parent and been passed around to multiple aunts, uncles, and grandparents who have either passed away or put them out). These children are sometimes traded off and put into prostitution. Other times young girls are raped by their uncles or male caretakers. Even worse, caretakers of orphans call it "finishing their problems" outon the orphans meaning that they beat the life out of these kids simply because these kids do no belong to them and are a burden. So the Tree of Life is a safe haven for the children who are in the worst possible situations. And Family Legacy works to educate them and invest in their futures so that they can potentially change the ways of Zambia. Their program offers a better education than the government education. I met a girl today, who was truly just an intelligent young lady. I don't know anything about her past, but I know her plans for the future. She wants to be a designer, then a missionary, and after that a doctor! Greer shared about how a child who comes to Family Legacy is able to build such dreams in their heart after only 5 months in the program! Greer and their team have committed a huge part of their life to these orphans. Family Legacy was built on miracle after miracle. God truly provides.
This biggest thing that stood out to me today was when Greer pointed out that he was the son of two missionaries and he did not choose his parents. He did not choose that upbringing, or environment to grow up in. God blessed him with that life. And all of these children did not choose their parents or the world that they were born into. And in that moment, I never felt so blessed in my entire life. That seriously put my entire life in perspective and how I could have easily been born into a life of loneliness, abuse, violence and prostitution! And that realization hit me so hard. It was a call to action for me. I need to take advantage of every blessing I have and no matter how hard I think life may be in America, it cant be as hard as any child's life here in Zambia. It makes me realize how important our role is here. Greer left us with this verse that inspired him to do what he does.
Luke 12:48 "from everyone who has given much, much will be demanded."
Child of God
Day 7 Blog 5:22 P.M. CT, SUNDAY, MAY 25, 2014
At the end of everyday of this trip I have gone to bed thinking that I have met the most compassionate, loving, hospitable person with such child like faith that I admire. Then I wake up the next day to meet another person that rocks my world, shinning Christ's light and love so brightly! It is amazing to me that we are half way across the world attending church while many of you were sleeping and doing a sports clinic in the African sun when many of you were waking up to go to church. The thing that keeps blindsiding me the most is that we are half way across the world, but we are no different than the people here.
This morning we attending church at Grace Church where Simon Mwanamoya, our sports ministry partner is the pastor. This faith community invited us in with open arms to their place of celebration and let me tell you it was a celebration! Yesterday while walking around touring houses in this community I met a wonderful women named Precious. She is an incredibly brave and strong single mother of three children that works as a hair dresser. When asking her what she liked to do in her free time she told me that she liked to sing and dance. Little did I know, but she led the praise music at service this morning and sang with such passion, heart, and intensity while dancing so freely. They don't practice often, but they don't need it, their raw talent coupled with their intense faithfulness results in songs so beautiful they are like a glimpse of heaven. I didn't need to understand the language to know that these praises were some of the most genuine songs of thankfulness and love to their faithful savior.
This afternoon Simon took us to Kamuchanga, the community where he and his family live. Here we did another sports clinic playing soccer, volleyball, and net ball while also doing Kids Games with the youngest children. The day began with a huge circle of kids anxious to start playing. We were asked to join the circle and I found myself in the middle of one of the girls teams. Earlier in my college career I elected to take American Sign Language thinking that it would be easier than spanish, but that I would never use it in my athletic training profession. Little did I know that then that God had a very specific reason for me taking those courses. As I started saying hello to the children that surrounded me I was quickly informed by their translator, that they were deaf. This was my moment, and I fumbled and finger spelled my way through the entire afternoon with these girls. I quickly realized that they were not so different from me- they loved little children, they were equally uncoordinated at volleyball, and they had no idea how to play net ball. We also shared a relationship with our Lord and Savior making us perfectly made sisters in Him. These girls have what some see to be a disability and live in an area that many see as impoverished and underprivileged, but to me these girls live such a faithful life following a path that our Creator made for them with such intense joy, passion, and trust that in my mind, couldn't be made any better.
