Off to Tamale!

The team is off to Tamale this morning (Tuesday), a city in the northern part of the country to run a day camp and connect with local coaches and churches.

Internet might be limited while we are away from Accra, so we will do our best to post to the blog and keep everyone updated as we are able.

Thanks for your support!

Piggybacks and Unplanned Acts of God

Today marked our first full day since touching down in Accra and wow it was a good one! We began the day like any other and enjoyed breakfast at 8:30 followed by the rallying of all 20 of us back into the two vans.

From there, a quick ride took us to the SIM Ghana main office where we had the pleasure of meeting the former director of SIM Ghana and his wife who gave us a quick rundown on the system and mission of SIM and some important health reminders. For those who do not know, Sports Friends works under SIM along with multiple other branches to learn and spread the word of God throughout the entire country and world, so it was neat to be able to meet and speak with the individuals that orchestrated this trip. They also provided cookies, of which were passed around the table at least four times as we each grabbed another. That meeting took about two hours which led us right into lunch time.

Ben and Josiah guided us to a quaint little spot along the road called Urban Taste. This is where the adventurous eaters were tested as one of the specialties was a dish called Banku and Tilapia. We all know what Tilapia is, however, the plate included the entire fish with eyeballs and everything. Banku is a fermented corn-type dough side dish that was entirely eaten using your hands after Josiah had made a point of not using any utensils. Others simply enjoyed a dish of chicken or fried rice and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know everyone a bit better and jumped out of our comfort zones by learning many new cultural norms.

When lunch was over, we jumped back into the vans and left for a small village, about 45 minutes outside of Accra. Once we arrived, we were hesitant and unsure of what the game plan was but all the while these adorable children kept passing by and waving from afar. During this time, we waited around a bit and met a few Sports Friends coaches which was awesome to see God’s system in action!

We had packed along a handful of water filters for a demonstration only to discover the packs were missing the drill bit used to make the perfect hole in the buckets. Luckily, we were able to find a knife and Ben was successful in making a hole to provide this family with clean water. Meanwhile, others like Joey were busy entertaining a majority of the timid children by allowing them to chase and grab onto him. Adair, myself (Anna) and Megan were able to get the other girls in the village to play some games.

After some hanging around we had quite the crowd and walked across the street to the field. The field is not what you would picture, rather some bamboo soccer posts and a patch of dirt. The joy that the children displayed was so encouraging and in the short amount of time we were there we all experienced or saw God through their endless smiles. The excitement of the children involved us in so many aspects as Adair did flips off two stacked bricks along with the other children, Joey was giving endless piggyback rides, and everyone else was mingling or playing games.

When it was time to wrap up, we got to see the coaches teach by gathering all the kids up and prompting them with questions like “what is love?,” “how do we show love?,” “what is forgiveness?.” Each child was engaged and giving thoughtful answers as the “Madame” was introducing the character of Jacob and each child wanted to share that they knew who his twelve sons were. Closing in prayer, we began to load the vans where the children started shouted “do not go” as Joey had to literally get kids pulled off his sweaty back.

After a rough road trip back, we had dinner and reflected on our day where we saw the presence of God. Personally (Anna), I loved getting to know one of the little girls, Rachel, who was quiet and timid but when we circled up to pray she was asked to pray and did so with confidence and grace for the entire group. It was so cool to see her be a leader and example at such a young age for the other children. I (Scott), personally saw God working through the kids as they started off so timid and opened up and were so crazy by the time we had to leave. The joy that each of these kids showed was a true reflection of God and the work He is doing in Ghana through Sports Friends. With that, this first full day was more than we could have ever expected and we were all exhausted. After a cold shower we are all exited to get a good night’s sleep to see what God has in store for us in the coming days!

With Love, Anna & Scott <3

We’re Here!

After an *exhausting* 7-hour red eye flight from Chicago, the team landed in London all safe and sound. Since we were divided into three different flights, we regrouped at the airport shortly after landing. We napped and snacked for several hours in the Heathrow airport before boarding our next flight to Accra. This time, our team was united on a British Airline double decker plane. The flight passed much more quickly, as this time we were all grouped together J (I – Ryann- made friends with a lovely passenger from London, as I was seated by myself).

Landing in Accra around 8:30 p.m., we were welcomed by our leaders at Sports Friends (Kyle, Bryan, Josiah and Ben) – and a balmy heat wave. Soon we were all sweating, experiencing our first encounters with mosquitoes, and loving every minute of it. As we worked our way through customs, we listened to a live airport duet perform “Time after Time,” time and time again! Honestly, they were pretty amazing for only playing this song and an instrumental rendition of “Killing Me Softly.” Luggage arrived smoothly, and assistants from the airport then loaded our luggage and split the team into two vans. First one to the second van, Joey (writing in third person here) encountered his first experience as a rookie traveler. An official-looking employee instructed Joey to tip the luggage loaders. Hesitantly, Joey asked “How much?” while trying to make eye contact with the leaders outside the van. Moving to block his view, the “employee” stated 20 dollars would be fine, and they would take any currency. Joey (still third person) may be new to this, but he wasn’t completely lost in this game. After stating he was just going to check with his leaders, the man told Joey not to check with the leaders, to sit down and not worry about it. After Joey’s first lesson, the crew continued to the place they were staying, which was just a short drive from the airport.

The house we’re staying at is pretty cool, but not in regards to temperature (until you turn on the AC !!). There’s enough beds, fans and pizza for everyone, so we can bare the heat!! There are also some frogs that have not been visually identified, but their croaks have been heard from the second we got out of the vans. I (Ryann) think that we are all pleasantly surprised at how well everything is coming together as Bryan, Kyle & the gang is providing for us, especially since we had no idea what to expect from the living arrangements without having seen pictures before arriving. Currently, we’re sitting in the conference room, eating pizza and just sitting around talking. Kind of funny that all we want to do is sit after SITTING ALL DAY, but that’s just how it is sometimes!! Since the first day we all gathered together, we have each shared our “one-word description” on how we feel at that current moment – with what we’ve dealt with so far, it’s ranged from initial excitement and jitters to exhaustion and disbelief (at the flight cancellation). Today, some of these words were mentioned, but I think Jacinda put it perfectly in hers: “Finally.”

Shoutout to all of our moms for letting us go on this amazing trip- Happy Mother’s Day to you, we love you all!!

Peace, Joy and Tailwinds,
Joey & Ryann

Delayed but Determined

After months of training and preparation, today was finally the day to begin our journey.  We began the morning with more meetings to get to know each other and practice telling our stories.  We finished meetings and headed out for a brief break.  While on this break we learned that our flight from Chicago to London had been cancelled.  Caroline decided the best course of action was to leave as soon as possible to get to Chicago to hopefully find another flight.  We cut our break an hour and a half short to get going.  For those of us who hadn’t packed yet this was quite a shock.  We took a bus from Hope to Chicago.  We waited in line at the British Airline station for what felt like forever until it was officially confirmed that we had no other options and must wait until tomorrow to fly out.  It was definitely a twist in plans but patience is a virtue and today we were tested.

After several hours of waiting and snacking and waiting, we took a shuttle bus to our hotel for the evening.  Sixteen hungry souls were very eager to eat and relax. We spent the evening at the hotel playing pick-up basketball and volleyball, just preparing for our week spent playing games with kids. Although God threw a wrench in our plans we had a lot of quality time spent with each other and learned a few interesting things. First, James Ellis does not like water or the texture of blackberries. Jacinda really really likes cheesecake. Joey not only is a track star but also broke Coach Mitch’s ankles in basketball. Anna Bremmer took the lead in getting us back to the hotel. While the rest of us ate dinner, poor Emily and Abbey only got their food in time for a late-night snack. OHHH and we cannot forget the two pet parrots we have been hanging out with at the hotel. Excited to spend the day learning more and more things before heading to the airport to finally catch our flights to London. Ghana we are ready to meet you!!

Love, Drew and Megan

Meet the Team

Meet the team heading to Ghana!
Thanks for your prayers and support as we embark on this journey together.

