God is Good…all the time

Every day since we arrived in Uganda we have started each day worshiping. Today was no different. Well, actually it was. Instead of heading to a room with each other and some of our closest Ugandan friends to share in singing praise songs, reading Holy Scripture and praying, we instead piled into Land Cruisers and drove away from our hotel. We were going on a true African safari, which quickly turned into another form of worship for our incredible Heavenly Father. I will spare the details of what we say and how we felt, so please ask the members of the trip to fill you in when you see them next.

After the safari, we boarded the bus again and began the drive back to Kampala, where we did some shopping for African souvenirs. The students seemed to have fun shopping and bargaining over prices as that is the norm here. Following the completion of our last back and forth negotiations with the vendors we made our way back to the hotel for our last night in Uganda.

On Tuesday morning we made our last trip back to the Sports Outreach Resource Center for one last celebration (devotion) and home visit. This was a great time for each of us as we praised and celebrated God’s love and witnessed a Grandfather and Grandmother dedicate each of their lives to Jesus Christ. As we spoke with our hosts, they notified us that this was an incredible occurrence as they were the patriarch and matriarch of a large family with numerous children and grandchildren. The local staff will continue to connect with this family and encourage them to take part in the local church and Sports Outreach discipleship program. God is so good……

As our trip nears the end, Stephanie and I would like to publicly state how much of a pleasure and honor it was for us to lead this incredible group of Hope College students on this trip. The goals of the Hope College SEED Program in general and Sports Outreach and their various ministries in Uganda specifically is to restore hope and transform lives. This goal was met every day…we saw it with our own eyes. It was great to partner with the students and staff of Sport Outreach in upholding this mission statement through loving the people in Uganda in real and tangible ways.

However, the lives of those we met in Uganda are not the only ones that have been changed. Each and every one of us who were able to participate in the trip is a changed person and more committed follower of Jesus Christ. In the process of helping others transform their lives, ours were changed as well. Stephanie and I are so impressed with this group of young men and women who gave of themselves and engaged physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually during this trip. We are so excited to see how they take the experiences and perspectives gained during this trip and put them into action upon our return home. Thanks to Sawyer and many of you for making this trip possible. God is good…all the time. 

As we wrap up the trip and post our final blog, I wanted to provide each student a chance to share what this trip has meant to them. Here is what they had to say:

As I prepared for this trip people kept asking me how I felt about traveling to a completely different continent, but I never really knew how answer.  Now, as I prepare to leave, I feel the same way.  I have so many different emotions they are hard to sort through.  On one hand, I am excited to see my family and friends that I miss so much, but I am certainly sad to leave this amazing place and all of the people here!  This truly has been the trip of a lifetime!  It has been everything I imagined and much more!  I have learned a new way to love and worship God, our amazing Father.  God is everywhere and if you pay close attention, you will be able to notice all of the blessings he has given us.  I learned that even in the worst situations, God is with us and He has a plan!  Over the past eleven days, I have seen God work through me, the people I met, and the amazing group of people I got to travel with.  Every person I talked to, family I prayed with, Child I played with and breathtaking sight I saw has changed me.  Part of my heart will always be in Uganda! Praise God!

-Carly

The person that stepped on the flight to Uganda and the person stepping on the flight to the US are two different people. My heart has been softened by the presence of the Lord and by all the love within the people of Uganda. Despite the highs and the lows, God was there. God was with us in water filter demonstrations, in morning worship, in home visits, and in every moment in-between. There was more growth in eleven days versus one year in terms of faith. This trip has changed my life around and I am eager to continue to serve and love in the States. God bless!

-Terrell

During my time here in Uganda, the Lord has captured even more of my heart. From meeting the staff of Sports Outreach to the community members, there was a common theme my eyes were opened to. Our God is the ultimate Healer and Provider. He mends the souls of the broken-hearted, gives strength to those who are weary, and is a Father to the fatherless. Even within our own team the Lord continued to meet our needs, even when they were unknown to us. I am blessed to have been able to more fully experience God and witness His fingerprint in all that we did.

-Hailey

This trip exceeded my expectations. I was apprehensive about traveling, how well our team would work, if we would bond with the people we met, etc. I truly had nothing to worry about because everything fell into place. Uganda is a beautiful country filled with the most welcoming, selfless people. I will never forget the humility of the workers at sports outreach. We were so blessed to cross paths with the staff in Kampala and Gulu. They taught us the importance of loving and caring for our community. I can’t wait to go back someday! Afaayo, Uganda! <3

-Natalie

This was the first time I have traveled outside of the United States. I am so thankful for this opportunity of a lifetime. I am most thankful for my team members on this trip. There were a lot of highs and lows throughout our time in Uganda, and my team was there for me every step of the way. Although meeting new people and seeing the beautiful scenery was amazing, I really enjoyed getting closer to my team. I learned a lot from my time here in Africa, and God has shown himself in many ways. I am looking forward to more mission trips throughout my life, but this was definitely a great start.

-Whitney

This trip has been such an eye-opening experience.  We have seen a lot of amazing, jaw dropping things, but have also experienced things that we struggled with and questioned. However, through it all, our group has been blessed by meeting amazing people, hearing inspiring stories, and growing individually and as a group. Ugandans live their lives celebrating the Lord and everything He has done, and if there’s one thing I want to take away from this trip, it’s that.

-Taylor

I am so thankful for this opportunity we were given to visit the beautiful country of Uganda. The people here love God and love others so passionately, and I have learned so much from the time I spent with them. My eyes were opened to many worldly struggles, but they were also opened to the fact that God can and will heal our hearts. The relationships I built with not only the people in Uganda, but also my teammates, are ones I will never forget. I am blessed to be leaving this trip with new friendships and a new perspective on life.

-Ashleigh

I honestly had no idea what I would experience coming to Uganda; I knew it would be big, though. Seeing how these amazing people worship the same God I do all the way in Holland, MI opened my eyes. I have learned how to love without limit and live each day with a new joy that comes from a deep faith in the Lord. Although the amazing people here may be facing different struggles than I am, they never let these obstacles deter them from keeping their eyes on God. I’m so glad I was chosen to go on this trip with the other students from Hope College. I know I’ve made some lifelong friends and memories!

-Anna

This trip has impacted me in ways that I could not have imagined only a couple weeks ago. I knew that I wanted to give all of my energy in any way I could to impact people that we met, whether that be a laugh with a child or a fun conversation with a new friend. What I did not expect was to be so impacted by the depth of the interactions with the people that we encountered. It has made me recognize areas of shallowness in my own life and look for ways in order to dive deeper into intentional relationships and meaningful actions. I will forever be impacted by the people on this trip and I am thankful to the SEED program and Sports Outreach for providing this opportunity.

-Chris

This trip exceeded all of my expectations. Prior to our departure my prayer was that God would not only use my gifts to serve the people in Uganda, but that he would also point out tendencies in my own life which need to change. I found the answers to this prayer in many ways throughout our trip. The leaders of the sports outreach ministry taught me so much throughout our time with them. They portrayed such a strength in their own faith that was very admirable. We had the opportunity to join them for morning devotions and each time I learned something new about the many “simple” topics such as obedience and God’s love. They truly depend on God daily and put him first in every aspect of their lives. I am so grateful to the SEED program for the opportunity to go on this trip. The holy spirit was so present in every moment and our team grew immensely together. I am pumped to see the relationships gained on this trip continue to grow in the future  ~ Connor

Final Day!

Jake and Avery here to close out the final blog of our Zambian experience. We started the morning off with breakfast at a place called Zigzag.  Prior to our meal, we had our last debrief with the Poetice staff. We talked about reentry back into American culture and how to use what we learned throughout the trip to continue our faith back in the states.

After demolishing the stacks of flavor blasted pancakes, we traveled downtown to the Livingstone market. This is where we learned who was good at bartering and who was not. Myself and Ave had it nailed to a science, but can’t say the same for everyone else.  The hot commodities were chitenges, magnets, and wooden crafts.  Everyone spent the last of their kwacha and then we headed to the bus to start the marathon of a journey back home.

After our short 2 hour flight this morning, we are currently sitting in the Johannesburg Airport. Our next flight will be about twelve hours long, followed by a 9 hour flight to get us to Chicago. While we wait for the plane, we will be playing card games and eating our last dinner together.

Thank you for following along through our incredible trip. We love our fans and hope that you enjoyed the jokes of the day. See you soon back in the States!

One last thing, a special birthday shoutout to Coach Kopas!!!

Yesterday’s answer: Walking……J.K. Rowling

-Jake and Avery

 

 

See you later, not goodbye.

Hello friends, family, and followers! This is Courteney Barnes and Sean Gliebe coming at you from Livingstone and our last night in Zambia. L

This morning we woke up early for breakfast at 6:00AM and afterwards packed up the van with all of our bags. Once us and the bags were all packed into the van, we said our final goodbyes to Choma. We were headed to Livingstone to see Victoria Falls and do a game drive. After a 3 hour drive we got to stretch out our legs and explore the beautiful Victoria Falls. Even though the falls were pretty dry, it was still an incredible sight to see. We took many different paths that led to new views of the Falls. At each spot we tried to take a lot of pictures to remember the beauty that God brought to this place. There was a small market outside of the entrance to Victoria Falls and some people explored around there and got some souvenirs.

Next we headed back to move our stuff into the hotel for the night. We ate a quick lunch before we got picked up for our game drive. Two trucks came to pick us up at the hotel and drove us to the national park where the safari would take place. Right away, we saw a group of elephants swimming along the riverbank. We saw lots of impalas, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, buffalos, wildabeasts, baboons, birds, and hippos. After going through we headed to a designated area for white rhinos. We were able to get out of the trucks and escorted by armed guards to go up close to the rhinos. It was important that we stayed in a single file line and remain quiet so we did not startle any of the rhinos. Jake, Sam, and David were taking a picture when a rhino started to make its way towards us. We had to slowly back away and all was good, he just wanted to say hi! On our way back out, we saw most of the animals again.

We came back to the hotel and rested for a bit before heading to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Most people got pizza or pasta and it was SO good. We then went to get some gelato for dessert which topped off an awesome last day.

We finished the night with a debrief. We shared about how this trip has impacted our life and how God has influenced us. Everyone got to share their thoughts. Thank you Zambia, it has been amazing!!!!

Signing off,
Courteney and Sean

A: Great food but no atmosphere.
Q: What is Harry Potter’s favorite way of getting down a hill?

Final Day in Choma!

Hi this is Sam Vree and Jo Cook. This morning, several of the team members woke up for the sunrise. After watching the sunrise, the rest of the team joined for breakfast before the Poetice crew showed up. After breakfast, some of the team went to the prayer room for a time of individual prayer which was a great time to reflect on our week here at Poetice. After prayer and before church, John, one of the leaders at Poetice, led us around their property showing us their vision for the years to come.

Our service was amazing and unlike anything most of us have experienced. We spent time in worship to open the service. The songs we sang had us clapping, jumping and dancing around. I, Sam Vree, had to teach Jake how to clap on rhythm. After the opening songs, the service transitioned into a baby dedication. Parents from the church brought their kids to church, and several Poetice staff members spoke prayers over the families. After the dedication, we ended the service with a couple more songs and then transitioned into a church picnic.

The church picnic consisted of the members eating, playing sports and relaxing on the church base. The children were full of energy running around, getting their faces painted, a stickers table, nail painting, and playing different games. We had dodgeball, volleyball, soccer and basketball games going. After an hour of playing and relaxing, we ate together as a congregation and then continued in the festivities. John told us it was their first time having a day quite like this after church, and they were really happy with how it went.  It was really fun for all of us. The church day was perfectly balanced with times for worship and fellowship.

