Rained on, but not Drained out

This Monday we began with an hour-long journey to the Sports Outreach headquarters in Kampala. Once we had arrived, we were greeted by Pastor Benjamin and his delightful staff. We had the pleasure to participate in their morning devotion, which consisted of prayer, worship (singing and dancing), and a message from one of the leaders. Jessica, one of the most talented singers/dancers we have met, challenged us (Terrell and Whitney) to a dance-off during worship! This energy that our new friends possess in their worship is truly a blessing each and every day. The topic of the devotion was over the concept of obedience. While this topic may seem simple, there was plenty of scripture and examples to exemplify the importance of obedience towards God in our own lives.

Following devotion, Pastor Benjamin gave us a special tour of the Sports Outreach facilities. These facilities include: a chess academy, boys and girls shelter, a chapel/dining hall, a well-kept soccer field, and a blacktop basketball court. Beyond learning the layout of the headquarters, Benjamin also thoroughly enjoyed quizzing us on the various types of plant life, which included coffee beans, jackfruit, papaya, mango, and even avocado! Once the tour had ended, we piled into the bus and headed to a nearby slum for two house visits. The first visit was with two women dealing with HIV and the stigma associated with having this disease within the community. This conversation was difficult to hear, but it was the second visit, that rocked us all emotionally. This story was about a single mother of eight children, who tragically lost her eight-year-old son to a tragic accident. Additionally, she had financial problems that she struggled with over the course of several years, all while rearing all eight children.

Following these house visits, we travelled back to the Sports Outreach headquarters for lunch. The meal was nothing short of delicious, and we were blessed with wonderful conversation with the staff as well as visitors from Liberia. Conversations ranged from occupational goals, sports, school, and even politics.

The plan was to spend the entire afternoon with the local kids, teaching them about sports through various stations, such as softball (Whitney and Taylor), dodgeball (Terrell and Carly), basketball (Connor and Ashleigh), soccer (Chris and Anna), and jump-rope (Sidney, Hailey, and Natalie). Dodgeball became the main attraction amongst us all. Unfortunately, after an hour of fun-filled play, rainy conditions did not allow us to continue our sports stations. We then packed up and drove the hour journey once more.

Anna’s encouraging quote of the day, “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”

Love/Regards/Best Wishes,

Connor, Whitney, and Terrell

Warm Welcome!

Hello everyone! This is Jo Cook, (junior/softball) and Mackenzie Ralston, (junior/swimmer) writing today. We finally made it to Zambia after two long travel days. From London, we had an eleven hour plane ride to Johannesburg and then a three hour layover there before a short two hour flight to Livingstone. Once in Livingstone, we realized some of the bags were missing so those will hopefully be here tomorrow. John, a Poetice leader, met us at the airport to take us on a two hour bus ride to Choma. Even though we were all tired from all the travel we still managed to play games and bond as a team on the bus ride.

When we arrived to the base where we will be staying, we were welcomed by a swarm of team members and students. They greeted us with hugs, smiles, and so much excitement. Regardless of how exhausted our whole team was feeling, the warm welcome rejuvenated all of us and we are all excited for this week.

After unloading our bags and being shown to our homes for the week, we met back with everyone for snacks. We had popcorn, cookies, coffee, and tea with everyone and just got to know the people from Poetice we will be working alongside this week. We played a couple get-to-know you games that allowed us to find similarities between all of us and we even found some people have the same birthday.

After the snack break we were lead to the worship center where our team introduced ourselves and we got introduced to each team member who works at Poetice. We also got to meet some students who are joining us for the week who just participated for the last 3 months in Poetice’s School for Justice and Mission which trains and equips students from all over the world (6 different countries) for lives of mission. We were all then able to have a short session of worship all together. Team members prayed over us individually and for what the upcoming week will hold for us.  Most of us found this to be very powerful. We all saw God working today when we heard people we met an hour ago pray for our specific worries and thoughts going into this trip. It was personal to where we were at, and it was incredible for some of us to see God speak to us through the staff members who prayed.

We finished the night with dinner and team debrief. We did a short devotion on Mark 4, the parable of the sower, and each member of our group had some time to think about where our hearts are at in responding to Jesus in our own lives.  And we all discussed moments when we saw God working and got to talk about highlights of the day. We ended our meeting with prayer. Overall, it was an amazing first day here and we are all looking forward to tomorrow.

Jo and Mackenzie

Joke of the day:
Answer from yesterday: Plane chocolate

Today’s joke: Why can’t a bicycle stand up?

Sunday Funday

This morning we got to experience a service at a local church! The church was the Nateete Praise Church in the Nateete area of Kampala. We think we can speak for everyone when we say that at first, we were totally out of our comfort zone. The dancing and singing were unlike anything we had ever participated in. They were super welcoming and very willing to teach us some of their dance moves, so if you see students breaking out some killer moves…it’s probably us. Connor, Carly, and I (Anna) got a chance to share our testimonies and some words from scripture. It was so powerful being able to witness these two very different groups worshiping the same God through the universal language of dance. After church we came back to the hotel for lunch and got to try some traditional Ugandan food!

After lunch we went back to the church and split into a group to do the water filter demonstration and to get a tour of their school. They called the school the “Catch-Up School” because kids from ages 3-12 would come to learn the basics. Some of the older kids had never gone to school before due to the lack of finances in their family, so they had to catch-up on what they had missed out on. Becky was the woman who gave us our tour and was one of the volunteer teachers at the school. She was so passionate about sharing education with the kids and instilling the love of God within them. Although they are currently located in a temporary shack with little school equipment, they are making the best out of their situation and even start exams tomorrow!

The first water filter demonstration went smoothly. Kirk talked through a demonstration with a crowd in the church, while Chris, Terrell, Hailey, Connor, and I (Ashleigh) drilled holes in buckets to help get the people get started on building their own filtration system. The water filter consists of any large bucket, and then a small filter provided by Sawyer is attached to the drilled hole. We filled a bucket with water gathered from a local source and added some dirt to it for dramatic effect. Seeing the excitement on everyone’s face when Kirk drank the newly filtered and clear water was humbling.

After this, we came back together to go on some home visits. We met three inspiring, single mothers making many sacrifices to give their children meals, a home, and an education. One of the mothers had just given birth to twins, a boy and a girl (named Joshua and Ruth), and she let all of us take turns holding the babies. She shared her inspiring story of her difficult time giving birth and how she overcame it to bring both of her babies home healthy. We were all touched by all of the mothers’ vulnerability and strength, and thankful for the opportunity to be welcomed into their homes.

We think every one of us got to hold our fair share of children’s hands today. It was a day filled with smiles and love. We miss you Mom!

Anna and Ashleigh

Don’t Worry Mom

Throughout the past three days we have been preparing mentally and physically for the amazing opportunity to travel to Uganda. We spent some of the preparation on Hope’s campus, but we are now on our way.

Our group of twelve individuals have become a team as we bonded together and have started to create new friendships.  Part of this process happened as we shared our personal testimonies with each other.

We are excited about the opportunities to partner with Sports Outreach and engage with them in their sports and chess ministries. We also have been busy practicing and learning chess, awaiting the opportunity to play with the people we will meet in Uganda.

Late Friday morning we departed for Chicago.  After a long eight-hour flight, we safely arrived to the Amsterdam Airport, and are anxiously awaiting our flight to Entebbe. Once we arrive tonight, we will hopefully have a good night’s sleep before we attend church and begin our time with our new friends in the morning.  We are excited to see God work through us in the coming weeks, and are very appreciative for all the prayers we are receiving.

P.S. Don’t worry Mom, I took my malaria medication today!

Carly and Chris

Training and Traveling

Hello everyone! This is Arinn, (sophomore/softball); Emma, (junior/swimmer); and Andrew and Sean (seniors/Men’s Lacrosse). First off we want to thank you for your prayers as we’ve been training and preparing. Our team appreciates it so so much! When we first arrived for training on Wednesday, we each shared a word that captured how we were feeling, and there was a wide range of emotions as we are heading out for something totally new and different for some of us.  Wednesday/Thursday/Friday we had training which included some Bible study time, team bonding, learning about entering new cultures, organizing our sports camp plans, sharing meals together, learning about the Sawyer water filters we will be bringing, spraying our clothes with Sawyer repellant, and most importantly…getting to know the members of the team on a deeper level. We also packed FOUR large bags of all sports equipment that we will be brining with us for this wonderful adventure to Zambia! Friday morning we got to pray in a large group with the team going to Uganda as they left a little earlier than we did. Before our team went to lunch we sat down together and got to share our testimonies and life journeys to one another. We finished this up on the first part of the bus ride to Chicago. This was really great for our team to start to get to know each other and see the unique stories of everyone’s lives. By the time we left campus, we shared another word to check in, and many of the anxious, nervous feelings had turned to eagerness and excitement. We are so excited to get there and get started, and the travel is already underway.

We got to Chicago and got some food before our flight took off. The first flight was about 7-8 hours which, some of us were able to sleep, some weren’t…so the movies were a nice perk for those who couldn’t sleep. We arrived in London this morning about 10:30am local time, and have a long layover here before the long flight to Johannesburg. After going through security we found an open gate and many of us tried to catch up on some sleep while others played cards or read. Our flight tonight is around 7pm London time, so we will be playing lots of games as a team and getting dinner together tonight. Thanks again for all your support and prayers!

Emma/Sean/Arinn/Andrew – 4 of the 14 members of Z Squad.

Shout out to our teammates and friends from Team Z & Zam Fam…the first 2 SEED teams to go to Zambia in the summers of 2017 and 2018.  Several of us are here because of the powerful stories they shared of their SEED experiences!

Joke of the day: What kind of chocolate do they sell at the airport?
Answer: Revealed tomorrow!

Ready to Go!!!!!

We made it to O’hare, checked in, got through security, students are getting dinner, and we will be boarding our flight to London soon!  Emma and Andrew are up for today’s blog, but we won’t have time to get it posted before we need to board.  With the long layover we have in London tomorrow, they’ll join forces with Arinn and Sean to give a recap of our pre-trip training on campus at Hope, and our first day of travel!  Wanted to let parents and loved ones know things are going smoothly, share a team picture from our training on installing the Sawyer water filters, and let you know we plan to get something posted tomorrow!  It’s been a great two days with this group, Coach Kopas and I are excited to lead this crew, and the team is eagerly anticipating what the next 13 days has in store for us!!

Coach V

Zambia Here We Come!

For the third consecutive year, the SEED program is excited to send 12 student-athletes and two coaches to Zambia to partner with Poetice International.

It is their mission, “to empower the church to fight for justice. Through transformational development, Poetice pursues physical and spiritual restoration for the widowed, the orphaned, the vulnerable, the exploited, the sick and the poor.”

The team returns to campus on Wednesday, August 7 and will depart for Zambia on Friday, August 9.

While on the ground in Zambia, our student-athletes will host sports clinics and connect with youth in the community. The team will also partner with Sawyer to distribute water filters to local families.

View the team calendar for a glimpse of how Hope College students will utilize their passion for sport to share the love of Christ with individuals around the world!

Check back over the next two weeks to read updates from the team to hear more about their experiences on the ground and how God is on the move in Zambia.

2019 Zambia Team Calendar

Uganda 2019

It’s coming! On Friday, August 9, we launch our SEED team to Uganda and we can’t wait to watch our student-athletes learn and grow.

While in Uganda, the group will partner in the on-going work of Sports Outreach and distribute Sawyer water filters.

The mission of Sports Outreach is, “to recruit, train, equip and deploy committed Christian leaders in the effective use of sports ministry for the purposes of sharing the Gospel and alleviating human suffering.”

We recognize that sport provides and opportunity for athletes to have a significant platform from which to influence others and we’re excited to see how God uses the passion and talents of our Hope College student-athletes as we serve with Sports Outreach.

Take a look at the trip calendar to follow along with our team and check back in for blog updates from the team!

2019 Uganda Prayer Calendar

Pura Vida!

After a long evening of games and laughter from the night before, we woke up this morning slightly tired but with full hearts. We packed our last few things and got organized for the long day of travel ahead of us. Everyone was very sad to be leaving the AMCA house. This place feels like home, and our team feels like family. It is a hard thing to walk away from. Fortunately, we had Musmani (the bakery up the street) to look forward to. It was incredible as always, and we enjoyed our last morning in the country. Heading off the airport, we departed from Nattie, Patri, and Gabriel. Goodbyes are challenging for all of us, so we weren’t thriving in those moments. On the ride to airport, Jack played DJ in the bus and Ronny (our trusty bus driver) finally wore the hat at the front of the bus we have been wanting him to wear all week. Jack played songs to match the mood and some of us partook in some cheesy dance moves and hairbrush singing. We wanted to make the most of our last Costa Rican ride.

The airports were peaceful themselves. Outside of the fact that our connecting flight was late, which meant we had to rush to reach the flight to Chicago. It was weird being back in the states. After living in a shack with only the sound of the animals at night. As well as a bustling town for so long. The peacefulness (and cleanliness) was a welcomes sight. But it was clear that people were sad to leave. Everyone was just trying to soak in the last few moments together, and enjoy the community we formed. As we fly over the United States and stare at the gorgeous sunset on the horizon while playing cards or reading a book, We want to spend our last few words in this blog to reflect on a question we asked ourselves before signing up; And it may be something you asked your child, relative, friend, or whomever told you they were heading to Costa Rica.

Why a Missions Trip?

For some of us it was an opportunity to escape out of the cycle that we call our everyday lives. For others it was a chance to step out of the comfort zone. For many, it was the opportunity to see God in a way that we’ve never seen him before. And for everyone, it was an opportunity of a lifetime.

So here’s to those moments of exhaustion in the heat as we spread smiles and a wealth of joy to the children who never seemed to run out of energy themselves. To the crazy games of Dodgeball where high school kids tried to tear our heads off. The Basketball and Soccer games in the prison where our hearts were opened to how kind and loving the people seen as outcasts truly were. To the wide eyes of community members as we showed how God can change our lives as crystal clear water poured out of a bucket full of dirty water. The multitude of inside jokes and laughs and tears of joy that ensued on nearly every bus ride around town. The nights of cards and games of “ultimate werewolf” were we convinced ourselves that sleep wasn’t necessary. Weekends spent going to church and playing disc golf, Zumba, and wiffleball.  Here’s to the thoughts and discussion during team time, and the vulnerability of everyone’s testimony.

And while it may seem like you were able to go on this journey with us through the blog. We were truly only able to get to the surface of how incredible this trip was, and what it meant to all of us. So when you see your trip goer, say one thing… “tell me about the trip”. I can guarantee what they will tell you, and what you will come find, is that everything that happened on a small country in Central America is nothing short of God at work.

With all that being said.

Here’s to the Smiles. The Laugher. The Tears. The Friendship and Fellowship. The Risks. The Conversations. The Inside Jokes. The Leaders. The Support. And Every Life we changed.

Here’s to The Costa Rica Seed trip of Summer 2019.

Signing off With Love,

Reagan, Claire, Madison, and the Entire Missions Team

Pura Vida

God bless