I was again shown today that while they may live half way around the world these people are no different from us- they feel happy, excited, joyful, scared, jealous, annoyed, frustrated, and loved just like we do. They also have such extraordinary God given gifts that they let shine brightly for His glory, just like our team, and you at home. And while compared to most of our team, I have no athletic ability to share, but I was able to share my ability to sign with these girls which in turned blessed me beyond belief.
Baylor Athletic Trainer
Day 6 Blog 2:46 P.M. CT, SATURDAY, MAY 24, 2014
After the three hour drive from Ndola to Kabwe on T3 (a thousand year old trade route from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt) we arrived at Zambezi Source Resort. We then met Simon, the leader of a local soccer ministry situated in the second largest community in Zambia. This community includes 90,000 people (60,000 of which are children). The saddest part is that 22,000 of those are orphans.
We had the privilege of meeting with a group of 910 children from the area and split them up into different groups to take through soccer drills. You can imagine with that amount of kids that it was utter chaos. All of the children were so excited to play with us that it was hard to control them, but after corralling them and explaining the station, they exceeded our expectations. It is amazing to me every time we explain the gospel balls to the kids how much and how fast they retain it. It is clear that these children are craving love and attention, which we more than happily provide--the kids used us as their jungle gym.
After playing with them for a couple hours, we were escorted into the village to see the living conditions. The guide for my group, Mevis, is a member of Grace Church in the community. She was extremely kind and answered every question our group could think of. We visited three homes, all of which were a little nicer than the homes we visited in Mapalo. The last home we visited was owned by a woman named Patricia. When asking her and Mevis questions, the subject of witchcraft came up and everyone became very intrigued. They discussed how witchcraft is a huge part of their culture and amazed us all when they claimed that witch doctors could fly on a simple table spoon. Christians here maintain that the forces of witchcraft are real, but come from evil sources.
As the day came to a close, I was able to reflect on the events that took place. The fact that there are 22,000 orphans in one community is fascinating. Although it is extremely sad, it is amazing to me how much joy is on every one of their faces. I feel guilty when I see the happiness that something as simple as rubber and air can bring them because personally I sometimes get upset when I don't have the newest thing. I know the purpose of this mission trip is to impact kid's lives, but I find that every day it seems the kids I meet have a greater impact on mine.
Day 5 Blog 4:23 P.M. CT, FRIDAY, MAY 23, 2014
What a week. The Lord has moved in more ways than imaginable. As we close out our time here in Ndola, we pause to reflect on the mighty work God has done. From a 30-hour trek across the world to a field day at the national team's stadium (Levy Mwansa), the will of The Lord has been done through his guidance and strength. We have served the people of the community, specifically Mapalo School, George Secondary School, Twapi School, Arising Life Ministries, Chesire Home, and all those we had encountered during our time in Ndola. We ended our blessed time here with a celebration (karaoke and cake!) of all that we have had the opportunity to do with our friends from Northrise UnIversity. For Northrise and their generosity and hospitality, we are truly indebted.
One challenge for us has been communication at times. While most speak English, sometimes words or phrases are not translated over and we have simply turned to sports to bridge the gap. Through sports we have been able to communicate, but through the sharing our of faith and the gospel we were able to truly impact (more like be impacted by) our new sisters and brothers here in Ndola. We have shared with them not only the gospel balls (sports ball with colors representing ways to the cross), but the story of Christ and redemption using a small pamphlet illustrating the gospel of John. It has been an week filled with controlled chaos, and for that we are extremely grateful. Our prayer as we proceed with our journey is that we humble ourselves before his plan, re-energize and continue running the race that the Lord has set before us with unwavering perseverance. The Lord is moving in and around us and we have been more than blessed to be a part of the bigger picture.
Baylor Women's Basketball
Today has been another awesome experience here in Ndola. This morning we went on a walking tour of the city. There were two very distinct places of business. One was the mall, which was bright, shiny, and clean. It could have been a mall in any American city. This provided stark contrast to the loud and dirty streets right around the corner. On the roadside everything from fruits and vegetables, to stuffed animals, shoes, and even cell phone minutes were available for sale.
People hustled about, but it didn't appear as though much trade was taking place. As we walked, we passed out the gospel of John, explaining that it was part of the New Testament, and told the story of the good news of Jesus Christ. The people were very receptive to the gospel booklet and many began reading as we continued our tour.
