East Africa Update #4

God is good all the time! And all the time, God is good!
It has been quite a full and varied past two days. Yesterday (Thursday) we slept in a bit to kick off our “day off.” It was much need and much enjoyed. After breakfast we piled into two vehicles and headed across the island to check out some several different attractions and sites. Our first stop was off one of the main highways. On a good day you are supposed to see dolphins swimming in the distance. Well, yesterday was a good day. We saw quite a few dolphins not too far off of the coast. The team scrambled down to the water’s edge to get better pictures.
From there we headed up to the some rock formations. We parked the vehicles and hiked about 20 minutes up to these natural rock towers. It is really hard to describe the view and the wind at those rock formations. What a tremendous reminder of God’s creation of the world. Who else could so majestically put this all together? One could see for miles around, with blue water as far as the eye could see.
After hiking down we went to a beach where a local believer rents out cabins on the beach for retreats and various groups. We had a great lunch of rice and chicken before hitting the water. The water was so incredibly clear and warm, with soft white sand for the feet. We enjoyed some frisbee, swimming, and launching people in the air. It was great just to hang out together as a team. And when I say “team” I mean the PTR team, our host workers serving here, and several of the very few local believers in this place. We praise the Lord we have meshed so well together!
After swimming we came back for a time of praise and worship near the beach. Again, what a tremendous encouragement for us to be able to worship with this man and one of his closest friends who is also a believer!
We got home in the early evening, enjoyed dinner, and had some more time together in prayer, sharing some testimonies, and getting ready for Friday. Everyone was pretty well exhausted by the time bedtime rolled around.
This morning (Friday) we were back at clinics, but at two new locations. We split the team up into two groups, but mixed up the two groups so that different people could be working together. One went north up into the mountains to a small village while another team went south to a village. Both villages have basketball teams, but basketball in their communities is a relatively new concept.
Both clinics went extremely well as we enjoyed meeting 45 new kids in the north and 80 new kids in the south. They enjoyed the basketball part, but everyone really gets into the relationship-building. This culture is all about asking questions and building relationships. It is awesome! We had fun but today was blazing hot! Push The Rock was here a number of years ago and it rained (aka absolutely poured) every day. This year we have experienced nothing but sunshine and sweat. We praise the Lord we have not had to cancel any clinics due to rain.
We met back at one of the houses for lunch as we always do and enjoyed a study of Gideon and how God used him in a mighty way to be a “Game Changer” for Him. After team time we headed back to one of the villages from the morning to play a game against their team. It was really hot, but there was a large crowd waiting for us. The guys played really well in the heat and it was a game that went back and forth. We ended up pulling the game out with two free throws with 5 seconds to go. But that was not the exciting part.
The atmosphere for this game was crazy. The court was inside four cinder block walls and they were charging people to come in. So the inside of the complex was crowded with fans lined along the walls while there were plenty of others sitting on top of the walls and perched up on their balconies to catch a glimpse of the game. At half-time they brought out the large drum, which they incessantly beat until the very end of the game. There were pounding the drum and dancing non-stop for the entire second half. It was awesome!
After the game we mingled with the townspeople before being taken on a guided tour of the new high school they are building on top of the hill. They were very proud to show us this and wanted very much for us to come and see it. We were very happy to see what all is happening in the village.
We went home for dinner and showered up in anticipation of the English Club that was meeting tonight. There were 17 people that came for English. It was such a great 90 minutes together of asking questions and getting to know one another. One of the questions we asked each other was around what we believe and what holy books we are reading. As you might imagine, this opened some doors for some pretty interesting conversations. Our team answering the questions one way and our new friends who are learning English answering questions in a very different way. We met some great people from the island and are excited about what God has in store for the rest of our time here.
We are having a blast! We are tired and hot, but it is well worth it. We head back out to the same two villages for clinics tomorrow (Saturday) morning and then both the men and women play tomorrow afternoon.
Thanks for praying for us! We could not be here without you!
The team

 

East Africa Update #3

Time is flying. We have officially been together as a team for one week. As they say, sometimes it feels like much longer, and other times it feels like we got together for training just yesterday.

It is Wednesday night here on “Gilligan’s Island” and we are heading to bed after a long 3 days of clinics in 3 different villages. Yesterday we were at two locations in the morning and then two locations in the afternoon, including a new one. Each one is vastly different. Kids are kids, but we have found that the village up in the mountains is much more secluded, and thus, seem to be enjoying a slower pace of life. They are also not as familiar with basketball as the other two locations.
Between the two clinics we had lunch and then enjoyed our team time talking about Paul as a Game Changer. This is a great 3 hour block of time where we can come together and study Scripture.
After the afternoon clinics the guys and girls split up and went with local workers to enjoy a “free evening.” The ladies spent the evening with the single ladies eating dinner at a local restaurant while the guys went to a home for dinner and played some intense card game. It was a nice break and a great time together!
Everyone slept pretty well last night, even though there have been a few stomach issues along the way. We have had to battle the electricity and water being off frequently, but it has been a reminder that God always provides what we need and that we are tremendously blessed back home where that very infrequently happens.
It was off the two clinics this morning for the third and final day. Both clinics went extremely well and it was really hard to leave. Amazing how attached you get after only 3 days! But we did say good-bye and headed back for lunch. On the way back we managed to pop one of the car tires. Not ideal, but hey, divine appointments come in all shapes and sizes.
Today we spent time looking at Esther and how the Lord used her to save His people. Then it was off to say good-bye to the afternoon clinics. Those also went really well, although today we were in 3 different locations. The team has stepped up tremendously well and has poured into the kids and the communities. Things are constantly changing on the fly and everyone is doing a great job just hanging in there and giving it their all.
We were at a worker’s house for dinner right next to the stadium where we would be playing our games. The women and men both played tonight. Both teams played extremely well, but fell just short. Well, in points that is. I am pretty confident that we left a good testimony out there. These teams were two of the top teams on the island, so the competition was good. Games go really late here so we were not getting home until well after 11 pm. Almost time for bed!
Tomorrow morning we can sleep in a little bit before we head to two other parts of the island to check out the sights and enjoy some time together. We will be doing some hiking and swimming, just what the doctor ordered for a very exhausted team! Then it is back at the clinics Friday morning.
Thanks so much for praying! We could not make it without you!
The team

 

Costa Rica Update #2 May 28, 2013

Buenas Noches!

We apologize for the lack of updates! We were in Los Chiles for the week and didn’t have internet access. However, it was a great time of ministry. More on that in our next update.

We arrived back in San Jose Sunday evening after a relaxing day at the hot springs and a canopy tour.  After a late dinner and Team Time, it was off to bed. However, a few of us awoke to a surprise in the middle of the night. We felt the entire house shaking but we were so tired we rolled over went back to sleep. When we awoke in the morning, we realized that there was an earthquake on the Costa Rica/Panama border. We also realized that out of 14 people only 3 of us felt it and woke up. Not sure how they slept through it! We praise the Lord that no damage was done and we all remained safe.

After all the earthquake talk, we headed to a school in the San Jose area. We had the opportunity to work with over 100 kids throughout the morning. It was a great time of ministry and interacting with the kids. It was our last clinic so it was great to end on a high note.

We then headed back to our house for lunch. After lunch, it was off to the market for an afternoon of shopping. We had a great time hanging out as a team and buying gives for our family and friends.

After shopping, we headed back to the house for dinner and a time of praise and worship with some people from the church PTR has a partnership with. It was a great time of singing in both Spanish and English and then we received a challenge from the Pastor. It was a very encouraging time for all of us and great way to spend our last night in Costa Rica.

After our time of worship,  it was off to pack and get ready to leave tomorrow. Now it is off to bed to prepare for a long day of travel. Thanks for praying!

Pura Vida!

East Africa Update #2

Happy Memorial Day to everyone back home.

We just finished our first day of camps and although we have been here for a full two days now, it seems like we have been here much longer. The Lord has allowed us to experience so many different things already.
Sunday morning we slept in and went to church at one of the worker’s homes. It was great to spend time in worship praying, singing, and studying God’s Word. In the afternoon we had some down time before heading to one of the local courts for practice.
After dinner we came home for dinner and then had prayer time with the local believers. It was a tremendous time of encouragement as we prayed for one another and listened to some of challenges our brothers have in Christ here in this country.
It was time for bed after prayer time so we could get ready for Monday. The team is staying in 3 different homes so the logistics of everything team related is a bit different. So this morning we all met at one of the homes and split up into two groups. Each group went to a different village and ran a 3-hour basketball clinic. One village had 100+ kids and the other one had 90+ kids. Good times when you have one court, 2 hoops, and 15 balls for each clinic. But the kids had a fantastic time, as did the coaches!
In the one village we had no idea whether kids would show up. It is a place the workers here would like to start something but have not done so yet. It was high up in the mountains and it came with gorgeous views of the ocean! About 8 kids were on the court when we first arrived. 15 minutes later we were ready to start, had about 20 kids, and then the singing started. We looked up to our left to where the singing was coming from and saw a very large group of kids coming down the hill singing. They had made a sign that read, “Welcome to our village,” and they sang some songs to go with it. We felt extremely welcome!
We are very excited to be heading back to each of these two villages over the next two days.
In the afternoon we ran another clinic for older kids (18-28) and enjoyed having more of a practice with them. This clinic was in a town we had been to 7 years ago and were happy to head back and see some familiar faces.
We returned to our home base for a quick dinner before heading out to the main stadium for a game under the lights. The ladies played first and played well, but fell just short. The men followed up with a good win against a worthy opponent. Win or lose, we are building some great relationships and look forward to how the Lord will open doors through the clinics and games.
Thank you so much for praying for us! We have clinics in the morning and afternoon tomorrow, but not game in the evening. We are eating dinner in the home of one of the workers and we are looking forward to getting to know them and spending some time together as a team playing games.
Have a great night!
The team

East Africa Update #1

The team arrived this afternoon after two somewhat grueling days of travel. We praise the Lord we arrived safely and that our hosts have received us most graciously. We were supposed to spend all day Friday during our layover in London, seeing the sites. Instead, we spent all day in two airports. There was an emergency that shutdown Heathrow, so we went to Gatwick for a few hours. We flew back to Heathrow and then stood in line for close to 3 hours to get our next tickets. Then we overnighted again in the air on the way to Nairobi, Kenya. We arrived under the cover of darkness so could not really see anything. We watched the beautiful African sunrise while awaiting our flight to our final destination. The Lord treated us to a spectacular view of Mt. Kilamanjaro on our way out. It was crystal clear out and the mountain was snowcapped. After 20 hours of flying and many additional hours waiting for flights, we are exhausted and ready for bed.
We got picked up at the airport and went back to one of our host homes, where we had lunch. After lunch the 18 adults who will be playing in the games went to a local court and practiced on one hoop. We had a blast getting to know one another in this way on the court. It also surprisingly drew quite a crowd. Game on for the two weeks we are here!
We went to a local eatery for some chicken wings and steak shish-kebabs. Tremendous food!
Tomorrow we are having worship with local believers and then will spend the day doing some orientation and also holding another practice in anticipation of Monday’s first games. We will also have a chance to talk through the clinics that will be run starting Monday.
We know you are praying for us and we are eternally grateful! Thank you!
East Africa team

 

Mexico Day 4

Greetings!

Today I am pleased and blessed to report some very encouraging news. After only a few days of camps lives and communities are being changed through an encounter with God.

We have been able to build relationships with many kids and our enthusiastic church partners since we are running clinics at the same location for multiple hours every day this week. Non-Christian and unchurched onlookers or parents of campers have commented that they know God’s presence is here and some have already expressed their interest in learning more.

Moreover, because of our testimonies, service project work and camp interaction, community members are beginning to take ownership of their own park, cleaning up trash of their own accord, looking for ways to serve others during camp, and more. Most importantly, our partners at the church have definitely caught the flame for sports ministry. The children at Real Jardines park don’t want us to leave, but they and the church members remain excited for continuing an ongoing relationship through weekly sports clinics after we depart.

Ramon, a church planter, pastor and president of a prominent seminary in Guadalajara who has been working with us all week said tonight that our team has taught him and his fellow nationals something new: the language of the children. We praise God for using us to bolster our brothers and sisters in Christ in their outreach efforts to the people near them!

Please continue to pray for open hearts tomorrow and Friday mornings as we excitedly return to Instituto Philadelphia school which welcomed us richly and graciously last year.

Mexico Day 3

Hola amigos y familia y hermanos en Christo!

We just finished our first full day of community outreach and soccer camps. This morning we to undertake a few projects under the leadership and with the full blessing of the president of 11 neighborhoods surrounding the church we are partnering with as well as the park in which we will be holding our clinics.

Half of our group combed the local park and picked up five large garbage bags of broken glass, orange juice cartons, dog poop baggies and about any other litter you might imagine strewn on the ground. The other half of our group took up the post-hole digger and cement bucket and installed signs in the park and in nearby street medians commissioned by the community president (or community organizer?) who stopped to pose with the new signs for a few publicity photos. Because of our work in connection with the local church, this woman has opened up facilities she owns for the church to use for meetings and conferences. God has already used us to open doors for his kingdom to expand through this congregation!

According to my best calculations, 53 kids showed up at our first day of camp and we anticipate a greater number in the following days as we return and word spreads around the neighborhood. Church members demonstrated their enthusiasm for sports ministry as they came and helped at our clinic today. We are excited for the ways in which God will use sports ministry through the local church in the near future even after we leave.

Thank you for your prayers; we love you all! Blessings upon you.

Costa Rica Update #1 May 19, 2013

After an early start to the day, we arrived safely in Costa Rica with no travel glitches. At the airport, we boarded our bus to head to our hotel. Along the way we enjoyed the breathtaking views.

After we settled into our hotel, we walked down the street to the park. We had a great time throwing footballs, losing our frisbee, practicing our lacrosse skills, and interacting with some of the kids at the park.

After the park, we had an amazing dinner of chicken, rice, and beans. We finished our night with our first Team Time in Costa Rica!

We are all looking forward to a good night sleep. Tomorrow we take a four hour bus ride to los Chiles, where we will minster this week. Please pray as we share through sports clinics and water filter demonstrations, that the gospel of Jesus Christ will be evident in our attitudes, actions, and words. Thanks for praying!

Pura Vida!