Peace, Love & Futbol

Well, once again, we awoke to the sound of birds…well some of us did. We also had another delicious breakfast at the bakery down the street. After eating our fill of Costa Rican carbs, we had an another engaging bus ride to our first destination of the day: another prison. We went there to play a full 11 v 11 game of soccer against a team composed of the inmates. Knowing this, our minds naturally expected a full squad of Fifa professionals and that our grave defeat was inevitable. However, when we arrived, we learned that the prison was home to men that averaged around 65 years old. So, the game was slightly more fair than we expected. It was a hard fought game, ending 1-1, and we all had a blast competing but most importantly enjoyed connecting with the people we met there.

Post-game we really got to know the people there by listening to their stories and sharing a snack. The joy they had was inspiring despite their circumstances. Many of the men had been in prison for most of their lives, and some may very well spend the rest of their lives there. One of the most impactful parts of the visit was seeing the communal atmosphere created there. Dance lessons were taught, friendships were evident, and supporters came to watch the lively soccer match. This was a huge contrast to the other prison we visited.

So after a sweaty match of soccer, we went down the road to another prison. This one held another overlooked part of the population. The inmates were young adults who were mostly 18 to 25. Words to describe the young adults were dangerous and aggressive, but this was far from what we encountered. They were friendly and eager to interact with us. The feelings of anxiety from the brief description beforehand disappeared once we began to introduce sports. Our focus was to teach the guys some basketball skills, and spread God’s love through our testimonies and sports. Everyone was laughing and enjoying the time we shared with them. It was amazing to see the inmates how God sees them and not how society defines them to be.

After lunch at the AMCA house, we headed off to the second school we visited yesterday. We expecting two hours with third graders and to our surprise, the third graders were actually thirteen year olds. Thankfully we have a team that is able to adjust, and Rachel and Gabbie were able to lead them in some age appropriate games. Lacrosse was introduced to them for the first time, and it was fun to see their joy while experiencing a new athletic event. After that, we played our new favorite schoolyard game: dodgeball. The students took dodgeball strategy to a whole new level we did not think was possible until today. The heavy rain did not discourage us from having the best time playing games.

So a common prayer for our team is for the energy to bring our best selves to the clinics every day. Today we felt more exhausted than usual, but God continually provided for us throughout the day. People were fatigued from the soccer game and a shorter sleep the night before, but we were still able to pour into those we ministered to. He showed up for myself personally (Claire) in the second prison today because God challenged me to view the men with the same love that he has for his them as his children.

After a long spontaneous discussion about scars, injuries, and other unfortunate mishaps in our lives, we finished the day with another great “team time.” Peyton and Kasey talked us through more of Philippians and what it means to live with a submissive mind. Together we are challenging one another to deny ourselves of our personal agenda, our control, our natural tendencies, and our comfort. It’s amazing the way our team is growing together and it is truly evident that God has handpicked each and every one of us to be here together. We are really spurring each other on in our faith and encouraging vulnerability during discussions. We look forward to growing closer to God and closer to one another over the course of the next six days.

Peace, love, and futbol,

Jack and Claire

Listen in tomorrow to hear from Abby and Rachel about more great adventures

Juegas baloncesto?

We wanted to update everyone on not only what the team has been doing at the schools and other locations, but also how the team has grown closer to each other and God, in 3 days.

If there were any moments where we forgot we were in Costa Rica, those were quickly forgotten thanks to the birds proudly chirping in the morning. Now, the birds are absolutely gorgeous in every way; you don’t get to see the variety and color of these birds every day in America. And we are truly blessed to be able to see them each and every day. But there is just something about them singing at 5:30am that just doesn’t seem to be the most pleasant wake-up call that we could ask for.

What does bring smiles to our faces however, are the High School and Middle School students we were able to visit today. We had a great time at the Colegico Ecologico Bilinguie San Martin school. The students were fluent in English, so it was easier to connect with them. After meeting them and sharing a little bit about who we are and our stories (Testemonies) and why we were there, we enjoyed some competitive rounds of dodgeball with and against the kids. Something that we have learned over the past couple days is to be flexible with our schedule and with the games and activities we do with the students themselves. We often see a handful of students who may not want to participate with the whole group. So for us, being willing to branch out and connect with them when they don’t want to engage in sports, is a way we have been flexible in our ministry. For example, the girls weren’t huge fans of dodgeball, so a lot of our female leaders would just step to the side and talk to them and get to know them or engage in a “sideline” game with a smaller group. That way they were still included, but in a way that we could reach them on a more personal level.

