Wow it is hard to believe that we have been in Nigeria for over a week now. I have battled back and forth on whether to keep this short and just tell a few stories but that would keep me from telling all that God has already done in just the one week that we have been here. I knew the minute that we landed, got our luggage and made our way through customs that the Lord had his hand over this trip. Going through customs is not always the easiest but that evening it was. As we told the officials that we were missionaries going to the Rafiki Village, one of the guards said that was home for him. They said "you are here to bless others so go and be blessed." They even helped us with our luggage all the way to our car where we met our full time missionary Doug. Since it was going to be a five hour drive to Jos - where the village is located - we stayed in a hotel the first night. We woke up bright and early and left the hotel at 6:30 that morning. The drive was beautiful, full of nature and mountains. I was still kind of sleepy and was going to take a nap but I didn't want to fall asleep because I didn't want to miss seeing anything.
We finally arrived to the village and some of the boys helped us with our luggage to our cottage. We got settled in and went and ate lunch with Doug and his wife Carolyn at their house. After lunch we went to the dining hall and started getting all of the donations prepared to hand out to the kids. Our village has a group of teenagers who had just graduated so they joined us to help set up and pass the gear out. The excitement kept building for all of us as we got ready to meet all of the kids. It has been a little while since Nigeria has had mini missionaries come over so the kids were all very quiet and shy at first. It was so awesome to see the excitement in their faces when they received their new gear. We are very fortunate that most of the kids in this village are teenagers so we really get to teach them the skills of the sports as well as how to show the love of Christ through sports.
We started the first week off with teaching basketball. I was very nervous going into the first few days of teaching. Then I had to remember I am not doing this for myself and it doesn't matter if I look silly teaching them. I had to remember my focus is to do this for the lord. We learned very quickly that it is rainy season here right now. When they told us that it might rain in the afternoons I just figured it would be a light sprinkle. Oh no - It's incredible! They get a down pour of rain and even a little hail. We have been fortunate enough that it hasn't effected teaching them too much. We just transition inside and try to continue to teach what we can. One of the days we showed game film from the OU/Kansas men's basketball game. We had them pick a team to cheer for which was fun for me since I am from Oklahoma. It was almost as if I brought Oklahoma to Nigeria. We had to stop the film after the first overtime because it was dinner time. They asked us who won and we kept telling them that they will have to see when we finish it. When we first started going over the basics of ball handling and dribbling some of the kids picked it up quickly and some struggled. One of my favorite things to watch was some of the older boys, who already understood the concept, start to help and correct the ones who were struggling. You can really see great leadership within the oldest kids and the graduates. By the end of the week we were able to play some 5 on 5 and you would have thought they had been practicing for over a year. They are taking in the skills we are teaching them and applying them and even continuing to practice them on their own time.
We have the privilege to join the kids for lunch and dinner as well as nightly devotions in their cottages. It is an honor to be given the opportunity to be invited into their home and join in devotions. Every Friday we have devotions all together and worship. The power of God that is moving when these kids are singing at the top of their lungs and worshiping is unexplainable. God has given some of them a wonderful talent to be able to play the guitar and sing. These kids want to spend every minute possible with us that they can. They really have opened up and started asking questions. They called me auntie at first until they learned my name which then became auntie Ashton. After my first night with the two girl graduates, they asked if I had a nickname. I told them I go by Ash back home and they are more than welcome to call me that. It eventually trickled down to where they all have begun calling me Ash. There is something special about these kids and this village. God is really doing something big over here. They have deep questions that I wouldn't have even thought to ask when I was their age. Marea and I both recently graduated college so it is exciting to have the privilege to be able to mentor the graduates who are getting ready to go off to college. I am blessed to be able to teach them what my parents taught me before going off to college. We have discussions about our faith and standing strong throughout college as well as surrounding themselves around the right friends.
I was blessed to be able to spend my birthday on the 24th with all of these wonderful amazing kids. I didn't fully realize how we were impacting them until Saturday morning. There was a knock on the door with a birthday card delivery. I couldn't help but cry because one of the girls had wrote me and said "I know we haven't been together for long but I love you, I love Marea, I love Drew, and I love Adam. It really means a lot more to me than you can imagine that you delight in being with us and teaching us." I am so glad God has blessed me to be able to come here and share the word with them. I had another one of the kids tell me that he really liked that we used sports to teach the Bible and that it was something different compared to what all of the other mini missionaries tried to do. It's exciting that we are coming over here and actually making a difference. Sunday morning we were able to walk to church with the kids. If I told anyone back home that we were going to walk 30 min to church and back they would look at me like I was crazy. We forget how blessed we are sometimes. After lunch we were able to go on a hike with the older kids. As we are walking we are playing music and they chose the "lucky ones" by Lecrae. I am walking and they are all singing along and I turn around and realize they are holding hands. Later I took the time to sit down and listen to the words of the song and realized how powerful the song is and I just begin to cry. They are the Lucky ones! I ask as you continue to pray for us that you take the time to go and listen to the song. I hope it changes you like it changed me! I came here to share God and his blessings with them, but I think they are blessing me more!
University of Tulsa
To God be the Glory!
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