Lions to the Left!

The morning began with an unexpected surprise from our leaders. The night before we received instruction to be down in the lobby at 6:30am ready to get on the bus. When we all arrived, Caroline told us that we were going on a safari game tour! The safari consisted of seeing animals like water buffalos, giraffes, lions, elephants and so much more. Our trusty tour guide Frances did an amazing job of pointing out animals while getting us where we needed to go in a very timely matter. It was a great way to end the trip. We then departed back to Kampala.

When we first arrived, we were treated to some pizza in a modern food court type of area. After eating we hopped in the bus and headed to one of the downtown markets to shop. Prior to getting off the bus Sam let us in on the tricks of the trade in the realm of African bargain shopping. After we felt confident in how to get the best deals, our team headed to the sidewalk shops. In the hour we had to shop our purchases consisted of chess boards, soccer jerseys, many animal figurines, patterned clothing, jewelry and sandals. Some went to a cool coffee shop after the market and bought coffee beans. All of our hearts are very full when reminiscing on memories from our trip over the past week. It was hard to say our final goodbyes to two people who have had a big impact on our trip, Sam, a member of the Sports Outreach team, and Wilfred, our bus driver. As we sit in the airport it is bittersweet to be leaving, but we find comfort knowing that the two of them and all of the other people we have encountered during this trip will remain in our hearts.

We ask for your continued prayers as we begin our travels home, may God bless.

Sincerely, Maddie & Olivia.

A Goodbye Haiku

Flight one of three home is complete and we are currently in Johannesburg airport. We are en route to London, then Chicago and then the long days of travel will be over. We started out our day with a great breakfast at a local restaurant in Livingstone. The restaurant was very homey, and the people were very kind. At the restaurant we had a final debrief with a few staff members from Poetice. We talked about what it looks like to come home, and how our lives have been changed. We also talked about how to make this change become our new constant in our lives at home. Throughout the week we were reminded that our relationship with God can have a lot of hills and valleys, but we were also encouraged to solidify the “hills”. This means that with perseverance we will continuously be able to live our lives closer to Jesus. We are very thankful for everything Poetice has taught us and how much we were able to experience Jesus together.

Today we were also able to take a trip to the Livingstone market. This was an overwhelming but very exciting experience.  The shops contained handmade jewelry, trinkets, paintings, clothing, and other unique items.  It was nice to be able to buy some items for friends and family back home, and then headed to the airport.  With the last few hugs goodbye, we began our journey home. We are all feeling a wide variety of emotions.  We are ready for the new future in store for us back at Hope, but not ready to leave our new friends and family in Choma. We are so blessed to have formed such great relationships that make saying goodbye so tough. But we are so excited to share our experiences with others at home and tell them about the amazing ways that Poetice is impacting the communities around them.

We want to end our post with a Haiku from one of our very own team members*:

Bittersweet leaving
Excited to share God’s love
Thank you Poetice

~~Addy and Alaina

*Haiku by Brant Kym

Dry Clothes Are Irr–Elephant!

We started the day off with breakfast and saying goodbye to the Poetice staff, as well as a few of the kids we met this week who stopped by to say goodbye. It was bittersweet to see them one last time as they shared with us how much they were going to miss us, and we shared the same with them.

This was followed by a two hour bus ride to Livingstone to visit Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We hiked down to the Boiling Pot of the falls to enjoy the view of the rapids as they moved downstream. We explored making our way around the rocks closest to the river and taking pictures of the amazing scenery. After a while we hiked back up the path to find a family of baboons along the way. It was a new experience to seem them up so close. We then walked along the overlook to get a view of the water cascading down the falls. The power of the falls created an amazing mist which rained down on us, soaking our clothes. Despite this, it was breathtaking to see the beauty of God’s creation.

After leaving the falls, we stopped at a roadside park to eat lunch. We had Hungry Lion, which is like the KFC of Zambia. We then drove to our home for the night to drop off our bags and relax for a bit before heading out to the safari. The team piled into two vehicles, and we took off into the national park. Within the first five minutes, we saw six elephants, including one only thirty feet away. As we continued driving, we saw impalas, giraffes, Cape buffalo, baboons, warthogs, zebras, and hippos. Midway through the ride, we were able to pull over and walk into the Zambezi River, the largest east flowing river in Africa. We were amazed at how quiet and peaceful it was after seeing Victoria Falls earlier in the day.  Another part of the safari included getting out of the vehicles to walk into the territory of a family of white rhinos. Our guide led us, and we stood fairly close to the rhinos as he informed us about their behavior and history.

The safari lasted around two hours, after which we were dropped off at our hotel shortly before we walked to the restaurant. For our last dinner in Zambia, we had pizza and gelato, which was a nice treat.  Our night ended with our final debrief, where the team got to read letters we wrote to ourselves in the spring about the trip (addressed to our post-Zambia selves). We all got to share something meaningful about our letters and then moved on to questions about our week.  We shared lessons we learned and don’t want to forget upon returning home.  We also discussed how we felt God’s presence in the last week, along with what gifts and passions we think He has equipped us to use back home.  We shared what we learned about the global church, and ended with a word that represents this week in our lives and that can serve as a challenge moving forward.  It was great to hear all of the ways God has been moving in each of us. We could not have asked for a better ending to our trip. We’re sad to leave, but looking forward to being home soon and seeing all of you. Prayers for safe travels tomorrow!

Love,
Tucker and Amanda

Smile, It’s the Nile!!

Today we said goodbye to the Sports Outreach Ministry in Gulu, Uganda.  We drove three hours to Paraa Safari, our home for the last night before our long journey back to the U.S.  After arriving at the gate, we had our passports checked like we were entering a new country, and proceeded to journey 45 minutes through the African plains to the lodge along the Nile River.  We got to witness antelopes, baboons, monkeys, warthogs, water buffalo, giraffes, and elephants on the drive alone.  In the afternoon we were treated with a river boat safari up the Nile where we got up close with some hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, water buffalo, snake birds, and eagles.  We traveled two hours by boat, until the river’s current was fighting all of our two 100-horsepower Yamaha outboards.  We docked short of Murchison Falls, a magnificent waterfall that is roughly 300 feet tall.  We hiked two miles along the river and a few risky members of the group tasted the Nile for the first time with the help of our Sawyer water filters (Daniel, Hayden, Noah).  Near the end of the hike, we ascended to the top of the falls where we could look out across the plains and along the Nile, in awe of God’s creation.  We were met by our faithful driver, Wilfred, and made the trip back to the lodge for dinner and team time to debrief the trip.  It has been such an impactful trip to each member, and hearing the stories continued to show us that God was using each and every one of us for his plan.

We ask that you pray for our safe journey back to Kampala tomorrow and our long departure home.  Please continue to keep the people of Uganda in your prayers, as well.  As much as we love it here in Uganda, we can’t wait to come back and tell you more about our amazing and eventful week here!

Your trusty Bloggers,
Noah and Colleen

Water we up to?

The doors to Poetice base were opened at 8am for Armour’s sport teams for the last day of camp. While we waited for everyone to arrive, those present participated in some competitive dodgeball matches. Once everyone arrived, the youth were separated into their four age groups for learning and sport stations. The first set of stations this morning consisted of speed & agility, strength & conditioning, yoga, and a question & answer session. We took a break before lunch to hear a lesson from 2 Timothy 1:7 given by Coach V and Coach T, which focused on power, love and self-discipline. In the afternoon, the second set of stations consisted of kickball, volleyball, softball, and track events. The Armour’s players continued to impress us throughout the day with their athleticism, their willingness to work hard, and their eagerness to learn. We watched in awe as 10 year olds were holding 6 minute planks and doing front flips over 4 foot rope hurdles.  At the conclusion of the stations, we had another opportunity to do a water filter demonstration and send them home with these life-changing devices. Shortly after came the time to make our final goodbyes as we are leaving Choma tomorrow. It is clear that we both made an impact on each other as it was hard for us to think about leaving this group tomorrow, and they were extremely thankful that we could share some new sports and build relationships with them.

Late afternoon, our team walked to a nearby market where we had the opportunity to experience more of the Zambian culture. There were hundreds of small vendors selling goods such as food, clothing, and household necessities. Most of our team bought chitenges, which are a popular Zambian clothing item.

During dinner, the Poetice team surprised us with ice-cream and a highlight slideshow to recap our memories from this week. We have been blessed to work alongside an amazing organization that has been such an encouragement to us.  Their incredibly strong leaders have played a significant role in helping us grow in our faith. These leaders led us in a time of worship to close our night and our time in Choma, Zambia. We are excited about the mission Poetice has for the communities in Choma, and we look forward to praying for them and hearing about their impactful work. Thank you Poetice!

Paige and Andrew

 

 

Smiles Bright Like the Sun

THE SUN WAS SHINING AND WE WERE SO EXCITED TO START OUR DAY!!!! Prior to heading out for the day, we had a delicious breakfast prepared by the gracious hands of Rose. Our first adventure of the day was visiting a village for water filter demonstrations and fellowship with the community members. As we arrived, some women from the village had prepared a welcoming dance routine for our group. We all appreciated this from afar, but were quickly encouraged to join them in dancing and praise. Although all members of our group failed to master the variety of dance steps, it was an amazing experience and brought a smile to our faces. A children’s choir also welcomed us with a song. Following the welcome, we did a series of brief introductions and transitioned into serving the children their breakfast. As we walked to the school house for breakfast, each of us had a swarm of kids clinging to our arms. While the children were eating breakfast, we had the opportunity to sit with them and enjoy their joyful presence. Their smiles are so radiant and contagious. We moved right into the water filter demonstrations after the children had finished their breakfast. Similar to our experiences from the last few days, this was a really humbling experience. The authentic joy that was evident when seeing the pure water drain out of the filter was eye-opening.

The next portion of our day included a series of home visits where two women graciously welcomed us into their homes. They were willing to be vulnerable with us, sharing us intimate details regarding their past. We were fortunate to be able to share a number of verses and words of encouragement, followed by prayers of praise and support from members of our group. It was a powerful experience, and we could feel God’s presence in each of the homes that we were welcomed into.

We were ecstatic for the final portion of our afternoon that included another visit to a village, where we did another water filter demonstration and led a sports clinic. Following the water filter explanation, we gathered the children in the field and separated them into groups for stations. This was an uplifting experience to share our love for sports with the children. They were all really engaged and couldn’t help but have big smiles on their faces. At the end of the clinic, we gathered as an entire group and played a large game of sharks and minnows. As you may imagine, this could be described as organized chaos. Following lots of heart-felt hugs, we began our journey back to the Sports Outreach compound.

At devotions tonight, we took some time to affirm one another and share the love. We have quickly become a tight-knit family. During the remainder of the trip, we look forward to continuing to see how our relationships continue to grow and the ways in which God works.

With love,
H & E (aka Hayden and Erica)

Countless Blessings

This morning we were blessed with the opportunity to attend New Foundation Church located on the Sports Outreach compound. In this church, we continued to be welcomed wholeheartedly as we have experienced throughout this trip. It is hard to find words to describe how powerful this service was. We were inspired by their passionate worship and love for God.  Our feet were moving and our hands were raised in the air, as we praised God alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ. Daniel, Noah, and Erica had the opportunity to speak in church and share about part of their walk with God. We pray that the people in the church were encouraged and blessed by these testimonies. It reminds us that even though we come from different places and backgrounds, we are all God’s children and serve Him.

After church, some of the Sports Outreach staff gave us a tour of the Koro Farm. It was amazing to see the work they are doing to grow their ministry. We had the opportunity to visit the vocational school. This school provides the girls from Christine’s House an opportunity to learn skills to help them when they return to their communities. Inside the school, there was jewelry and hand-sewn crafts. We were able to purchase some of these to help support their ministry. On this tour, we also got a glimpse of the future aspirations of Sports Outreach. They are in the process of building two villages to house refugees and girls who are transitioning out of Christine’s House. We will be praying for Sports Outreach, and we’re excited to see how they continue to grow in the coming years.

In the afternoon, we dedicated our time to interacting with communities through the distribution of water filters. We also spent this time using sports as an opportunity to share God’s love with others. It was such a joy to see the faces of the people in the villages when they saw pure, clean water coming out of the filter. There was so much beauty in watching lives be changed through these filters. We also shared the message that the dirty water is a representation of our lives without Jesus. When we accept Him into our lives, He acts as the filter, making us clean and pure. In the second village, we ran a sports clinic for the children. Our team was overjoyed with the experience of sharing our love for sports with the youth in this community. Seeing radiant smiles and receiving countless hugs was a humbling experience. Joy truly abounds in all aspects of their lives.

We are truly blessed by the opportunity to be here in Uganda. Our team continues to deepen our relationships with one another and lift each other up. God orchestrated this team beautifully. Although our time in Uganda is not as long as we expected, God has remained faithful. We are overwhelmed by how we have seen God working in our lives. By connecting with local communities, He has reminded us of his unending love for His people. Your prayers and support mean the world to us. In the coming days, we will remain open to what God has in store for us.

1 Peter 4:7-11
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Christ Jesus. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Ali and Erica

Being the Church

We had a full day in Zambia that started with church this morning. We all really enjoyed worshiping with the Poetice church body. They started a church at the base in April, and so the long term missionaries and local community members who worship there welcomed us into their family. We sang songs in both English and Tonga, which was a treat. Then John, who is one of the leaders of Poetice, gave the message. He spoke with great passion about what it means to be the church. He emphasized Jesus’ commission to transform whole communities together, not on our own. We all walked away impacted by the experience to seek to live more fully into being the church together.

After church we got the opportunity to distribute water filters to the members of the church who do not have access to a clean water supply. A majority of the members receiving water filters were under 18 and have a big role in leading their families. We helped the youth assemble the Sawyer water filter by drilling a hole in their bucket, showing them how to assemble the filter, and teaching them how to clean out the filter. The dirty water turning clean through the water filter was used as a metaphor for life with Jesus. Our life before Jesus is like the dirty water, cloudy and sinful, but in giving our lives to Jesus He makes us clean and pure.

The rest of the day consisted of playing sports with the youth. They came to the Poetice base, and we ran stations with all different sports. One highlight for today was that we introduced American football. We realized just how hard it is to teach, yet still it was really fun to watch them play! Alaina taught yoga, which was a new experience for most of them. It was really relaxed and playful. They had a lot of fun. After we finished playing with them, some of us got to walk the youth back home. Seeing the homes that our new friends live in was an eye-opening experience. When at Poetice, it can be easy to forget what life outside the base can be like. This experience showed our team that you can have a lot of joy without having a lot of material possessions. All that you need is Jesus. The Zambians that we met invited us into their homes and were great hosts. The generosity to visitors in Zambia is incredible, and I believe that our society could learn a lesson or two from Zambian hospitality.

Our day finished as most all of them do: dinner together, debriefing, and games. The evenings are special times for our team to bond and share our hearts with one another. Today we began reflecting on what the Lord has done in us during this time and how we want to take that home. We are all intentionally seeking to let Jesus change us as we return back to “normal” life. Prayers for saying goodbye to the kiddos tomorrow and for the Lord to solidify what He’s done in us would be appreciated. J

In Christ,

Victoria and Brant

Communities: Poetice, Mwapona, Armour’s

What an amazing Saturday it was in Zambia! We started off the day by welcoming youth from Armour’s soccer teams, Kabanana, and Mwapona into Poetice to participate in our first ever field day. The youth we invited were ages 10 and above, and we wanted them to experience field day just as we do back home: a fun day of competition, celebration, and recognition of the many different strengths and abilities. They participated in many activities that ranged from kicking a shoe as far as they could to standing long jump to dodgeball throwing accuracy. We had 10 total activities, and it was a joy to see everybody having so much fun.

After the activities in the morning, we split them up into three groups for crafts, lunch, and hearing the Word. The crafts were face paint, bracelet making, and a fingernail painting station. They loved each of them and participants of all ages were able to leave with a face paint creation, a new bracelet, and their nails freshly painted.

The message station was really impactful for many different reasons. Two of our team members, Josh and Victoria, shared parts of their stories from their faith walks based on what they felt the youth could resonate with. It was great to see how engaged the kids were in their stories and how much they appreciated their honesty and vulnerability. After stories, the message that was shared was Matthew 13: 1-23, The Parable of the Sower. The unique thing about this parable is that it connects to the name of our program: SEED.  It relates a seed’s situation and type of growth to our journey in our relationship with Jesus.

When it was time for kids to go home, the Poetice leaders paired 2-3 of our team members with 2 Poetice youth leaders to take us back into their community and visit their homes. The Poetice youth were so excited to share their community with us, and it meant a lot that they were so welcoming. All of us got to see more of what Mwapona is like and a small glimpse into what their lives are like when they are at home. While walking through the community, we were able to gain perspective not only on their lifestyle, but also led to some questions about our own culture and how we go about life.  The people have so much life and joy and it challenged us to think about how we could channel a similar mindset into our daily lives. Being in the community reminded us that even though our countries’ cultures are different, the culture of God’s kingdom is all the same.  It doesn’t matter the amount of material possessions in your house, it matters that you have Jesus.

Following these visits, we all went to cheer on the oldest Armour’s soccer team. One meaningful part of the game was that many of the guys playing still had on face paint and stickers they put on during field day. The game was really fun to watch (Armour’s won 3-1), and this time was filled with really good opportunities to engage in conversations with each other and some of the youth who just opened up their homes to us.

One thing that we have been doing as a team every night after dinner is a debrief session. During this time, we have open and honest conversation about the day and how we saw God. During our debrief this evening, most all of us mentioned something that stuck out during the home visits in Mwapona.  Whether it was being impacted to put less emphasis on materiel things back home, or to put more value in being welcoming, hospitable, and generous to anyone God calls to be our neighbor.  We could see that God was present there and that Poetice is having incredible impact in this community.

We are excited for the rest of the week and can’t wait to see what’s in store!

CJ and Morgann

Transforming Lives, Traveling to Gulu

We began our day with a trip to the Sports Outreach Chess Academy. The building was about a 30 minute bus ride through downtown Kampala. This was a unique experience for our team that allowed us to learn and ask questions of the coaches, trainers and chess students. Though the duration of time we stayed was brief, the impact was real, the work God is doing in the lives of the chess students was obvious. After boarding back onto the bus, one of the chess coaches Richard, graciously gave our team a tour around the slum of Katwe and we saw where portions of “The Queen of Katwe” was filmed. We then embarked on our journey to Gulu, a village roughly 7 hours from the city of Kampala.  We traveled by bus along paved roads for a majority of the journey and had a lot of time to share stories and grow closer as a team. We got to see the Nile river, some monkeys, and even some ambitious baboons that would jump on moving cars.

We arrived at the Sports Outreach Center and were immediately welcomed.  We gathered as a group and did brief introductions before breaking off into the guys playing a soccer game and the girls spending time with Christine’s House of Anointing.  Christine’s House is a group of women who serve younger girls who are facing difficult situations at home.  Here they are fed, given a place to sleep, ministered, counseled, and embraced with a loving and supportive community.  The girls in Christine’s House were so joyful and welcoming, even though they have been through so much.  There are a couple girls who have recently given birth to precious and healthy babies and a few who are expecting.  We got the opportunity to hear a couple of testimonies from the girls and how Christine’s House has helped transform their lives.  It was so powerful how open the girls were just right off the bat, sharing their stories to complete strangers.  They trusted us and it showed how desperate they are to be loved and to show God’s love.  We have been asked to pray for peace, provisions and enlightenment in the girl’s lives.

The guys attempted to run some futbol, or soccer passing drills with the kids and struggled through the language barrier and lack of skills.  However, the ability to use hand motions, eye contact or facial expressions, and demonstrations allowed us to connect with the kids and have fun running simple practice drills.  This transitioned to a full-fledged 10 on 10 soccer match that brought out the fast paced, energetic side of two golfers and a washed-up baseball player. It was such a joy to compete and spend time with the kids that ended up turning into some education on the importance of stretching, and devotions. It was moving when we transitioned from working as a soccer team, to sharing how we can all work together on God’s team, supporting each other and most importantly, loving one another.

In the coming days, we will be sharing in church, ministering through water filter distribution, and interacting with younger kids in the community by running sports camps.  We are so blessed to be in Gulu and have this opportunity to served alongside the beautiful people of Uganda.  Thank you for your continuous thoughts and prayers.

Noah, Maddie, and Colleen