It’s fascinating to see how God works on all different levels. Whether it be a competitive game of dodgeball where the students faced off against the leaders (and somehow we lost), or just the quiet moments to reflect on what is going on, and appreciating the beauty of not only the scenery, but how he is working through us to reach the students.

After miraculously surviving a bus ride through a city that appears to lack any traffic laws, we arrived at an elementary school in a rougher part of San Jose. Our team was dragging from a long day of clinics at the high school, but our energy was immediately restored by the shouts of excitements, high fives, and hugs from the kids we encountered upon entering the school. We climbed some stairs up the side of a steep hill to reach the school’s basketball court that overlooked the mountains. The kids who followed were a group of 20 third graders with excitement levels on par with the Energizer Bunny™. We ran relay races and played a number of fun games with the kids. While this was occurring, Jack gained a sassy posse of third grade girls. When he asked one of the girls in Spanish, “Where do you live?” she replied, “Why do you want to know?” This group of third graders gave us so much joy and energy that we truly needed. It was amazing to have God teach us to be joyful in all circumstances through these young kids.

During one of the games, one of the boys isolated himself on the sidelines because he didn’t want to play. Reagan and I (Gabbi) approached him with a basketball and asked, “Juegas baloncesto?” (Do you play basketball?) He looked up from the ground and shyly nodded. We brought him over to a basketball hoop aside from the main game and encouraged him to dribble and shoot with us. His face lit up when he took his first shot. We played with him for a few more minutes, celebrating his few shots that made it up to the net-less rim. This was a meaningful moment, that showed how sport is a universal language. The few minutes with this young boy proved to be powerful evidence to show how God uses sport to bring together people of all nations.

Not to be forgotten however is the exciting moments that occur on the bus rides to and from the locations. One of the greatest parts of the trips is putting away our cell phones and spending more time playing games like Connect Four™ and games of cards instead of sitting on “google” all day. It isn’t rare for us to share a moment that brings one or two of us to tears because of how funny it is… or at least how funny it seems to us. For instance, it could be dead quiet in the bus ride after sitting in the sun and Madison may blurt out “I’d give anything for a 10-piece Chicken Nugget right now”, to which the whole bus erupts in laughter. The little moments like that along with special connections and the bonds we make and continue to grow on is what makes this trip so special. And being able to use that joy to share God’s word is pretty much indescribable.

Finally, finishing up the day with some awesome fish, veggies, mashed potatoes, and a Costa Rican custard dessert was the only way to slow down after a day of laughs and exhaustion. The only thing sweeter than the dessert was the love poured out during our “team time”, where group members share Testemonies to go along with some worship and another night studying Philippians and a small section of Colossians. Before we head to bed, there is always time for more games, and for Emari to talk trash about how good he is at Connect-Four™. Until tomorrow, Stay Classy and enjoy the terrific traffic laws, and public restrooms of the USA.

Love,

Reagan, Gabbi and Megan

Stay Tuned for Claire and Jack to give you nothing short of a masterpiece blog entry tomorrow!

Roses, Thorns & Buds

Day One was a blast! God definitely showed his patience and strength by allowing us to get up at 5:20 am this morning. As we journeyed on the bus, we saw all of the mountains that were hidden in the dark the night we arrived. We traveled through the crowded streets to the Aruba school which lay on a hill.

Upon arrival, we traveled amongst the group of giddy school children to the sports area, a large concrete rectangle shadowed in the mountains of all the open tops of the building. From Blob Tag to Fire in the Jungle (a game very similar to Sharks and Minnows that is popular amongst the children in Costa Rica). Whether one of us was fluent in Spanish or simply knew “hola”, there was such a beautiful joy shown from the children we played with. God’s joy is so contagious when shared amongst us. Just being around these children, their innocence and sense of adventure, caused such a powerful flow of joy over all of us despite the language barriers. This truly showed how we are all God’s children, no matter where we come from or what language we.

God’s demonstration of equality amongst His children seemed to be the evident theme today when we went to the prison. Despite their situation they were super open and friendly. Going in we didn’t know what to expect, but once in the prison and seeing the inmates our perspectives were changed for the better. After a hard fought game of basketball with the inmates it was an eye opening experience. Seeing the joy filled within each of them was unique to see despite their situation. They were great players and showed a lot of sportsmanship throughout the game. At the end of our day we went from two separate teams to one big happy family and praying for one another.

We ended the day gathered as a group in the AMCA house going over our Roses, Thorns and Buds. The Rose as the highlight, the Thorn as an area where growth is needed, and the Bud as an area we are excited for in the future. As for the Rose, we discussed our excitement and joy being within the school and prison, two vastly different environments and groups of people, and seeing that joy and excitement reciprocated. Our Thorn was largely due to the language barrier. Not being able to communicate the love we wanted to spread made us realize how much we take our words for granted. But in spite of lack of communication, our Bud is for tomorrow’s clinic, where they speak English and our message may be told! Stay tuned!

Love your ~Jumping~ Juniors J

Emari and Lauryn

Next up on your daily blog……. Reagan and Gabbi, and Megan will update you on our day tomorrow!!

 

Greetings from Costa Rica!

Greetings from Costa Rica!

We departed from Hope this morning and drove to Chicago. From there, we flew to Houston and then to our final destination of San Jose. We arrived at 8pm local time and it was pitch black so we’re not really sure what it looks like yet, but we made it to the AMCA house! It was a long day of travel but everything went smoothly and we are emocionado (we’re hoping this is excited in Spanish since we said this in the airport) for what is to come!

Our hosts picked us up from the airport and had food prepared for us when we arrived. Following sandwiches and Costa Rican cookies, we had our first team meeting in country. One thing we have already been learning is flexibility. In our original schedule, we were going to lead a sports clinic in the morning at one elementary school and another at a different school in the afternoon. However, there was a change of plans for the afternoon and we are no longer going to a different elementary school. Instead, we will be playing basketball at an all-male prison. Our basketball skills are subpar at best so wish us luck!

It’s only day one and we can already see God working in so many ways within our team! Thank you for the continued prayers and support! One specific prayer request is for the ability to lead and communicate effectively with the kids and inmates on our first day. We are unsure what to expect but are open and eager for all the experiences to come.

Sincerely your favorite ~rising~ seniors,

Christian and Jenna

P.S. stay tuned for Lauryn and Emari’s update tomorrow. And yes, it’s really hot here!

SEED: Costa Rica Edition

Our first SEED team is safely home from the Dominican Republic after an amazing week of transformational experiences! And now, we’re gearing up to send out our second SEED team of the summer to Costa Rica on Tuesday, June 4.

The team in Costa Rica will serve alongside Push the Rock (PTR) to partner with local churches and ministries to share the love of Christ through sports clinics, water filter demonstrations, and relationship building.

This will be our third consecutive summer a SEED team has traveled to Costa Rica and we’re excited to build on the relationships we’ve formed in previous trips.

View the team calendar for a glimpse of how Hope College student-athletes will utilize their passion for sport to share the love of Christ with individuals in Costa Rica!

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 transforming lives in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica Team Calendar

Cry, Cry, Cry

Today is our last day in the Dominican. Needless to say, we are very sad because this place has become so special to us all. We were able to gather one more time and eat breakfast before heading to church this morning.

Church today was very special. We traveled to a neighborhood called “The Hole”. This part of the city has the highest rate of poverty in Santiago and it used to be a landfill. We got to walk through the community a little bit and we saw a creek littered with garbage. We were told that houses along this creek collapse when it rains heavily and families end up having to rebuild their homes. This was definitely the most troubled community we witnessed, but were moved when we walked into their church. It was bright and happy, and we instantly felt welcomed and the presence of God.

Although we couldn’t understand the songs, you could feel the passion these people have for the Lord. The sermon was also hard to follow at times, but we went through John 14:22-23, which talks about how God doesn’t show himself to the world and calls us to spread the gospel based on our love for him. Those who belong to him carry out his calling and obey his word. Today’s service was also very special because it was Dominican Mother’s Day. A group of guys who belonged to the church handed out gifts to the mothers of the church. They also shared how they have impacted their lives. It was incredible to see how loving and joyful they were.

As we sit here in the airport in Santiago about depart, we can’t help but feel so grateful. This trip has been life-changing for everyone. We learned so much about ourselves, each other, the Dominicans, but most importantly, our God who is faithful through it all. It is our prayer that we can take all that we have learned and bring it back to the States.

Thank you all so much for following us along our crazy journey. We appreciate all your prayers as we navigated through the challenges we faced. It means so much to us.

See you all soon,
Hannah, Rylee, and Paula 🙂

Redeem. Renew. Restore

A crew of us woke up this morning bright and early for a beautiful sunrise. It was truly incredible to finish up our week of service with marveling in the creation of God, and truly taking in His Kingdom. Breakfast was a full buffet, and a nice little birthday surprise awaited Hannah as the staff sang and presented a cake with a candle lit. All of us loved it, except for Hannah – after all, it is NOT in fact her birthday.

The rest of the morning was spent relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, pool volleyball, and a healthy dose of water aerobics (plenty of hips included). People at the resort asked us who we were, and as we told them they were actually interested, and impressed at the work being done. It’s awesome to think that this trip is going to extend not only to the members of our team, or even the Dominicans we worked with, but to random strangers and our community at home as well. Some of us had another opportunity to interact with vendors at the beach. You can figure out who was good at bartering, who has an elephant, and who can rock braids in their hair the best when we get back…

Lunch was absolutely scrumptious. Nothing like some more burgers and American food to put our stomachs at rest. Grouper, pasta, fried pineapple, and more desserts were also present to indulge in. Shortly after we saddled up in the vans and headed for mountains to weave our way back to Santiago. Little did we know the surprise that awaited us halfway down the first mountain. The Cristo Urbano van had its second flat tire in a 24-hour span, and left half of us chillin’ on the side of the road. Luckily the Bambino (bigger van) had a spare that wasn’t quite the right size, but we were able to make work.

When we got back to home base we had siesta time. Another great opportunity to rest, journal, reflect, and pass time with one another. Card games like 31, speed, euchre, 99, golf, and uno have made many appearances on this trip, bringing oodles of joy and even temporary enemies within our group.

After a short while we ventured over the church we attended on Sunday and sat down in the classroom. Caroline then proceeded to pass out letters we had written ourselves when the whole SEED process really began back in January. After reading and reflecting on what we wrote, Brett showed us a video that Morgan and Ashley had put together of us engaging on the trip (you’ll be able to see this soon).

We walked back to Calle 2 and had a nice time of fellowship. A time of seeing how we’ve been transformed through the SEED process and the trip with GO Ministries. Letters included fears, hopes and dreams, anticipations, and prayers for a meaningful experience. Anything on those letters was so clearly addressed by God, it was crazy. Every part of every letter was touched, and that was incredibly powerful.

Our last Dominican dinner was a big pot of chicken gumbo. Yum. Needless to say most of us are happy to have our normal diets back for good, so get ready to cook again parents :). Post dinner we hung out for a bit and had our last debrief, well maybe. We’ve had about 4 by now and one seems to be expected tomorrow amidst traveling. This one was different though. This was a meeting of encouragement. We went around the circle and shared meaningful memories, words of praise, and tears of joy. These trip members are amazing, and the impact we have all had on each other, and the importance each person had to contributing to our team was inspiring.

As we wrap up this trip we continue to think of all the experiences we’ve had here, we are anxious to share all that happened individually with our family, friends, and even strangers. Pray for safe travels, good health, and that what we have all learned affects us in a divine way, so that we can continue to live intentional, missional lives.

All the Best,
Keon, Bryce, and Jordan

Vamos a la playa!!!

Hola friends and family! As our week here in the Dominican Republic is beginning to wind down, today was a beautiful opportunity to unwind and reflect. We woke up at full strength and were well rested for the day ahead. After breakfast we had our last daily devotional of the week and headed to the Go Ministries LDC to watch some baseball.

Over the course of this week, we have really gotten to know a lot of the players very well so it was really fun to watch them compete. The field does not have bleacher seating, so many of us were mingling with the players on the bench and around the field. It was also a great way to wrap up our week of work with them, and our time together because we got to watch them do what they all love. We have spent a lot of time with the players in their English classes, and one of the easiest things for them to talk about has been their love for baseball and how it has opened doors for them in their lives.

After the game, we also had the chance to demonstrate the Sawyer water filters to members of the GO ministries community. IG, one of the pastors for GO and the director of church planting, was present. As GO seeks to plant 1,000 churches in the next 10 years, we hope these filters can be a blessing to the local communities.

The message incorporated with the filter is that the dirty water is representative of us; impure and imperfect. The filter then represents a life with Jesus Christ at the center, which is the only way to cleanse ourselves of our imperfections. The clean water that comes out of the bottom is a clear depiction of how we can all be cleansed by Jesus. After the demonstration, the cup was passed around and everyone shared a drink of the clean water.

Before we headed to the beach, one of our vans got a flat-tire which left just enough time for Joey to get an authentic Dominican haircut.

After miles of winding roads through the mountainous terrain and beautiful countryside, we finally landed at the resort. We ate lunch as a team, and then headed to la playa (beach)!! The weather was beautiful as we played frisbee, swam in the ocean, played volleyball in the pool, and Audrey and Rose got their hair braided on the beach. We are definitely starting to feel like locals. After a fun day in the sun, we gathered again for a very nice buffet dinner. With the sundown, we headed to the beach once more to reflect on the week and share what has been on our minds throughout this trip. We talked a lot about perspective and how we see God working in our own lives. From helping us with doubt and adding faith to every part of our lives, to helping us get through tough times and being missional wherever we are, we hope to bring everything we have learned back to the States.

Thanks for reading!

XOXO

Joey, Audrey, and MeKenna

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

 

%d bloggers like this: