A Trip to the Hole.

By Eric Hoogland, Paolo Alcala, and Emma Dekker

Today we started off the morning with some delicious breakfast (once again) before heading off to the GO Ministries compound to help out with different sports camps. We split up into two groups, one that went and played basketball and one that went and played soccer. At soccer we played a bunch of games on their beautiful field with a group of young girls. One of the players made us laugh by hanging out way offsides and calling for the ball by shouting “gringo!!!” every time one of us had the ball. After a few hours out in the hot Dominican sun we were definitely feeling the effects. Some of us ended the session by talking to the group of girls about the importance of women in sports and sharing some knowledge we have gained through our experiences as female college athletes. While some of us were at the fields playing soccer, others were on the basketball courts playing game after game with the kids. The kids were very excited to scrimmage us and show off their skills. The first 3 games were rough and we found ourselves losing but over time we built up some team chemistry and rallied together. We ended up winning the next four games. Let us remind you these were full court 5v5 basketball games to 16. To say the least, the five basketball players found ourselves extremely tired after playing, but they had a blast. It was amazing to see the smiles on the kids faces and the love for the game we all shared.

After spending the morning at GO’s Leadership Development Complex, we went back to home base for lunch of rice, beans, and steak, then headed to “The Hole.” The Hole is a place that we have been talking about all week, so we were all a little anxious to experience it – but we had no idea what to expect. It is a village in the middle of the city set on a river that used to be a garbage dump but after it was shut down people began building homes at the site. It set lower than the stores and city streets surrounding it – hence the title. We parked our bus on a curb, with some stores on one side and a sidewalk and some grass on the other. Just a few steps over was a turn leading down into the Hole, an alleyway that descends down into what looks like a maze of small homes leaning into each other, many in very poor condition. The walkways for this town weren’t wider than two people across, and flowing through the middle of the walkway was a small moat in the concrete of flowing water. I think all of us would agree that it was unlike anything we have seen before.

Walking through the Hole to find kids to go to the park.

As we walked through the Hole we arrived to the church that we will be visiting tomorrow for a service. We met a couple of people who work with GO and the church and they talked to us about how the church started and about their stories. One of the men, named Estarlin, shared how he grew up in the Hole, going to the church’s nutrition center and playing basketball through GO, and how he is an example of how sports brings people to the feet of Christ. 

After we met them, we walked back through the streets of the Hole, collecting kids as we made our way to the park. Our group flooded the park and the craziness commenced. We brought our balls and bubbles and toys and everyone was doing something different with so many children. Paulo played basketball with some of the kids and was working pretty hard. There was a young kid who was playing incredible. It was a great experience to just be in the sun and play with the kids. 

Katie playing frisbee with the kids.

We then returned to GO Ministries for the night. We were all pretty exhausted and ready for a shower. After we had the chance to clean up and soak in some of the amazing A/C we took a short walk to a GO Ministries store and Empanada restaurant. We had fresh empanadas and local juices for dinner.

After dinner we took a nice walk around the neighborhoods surrounding our home.  This was a great time spent together talking and growing closer as a group and individually. Returning from the walk we had our daily debrief where we reflected as a group on where we saw God today. Everyday we see God in different ways and it truly has been a blessing seeing the way God has worked through each other during this trip. Next the team listened to Dan, Elisa, and Jake share their life stories with the group. Every night the group has had great conversations as we learn more about each other. Today was another great, long day filled with a number of amazing experiences. We are excited for what the rest of the trip has in store!

Delicious, fresh empanadas!

Uganda 2022 Day 5 5/28

We woke up this morning to see a beautiful clear view of the city. This was the first time we saw the city with no fog and it was breathtaking. After a debrief of our day yesterday and a delicious breakfast, we split up into two teams to go to different locations throughout the day. Thankfully, we (Jack and Anneliese) were in different groups and can tell you individually about everything we did today so buckle in, it’s a long one. 

Dom and Ty had the opportunity to play with the Good News soccer team at the Sports Outreach Center the day before. It was a lot of fun to watch especially with such a great view!

In the morning, the two teams headed to Kampala School for the physically handicapped or Nateete, a slum in Kampala. I (Anneliese) went to the school and it was easily the highlight of my group’s day and even possibly the trip. We were barely off the bus before the kids began to smile and wave, running towards us. We were instantly surrounded with love and acceptance. The kids stole our hearts and it was apparent they cared about each other by the way they treated one another with kindness. It was amazing to see what this school has done for these kids (over 170 of them!) and how many resources their school has provided them with. Time flew by and before we knew it, we had to head back for lunch. We did not want to leave but felt so full of love and joy from spending our morning with these sweet kids.

Joni, Ella, Keegan, and Sav with some of the kids a Kampala School for the physically handicapped.

We (Jack and friends) had the opportunity to travel to the slum of Nateete to distribute water filters. The people were super accepting and happy. We played frisbee and “Tilapia and Silverfish” (Ed’s version of “Sharks and Minnows”) with around 20 kids. Ty had a great time teaching them how to take pictures with his camera and they were super excited to learn. It was very nice to see the joy and gratefulness from those receiving the filters.

Ty showing the kids at Nateete the photos he took on his camera.

Both teams got back right in time for lunch at the Namirembe Guest House. We all had such an amazing morning at both locations and could not wait to see what the afternoon adventures entailed. 

Shortly after lunch, the two teams headed to Katwe or Kibuli. I (Anneliese again) went to Kibuli (pronounced chi boo lee), one of the slums in Kampala. We went into the church where there was a circle of children. We sat with them as one of the Sports Outreach Employees, Lydia, shared a Bible verse with the kids and gave them porridge. Lydia grew up in Kibuli and was one of the kids that came to these meetings for food. It was so encouraging to see how she used to be one of those kids there, sitting and eating porridge, and now she is mentoring them and sharing the Word. Throughout our time, we were able to connect with the kids and some of the parents before we began sharing about the water filters. They were extremely receptive and I even led the kids through building a water filter on their own. It was amazing to see these kids show me what piece goes where and how they answered each of my questions correctly and quickly. Even with the hardships these children face, they were so willing to learn and always had a smile on their face around us. When we left the church, we went on a home visit. It was heartbreaking to see what these families go through, but so encouraging to see how welcoming they were to us and how they continue to persevere. 

We (Jack and friends again) were lucky enough to visit the Katwe chess academy, the same place that is famous for the movie Queen of Katwe. We distributed water filters for some families of those who live in Katwe and met some very special people involved in their chess academy. Robert Katende, who works through Sports Outreach, was the one who started the chess academy. He took us through the slum to show us all the areas the movie was filmed. Through this we got to see the harsh reality of living in the slum.  The people were very happy and welcoming to us even in their difficult circumstances. It was certainly a special place and we are very grateful for these experiences today!

Today was a very emotionally draining yet beautiful day for both teams. We were grateful for a bit of time to rest before dinner to process the day we had. We were still rather drained at dinner, but being together allowed us to have great and meaningful conversation. We had such an impactful day and now need to go to bed because guess who has a 7 hour bus ride to Gulu tomorrow!?! it’s us. This is Jack and Anneliese signing off for now!

Edward, a student at the Kampala School for the physically handicapped, enjoying some tootsie pops this morning. We hope you enjoy his smile as much as we did! 🙂

Uganda 2022 Day 4 5/27

Hi everyone! Ella and Keegan here to update you on our awesome Thursday!

It was another very long day full of fun and surprises that gave us memories to last a lifetime. We had breakfast at the hotel and headed out to the Sports Outreach facility for our morning devotions and worship. The singing and dancing did not disappoint, bringing big smiles to our faces once again. 

Today our task was to distribute 11 water filters to community members living in the slums. My group (Ella) had to walk about half a mile up a mountain to get to the quarry where the families were working. It was incredibly hot as we arrived. The families gathered around and we showed them how to assemble their water filter and described to them how it could take dirty water and provide them clean water to drink. They looked a bit skeptical at first, but once they saw it pour out clean water, their faces lit up with excitement. We were able to share the gospel while we were there, which was pretty special too. Suddenly, our leader Sam told us we needed to start walking quickly back to the bus because it was going to rain. Well, let me tell you, he was right. We headed down the mountain and it started to rain… then pour… then pour even harder. Thankfully no one slipped (even Sav)! Jumping into the bus, it looked like we went swimming. There was nothing to do but laugh! We drove back to the facility and bonded over our crazy experience. What a time.

My group (Keegan) went to a small village and demonstrated how to make and use the water filters. After a whole group demonstration, the Hope students paired up one one with a member of the village to individually construct the filter system. Once all the filters were made, a small time of fellowship between the Hope staff and village which consisted of holding babies, eating candy, and playing with baby chickens. We left the village to the sight and sound of some villagers dancing and singing in thankfulness. 