After the picnic, several of the mamas stuck around for water filter demonstrations. We gave away several more water filters, and showed them how to set them up on the Poetice base. We then followed the families into their community to their wells filled with unclean water. After demonstrating that we were willing to drink their dirty water after it passed through the filters, the mamas were amazed and appreciative.

On our way back through the community, we stopped at a soccer game. We supported two of the soccer teams that were at our camp, and seeing them in action was really great. While there, we had a giant dance circle with kids who were there to watch the game and several of our team members were called into the spotlight. The children on the sidelines were a blast to play with, and saying goodbye to all of them for the final time was heart-breaking.

Our final Zambian dinner was chicken and nshima. Poetice staff wanted to celebrate our last night being on the base and we had ice cream for dessert and a campfire as a place for worship. During our worship time at the campfire, people in the same sports split up and talked about worries or anxieties that might be holding us back from a true relationship with God. Many found this time to be important talking to team members. After worship, we went into debrief and all spent time together reflecting on our time in Choma and how it has impacted us before going back home.

Sam & Jo

Answer: A tomato
Question: What do people say about the restaurant on the moon?

 

Safari Adventure

What a lovely day it was. We began with some yummy pancakes (thanks Mya!) which fueled us for the three hour drive to Paraa Safari Lodge. Seriously Mom, look this place up! The drive was a bumpy one, but the change of scenery kept our hopes high. As we entered the gates to the safari district, Wilfred noticed that one of the tires was nearly flat. We had to turn around and went to the nearest town to get that fixed. We sat in the bus for an extra hour while they fixed the tire. Unfortunately that decreased the amount of time we had to check into our hotel, eat lunch, and catch the river cruise on the Nile River! Uh oh! However, as Connor likes to say, “a minor setback, is primed for major comeback!” The words rang true as we made it to the ferry with only seconds to spare! This added some excitement to our afternoon.

The River cruise was unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. It felt as though we were living our childhood dreams of seeing a multitude of African animals (Giraffes, Elephants, Wort hogs, water buffaloes, crocodiles, hippopotamus, monkeys, and more!). Don’t worry Mom we took plenty of pictures. The sounds of “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King were running through our heads the throughout the day. The cruise took close to two hours and dropped us off near two huge waterfalls.

After we were dropped off, we had a hour long hike along the river which led us to the top of the waterfalls. It was unbelievable witnessing these falls and how they portray the power of our God. Following our hike Wilfred had the bus ready for us at the end of the trail and we shuttled back to the lodge.

Today has definitely showed us a completely different side to Uganda. The tourist-y stuff we did today is completely different than the villages and slums we have been in this last week and it has been a cool opportunity to see both.

Quote of the day: “Did you hear about the hippopotamus that is being put on trial for murder?” “Right now he is in de-Nile!” – Ashleigh

Connor, Taylor and Natalie

 

Wonderful Wilfred and the Magic School Bus

We started the morning off with a wonderful breakfast cooked by the lovely kitchen staff. Most of the team has become reliant on the Ugandan hot tea served every day with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After that, we headed to devotions at a local school. We sang arguably our favorite song of the trip. The chorus goes, “When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no!” After that, we each carried 12-foot-long poles of bamboo to our first home visit. We built a drying rack and gave a water filter demonstration for the woman and the people of her community. Both activities were a team effort and taught us many things, including the “Ugandan Two-Man Saw”.

Then came our second home visit. This may have been the most amazing home visit for one reason: Wilfred’s driving. Let us set the scene; one path, three feet wide. One bus, seven feet wide. One man, ready to risk it all. After this ride we realized we’ve been paying way too much money for the rides at Cedar Point.

After lunch, we took a shopping trip to Lydia’s Place. Here you can purchase goods made by the students of Christine’s House Trade School. They are taught things like sewing, carving, and weaving, which will help them secure a source of income when they are able to return to their communities. We won’t say much about what we bought, but our families should definitely look forward to some goodies!

We returned to the school where we had spent the morning at for a fun afternoon of sports and other activities. Soccer, dodgeball, sharks and minnows, and bubbles were all a huge hit! Whitney and Ashleigh were master artists using the kids’ faces as canvases. There was a volleyball showdown between the Hope College team and the Sports Outreach Staff; but you know what they say… Hope plays, Hope wins. We all spent the afternoon soaking in the joy of the children since this was our last camp of the trip L. We left feeling happy and sad as the realization of how much time has passed hit us all.

Before dinner Richard talked to our group about the Empower Me program. This Sports Outreach program allows you to sponsor a child and fund their education and manage other needs in their life. If you have any more questions, definitely ask someone on the trip or learn more at sportsoutreach.net! Overall, a satisfying last day in Gulu and we all want to come back!

Peace and Blessings,

Whitney, Anna, Ashleigh

PS Moms: only a few more days until we’re home!

Pizza Party

The transformation of feelings in the group has radically changed throughout the last week from anxiety to joyfulness. Since being here for a week, it’s been evident how the Lord has taken ahold of our hearts. Whether it be giving out water filters to families in need, spending time in laughter with the children, or late-night team talks, God has been present throughout all of it.

Our day started with our routine breakfast and devotions with the Sports Outreach family. Pastor Aloysius continued this month’s theme, by focusing his message on the Prodigal Son and how God is willing to leave the 99 to find the one. This message set the tone for the full day ahead of us.

We started with visiting a level three medical facility located outside of Gulu. We were able to bring water filters for the staff and patients to keep everyone healthy while they are at the clinic. We always make it an emphasis to demonstrate the Gospel through the water filter demo. We also brought water filters to a nursery and primary school for the children and staff there. It’s always encouraging to see the lightbulb go off for the people we share the filters with when they realize the impact it will have on their community.

After we had a nice lunch, we were able to visit two different community members and bring water filtration systems. Not only was it an honor to be welcomed into their homes, we were able to give them words of encouragement and prayer. During one of the visits, a woman shared her story of how she stepped away from the church for two years after losing her husband. Through the guidance and encouragement of our team and Sports Outreach staff, she opened her heart to Christ again. This was a beautiful moment to witness and be a part of.

Following the home visits, the team re-grouped at a school in partnership with Sports Outreach to run sports stations. The stations included dodgeball, handball, volleyball, bubbles, limbo, soccer, face painting, and fun games with Chris. Once the rotations had ended, each group had an opportunity to share the Gospel with the kids as well as share our testimonies with them. It was great to see one small girl dedicate her life to Christ after hearing Kendall’s story of how Jesus Christ bridged the gap between our sinful nature and God.

Once we arrived back to the farm, we were treated to pizza and French fries! This made a lot of us happy, very happy. During our debrief, Stephanie had the amazing idea to write each team member a letter of encouragement. This has been a very fulfilling day and we are excited for our final adventures here in Uganda!!

Quote of the night: “The greatest adventure you will ever go on is following God!” – Kendall

Hailey, Terrell, Connor

Road Trip to Macha!

Hello! This is David and Mallory! Today we changed things up a bit from the normal routine and journeyed to Macha, Zambia. It was about an hour and a half drive and it was a great way to see the African landscape during their winter season. In Macha, we partnered with the organization Push the Rock. Messiah College, who has a program similar to SEED called Aroma, had just arrived yesterday and was spending their first day running a sports clinic similar to ours. It was fun to meet another group of college athletes that are also passionate about sports, kids, and faith. Seeing them on their first day reminded us of our first days and how far we have come in just a week.

After we arrived, we ran sport stations with the Messiah students such as soccer, badminton, basketball, lacrosse, etc. Then we came together and students from both schools shared their stories (David & Sam crushed it).  And then unlike our camp, the kids left before lunch. Lunch was a good time to connect even more with Messiah and Push the Rock. After lunch, everyone assembled for the 3rd annual Poetice versus Push the Rock volleyball game, and we found a way to win in four games! (with grace). It was a blast to play together as a team in such a competitive game.  The time spent in Macha was a reminder that God is at work in Zambia in many ways.