This afternoon we had the privilege of going to the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium, which is the home stadium of Chapolopolo, the Zambian national team. We took part in a field day with the students of Twapia and George intermediate schools as well as Northrise University. Our team may not have been the best, but we definitely had the most heart. After relays, sack races, and carrying hard boiled eggs across the finish line, we got the opportunity to see the kids true passion, fútbol.
Most played without shoes, but they were able to fly around the field with grace and incredible agility. It was very quickly apparent how much they play. After a some time to scrimmage, we grouped together and shared the message through the gospel ball. I had the privilege of speaking about the color red, which is the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross to atone for our sins. It took the darkness and sin we are born into and washed it white as snow.
As we wrap up our time in Ndola, it is incredible all of the things we have seen and the joy that radiates from these children though they have next to nothing. The thing that has touched my heart the most happened at Arising Life, which is a school for orphans and underprivileged children. We took grain and cooking oil to 10 select houses that were in need. The looks on the faces of those who received the food are something that I will cherish for years to come.
However, for me the truly touching part of the day came later as we walked back to the orphanage through the trash lined, dirt roads of the village. As I was walking, a little girl named Tina came up and grabbed my hand. She also had a friend walking with her whose arm was around her shoulders. Both were five, with tattered clothes, and no uniform, which meant they were not able to go to school. We walked along talking a little bit as I tried to get to know them.
After a few hundred yards I happened to glance at their feet. They were sharing one pair of sandals, as they walked through the rocky, muddy street. I was caught incredibly off guard by this act of compassion. One of them had been lucky enough to get a pair of shoes, and instead of enjoying their good fortune, they decided to share half of their gift in order to ease the suffering of another. It really made me look in the mirror that night.
If I were in the same situation would I have done the same thing? Or would I have been like the others in shoes and counted my blessings and gone on with my day. These girls shared something that we take for granted every single day. This simple act of generosity, that nearly went unnoticed, has been one of the most moving things I have come in contact with.
The most amazing thing about being here in Zambia has been how little it would take to make a real difference in someones life. How much does a pair of children's sandals cost at Wal-Mart? Nothing most of us would think twice about. This trip has really given me a different perspective and has allowed me to take a look at my own life in order to model it more closely to the life Jesus wants me to lead.
Please continue to pray for us as we transition to Kabwe and the second half of our mission trip here in Zambia.
Day 4 Blog 4:07 P.M. CT, THURSDAY, MAY 22, 2014
Today we departed for Cheshire Home, an institution for physically and mentally handicapped girls with an age range from 15 to 30 years old. Upon departure, personally I was uncomfortable going to an environment like that because I felt like there was nothing I could tell these girls that would help them. I believed that nothing I could say would be adequate for them, and so the first few minutes upon arrival I backed off a bit from speaking with any of the girls and just listened in the back as the welcome, introductions and the overview of the history of institution and its purpose were explained to us by the deputy administrator. Shortly after we split into three groups and toured the facility. We saw their classrooms, laboratories, and dormitories as well as the quarters where some of the teachers who stayed with the girls resided.
After the tour we all gathered together where some of us representing Baylor in partnership with Northrise University presented the girls and teachers with small gifts of appreciation and thanked Cheshire Home for allowing us to come visit them. During this time I was speaking to one of the teachers, Ms. Chijio, and i was not only able to learn more about the home and its operations but I also learned some words in the Zambian native language as well as how to spell the alphabet in sign language. I learned that it cost about 300 Kwacha which is equivalent to about 50 US dollars for one of these girls to be able to attend this institution for a term, and the entire time I couldn't stop thinking about how quickly I tend to blow through 50 dollars if it were given to me and how significant that sum of money would be to one of these girls. It nearly brought me to tears.
When it was time to leave we all gathered outside and said our goodbyes after taking a group photo with the girls as well as the faculty. Before we left one of the girls gave a thank you speech to us for coming to visit them and explained to us how much it meant to them to be shown love when most other people neglect or reject them. I instantly regreted not being proactive in getting to know any of these girls and began to use the little time I had left to speak with a few of the girls that could communicate with me and got to listen to the story of a girl on a wheelchair whose name is Given and how she had been through an operation on her legs and wasn't in the right condition to continue to go to the regular government school and so her best option was to go to Cheshire Home who was happy to take her in. She concluded to speak on how she graduates Cheshire Home in a year and wishes to continue education in regular school afterward.
It wasn't until we got back to our hotel in the evening that I found out that the teachers and faculty members at Cheshire Home are all volunteers from their community and are not on salary. They are just people that God had placed a burden on their heart to be a blessing to these girls. That blew my mind! The fact that, In a community where it is difficult to feed even yourself and family, people volunteer to spend day and night with these girls whom society neglects was simply amazing to me and it really showed me the power of the call of God on a person's life and that God's will is above any other.
"It means a lot that you came to visit us because most people don't even treat us like we're humans."
Those were the words from one of the beautiful girls we met. Her name was Gift. How fitting? Her name is a direct reflection of who she is. She told us how thankful she was that we visited, but she doesn't know how blessed we were by her and her friends. I don't think I have ever seen anything more precious. A lot happened today, and my thoughts still aren't super straight, but I'm going to try to make this as clear as possible and start from the very beginning. Hopefully whoever reads this is as blessed from my experience as I was.
This morning during my "Jesus time" I decided to read some of the book of Job. I wasn't really sure why, but I knew God was probably trying to show me something. Wes has been encouraging us to say "YES" to God every morning, so I took his advice and opened up to Job and started reading. I'm glad I did.
After breakfast we visited a school for girls with either physical or mental challenges. It was one of the most special experiences I've ever had. I'm not going to lie; the first few minutes were extremely awkward; I felt like we were intruding and I just wanted to leave. I know, that sounds absolutely terrible! But as I try to remember my exact feeling, the only words that remotely come to my mind are "out of place." I felt completely out of place, but I couldn't figure out why. Now, I love Jesus more than the next guy, and I trust him too. I knew he was up to something, but I was really hoping he would reveal whatever it was he was up to ASAP because I felt flat out awkward.
After a few minutes of listening to the story of Cheshire, learning of the mission and interacting with the beautiful girls, I was able to pen point what I was feeling.
Guilt. I felt guilty. Why? Why was I all of the sudden consumed by guilt? Because after a few minutes of speaking to a 16-year-old girl named Naomi, I realized these girls are better than me. They are more worthy than me. There I was with my expensive Nike shoes, my Canon 60D, my iPhone, my $600 Baylor graduation ring and my $200,000 Baylor education, and these girls had the clothes they were wearing, clothes they were currently making and a disability that I deserve much, much more than they do.
Who am I to walk in and pretend to relate to these girls? Who am I to pretend I even remotely understand their struggles? I can't even put myself in their shoes. They won't fit.
After a few moments of pity partying, I remembered Job. I remembered Job's faithfulness to The Lord. He was a faithful servant, but was stripped of everything. He had nothing left to his name. Nada. Zilch. But still, he was faithful. Because of Job's faithfulness he lived a long, full life and eventually inherited the ultimate gift, the Kingdom of Heaven. I realized that it's 100% understandable not to fully understand why good people struggle the way they sometimes do. Job was as holy as people come and had more than his fair share of pain. It's hard to understand why bad things happen to good people, and I'm not going to pretend like I know why because I absolutely don't. What I do know is that this life is short, but eternity is forever. Thankfully Heaven is everyone's opportunity! These girls, who are often not even treated like human beings, will sit and laugh with Jesus, and they will have no disabilities!
As I was leaving, Naomi (a girl I connected with the moment I walked in) hugged me with everything she had with no intention of letting go. I couldn't let go either. We sat in the moment, hugging, for a good solid fifteen minutes. I was at peace. She loved Jesus with her whole heart and because of that, I knew this wouldn't be our last hug.
On my way out, she looked at me and said, "Hailey, can I come to America with you?" So badly, I wanted to say yes. She then asked if I would be back to visit her next year. I explained that I didn't think I would be coming next year, but I would see her in heaven, that was for sure. Her response: "Yes. Heaven."
But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God."