After another delicious lunch, the whole team headed to a eucalyptus nursery where we would do a filter demonstration to the workers and tour the nursery. Through the use of the filter and comparing what life is like before and after Jesus Christ, Pastor Simon Peter asked the workers if any of them wanted to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. A resounding 16 people dedicated their lives to Christ today! 

Later in the afternoon, a soccer match took place between the Sports Outreach staff and a team of local players. Ty and Dom joined in on the Sports Outreach team and dominated the competition.  After 90 minutes of play on a slick pitch, Sports Outreach came out with the 2-1 win. Hope staff that were not playing watched the game or played sports with the spectators. There was no need for verbal communication when playing with the spectators; a ball was the only thing we needed. Our trip back to the hotel took extra long due to the traffic of Ugandan night life.

Paint. Dance. Play.

By Dan Romano, Brady Swinehart, and Maddie McCreery

Today we began with an American favorite for breakfast, pancakes and bacon. Perfect fuel to dive into our devotionals and go help paint a house for the GO Ministry summer interns. The cool morning quickly turned into a hot day, and we learned some were not completely prepared for the Dominican heat. Bachata tunes and new dance moves were learned during our morning, Dan especially picked up some good moves to bring home to the states. Our artistic skills were finely tuned, and we left with plenty of paint chips and splatters for souvenirs. After painting, we left with mangoes from kind neighbors and headed back to the GO Ministry’s church for lunch. 

Painting at GO Ministries’ Intern house.

For lunch we had rice, fried chicken, yuka, mangoes, pineapple and watermelon. After lunch, we spent some time hanging out, playing touch football, catch with a frisbee, volleying a volleyball, and walked around the neighborhood exploring some of downtown Santiago before heading to the GO Ministries Leadership Development Complex (LDC). The bus trip was entertaining as always with jokes from Jake and a great reenactment of the movie “Miracle”. Once at the GO LDC we sat in and interacted with an English class. The kid’s English speaking abilities varied, but it was beneficial for all of them to have conversations in English and for us to try out our Spanish. From there, we all went out to the basketball courts due to rain and played group games of lightning (Brady got a win before Chad), and scrimmaged against their 10-12 year old team. We then got some insight on future GO Sports projects and their operations from a beautiful rooftop with some amazing scenery before a short down pour happened again. We saw busloads of children coming to the sport complex to play baseball, basketball, soccer, and volleyball; because of the rain however, all of the baseball practices were cancelled for the afternoon. Each of our team members were assigned to a sport to play with the kids. For basketball, we rotated players between 4 drills and then a couple drills with all of the kids. After, we played a couple 5v5 games where we were mixed in with the Dominicans.

Ali and Maddie speaking with the Dominican female athletes.

For volleyball, Ali spoke about empowering women through sports and then led some passing drills. For soccer, a big scrimmage was played where everyone was able to contribute. The rain made the field very slippery, so many people wiped out and fell but it was all in good fun, and everyone was laughing and having a good time. Our time at the sports complex came to and end, and we lived out the saying, “time flies when you’re having fun”. Fortunately for us, we have the opportunity to go back to the sports complex tomorrow and scrimmage their older boys basketball team, Go Roosters! (Our team mascot for the week). 

Once the heavy rain cleared some of our team joined in a (very slippery) soccer scrimmage.

We returned to the GO Ministry’s church for dinner where we had mashed potatoes, peas, chicken, and more delicious fruit. Kyle, our new leader for the week, took us to a grocery store (similar to Walmart) for us to buy snacks, souvenirs, and ice cream. We got to see more of downtown Santiago and experience more crazy Dominican driving. We finished the night with another debrief of our God sightings for the day and Brady and Maddie shared their stories with the group. We had an amazing conversation about how this group has really come together and we believe God brought everyone in this group together for a reason. We had an awesome day today and we’re ready for a great rest of the week. 

A Welcoming Community

By Elisa Melville, Alison Deweerd, Eric Hoogland

What a day today was… filled with equal parts experience and travel! We woke up in Batey Neueve (Village 9) after having arrived the night before. To prepare for the day, we had warm coffee in the bright morning sun, saying “Hola, buenos dias!” to the locals walking past who responded just as eagerly back to us with kind smiles. For breakfast we ate homemade bread rolls with fried eggs and fresh fruit and discussed day 1 of our GO ministries devotional we received: the importance of prayer. We met Yasniel who used to live in Batey Neueve but now works for GO Ministries in Santiago. We took a walk with him and John through the Batey because it was dark when we arrived last night. Now, we could see the incredible view of sugarcane fields with huge beautiful mountains overlooking them.

The sugarcane fields were dense and went as far as the eye could see.

There are several Bateys (villages) throughout this remote region where sugarcane is grown and harvested. We walked around the town where we saw lots of different kinds of houses: some made of palm tree bark, some made of metal sheets, and others made of cement blocks. We got to go inside a very kind woman’s house named Josefina, and John explained to us how her house was a part of the building that used to be dorms for sugarcane farmers, and since it was one big building all the sounds carry through the houses. Walking through the town was really such a unique experience for all of us that we will never forget. 

Josefina’s was so gracious to welcome the team into her house.

After this, we did a demonstration of the Sawyer water filters with a group of people from the Batey as well as other towns surrounding it. Paulo spoke to them in Spanish while Maddie demonstrated for the people to see. Paulo threw in a handful of dirt into the bucket to show that the filter really does work, and Jake took a sip of it afterward. We were able to distribute over 50 buckets and all of the filters we brought with us to the community members, allowing them to practice on their buckets to make sure they knew how to install the filter.

While this distribution was happening, some of the team went to play with the children who had gathered in the street. We brought bubbles, Jolly Ranchers, suckers, chalk, balls, and jump ropes and played with them. While many of us couldn’t speak much Spanish to them, they didn’t care – they were happy we wanted to play with them – and that’s just what we did!

Playing four square with the kids in Batey Nueve.

Despite whatever material needs one person or the next may have, everyone in Batey Nueve approached us with such joy and patience, knowing what we were there for and wanting us to feel welcomed. It was such a beautiful experience.

After all this we ate lunch and packed up the bus to go home- another 6 hour car ride with each other that we spent playing games with each other like charades, Jeopardy, categories, name that tune, you name it – we probably played it. We got back around 7 pm and had dinner and cake to celebrate Brady’s 22nd birthday!! We played basketball outside and after cleaning up from the long day, debriefed about our God sightings and Paulo and Eric were able to share their stories with the group. We finished the night with more games. What a wonderful day of community, new experiences, learning, and joy. We are so excited for the rest of the week!

After dinner, we celebrated Brady’s birthday!

El Viaje

"The Journey" by Emma Decker and Zach Carlson

After 4 solid hours of sleep, we woke up on Wednesday and had a delicious breakfast of eggs, ham, cheese, spicy hot chocolate, and the best pineapple ever. Next, we jumped on the bus and drove to the GO Ministries compound where we went to a bible study with a group of the local boys on the baseball team.

We joined in on Bible class with the GO ministries baseball players.

When we entered the study room, we got placed into separate groups and had to act out the scene with Jesus sleeping on the boat during the storm and the disciples panicking. We were amazed to see the amount of energy each group put into their play; and even though we could not understand a lot of their conversations, the boys still wanted to get us involved. After the plays, we got a tour of the campus, which had only recently been built, consisting of the classrooms, baseball fields, soccer fields and basketball courts. After that we went back to pack up our stuff for a night away from home base and had another amazing meal of chicken, rice and beans.

We started on the trek to a little village called Batey Nueve. Along the way we stopped along the side of the road in Bani (which is a town home to over 400 different kinds of mango) to get some mangoes for breakfast.

Roadside mango stand where we bought mangos for breakfast.

We observed the beautiful scenery through the Cibao valley and played many different games including umbrella, name games, and green glass doors. We made another stop a little ways down the road at a restaurant called Pollo Ray which had delicious fried chicken, fries and tostones (fried plantains). After about 5 hours we finally arrived  at our destination after driving down a dirt road in the middle of a sugar cane field. We unpacked and met with pastor Williams who introduced us to the town, himself and his ministry there. 

Uganda 2022 Day 3 5/26

Hi guys! Dom and Addi are on blog duty today and we get to tell you all about our first full day here in Uganda. We started our day on very little sleep but high spirits. After a wonderful breakfast we headed to Sports Outreach headquarters. After entering Kampala late the prior night, we had limited exposure to the beauty of this country as well as the downtown motorcycle mayhem. Upon arriving at Sports Outreach, we entered into a time of devotions and worship with the local Sports Outreach team. Let me tell you, they can really dance and sing. After the devotional, from Pastor Simon Peter, on adversity and trusting the Lord, we got to tour the headquarters and hear about all of the exciting plans for the future growth of the ministry.

