Before the Trip: I applied for the same trip with MOAM back when I was a freshman. I have always dreamed of going to Africa. I root for African nations in every international competition, regardless of the sport. The continent holds a special place in my heart. I never thought I would say this, but it was a blessing that I wasn’t selected to go on that trip, I wasn’t ready. It was not in the Lord‘s plans. I didn’t apply for the trip the next two years because I was too busy chasing my dreams of becoming a college basketball coach. Those summers were spent traveling from camp to camp, trying to get a job. I had my own personal agenda. I was putting myself first and wasn’t following the motto on one of my bracelets I wear everyday that reads ‘I am Second’ based off a series we had at my hometown church.
I was convinced to apply for the trip during my senior year. I didn’t have a job lined up and was planning on using the summer to help me get a job. I decided to apply, trusting in the Lord that everything would fall into place. I was lucky enough to get accepted for the mission trip, but still didn’t have a job. I was elated to go on the trip, but still worried that if I got offered a job and they said I needed to work during the trip, I would have to choose the job. After all, coaching basketball was my lifelong dream.
As the trip approached, I was turned away from jobs I thought I was qualified for and only had one offer for an unpaid graduate assistant position that I didn’t know if I would be able to afford. Then I started to become aware of God‘s plan. I got a call from Paul Mills, who is now the head coach at Oral Roberts University. As we went though the process he asked if I had a relationship with the Lord and I informed him that I did and was recently accepted to go on a mission trip to Liberia. He was excited and told me that I must go and didn’t need to worry about working until school started in August.
The Trip: There were two things that stuck out about the kids; the first was how they loved and the second was their joy. They truly loved with all of their heart. When the kids said they loved us, they truly meant it. Love wasn’t just a word they threw around, it was actually something they meant. The joy they showed truly made my heart happy. They didn’t find joy in what they were wearing or trends of the world; instead they lived in the moment and found joy in being around one another. They weren’t caught up in technology—though they did love our phones. It was nice seeing kids smiling and running around instead of sticking their noses in their phones.
As rewarding as teaching the sports was, my favorite part was the devotionals, meals, and times in the cottage where I could really get to know the kids and talk to the mamas. Those were the opportunities when the kids would open up. We would talk about our journeys with the Lord, our families, life goals, or anything else they wanted to talk about. It really was a time that I could learn about the kids and a true relationship could be built. That was the time where I could tell them about my walk with Christ and let them know that my journey is not perfect. I have many flaws, I am a sinner, but through Christ I am forgiven and accepted.
As we were there longer the relationships grew and the conversations got more in depth. We would talk about scripture and they would come to me with more personal issues. Some of the kids told me their story of how they got in the village or where they stand in their relationship with God. I was asking them questions, and they were doing the same to me. They were challenging me and asking what I wanted to do with my future. One question was why I want to be a basketball coach. I gave the answer that I always give, I want to coach basketball and help people become better players and people through basketball. This was followed up with what motivates me to coach basketball or how I use basketball to glorify God. That was usually a follow up question that I had for them, and I wasn’t prepared for it as much as I thought I would be. I use basketball to help others, but am I using it to help Gods Kingdom? One of the lessons Ben, Abby and I went over was Matthew 25:14-30, The Parable of the Talents, I made sure to know it inside and out but I wasn’t necessarily applying it to my life. I need to use my talents to help build His kingdom.
There are so many stories that I could share about each kid, but I will only share one. I want to preview this story by saying that throughout our time in Liberia we had difficulties convincing some of the girls to believe and be confident in their abilities. Anyway, we had a big football tournament on the last full day where we split the whole village into six teams. Out of the six teams, only two had a girl as their goalkeeper. As it turns out those two teams were the two teams that made it to the championship. The championship game ended in a tie and both teams wanted to switch their keepers for the game deciding penalty kicks. We stated that the rules were whoever ends the game in goal is the keeper for the penalty kicks. I was standing off to the side and a couple of the girls who weren’t playing came up to me and told me that the two girls in goal were better keepers than the boys that wanted to replace them. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but it was really cool to see that the girls were now confident in each other. They started to believe in one another and they were starting to be confident in their abilities.
When we first got to the village, it wasn’t common for a girl to play football or basketball with the guys. On the day we left that wasn’t the case. The oldest girls convinced the boys to play a football game where all of the girls would play all of the guys. I don’t know what the final score was, but it was really rewarding to see the girls start to believe in themselves to the point of challenging the boys in a game of football. I hope and pray that those girls continue to stay confident in everything they do.
Post Trip: There are a couple takeaways from this trip. Americans and Africans aren’t that much different. Being born an American I won a sort of lottery. I have plenty of clothes and food, I have a roof over my head, I went to high school with public transportation to get to school, and many other things. These are common in America but are not as common throughout Africa. Those things aren’t important when we talk about life after our time on earth. Africans and Americans are all lost sinners who need God. Our time on this earth is temporary but through Christ we are given the opportunity for eternal happiness in Heaven.
I graduated from Indiana University in May and knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Now I question if that is the best way that I can use my talents to grow God’s kingdom. This trip has forced me to reevaluate my life and what I have planned. I don’t know what my future holds, but something I’m meditating on comes from Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
I know even if I don’t see these kids on earth, I will once again be reunited with them in Heaven. I challenge all of you to look at where you are in life and reflect upon the goals that you have for your future. Are you using your talents or planning to use your talents to build the kingdom of our Lord and Savior or are you simply serving yourself?
A huge thank you goes out to everyone who played a role in allowing me to make this trip!
Oral Roberts University Men’s Basketball
To God Be the Glory!
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7/22/2017 07:25:19 pm
Thank you so much for sharing your blessings through this trip and how it is impacting your relationship with God. I enjoyed reading about your experiences. Be blessed as you go forward. Keeping you in prayer.
7/26/2017 10:31:42 am
Man, super excited for you as you are seeking out where the Lord is calling you. God certainly has a plan for your life and I look forward to seeing where He leads you and will be praying for you!
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