Megan Bigelow – Women’s Soccer
Prescott Binder – Men’s Track & Field
Anna Bremer – Women’s Soccer
Jacinda Cole – Women’s Cross Country & Track
Abby Couwenhoven – Women’s Cross Country & Track
Hilary Curry – Women’s Soccer
Adair Cutler – Volleyball
Joey Dawson – Men’s Cross Country & Track
Emily Farwell – Volleyball
Nicole Prihoda – Women’s Cross Country & Track
Drew Schmitz – Women’s Cross Country & Track
Ryann Stutz – Volleyball

Trip Leaders:
Chad Carlson
Caroline Dykstra
James Ellis
Greg Mitchell

One Week To Go!

The semester is wrapping up and as we make the transition to summer, we can’t wait to launch our first SEED team of 2018 next Friday, May 11!

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

Sports Friends believes, “Sports serve as a powerful and effective tool for building relationships and sharing the gospel. Through relationships first built on the sports field, Sports Friends-trained coaches from the local Church are bringing hope to youth and their families. Much more than a sports coach, these ‘life coaches’ are mentoring and loving young people, leading them to Christ and helping them walk as mature disciples of Jesus. By God’s grace, lives are being transformed, new churches established, and entire communities strengthened!”

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 Hope College student-athletes as we serve with Sports Friends.

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

Ghana Team Calendar

Apply Now for Summer 2018!

Applications are now open for summer of 2018!  

“Regardless of where you are in your faith journey, this experience is one of the most transformative and eye-opening experiences that you can get involved with as an athlete.”

– SEED Zambia Team Member, 2017

To apply, visit travel.hope.edu and search “SEED” program.

Please submit an application to your first trip preference, but recognize that you are applying to the SEED program and selected applicants will be placed on a team according to trip preferences.

As part of your application, you will be asked to rank your level of interest in SEED trips in order of preference.

Interested student-athletes need to only submit one application for summer of 2018.

 

2018 Trips

Ghana with Sports Friends, May 2018

  • We will serve with their sports teams in various cities and villages that consist of boys and/or girls who are 14 years and younger. These teams are led by a coach who has been trained by Sports Friends to use sports as a tool for evangelism and discipleship. Water filter demonstrations to local families connected with Sports Friends will also take place throughout the week.

 

Costa Rica with Push the Rock, May 2018

  • The team will split time between ministry opportunities with Push the Rock. Part of the trip will be dedicated to running sports clinics and water filter demonstrations for boys in the Juvenile Prison where PTR staff has been serving on a weekly basis since 2010. The remainder of the time together will be spent serving with the PTR Regional Program where the team will run various sports clinics.

 

Zambia with Poetice, August 2018

  • Team members that participate in this trip will have the opportunity to use sport to seek transformation in the community. Through various clinics, you will practice, play and pray together. You will share your love of the game, teach about teamwork and introduce new sports. You will spend time building relationships with the athletes, and have a chance to share your life and your story to encourage one-another. Water filters will be distributed to local families.

 

Uganda with Sports Outreach, August 2018

  • We will serve with their soccer training program and sports programs in local schools. Our team will also have the opportunity to partner with their various slum projects in Kampala which include a feeding program, chess program, discipleship, and sports activities.  Water filter demonstrations will take place throughout the week to local families connected with Sports Outreach.

 

SEED Celebration & Information Meeting!

Monday, October 30 | 8:00 p.m. 
Graves Hall 

Join us as we celebrate God’s faithfulness during the summer of 2017!
Hear from student-athletes who traveled with SEED this summer!
Learn more about trip locations for summer 2018 and how to apply to the program!

The mission of the SEED (Sport Evangelism to Equip Disciples) Program is to equip Hope College student-athletes to serve as disciples who share the Good News of Jesus Christ through sport.

We recognize that sport provides an opportunity for athletes to have a significant platform from which to influence others. In traveling with the SEED program, Hope College student-athletes will utilize their passion for sport to share the love of Christ with individuals around the world.

SEED program trips will involve groups of 10-15 student-athletes who will serve internationally through sport ministry for two weeks.

Thanks to the generous support of Sawyer Products, the SEED program plans to send four trips in the summer of 2018: two in May, and two in August.

Student-athletes will be asked to pay a deposit, passport, and immunization fees.  All other travel expenses will be covered by Sawyer Products.

Growing Season

During the summer of 2017, we launched the SEED program with the support of Sawyer Products. Three teams of mixed sport student-athletes and coaches used their passion for sports to share the love of Christ around the world.

In May, our first trip launched to India with 12 student-athletes and three staff members to partner with Audio Scripture Ministries.

The other two teams traveled in August prior to the start of the school year.  Our team to Costa Rica partnered with Push the Rock and sent 11 student-athletes with three staff members, and the final team traveled to Zambia with 12 student-athletes and two staff members to work with Poetice.

Each team served alongside local churches and communities for a two-week period through sports clinics and Sawyer water filter distributions. These water filters attach to any size bucket and work with gravity. Because of their small size, we were able to give them to individual families. The best part of all is that these filters will provide clean water for a lifetime!

We are so grateful for the support of Sawyer as their generosity makes SEED trips possible and affordable to all Hope student-athletes. Our hope and prayer is that the SEED program continues to grow, providing student-athletes and coaches with opportunities to serve for years to come in different countries around the world.

Read how three student-athletes were transformed from their participation with SEED this summer:  

 

Frankie Buchanan – Costa Rica

Frankie with assistant women’s basketball coach Courtney Kust in Costa Rica.

Hola. That was the extent of my Spanish knowledge before going to Costa Rica this past summer with the Hope College SEED program. Though I lacked language skills, I had plenty of fears. Would I fit in with the other people on the trip? How would my knowledge, or rather lack thereof, affect relationship-building in Costa Rica? And how EXACTLY was I supposed to impact the lives of so many people who I felt needed me? I mean really impact their lives! As it turned out, lots of amazing things were done in the many villages and schools we visited. At each place we brought something new to the kids through sports. We brought water filters, too. And of course, we brought hearts to serve for Jesus.

The stories that I heard, and lives that I thought I was changing, helped change and grow me instead.

On our first day of training for SEED, we were asked what we wanted to get out of our trip. My mind instantly went to relationships.  I wanted a stronger relationship with God. I wanted close relationships with my fellow SEED travelers. And I wanted to grow in all of those relationships.  And I did…because of my new friends in Costa Rica. The stories that I heard, and lives that I thought I was changing, helped change and grow me instead. I saw this through the unconditional love that they showed us, the testimonies that they told us, and the joy that they expressed as we played game after game, laughed day after day, enjoying each other through it all.  

Now back at Hope, relationship-building with my fellow Hope-SEED travelers continues. We Snapchat daily; when we see one another on campus it’s a whole production of screams and hugs. We also have deep conversations and not afraid to talk about anything. It’s true that we blessed people in Costa Rica, but in the end, we found that the blessings came mostly from them.

 

Jager Haan – Zambia

Jager playing a game of tag in Zambia.

In any circumstance where God is present, an opportunity for a life-changing experience is possible, and God was present in Zambia. God worked through this SEED program, not only giving those from Hope opportunities to change lives but to have our lives changed as well. For me, God worked in my life through the relationships I developed while in Africa. The people I encountered made an effort to be a part of my life during my short stay there, speaking truth into my life.

Having interacted with the people of Zambia — people so on fire for developing great relationships centered in Christ — I am now fired up myself for Jesus.

While in Zambia, we worked with Poetice, and their staffs gave me an example of what it truly looks like to live for Christ. Through their stories, advice, and actions it was evident God was doing a big work through them. One person in particular, Joel Ng’ambi, encouraged me to embrace my story as well as share it with other people in my life. My time with Joel gave me a new perspective. He showed me how I should interact with others, be selfless to others, love, and see others with God’s eyes — as my brothers and sisters in Christ. These are all things that Christians know in our hearts to do but often, at least for me, I choose not to do them. Having interacted with the people of Zambia — people so on fire for developing great relationships centered in Christ — I am now fired up myself for Jesus.

Yes, the people of Zambia dramatically impacted my life. Now I hope that I impacted theirs. Yes, we shared our stories, played with the kids, and were fully present. Now I hope those memories stay with them as much as they stay with me. Specifically, I hope that I left an impact through my personal testimony. I had the opportunity to share my testimony with all the kids and staff, pushing me way out of my comfort zone. I hope that God used me to touch the one life, or maybe more, in Zambia. Lord knows, Zambia touched mine.

God is present in Zambia. Through the pouring out of His presence in that place lives were changed, mine being the first. It was and has been such a blessing. This small attempt to put a few things from the trip into words can’t do it all justice. I thank Hope, Poetice, and Sawyer for making this trip possible.

 

Sarah McCoy – India

Sarah with her soccer buddies in India.

When I arrived back to the United States, my heart was full of thanks and appreciation for the people of India who welcomed us into their country and for a SEED trip for allowing me to witness and experience God transforming lives and building relationships through us. I was exposed to the truest and purest form of God and I was reminded that nothing, not even a language barrier, can stand in the way of His love. Let me explain.

I was exposed to the truest and purest form of God and I was reminded that nothing, not even a language barrier, can stand in the way of His love.

One particular group of kids in the village stole my heart. Each day before camp began, we would pick out our teams with pointing and non-verbal agreements. On the surface, it seemed to be a normal game of small-sided soccer, but beneath, relationships were being built through sport and faith. To be able to communicate without actually knowing each other’s language was incredible.  I watched kids learn how to play American football for the first time, got my butt kicked in 4v4 soccer by some talented 10-years-olds, saw kids hysterically laugh during one huge game of “rhinos and monkeys” (aka, “sharks and minnows”), witnessed adults and children crying in the presence of the Lord, and felt how gracious and thankful they all were for our sports camp, water filters, and distribution of audio bibles (with help of Audio Scripture Ministries). God’s power touched the hearts of each person there and we were all simply united under His name.

Each of us have our own gifts and talents that the Lord calls us to use for His glory. Going on this trip was a reminder that we should carry His principles with us each day and love those around us unconditionally. The impact of a smile, genuine conversation, game of catch, or prayer is so powerful. I can’t imagine how different our Earth would be if we all treated each other like God intends us to. The SEED trip is an incredible opportunity to pursue God’s plan while simultaneously incorporating sport in the mission. I encourage all Hope athletes to do the same.

 

Headed back to Ndanda (Hope)

This morning, we woke up around 7:00AM and went to a restaurant called Zigzag. At Zigzag we ate delicious breakfast foods like French toast, muffins, and English breakfast. At breakfast, we talked about how we are going to explain our experience to others back home. We all have struggled to put into words what this trip means to us because of how impactful it has been. We were led by the current missionaries in this session on re-entering the United States. We discussed what is okay and not okay to post on social media, as well as ways to not overwhelm friends and family with everything that we have learned. We talked about how to stay connected with the individuals of the organization that hosted us and how to give back to it. At the end of breakfast, we said our goodbyes, and we were sad to leave yet were excited to head back home to tell others about our experience here in Zambia.

During this trip, we learned how big the global church is. For a lot of us, we did not realize the full extent of God’s work around the world. This trip allowed us to see that although we come from different backgrounds, we still worship the same God. At first coming to Africa, most of us focused on the physical poverty of the area, but throughout our time we learned that these are their daily lives, and they are very rich spiritually and in other things. This trip has changed all of our lives because now we know how much God loves all of his children whether they are in the U.S or Zambia, and we now want to continue to grow deeper in our faith. This trip has brought up 14 brothers and sisters that will continue to walk towards Jesus together in any way that He calls us. Several people have considered different ways that they can stay connected from the experience that we had, whether that is to give back financially to the organization, apply for the summer internship that Poetice hosts, or to consider the missionary field as a career option in the future. Over the last week, not only did we grow closer with each other and Jesus, we also grew closer with all of the Poetice staff. They helped us understand the love of God in the community and spoke God’s truth to us and to the community members we worked with. These are people that we will never forget and are people that we will continue to stay connected with. Thank you for everyone following our daily blogs and the continued prayers of support. We are now headed back to the United States and are excited to share the fire that God has started in all of our hearts with you all. We cannot emphasize enough how thankful we are for this experience and how blessed we are to walk along side Jesus.

Britta Johnson, Sara Plohetski, Alli VanderStoep

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