After lunch it was time to meet about 200 kids from a nearby primary school. We split up into multiple teams comprised of Hope students and Sports Outreach coaches to teach the local children different sports including: volleyball, track, basketball, soccer, frisbee, and chess. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the joy in the children’s faces as they learned their sport. After teaching the sports, each Hope student was given the opportunity to share the Gospel or a personal testimony to the kids in their group. After the stories were shared, with the help of translation from the coaches, the kids were given the chance to accept Jesus in their lives. In total 93 children decided to give their lives to Christ. We look forward to continuing to make an impact and see God at work in the mundane moments. Thanks for tuning in, until next time!!

Students learning chess from Sav and Jack
Our team at the start of the day
Dom, Addi, and Ty sharing to their soccer groups

Uganda 2022 Day 2 5/25

Row 41 – Ty, Julia, and Ella

Tired legs, sleep deprived bodies, and one late night fiasco capped off our first night here in the Pearl of Africa. Hello to everyone back home! It’s Ty and Julia with your update on our trip to Uganda thus far. Arriving at 11:00 pm local time at the Entebbe airport, our team was more than happy to touch solid ground after our over 30 hours of travel. After countless movies, subpar airplane food, and a glimpse of the future stars of the Rwandan national soccer team, we passed customs in no time only to be held up by a runaway bag.

local time 2:00 am, ready to depart the airport

After three hours of smooth talking the local authorities, our leader and trip guide from Uganda, Sam, came to the rescue. Shortly after departing Entebbe and packing our suitcases in the bus, we boarded our ride and took off to our hotel located in Kampala. As heavy as our eyes may have seemed, we could not take them off of the beautiful night scenes as we traversed through the capital of this gem of a country. Finally, after an hour of travel and countless speed bumps, we arrived at our destination, gladly unpacked our bags, and laid our heads on our net draped beds only to wake up 3 hours later and enjoy another eventful day filled with smiles and laughter. Despite our lack of sleep and one missing bag (sorry Ed), we are so thankful for this opportunity and look forward to seeing how God will work in both our lives and those of the Ugandan people over these next two weeks.

The future of Rwandan soccer right here ladies and gents

Uganda 2022 Day 1 5/24

Hello everyone! Emma and Brevin here reporting on our first day of travel. This morning we boarded a bus at 11am in DeVos parking lot. After a 2.5 hour trip we arrived at O’Hare Airport and successfully checked in for our flight. Upon arriving at the gate we met our Sports Outreach liaison, Ed, who will be coming alongside us during our time in Uganda. Our first flight consisted of chicken and mashed potatoes, movies, and 7 hours in the air. We began our flight with a glorious sunset and landed in Amsterdam to a beautiful sunrise. In Amsterdam we played spikeball, tried new McDonald’s items and tried to catch up on a few hours of sleep. At this moment the team is running off pure adrenaline as it is 2:30 AM Michigan time and we are preparing to board a 10.5 hour flight. We are filled with excitement as we wait to finally arrive in Uganda and eager to see what the coming days have in store for us.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!

By Jake Vance and Paulo Alcala

       Wow, who knew being stuck at the airport for 24 hours could be so much fun?! Our day began at 3:30 am and was off to a great start until we received word that our flight had been canceled. With discouragement in the air, we didn’t know what the next step entailed. Yet we needed no fear, Captain Chad Carlson came without fear, and informed our team members on the bus, “Let’s rock and roll, gang.” Although we wouldn’t be arriving in the Dominican Republic as early as we had anticipated, we were thankful to get plane tickets nonetheless. The original plan was to arrive at 1:20 pm, but now we will be there roughly around 1:45 am. Although it might seem like all hope was lost, that was not the case. Who knew what fun could arise when a bunch of college kids have so much free time for hours and hours on end.  

       The day was filled with card games, expensive airport food, and the best sleep one could ask for when flying through the air at 30,000 feet. Our circadian rhythms sure have been put to the test, as some among us are now going on hour 36 without sleep, yet we are all in very good spirits. We are now waiting for our flight from Newark to the Dominican Republic, so who knows what the rest of the night will entail. 

Signing off from team Dominican Republic this is Jake Vance and Paulo Alcala.  Good night from the great state of New Jersey!

%d bloggers like this: