The Hot Sun

Today once again started with a great breakfast of eggs, Dominican sausage and fruit prepared by the cooks that have served us so intently this week.  After breakfast, we sat down as a group for devotions.  Today’s devotion followed the theme that we have been discussing this week of being ‘Outsiders’ within the church.  We discussed how, just as Jesus communicated to his disciples that his salvation is not limited to any one exclusive group of people, that it is further the responsibility of those who believe in the power of Jesus Christ to go into the world and spread the gospel to all people in all nations.  We closed with prayer and prepared to head to the Go Ministries property (the LDC) to continue helping with the batting cages project that has been ongoing throughout the week.

As we continued to work alongside some of the Go baseball players while working on the batting cages, several of us have discussed how each day has become more and more enjoyable because of the continued growth of relationships with these young men.  We have all grown to be connected to these guys while attempting to have conversation in a cross between English and Spanish.  It is also worth mentioning that today was exceptionally hot, and some of us didn’t make it terribly long while continuing to work in the heat.  However, with consistent water breaks and group accountability and encouragement, the cages were completed, and we walked away alive and very sweaty.

Upon finishing the cages, we headed inside once again to join some of the guys in the intermediate-level English class.  In class today, we primarily had conversation about jobs and occupations, and how each of the players viewed their future and desired careers.  Throughout the week, we have had multiple opportunities to converse with and get to know many of the players and coaches at Go, and today’s class was no exception.  Many of us would agree that hearing the stories and aspirations of these players is truly inspiring.

We then returned to Calle 2 for lunch which today was rice, beans and beef which was a change of pace from chicken.  We then had about an hour of down time where many of us played cards and a few people took a quick nap before heading to girls’ basketball practice.  While playing cards, we seem to have quickly worked our way through two massive bags of candy in the past twenty-four hours…

At practice today, we had the opportunity to run a few stations of ball handling, shooting and passing.  The first session consisted of a younger age group, where we ended up slitting into girls and a few young boys who showed up to practice which seemed to not be out of the ordinary.  The second group was girls who were a bit older, and we were able to have three groups where we followed a similar format while joining and playing alongside them.  We finished with a game of lightning/knockout and then stayed to watch a little of the boys’ high school-age basketball practice before heading back for dinner.

Dinner tonight was tacos with several Dominican vegetables and authentic cheese sauce served with pineapple.  This once again was delicious and served as a reminder of how spoiled we have been to have the Go cooks taking care of us all week.  After dinner, several of us played a game of cards before heading to get some ice cream at Bon, the same ice cream shop that we went to our first night here.  We then headed home for debrief where we shared some concluding reflections before wrapping up the night with a time of journaling, reflection and card playing.  Overall, today was another great day, where we had the opportunity to serve and learn about the glory of God and the extensive beauty of his creation.

Thanks again for reading,

Sending lots of love from the Island in the big Mexican Gulf,
Rose, Sally and Brady

Junior

We woke up to a great breakfast as the cooks had prepared omelets with fruit. Our devotions for the morning that Brett lead were on the passage of Luke 4:14-30, which talked about how God wanted to save all people, and not use Jesus as a politician for the Jews. He wants to save all, insiders and outsiders, no matter who you are.

We then left to tour Go Ministries, where we went to the Go Seminary and met with Jeff who was one of the lead professors. He gave us a 30-minute summary of what he teaches on as “The Culture of the Broken World” and “The Culture of the Kingdom of God”. It pointed out the differences in the two and how we change the culture of the broken world into the culture of the kingdom of God. This is done by evangelizing through love and joy. Three main points are belonging, behavior, and believing. First, is to give an individual a sense of belonging, not by making people follow a set of rules before they can join the Church. Then, by the example of the church, the individual’s behavior will change for the better and will hopefully lead to them believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Another key point was that the Church is the people not the building itself.

On our way back from the seminary, Brett told us the history of Go Ministries. A quick summary of the start of Go: A pastor started preaching in a church on Sundays and sold insurance full time to support his family. Then, an American came along and saw what good he was doing and wanted him to do it full time, so he got his church to give him just over $200 a month. Soon after, the pastor became called to do more and more and Go Ministries grew into Go Sports, and Go Medical, and several other areas of impact.

We then were taken to the Go Medical clinic, a giant clinic for the community which provides extremely affordable healthcare. The medical center and staff are relatively new, but the community is being impacted significantly. Go saw the need and pursued it.

We also had the opportunity to go to class with some of the baseball players in their advanced English class. This class is completely optional for them. Brett lead the class and we shared our stories/testimonies in small one-on-one groups. The players also shared their stories with us. This was a really cool experience and we got to personally connect with them and hear about their dreams and what they want to pursue. A few of them will be going to school and playing baseball in the States next year and it is cool how Go has helped them with this opportunity. We talked about the importance of education and the pursuit of our goals.

Girls’ and boys’ soccer practice was tonight and our group got to help out with both. The guys from our team helped out with the boy’s practice and the girls helped with the girl’s soccer practice. The guys in our group lead the practice for the boys and played different fun games with them and had a blast. The girls followed the lead from Coach Kelsey and were assigned a team of girls to coach and encourage. At the end of practice Hannah and Rylee shared a little bit about their story and about what they have learned about God through their sport.

After soccer we went back and the Dominican intern coaches, Junior, Randy, Misheal, and Alan, who are our age shared their testimonies. Each of them shared their struggles of growing up and becoming baseball players, and all of them had dreams to make it big but all ended up becoming coaches for Go. This was very powerful because they all have a very deep love for the Lord and for bringing up the kids the way they were brought up through Go. Each of them also talked about how previous coaches had impacted their faith and put them where they are today. We enjoyed great fellowship with them and they are having a truly incredible impact on their community on the island.

Love and Blessings,
Rylee and MeKenna

 

Mas Niños

When we woke up this morning, we were lucky enough to wake up to the sound of the water truck, and soon after the smell of pancakes and bacon.  After we had finished eating breakfast, we circled up as a group to work through day two of the Revision devotional that we’re working through this week. The purpose of today’s devotional was centralized around the concept of the cruciality of forgiveness for others and more importantly for oneself in the context of a Christian life.  Ultimately, God’s forgiveness towards us is unmatchable, unrepayable and unending.  We talked about a few stories in the book of Matthew where often times human beings fail to grant forgiveness and mercy towards others and towards ourselves.  This draws into context how truly undeserving we are of the forgiveness we receive from our heavenly father, at a level far beyond what we can ever experience in human life.

We started the day continuing with our service project working with Go Ministries baseball players on their batting cages.  We picked up where we left off the day before, sifting and mixing sand that could be spread on the floor of the cages.  Similar to yesterday, we were working alongside some of the Go Ministry baseball players and staff, many of whom we met and talked to in English class the day before.  Throughout our time working, we had the opportunity to strengthen the relationships that were formed the previous day through working, conversation, and challenging them with their understanding and ability to speak the English they have been learning.

After working for a few hours on the batting cages project, we headed back to dorm building to enjoy lunch our incredible cooks had prepared for us.  After eating, a few of us did the dishes, and spent the next couple of hours bonding as a team, playing games, and resting up for the activities to come in the afternoon.  Most of us joined in a collective game of cards, which further allowed for conversation and relationship building within our team.

Around 2:30pm, we made our way over to the Go Ministries basketball court before practice, intending to get there early enough to play with each other and get warmed up in preparation for the kids to join.  However, several players were already shooting around when we got there, so we jumped straight in before the official start of practice.  When the coaches arrived, we were divided up into three groups in combination with the kids to progress through three different stations.  Let’s just say this was one of the hardest practices any of us have experienced, which is saying a lot considering that we are all college athletes. J These three stations were composed of ladder footwork drills, a dribbling station and a jump shot/shooting station.  We finished with a game of lightning (or knockout depending on where you’re from) where the true athleticism and competitiveness of our group combined with the players to make the game extremely entertaining.  Following practice, we circled up with the boys, and Bryce shared a part of his testimony with the group.  We then closed with prayer led by one of the players.

After about an hour with the boys at practice, we proceeded with a practice with the Go Ministry girls’ team.  A few of our team members were given the task of putting together a few drills and games to get the girls excited about practice.  We were pretty dedicated to bringing the energy, and a few of us might have some issues with our voices tomorrow from cheering so loud.  We then finished practice with another game of lightning where a few of boys who had lingered around after practice once again joined in.  This was a great opportunity for us to be able to interact with some of the young girls that Go Ministries has built a foundation to make an impact on their lives.  To close practice, we again circled up for a time of sharing and prayer, where two of our group members, Hannah and Mekenna shared a few things with the girls.  One of the girls then closed in prayer before we had to rush off to serve dinner at the nutrition center established by one of the churches associated with Go Ministries.

As soon as we got to the church, we were immediately greeted by smiling children who didn’t hesitate to say hello and jump all over us.  We played with the kids for a while before serving them dinner.  We gave them piggy-back rides, ran around with them and threw them in the air.  Soon after we were all called inside, and after prayer lead by one of the children, proceeded to serve them dinner.  After dinner, we circled up outside of the church to have the opportunity for Kyle, one of the leaders of Go Ministries, to share about the history and current state of the church in what is a very impoverished area.  We heard from the current pastor of this church who provided a very inspiring insight into the work that God currently and will continue to do in this area.  We then continued to play and run around with the kids for a while, putting them on our shoulders, playing tag and being surrounded by screams and laughter. Rylee, one of our football players, continued with what will become an infamous exclamation ‘Mas Niños’ which means ‘More Kids,’ while proceeding to be jumped on while carrying three children at a time.   Needless to say, the kids were sad to see us go, but we all left with smiles and were so glad we had this opportunity.

After, headed back to our building for dinner of authentic pork chops, pashed potatoes, peas, and ‘squeaky cheese’ a classic Dominican food.  We had the opportunity to hear the testimonies of Brett, Kyle and Dariana, the primitive leaders of Go, and how God has called them to where they are.  Their stories were especially moving, and it was inspiring to see how God’s plan is carried out in each of us, whether that aligns with our initial plans or not. We closed the day with a quick debrief, journaling and team bonding before heading to bed, looking forward to a busy day tomorrow.

Peace and Blessings,

Baller Bryce, Rose aka ‘SUPAGIRL’ and DJ Paula

Where’s the Water?

We woke up this morning and yup, it was already hot. Met up in our little bungalow for breakfast and were pleasantly surprised with a steamy pot of hot chocolate. Yum. After hanging around the breakfast table for a bit we circled up for some Devo time. Brett lead us this morning as we jumped around Genesis and the idea of sin and how it separates us from His Kingdom. One thing that really stood out to us was in Genesis 6:6, “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” This is completely opposite to the God we see through Jesus, and as the week progresses, we are encouraged to see how the Lord is inviting us into a relationship with him, and not regretting having made us as we continue to glorify Him.

Post-devo time is when the day really got going. We loaded up vans and ventured back to the Academy (LDR). After meeting some incredible staff members, we were put to work. Mixing, digging, hacking, moving, smoothing, and sifting dirt to lay a new foundation/floor for the batting cages. What was so cool during this was our opportunity to interact with the baseball players. They got to help build the facility they will use on a daily basis. And, some of their stories were incredible. One young man in particular could speak English as good as any of us it seemed, and we later found out that he had only started taking lessons a year ago. He pursues learning the language on his own, and shows us how willing these students are to work for their dreams, and work for the Lord. Crazy.

We then transitioned inside and got to sit in on a beginner English class with the baseball students. Sra. Almonte arrived and started playing music as an introduction to class, it threw us off, but we were jamming. Right from the get go, we could tell just how passionate she was about making sure all the students were engaged and truly learning. Her patience seemed unlimited. She got us involved by pairing up students with us “Americanos” and talking about different furniture you could find in various rooms of the house. We walked through each room and identified seemingly every piece of furniture you could think of. It was kind of nuts how excited we all got when someone would say refrigerator correctly. At the end of class, we all got to have a one-on-one conversation and get to know a student on a deeper level.

Tummies grumbling after a lot of hard work and studying, we came back to our home base for some lunch. The meal was an authentic Dominican dish comprising of chicken, rice, beans, pickled broccoli, and the ripest pineapple on this earth. After a short siesta time, we headed back to the Academy for soccer practice. Of course, Jordan and I were thrilled because we love soccer. Before training, the coach spoke some really amazing truths over the group. He talked about the importance of having Jesus at the center of your life. Sports will end, we can win, but God’s love for us is limitless and forever. The coach then led us in a warmup that put most of us out of breath. We divided into four teams and mixed our group with the academy players. This was another super cool way to interact and get to know more kids.

Got back home and found out the water was out after a long day of sweating and being gross. But don’t worry, there’s buckets of water graciously awaiting us in the shower to throw on us with little plastic cups. Dinner was scrumptious as usual, and we were pumped when we found out we were going to Dominican Walmart. After picking out some snacks and munching on some churros, we finally got back home and debriefed.

It is crazy just how easy it is for all of us to witness God in every aspect of what’s going on here. In the leaders, in the students, in the teachers, in the weather, in the team itself, and in the mountains that surround us, it’s just all too easy to see Him. As you think about us, we ask that you pray for good health, continued energy, strength, and some water – both to drink and to bathe in, or you might be in for a great surprise when we get home 🙂

Peace and Blessings,
Hannah and Jordan

Ready… Set… Go!!

Our day started at 8:00 this morning. After we ate, we changed and went to a Bible study at one of the missionary’s homes with other missionaries and the volleyball team from Wheaton College. We discussed Luke chapters 11 and 12. If you are interested in hearing some of the topics we talked about, you can check out the podcast “Gringlish Fellowship” on iTunes. After Bible study, we attended a local church service. We worshipped with the Dominicans to the tune of some pretty lively music, including “Oceans” in Spanish. We participated in communion and attempted to understand the sermon spoken in Spanish.

We returned for lunch and were able to rest up for the big day ahead of us. We headed to Go Ministries Leadership Development Complex, which is about 15 minutes away from where we are staying. While driving there, we were able to see the community surrounding it. We passed a cigar factory, and learned that this region produces 75% of the world’s cigars and employs most of the city.  We were also treated to a beautiful view of God’s green Earth. We saw mountains, palm trees, and plenty of sunshine.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by about a hundred kids, eager to play with us. We took out the sports equipment that we brought along with us, and dove in. Everywhere we looked, the kids were engaged and having a really good time. We played football, volleyball, soccer, had relay races, and even had a water balloon fight. One of the biggest challenges for our group was a language barrier. Although most of the group does not speak Spanish, we were still able to communicate through our sports and keep the kids involved. Despite our differences, we all had fun just the same.

After the kids took the bus home, Kyle and Brett took us on a tour of the facility. Currently the Leadership Development Complex is located on a 24-acre plot of land, and contains basketball courts, a baseball field, batting cages, and an educational facility used for English and Bible classes. They shared with us their vision for the next five years, which includes building four more baseball fields, a volleyball complex, another education building, a multipurpose facility, a cafeteria, soccer fields, a seminary building, and a missionary building.

The educational facilities will also someday serve as dorms, and will be able to house up to 48 students each. Brett and Kyle shared with us that some of their biggest challenges include funding and staffing enough coaches and teachers for the growing programs, but they are already doing amazing work for the kids in the community.

One cool thing about our hosts is their desire to show us as much of the community and the culture as possible. They brought us to an empanada restaurant, where we were able to try various types of the delicious Dominican dish. After dinner, we returned to our dorm for a time of debriefing and reflection. We discussed ways that we saw God’s influence today and moments that opened our eyes and stretched us out of our comfort zones.

We learned a lot today about the culture of the Dominican Republic and observed similarities in the way that people praise God all over the world. We were able to witness His love for the people during the church service and through the way that Go Ministries has been blessed to make an impact on the community here. One prayer request for today is to ask that Go Ministries continues to find funding and loving people to join their team and serve God.

From the Dominican with love,

Keon, Sally, and Joey

Our 19 ½ Hour Day

Hey bloggerz!!! Good news—we made it. We started the morning off by meeting at DeVos at 3:30am and landed in the DR at 1:45pm. Yes, we’re very tired, but still thriving. At the airport Go Ministries picked us up and took us in vans to our home for the week. When we got here, we were served sandwiches and delicious pineapple then had siesta time.

After a good nap, we explored the local streets of DR. We realized quickly that they like their music loud and don’t necessarily watch out for you walking down the street, particularly the people driving motorcycles. The driving age isn’t quite like it is in the US as we saw what looked like to be 10-year old’s driving motorcycles. Needless to say, we stay close to the side of the road.

We met our first couple friends hanging out outside their homes. We brought plenty of energy and sports equipment to supply them with an hour of fun. Soon enough our couple friends grew, as many local kids quickly realized what was going on. Through frisbee tossing, football throwing, and bubble blowing, we all became connected through sport. Although none of the kids spoke English, we found our own ways to communicate and quickly felt God’s presence. Even though we played with these kids for just an hour, they were already asking “Manana?” and giving us big hugs as we left. The joy they received from us messing around with them for just an hour was super fulfilling.

We grouped up for dinner and met our cooks for the week. The nice ladies prepared us rice, ground beef, chips, avocados, and pineapple. As dinner was finishing up, the power went out. The cooks then insisted on washing our dishes for us because us Americans would use too much drinking water to do it. As everything got cleaned up we hopped in vans and drove to go get ice cream from a local ice cream shop. The shop had many flavors such as birthday cake, café, and rum raisin (still wondering why Jordan got that). Brett and Kyle, our Go Ministry leaders, paid the bill and continue to show us what it means to serve. Kyle has been in the DR for 10 years serving with Go Ministries and Brett has been with Go Ministries for a couple of months. Fun fact, our home for the week is placed on the street where Go Ministries all started.

Our home is a three-story place used for mission workers like ourselves to help in the local communities. There are bunkbeds three beds high for both boys and girls, and then an upstairs kitchen and gathering area to eat and hangout that is all outside.

As the night winded down we came together to express how we saw God throughout our day today. There was everything from reducing anxiety on the way here to seeing smiles on the faces of kids who in our eyes don’t have a lot. We’ve come to realize the locals here might not be rich in materials but are rich in love, and happiness.

Overall, we had no complications traveling and are blessed to have made it here safely. We still have many questions going into tomorrow, but are continuing to keep an open mind. Thanks for checking in J.

Audrey and Brady

P.S. Check out Go Sports on Facebook for some additional pictures and updates from the week!

SEED: Summer 2019

 

In a few short days, the SEED Program for summer 2019 kicks off. We’re excited for another year of learning, growing, and discipling through sport and look forward to the lessons we’ll learn about our faith and the ways in which God has called us to serve.

Our first team will depart for the Dominican Republic on Saturday, May 18 to partner with the on-going work of GO Ministries.

GO Ministries, “seeks to empower passionate, local leaders serving inside their own cultures to Redeem people, Renew communities, and Restore creation by developing dynamic international, mutually transformational partnerships.”

While on the ground, our team will have the opportunity to connect with their sports academies to host field days and clinics, help with English classes, and serve in the community. Additionally, we’ll train local staff, coaches, and athletes with Sawyer water filters to provide access to clean water.

At Hope College, we recognize that sport provides an opportunity for athletes to have a significant platform from which to influence others and we can’t wait to see how God uses the passion and talents of our student-athletes as we serve with GO Ministries.

Take a look at the trip calendar to follow along with our team!

Dominican Republic Team Calendar

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.

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

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)