Mapalo, Round 2:
There is nothing more perfect than a child's laughter' absolutely nothing. We pulled up to Mapalo and there were a solid 10 kids ready to play... When we pulled out of the school grounds to leave, there were hundreds.
Immediately I was drawn to a beautiful girl in a red wrap-dress. Camera shy, Mary became my buddy after a game of duck duck goose. She was stunning, loved hugs and piggy back rides. She wouldn't let me out of her site. It's insane how much one hug can mean to a child.
5-year-old Junior, always down for dancing, hugs and kisses. I actually met Junior Tuesday, and today when he saw me, he pushed through all the others so he could greet me first. He calls me "Harry," which is pretty common around here. I guess "Ls" are difficult to for them to pronounce, so Harry it is! I didn't care what he called me. He remembered me, and that was pretty cool.
We played the "animal game," which is a super, sweet, awesome game that one of my friends made up. Basically, you pick an animal and you act like that animal until the kids get bored, then you pick another animal. It sounds silly, but believe me, the game is a HIT. We weren't able to stay long, but the time was well worth it. We got to be animals with some of the coolest kids on the planet. What's better than that?
As usual, leaving was difficult and I was the last person back on the bus. Mary and Junior gave me approximately elevendy billion kisses. I couldn't have been happier. Who doesn't appreciate kisses from angels?
What a blessing! I met Naomi, who changed my life in the span of about 10 minutes. She showed me that no matter what you're going through, even if it's a permanent disability, it doesn't matter. You can still serve Jesus just as much as the next person. Junior and Mary, two young kids were a pretty great image of Jesus himself. Beautiful and loving, they reminded me what this crazy thing called life is about. Love. It's about loving people more than you love yourself. No shame admitting that I was taught one of the most important life lessons by a 5 year old and an 8 year old. If I said today wasn't one of those "ah-ha" moment days, I wouldn't be telling the truth. Thank you Jesus for Mapalo and Cheshire.
What an amazing day. We're only two full days in, but it feels like we've already been here for a week. Even if we had to leave tomorrow, the trip has already been worth all the money, all the traveling, and all the exhaustion. Thankfully, we have a long way to go, and I cannot be more excited for what God has in store for us.
Yesterday was primarily filled with experiences involving younger children at the Mapalo Primary School and Arising Life Ministries Orphanage. The kids have so little but are filled with so much love and happiness. It was an amazing way to spend our first full day in Zambia.
As opposed to yesterday, we spent today primarily with older kids, ages between 14 and 20. Although I figured my experiences with the small children would be impossible to beat, I enjoyed spending time with the older kids equally as much. I was able to communicate with them much better and learn about their language, where they are from, and what they want to be. Additionally, I spent a lot of time today getting to know many of the Northrise University students during meals and breaks. These students are so intelligent and fun to talk to. Just from speaking to them, you can tell how much they truly care about a person they just met. I will leave Zambia with several good friends from Northrise that I hope to keep up with in the future on Facebook.
We began the day at George Intermediate School. We visited their classrooms and saw what they were learning, which was very much a high level of learning (they seemed to be teaching science when we visited). Once they were released from class, all the kids created a huge circle where two boys got on some drums and the others began singing and dancing. Unfortunately for the others, I was pulled into the middle of the circle to show off my lack of rhythm. The rest of the time was spent playing volleyball and football (soccer) with the kids and teaching them the Gospel through our sports balls.
Later in the afternoon, we split up into two groups. Those who went to Mapalo yesterday traveled to Northrise, while the others went to Mapalo for the first time. My group traveled to the Northrise campus where we met up with intermediate students from Twapia. There we shared the Gospel through the sports balls once again and played various sports: soccer, volleyball, and basketball. The kids were so talented and passionate. It was really fun learning their language and competing with them.
I could talk all day about my experiences today, but one really sticks out to me. As we were about to leave George, a 20-year-old boy came up to me and began to talk to me. He asked me who I was and if I was on Facebook. As we got further into conversation, the boy turned to me and told me, "I would like for you to be my friend." My heart warmed, and I gladly responded that I would love for him to be my friend also. (Later on, I compared it to the scene in Step-Brothers: "Did we just become best friends?!?") Anyway, this conversation made my day. In the states, we rarely express our desire to care for and be friends with one another. Here, the people are so friendly and want you to be happy. On top of all this, my friend's name was ironically Gift. We may become friends on Facebook and hopefully will be able to keep up, but this boy will never truly know how much of a "Gift" he was to me today.
Today we danced. We danced because dance isn't influenced by language barriers like conversation is....and let's be honest, soccer just isn't in my skill set. Anyone who knows me knows that dancing is not my forte or my favorite go-to activity either, but let me tell you, today I danced...and danced...and danced until I was dripping in sweat and my throat was raspy from laughing hysterically. Sometime between the dancing and the laughing the cultures came together in a splash of color, accents, and laughter and gave us a small glimpse of heaven. How sweet it is that heaven will have no language barriers or poverty. Just joy, and I imagine that it will look much like today. Pure joy.
As our time drew to an end at George school, my friend Agnes hugged my neck as tight as she could. I immediately felt tears about to swell up. I love this little girl. She's spunky and fun, but most of all her joy is contagious. She laughs from the depths of her belly and squints her eyes real tight when she is speaking seriously about something. As our embrace loosened Agnes looked deep into my eyes and in her soft-serious voice said, "I will miss you forever:" What's funny is that this statement wasn't gut wrenching. It didn't absolutely rip my heart out because it simply wasn't true. You see, today Agnes encountered Jesus and later accepted him as her Lord and Savior. So while this goodbye is sad, I know Agnes won't miss me forever. I will see her again. In a place without orphans, poverty, and pain - only joy. I'm sure on that day we will dance...and dance...and dance.
Wes challenged us last night to wake up today and just say "Yes!" to God. No matter what He could ask of you just let Him know early that your answer is yes even if it may be hard or you may not feel like doing it. Well, I told GOD yes without hesitation because I knew that I was here in Africa for a reason. This morning as I woke up we began preparing for what was ahead of us. We had to split into two groups with one group going to Mapalo and the other group, which I was in, going to Northrise University.
As soon as we got there I began playing volleyball for an hour with other members from my school and a kid I met by the name of Pezzo. After having a long hour of playing volleyball other kids from a school named George arrived. Seeing the smiles on the children faces was priceless. After spending quality time with those kids all morning I then went to the Arising Life Ministries Orphanage where a lady named Joyce talked about reasons for coming up with the idea of it, reasons why she started it, and how it has worked out for children who have medical issues, whose parents can't afford anything, or who have been orphaned. Just seeing that look on those kids faces had me so emotional because you can tell that they've had such a rough childhood and have kept going through it.
After she was done we gave the children bubbles that one of my teammates brought. It was a special moment for them and I enjoyed just seeing them smile and have fun. It was pure joy. Later we took a walk into their village and it was really an eye opener for me and I believe was one of the best things that has ever happened to me in my life. Just seeing how happy the kids were knowing that they don't have as much and and that they can still be so sweet and humble and also use good manners blew me away. I literally saw kids carrying their little brothers and sisters around on their shoulders and even walking them around to places and taking care of them because their parents might not have been there or have just been away from home for a while.
It excited me and had me very emotional for a moment. Right then and there It just made me realize that no matter my circumstances, I should still be grateful and thankful for what I do have and just make the best of it. Another thing that really touched me was being able to bring a family some food and seeing the big smile and excitement on the families faces knowing that they were in the need of food and that we were able to deliver it to them was a big moment for me. I'll never forget the woman's tears and her shouts.
After just one day of experiencing real-life situations that these kids go through it just makes me wanna just stay here in Zambia for a while just to be around them and give them support.
I cant wait for tomorrow!
The Universal Language of Soccer
We arrived at Mapalo School today and were instantly swarmed by hundreds of children. Without hesitation, I tried to engage in conversation with a youngster sitting on a hill, whom had distanced himself from all of the others. I said hello and asked him his name. He stared at me blankly. I tried another approach and told him my own name. The blank stare remained. I shook his hand and walked to another child. This little girl was older and was able to answer basic questions - name, age, and grade in school. But quickly it became apparent to me that the youngest children in the community were only able to generate a limited amount of English, and they spoke mainly Bemba. I was taken aback. How was I going to teach children that I couldn't communicate with? How was I going to organize soccer drills if the children only understood basic English phrases?
My doubts disappeared when I got the soccer balls out. There is no denying, soccer is a universal language.
Children that stared at me blankly only moments earlier were suddenly glowing with excitement. They sprinted to me and began to show off their best moves. And these tiny kiddos were GOOD! One little 4 year old named Daniel was easily juggling. I was blown away. The drills were simple to organize because the children were so motivated by the presence of their favorite ball on earth. They absorbed what was being said and ran after each ball with enthusiasm.
Teaching them the gospel from a soccer ball was even easier. They recited the colors emphatically and were so proud of their ability to scream what they had learned at the top of their lungs. BLACK IS SIN! RED IS BLOOD! WHITE IS PURE! GREEN IS GROWTH! YELLOW IS HEAVEN!
The impact that soccer has on these brilliant, creative, joyful people remained apparent to me at Arising Life Ministries Orphanage later in the day. Children in the village had "soccer balls" that they had constructed entirely from plastic bags. No joke, these soccer balls were our equivalent of Walmart bags wadded up and tied together to form a sphere. The children passed the ball to me, and I couldn't believe the fact that it was one of the best soccer balls my cleat had ever kicked. We juggled the ball of plastic bags and the kids swarmed to get a glimpse of a new juggling move they could learn. It hit me then and there that these people are absolutely incredible.
They are hardworking. They are faithful. They have a hunger for learning and a passion for soccer. They live in extreme poverty, and yet they beam with joy and pride. I met an 11 year old girl that spoke English and Bemba perfectly, and she willingly translated for me as we traveled through the village. At 11, she was fluent in two languages and dreamt of becoming a doctor for her village. These are brilliant people that taught me countless lessons in just one day. And my eyes were opened to all of this through the universal language of soccer.
Today after a long journey we arrived in Zambia. We checked in and had lunch in the Northrise cafeteria. Also there were a few of the Northrise students who ate with us so we got a chance to meet and enjoy them. After that we packed onto two buses to visit Northrise's future location and see the progress that has already taken place. There Dr. Zimba gave a brief testimony to how he came up with Northrise and the vision he had to help kids in Zambia and also further their education. He has dedicated 460 acres to farming so that when the new campus is finally built the kids will have food to eat.
Dr.Zimba had Gilbert ( the crop manager ) take us around and show us the agriculture part of Northrise's future home. Gilbert explained how they harvest the bananas from the banana trees and all the other fruits and vegetables they have growing. Also while we were visiting he had the cows come close enough so we could touch which was really neat to me because I've never had the opportunity to do that. He then took us to the chicken coops where a lot of us were able to play with and hold baby chicks. After all that excitement we were taken to the clinic where they do the screenings for the kids that enroll into Northrise.
They had everything from dental care to an X-ray room. The last thing we did before leaving was visit the Kuhula House where all their classrooms are. Just after this everyone was exhausted on the bus back. We got a quick nap and ate dinner. We just finished with our first nightly team meeting to give us an over view for what's in-store for us tomorrow and talked about the many people God has used simply because they said "Yes" to him.
Everyone is anxious and very excited to get tomorrow started! I'm so open to do whatever is needed tomorrow to love on the kids and hopefully I can have an impact on them as much as I know they are going to impact me!
Thank you for praying for us!
Baylor Sports Ministry Embarks on Sixth Mission to Africa 8:00 P.M. CT, SATURDAY, MAY 17, 2014
Today 44 Baylor student athletes and staff are boarding American flight 80 to begin our sixth Sports Ministry Mission to Africa. This year we will be spending our two weeks in Zambia partnering with Northrise University in Ndola, doing sports ministry in Kabwe, and serving at Family Legacy orphanage in Lusaka.
We will treasure your prayers over these two weeks as we share the love of Christ through sport, testimony, and service. Thank you all for your help and support in making this possible. I don't know that anything has had a greater impact on the lives of our student athletes over the past give years. We will look forward to sharing with you each day as we seek to say "Yes!" to God and allow Him to lead, guide, stretch, and bless us!
Director of Sports Ministry