For dinner, we had chicken and chips (fried chicken and fries). It offered a taste of home just like the flavor-blasted goldfish, granola bars, and candy we pass around at night.

We are looking forward to church tomorrow with Poetice, and they are doing a family fun day, as well. It is slowly dawning on us that we only have a couple days left and our time together is dwindling down quickly. Since we have been feeling this way, we want to soak in everything we can, so some of us have been rising at 6am for the awesome sunrises as a reminder of how great God is and how beautiful his creation is.

David and Mallory

A: Attire
Q: What is red and goes up and down in an elevator?

 

Field Day!

Today was our last day doing sports camp here at Poetice. Today instead of doing sports stations, we had a field day set up. The kids competed at 11 different stations ranging from throwing a frisbee to a balance test. It was so fun to see the kids compete and be competitive with each other. In the morning the kids rotated to each of the stations and then after lunch the best in each age group competed in a few of them in the final showcase: the 50m dash, Frisbee golf, soccer juggling, and softball throw. We then did an awards ceremony for the winners of each age group and the showcase.  We also presented each coach of the 4 teams with a Bible in Tonga (along with a printout of the scripture that was shared with them this week), a team picture we had taken that day, and 2 new soccer balls.  It was really hard to say goodbye to all of the kids today. Everyone here has made connections with different kids so it was sad to say goodbye. As all the kids were leaving we were able to pass out candy and stickers to all the kids. It’s awesome to know that Hope College will forever be a part of this community.  Poetice opens their gates for their youth (age 13-17) on Friday afternoons, and we heard at debrief that a few who hadn’t ever come before came today because they now know who Poetice is through the sports camp from this week.

After the sports camp ended we walked into the market in Mawpona with some of their youth (who had also participated in the camp this week) and students from Poetice’s School for Justice and Mission who have stuck around this week to help us. Afterwards we walked to a local soccer practice of one of the teams from this week and watched them scrimmage as the sun set in the background of the field. Dinner was a delicious meal of tacos without the shells and included rice, beef, sauce, and vegetables.

We then had debrief, and played cards and games together.  We have all been really enjoying getting to know each other this week. Everyone has been open with each other and we have all grown close. We are all looking forward to doing things together this year at school.

Andrew & Mackenzie

Joke answer: It was exhausted
Joke today: What’s the difference between a well-dressed person on unicycle and a poorly dressed person on a bicycle?

Brick by Brick

Breakfast was great.

We followed breakfast with a devotional with the young women from Christine’s House and Vocational School. Terrell and Chris each had a brief speech to add to the devotional. Unknowingly, Chris’ devotion about the Prodigal Son matched the scripture that was currently being studied with the school.

After, the team did some work on the farm helping stack bricks for a new dining enclosure and pulling weeds in the green pepper beds. James is the lead farmer on staff and he encourages us to find God in everything we do, including pulling weeds and passing bricks. He challenged us to find God and Biblical principles within tasks that we wouldn’t usually consider.

This was followed by a visit to Christine’s House of Empowerment where we had the opportunity to meet with the young women and hear the mission of the house. This is an amazing place that supports young girls and women who have been victims abuse. While the women’s stories were not shared, the strength in each of them was evident in how they spoke and how they acted.

Lunch was great.

After lunch we went to distribute water filters to families and we met three amazing families. We had the opportunity to meet Francis, a 25-year-old man with a severe disability. Francis and his grandmother radiated God’s love and showed courage which touched us all.

After a trip back to Koro Farm and a quick regroup, we headed out to the soccer field at the farm to have a sports camp with children. We split into four groups, taught them volleyball, dodgeball, and softball while getting our butts kicked in soccer. After the sports session, we had the opportunity to share life lessons that we each took from our sport.

Dinner was great.

After dinner several members of the staff shared their testimony and how Sports Outreach has impacted their lives.

We ended by discussing the day and encouraging each other to continue to bring energy and positivity to each moment.

Peace and love,

Whitney, Taylor, Chris

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