Zambia Trip Update #4 July 23, 2013

As we walked to the school today, we all felt the effects of Monday’s events!  That however, did not stop the team from rising to the wonderful occasion and opportunity to invest 100% of their energy and love into the lives of the children and teachers.  Two of our team members shared their testimonies with the school to begin the day and then we were back out on the soccer, or football, field for more games, skill training, and competitions.

We have been so encouraged by some of our Zambian friends who have been really involved in the ministry this year.  They’ve been a much needed resource to help us run the clinics each day, and have been so gracious in walking with us nearly everywhere we go.  They are a blessing for sure, and each of us is enjoying getting to know them more and more with each passing day.  The day at camp went a little smoother than the day before in that Monday’s are always the crazy day since it is the first of the week, teams are made, the routines are explained etc. Today was much more streamlined and the children (and teachers!)  were ready and excited for day 2.

Today many of the children noticed that the back of our shirts have the Tonga word, ‘atuyandane,’ written on them.  They asked how we got that word on there!  We tried to explain that in the USA they’ll print what we ask them to, but they wondered how they knew Tonga! So again we explain that if we ask them to put it on the shirt, it will be done.  You see, atuyandane means ‘let us love one another,’ and that’s been our message this week.  As believers in Christ, that must be our goal.  The neat thing is, months ago when this was printed on these shirts, we could not possibly know that when we would arrive here, the verses these children would recite every morning this week would be I Corinthians 13:1-8.  If you didn’t know, those verses focus solely on love!  So that’s kind of neat…

After another tasty lunch we spent some time as a team discussing Esther and her courage in the face of uncertainty, fears, and potential death, before heading back out to the road to walk another 35 minutes to our afternoon friendly match!  Today’s field was in the middle of the ‘bush,’ nestled between some villages, and the other team greeted us warmly as they always enjoy some friendly competition.  It was a good game and when the dust(literally) settled it was still 0-0 despite some good chances for both sides.  Afterwards we gathered for a photo together, as well as for prayer.  By the end of the game there was a good group of children that had been singing and cheering with some of our subs.  What a joy to see when you are playing…team members subbing out of the game so that they can go spend time with the children watching.  It’s worth playing a ‘man down’ when that’s the reason.  Awesome.

We walked home as the sun fell, reaching our dorm as it became dark.  We were able to notice the amazing brightness and beauty of the African night sky as we walked to a local missionary’s house for dinner, which did not dissappoint.  After some good conversation and helping to do dishes we headed ‘home’ for the night.  A team member shared his ‘story’ with the group and we ended the night in prayer.

All are pretty exhausted, but all is going so well.  The team is doing a great job, and we look forward to another great day here in Macha tomorrow!

Tuyobonana ijunza!(We will see you tomorrow!)

The team

 

Zambia Trip Update #3 July 22, 2013

It was an awesome start to the week today!  We began the day(after breakfast) with a 30 minute walk to the school, enjoying the cool temperatures of the morning.  We met with the teachers for prayer, followed by the morning chapel time with all the children as well. There we received quite the welcome.  After their normal routine, we each introduced ourselves, and then all the teachers joined in a dance/song to officially welcome us…which ended in us dancing with them as well, much to all the students delight!  Now that we have been to this school 3 consecutive years, we have been able to build a great relationship, and it is special to be a part of it.  The teachers and children look forward to this week because they know they’ll play soccer, they know they’ll have fun, but yet they also know that the real reason we are here is because of Jesus’s love and mercy, and it is great to have the responsibility to share our testimonies with them!

With around 130 students in all, we divide the day into 3 sections.  The first group that comes out to the field once chapel wraps up is the pre k and kindergarten group.  As most of these children are 3 or 4, we concentrate mostly on general motor skills like running, jumping and skipping.  We have a blast encouraging them in relay races, and even the teachers get in on the action!  Following some time with the ‘babies’ we then received grades 1-3, which is around 50 children full of energy.  They came running…

We broke them into 4 teams assigned to their coaches for the week.  Their first assignment, a team name.  We had names from Tigers to the Zambian Lions.  After a warm up time, we broke into skill stations, followed by a rousing coach/teacher challenge of Head It/Catch It.  The children love cheering for their team representative(s), and laughter and groaning always follows when someone is eliminated. We taught them this game last year, it seems as their skills improved! Ha.

We got a welcomed break then, a time to drink some water and eat a few snacks we packed in the morning.  It was also a nice time to chat with each other and to get to know our Zambian brothers that have joined us for the day/week.  They are a tremendous blessing to us to say the least.  Grades 4-7 followed break, and in much the same fashion as the previous group we made our teams for the week.  It is fun to see how much more advanced the skills are as the ages get older.  We ended the time together with prayer as the students went back to their classes, and we headed back on our walk home for lunch.

Lunch was amazing to say the least, the ladies really prepare great meals for us!  Following lunch we had a bit of down time for our later afternoon friend soccer match with a local high school boys team.  Some chose to read, others chose to nap, and others chose to help kill a snake(just a cobra, no worries) that was found nearby.  No problem, no one was even close to being harmed, except of course the snake which ended up dead.

So after that excitement it was time to walk to the game.  We were greeted by lots of excited boys, and a few teachers, who would play against us.  The game ended 2-2, but if we are being honest, the other team definitely dominated!  Our team was greatly aided by our Zambian contingent who love to join the PTR squad each year, and of course it’s a challenge to play on a field that looks like none other we’ve ever experienced…not to mention playing with a team that you’ve never played with before!  But it ended with lots of smiles and handshakes, as well as prayer together in the center of the field as the sun fell.  They actually wanted a rematch, so we’ll go back on Wednesday!

We walked home for dinner as the full moon rose above the trees – what a sight in the Zambian bush.  God’s beauty in creation is never far here, that’s for sure.  After dinner, and helping to do dishes, we met team time.  First we discussed what made Jonathan a ‘game changer’ for Christ, as we were equally challenged to be bold for His glory.  Following the lesson, and some singing, we had one of our Zambian brothers share his testimony with us.  We have been blessed to have him with us since the team arrived, and as he returns to his studies tomorrow in a far off part of the country, our team will miss him tremendously for who he is, and for the love of Christ he shines through all he does.

It has been a great day, an encouraging day, and a tiring day!  So we’ll head to bed and do it all over again tomorrow…and we are thankful for that!

Good night for now!  Thank you for praying.

The team

 

Zambia Trip Update #2 July 21, 2013

Our first full day in Macha did NOT disappoint!

After a much needed night of rest, our team started the day with a little jog to work ‘the kinks out.’  Some chose to go farther than others, and some chose to sleep in a bit longer, but all did their best to work off the long flight from the day before.  It was the standard beautifully sunny, cloudless blue sky day here, which made for a wonderful morning run.  The temperature at sunrise is usually around 45-50 degrees, and by mid afternoon near 80…with no humidity.  So no, we are not suffering in hot weather like many of you back in the USA.

Because of our daily schedule, we are preparing our own breakfasts in the little kitchenette here in our dorm.  This morning’s breakfast highlight was a couple of our team members adding peanut butter to their cereal in order to enhance the flavor!  And yes, they did add milk too.  What matters is that they ate it all, and seeming enjoyed it.  The rest of us stuck to more normal things like toast and jam, oranges, bananas, and cereal…without peanut butter.

Church begins at 10:15, and from here its about a 10 minute walk, so we started off a little before 10am to ensure we got there in plenty of time for:  1.  Seats together  2.  The beautiful singing that starts the worship time.   I think it’s safe to say all of us were moved by the passion and energy shown by our Zambian brothers and sisters in Christ as many choruses were sung with energy, passion, and dancing. Once the choruses ended, the visitors(that’s us, and a few others too) were invited to the front of the church to introduce ourselves.  It can be a little intimidating standing in front of 800 people, especially when you don’t speak the same language! Thankfully the services here are always translated, so no matter if you understand English or Tonga…or both, all are able to understand!

The pastor shared a sermon titled “Saved to Serve,” with the scripture lesson from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.  He challenged us to respond to the divine calling God has placed in our lives as believers and to make it our ambition to please Him in ALL things.  “Our character should be a sermon to those around us,” he shared, being sure we also “are loving one another.”  It was something that surely we can not hear enough, and definitely an appropriate challenge for our days ahead!

After the service we were invited to sign the visitors’ book and to be personally welcomed by some of the church staff and included a cold drink and a few cookies.  The hospitality was humbling, and it was great to meet our fellow visitors as well.

Lunch was another tasty meal prepared by our 3 wonderful cooks here, they do a great job, that’s for sure.  We spent time pumping soccer balls, gathering all the equipment, and getting ready for the clinics this week.  One of our Zambian friends/teammates came to join us as we took a little walking tour of the hospital community we are in.  With in a few minutes, we had an entourage of little children following us, so we talked to them and took pictures with them as they laughed and giggled.  We’ll see them around while we are here, and some of them even will be at the school(s) we will run clinics, so that’s even better!

Our afternoon ended with a marathon game of basketball which went till the darkness was nearly upon us.  It was so much fun though.  There were lots of smiles and tons of laughing, as well as running!  There were some children there watching, and as our subs were off the court, they were busy dancing and singing and cheering with the group of ‘little’ fans.  It is going to be a great two weeks.

Team PTR came up a little short…(we’re soccer players let’s be serious!), but the game ended with hugs, high fives, and lots of smiles and that’s a lot like winning in our book.  We walked to dinner at a local missionaries house where we had meat pies and popcorn,  lots of fresh veggies, pumpkin bread, and plenty of water to replenish what was lost in the LONG game mentioned above.  It was  a great way to end the day.

After helping with dishes we walked home in the beauty of a full moon(no flashlights needed!) and we gathered for prayer together and the finalizing preparations for the week ahead at the school we’ll be working at.  It will be an amazing week, and we are so excited for the clinics to begin tomorrow!  Thanks for praying!

Goodnight from Zambia,

The team

Zambia Trip Update #1 July 20, 2013

Mwabonwa! (welcome!)

This is the greeting in Tonga we will hear a lot of while in southern Zambia!  All have arrived safely in Macha after nearly 17 hours of flying, followed by a 3.5 hour drive here in Zambia.  All our bags arrived with the group, which is always encouraging, especially when there is only a 2.5 hour layover between flights, so for EACH bag to make it to the next plane is quite a blessing.

In Macha we were greeted by lots of warm faces…and a tasty meal of rice and chicken with fresh green beans and fruit salad(fresh of course).  It was a welcomed meal for all and now we are settling in for the night, resting up for what will be an amazing time here.  We are very excited to join the local church service tomorrow  and for those returning members of our team, it will also be great to see so many friends from the past.

Thanks for all the prayers, they are much needed and very much appreciated!

Good night for now, as we dream of the days to come here in southern Zambia.

The team

Madrid Day 7 – July 13, Saturday 2013

The last full day has arrived and we set out together on one more adventure.  After breakfast, we gathered at the train station to head into the major world city known as Madrid.  Being a city and a province, the name Madrid covers a lot of territory.  Our excursion took us into the city center to see some of the famous building and places in this metropolitan city.  Walking around from one site to another, we saw all of the great things Madrid had to offer.  In between stops, we have a wonderful lunch at an outdoor cafe on one of the pedestrian streets in the city.  As the sun rose, the air remained cool as a soft breeze blew gently blew, keeping us cool in the shade of the cafe’s umbrellas.  Having a found a great “menu del dia”, the cafe offered a great selection and wonderful view.  It was a refreshing time as time stood still for us as we engaged in conversation and reveled in our time here in Spain.  Enjoying the company of believers on a beautiful day in the heart of Spain has a wonderful way of showing us the grace and mercy of our great God.  Upon our return to our homes, we rested about before our team’s debrief meeting.  Always an important time, the debrief allows us to review what God has done through us, with us, in us, and despite us.  It is a great time of reflection on who He is and what He can do. Following the debrief, we enjoyed our last supper here with our hosts.  Heading to bed is a hard thing to do, but a necessity as we will need our strength to make the long journey home tomorrow.  By God’s grace, we can look back on the week and praise Him for all that has been done in His name and for all the glory He has received.

For the team,
Coach Brendan

Czech Republic #5

Friday

Day 5, our last day, of baseball camp.  Where has the week gone?

We have been blessed with truly great weather throughout the week of camp.  NO humidity and warm temps have made it great to be at camp.

The team has been working hard with each of the campers, to learn baseball skills.  It has been quite a challenge for us this week, as we have had various skill level with no prior baseball experience to having played for several years or more.  To be more effective, we continually evaluated our schedule each day, and worked hard to make camp a fun learning experience.

It was another great day for us, as we incorporated several very different games into the day.  Games that weren’t really baseball, but required the skills needed for baseball.  Actually, we even modified ultimate Frisbee, and called it ultimate baseball, and they seemed to enjoy the game.

We ended the camp on Friday afternoon with our last ‘scrimmages’ for the week.  It was good to see that there was noticeable improvement from the beginning of the week.  It may have been small or large improvements, but either way, it was good to see that we made that kind of impact.

We can only hope that God will use the small seeds that were planted and begin to see them grow.

Lastly, as a team we took one last evening trip to Prague.  Prague at night is absolutely amazing and was a great way to end our day.

Saturday

Our day off, and time to take in the sights of  Castle Konopiste.  It has quite a unique history and our tour of the castle allowed us to enjoy seeing quite the collection of very old armory used in the 1600’s and 1700’s.  We were able to meet up with a few friends from the states and another missionary couple to the Czech Republic and enjoyed time together eating lunch at the castle restaurant.

One last trip into Old City Prague, and then back to the house to begin our packing for home. We would appreciate your prayers for our travel day tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers this week.  God has certainly been good to us, and we pray that hearts will be changed and open to Him.

 

Madrid Day 6 – July 12, 2013 Friday

Well, it is here.  The day we knew was coming but didn’t expect to see so soon.  It feels like we just arrived a day ago, but as we look back at all that God has done since we arrived, we are amazed at how He is creating opportunities for us share His love and make a difference in the lives of others.  The morning devotional time was lead by missionary Mark who shared with us the ways God is changing hearts in the town of Arroyomolinos.  People have been sharing with us the differences they are seeing in us compared to what they are used to seeing in basketball teams.  We are so pleased with how God is opening the eyes of those around us to begin to see Him more clearly.  The clinic today had a low of 86 kids, but with a high of 97ºF, there was plenty of sun and warmth for everyone to share.  Working with the kids at the clinic was the main portion of the morning as it has been all week and the coaches placed an emphasis on the fun activities and drills that the kids enjoyed earlier in the week.  The pool time was great as we had a chance again today (like the previous days) to enjoy the beautiful Madrid.  Some coaches were playing with the kids in the water, others choose to stay poolside, but all enjoyed the warmth and the steady breeze of a summer Madrid day.  Lunch again was held at our same restaurant and today the experience was even better.  The waitstaff had anticipated our needs and automatically moved to accommodate us.  The food was just as good as we remember it from 24 hours ago and the atmosphere also remained quaint and private.  After a good meal and stimulating conversation, we began to prepare for Team Time.  The waitstaff began again to attend to our needs even before we made a move.  Taking care of the simple things, they allowed us to better focus on our Time Time and our meeting.  We also solved the mystery of Sajid (Venezuelan and Canarian from Tenerife) as he gave his powerful testimony.  Sharing about God’s grace Sajid told the story of his life and God’s involvement in it.  Dan gave the lesson from Joseph as we then talked about trustworthiness and being responsible.  We were able to took a quick look at the nearby ‘Zandux’ mall where the mall has an indoor 200M high ski slope.  Following our short trip to see only 1 of 3 of these in the world, the coaches made thier way to the stadium where the week’s closing ceremonies were being held.  The church was granted use of the stadium by the town hall who has been so gracious to offer it to us to use.  We had a short program where we were able to thank those who helped make the week possible and award our sportsmanship awards to those kids who demonstrated those things that are so important to us.  We were also able to give out a certificate of participation to all the kids who attended the clinic.  The certificates were significant because the town hall produced them for us, showing joint participation in the week.  Their support was so integral to the success of our mission and it was incredible to see how accommodating and helpful they have been.  The night ended with a great meal back at our host homes and then it was off to sleep again.  As we laid our heads on our pillows, smiles run far across our faces since our joy has come from serving Him.

For the team,
Coach Brendan

Madrid Day 5 – July 11, 2013 Thursday

Starting at 68º, we began another day in sunny Madrid.  Seeing no rain at all so far this week, we have been treated to blue skies and occasional white clouds.  With the schedule set as before, we worked our way through the morning with 103 kids and then on to lunch and Team Time.  Oscar, a member of one of the churches we are working with brought his guitar to Team Time and led us in three praise and worship songs.  We then heard testimonies from Brandon and Dwight with a lesson from Gideon given by Jamie.  Back at the gym, we played 5 v 5 with some of the kids from the morning and had lots of fun running up and down the court.  Not long after we finished with the kids, we played our third and final competitive game of the trip.  We played the same team we played on Tuesday night, this time without PTR Missions Director Chico.  A very good game, PTR played hard and well.  With the half time score of 35-59, PTR looked like they had the game in the bag.  However, the Arroyomolinos team fought their way back and by the end of the third, they were only down by 1 point.  With tired legs and hurting bodies, PTR pushed their way through the quarter, but came up short at the final buzzer 83-80.  A final attempt to tie the game and send it into overtime was missed and the home team won, splitting the series against PTR 1-1.  The testimony of Push the Rock was evident to the 115 fans in the stands as well.  People have been commenting to missionary Mark and missionary Sheri the differences they have seen in the play of the PTR team.  At the end of the game, Coach Brendan thanked the official for his work refereeing the game, he also thanked the official for teaching him some of the detailed rules of international play.  In response to that, the official thanked PTR for teaching him a few new things, too.  The effect that PTR has had on the community is wonderful and new stories of connectivity and openness are confirmation that God is working in the hearts of those who have been exposed to the Gospel through the PTR team.  The prayers of those who have committed to pray for us are being answered and we have answered the call to serve Him.

For the team,

Coach Brendan

Madrid Day 4, July 10, Wednesday 2013

A nice, cool morning is a great way start the day.  The sun starts to rise but is not overhead yet and the cool breeze allows us to enjoy another morning.  With the temperatures dropping into the high 70’s, sleeping is easy after long, busy days.  The routine continues as the previous days have with breakfast in the morning, the devotional thought for the day to start us off, and then to the gym for the clinic.  Turnout for the day dipped to 96 kids as the temperature rose to 95º F.  The kids seem to enjoy the day and the clinic and are having fun as they interact with the coaches.  Jamie brings a big smile to the kids as he always can be found with a small group huddled around him.  The other coaches are as heavily invested as well and its great to see them working hard with the kids during the clinic.  Lunch was held at the same place the past two days and we seem to be making an impact in those who are employed there.  This is evidenced when the waitstaff would not accept the tip.  They are giving us a special place in the restaurant for our Time Time meeting and have even opened up a bit to allow us to continue to gather for our meeting.  We pray that the time spent there will increase the interest of the waitstaff and the owners to know more about who we are and why we meet.  Lord willing, this will give an open door to share the Gospel with them sometime in the future.  Back in the gym for our open gym time with the kids, we were again able to interact with them and play with them.  The game tonight had us playing against the best team we have played against in the 5 years that PTR has been in Spain.  Our opponent is from a town called Getafe and is a First National team, one level below the professional level.  With 71 fans in the stands, PTR was up 24-21 at the end of the first quarter and up 50-37 at the end of the first half.  By the end of the third quarter, PTR had remained ahead 68-63.  With the final 10 minutes of the game, the Getafe team used their strong legs to finish the game ahead, 93-82.  Push the Rock played hard and well, giving a great testimony of what God has been doing in their lives and showing others how to use the game of basketball to share the Love of Christ.  The love of the Lord was even evident to the official who was able to notice that PTR is not like the other teams he has seen.  We are grateful to God for all of the doors He has opened for us while here in the great city of Arroyomolinos, Madrid.

For the team,
Coach Brendan