Update: Life Since Uganda

By: Mary Bokenkamp, Lady Raider basketball player

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It is hard to believe that four months have passed since our long journey to Uganda.  During our two-week stay, life and time came to a halt. Jokes were made about “Africa time” on a daily basis, due to the “we go when we go” attitude of everyone there compared to the punctuality of a group of Division I athletes.  Needless to say, this attitude quickly diminished upon our return to the states. We began classes and workouts within days of being back on American soil. Real world mode set in and has been on full blast ever since.

Life for me has been slightly different than for the majority of our group. I graduated in May and was finished playing my four years of basketball. My life now revolves around having a job and finding my identity outside of my sport. It has not been easy adjusting to a life where athletics does not plan my day.  I get stuck going through the motions and being caught up in the unnecessary evils of everyday life. That was until I received an uplifting email from one of the students I became close with in Uganda.

1Sulayi was one of the first Secondary School students I formed a bond with.  He and I talked for a few hours while we painted the boys’ dorm on their school campus. Although he was quiet at first, he began to tell me about who he was. He is 18 years old and loves to run. Running has never been my favorite activity, so he instantly earned my respect! Everyday after that we bonded through athletics and The Lord. He became a great friend. The day we left, he asked for my email address. He said his father uses email so he would write me sometime. Sure enough, he did.

 

It was an amazing feeling to know that he still remembers me there and is excited for us to return. The friendships and relationships that we built with the people in the village of Bukaleba were real. Our trip was not merely one of service, but of one where God connected people.  It wasn’t about the painting or teaching, but about seeing the love of God reach all ends of the earth. I am a witness to God’s love bringing those together who otherwise would have never united.  I cannot wait to return to all the great people of Uganda!

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The Red Raider Tournament

An excerpt from the journal of Minta Spears, Basketball:

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Before Sports Day: 

“Today is sports day which the school officially named the Red Raider Tournament. I am really excited about it, but I am also dreading the day because I have to say goodbye to the kids. I’m going to cry like a baby. The kids are great and they just want guidance and instruction in their lives. I’m sad to leave them and I feel helpless, but I have to remember they are in a good situation at Arise Africa schools and God will take care of them.”

After Sports Day:

“The sports day was really long, but it was really fun at the same time. We started the morning with an opening ceremony by singing the Ugandan national anthem, Arise Africa school song, and the Tech school song. Then our team performed “Party in the USA” for the kids, and they thought was hilarious. After singing and a few words from the headmaster of the school, we started the games which included American football, volleyball, kickball, and soccer penalty kicks in the case of a tiebreaker.

The students are very competitive. Twenty student-athletes combined with competitive students made for an interesting day. Mary, Jon, Tory, and I were the coaches for Team Love. (The school is divided into houses named Love, Joy, Peace, and Patience). We lost to Kelsi in American football by one touchdown, but made it to the finals in volleyball and kickball. We won the championship in volleyball but lost in kickball, so Team Love had 3 wins and Team Joy had 3 wins, so we had to go to penalty kicks to break the tie breaker. Thankfully we had good soccer players, and Team Love won the Red Raider Tournament!! When we won, the kids went crazy! They jumped up and down in a circle, and then they all chained arms and sprinted down the field. I legitimately felt like we had won a championship equivalent to the NCAA National Championship; that’s how excited they were.

At the closing ceremony, there were dances and speeches (everything in Uganda is very formal and cerimonial). We also got to handout the medals. The kids’ faces lit up when we placed the medal around their neck; they were so proud.

After the ceremony, they honored us as guests with a bull roasting. Yes, it is what it sounds like. They roast pieces of bull on a stick, and them you eat it. We also had to say goodbye to all the kids which was really hard. Throughout the week, I made so many connections with so many of the kids. I was probably closest to a little boy named Ronny who was 13 years old; he wrote me the sweetest letter that made me tear up. Emma, Gloria, Esther, Massa, Charles, and Morriss also made huge impacts on me. Even though our team was suppose to come to Uganda to help and teach these kids, I feel like they thought me way more than I could have ever imagined. I am so grateful to witness the blessings God has brought to us on this mission trip; I will never forget these people and the friends I have made.”

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For What Words Can’t Explain…

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Lessons from a Chewy Bar

An excerpt from the journal of Paige Strahan, Sophomore, Soccer:

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“Today Hayley told us about an amazing story. A child named Damian, who is in the orphanage. Hayley gave him a Chewy Bar to eat and said he was so excited because he had never had one before. Instead of eating the whole thing himself he split it up and gave it to his friends without them even asking for it. I really can’t even wrap my head around this story because any normal kid would have hid the chewy bar and then ate the whole thing them self, i would have definitely done that. It’s funny to think that before coming over here I had the vision that I was going to teach them so many new things but here lately I feel like it has been so backwards. Tonight we went out into the village and went hut to hut sharing the name of Jesus. Thankfully every hut I visited had already come to know Jesus.  The last home we visited had a 10 year old daughter that was born normal but as time progressed she slowly became more and more paralyzed. It was so humbling that God chose me to be there to pray for her. Mallory, Hayley and I all got on our knees surrounding the little girl praying for God’s will to be done. I will never be able to put into words the exact feeling of that moment but I know it will live with me forever.”

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Pitch This!

Sometimes the bus ride from the guesthouse to the school gets a little long….

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Day 4 in Uganda!

This morning, a couple of the people on our team woke up not feeling too great, but they did not let that stop them as we headed to the secondary school to paint the boys’ dormitory.  We painted the entry way and the long, narrow room that holds the bunk-beds

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After painting, we headed back to the guesthouse for lunch.  Then, we went to the babies’ home to teach more fruits of the Spirit.  Kelli and Kellyn taught kindness, and Kaiti and Tory taught about goodness using a skit about the Good Samaritan.  The kids loved it!  Next, we went to the guesthouse where Pastor Smooth from Arise Africa prepared our team to share the Gospel in the village.  It was going to be the first time to evangelize for a lot of our kids.  We headed out into the village where we divided up into groups of about 3-4 with a translator alongside us.  We went from hut to hut talking about Jesus and praying with people.  Many of the people in the village were believers – however, on this day, our team prayed with 9 people to receive Christ for the very first time as their Lord and Savior!  Glory!  It was so much fun to interact with the people in the village.  They were so gracious and kind – and all the children followed along behind us everywhere we went.

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Although most of us were nervous, apprehensive, and/or downright scared of evangelizing – at the end of the day, everyone was blessed to the fullest, and it was a time we will never forget!!

From Kelli Hine, Tennis:  “The kingdom grew yesterday as souls were won through You!  From hut to hut we carried Your word, we bore Your cross, we loved with Your heart.  Your children followed hand in hand.  Through prayers through the name of Jesus, Satan was struck down and destroyed.  He became no more.  MY GOD REIGNS!!!”

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Day 3 in Uganda!

The following text is a journal entry from one of our team members, Lexie Chapman, Freshman, Texas Tech University:

“I lied, today was my favorite day!  The morning started out like normal, but this time I tried the pancakes for breakfast, and they were so good too!  These Ugandans know how to cook! Then we went to the secondary school to play games.  We got to spend a lot of time with them today!  They did so good at kickball and were able to pick up volleyball very quickly.  They are so athletic!  It was just a blast because as they would go up to kick the ball, Alexis and I would make up chants/songs with their names.  It was so fun and they loved it!  Then, as we’d switch to the outfield, I’d high-five the kids and just try to constantly encourage them.  They started to encourage each other too!  Because of that we were able to establish a level of commonality: a “we” instead of “us” and “them” mentality.  So as we switched to different games, talking became easier and relationships were built.  One of my favorites is named Gloria.  She’s 14 yrs. old, wants to be a doctor, and has a beautiful singing voice.  I loved that by the time the day was over, we were all hugging.

After lunch, we went to the primary school and taught them about peace and patience.  While walking over, I gave little John a piggyback ride.  After the Bible lesson and craft, we were off to the secondary school again.  We had a worship service, and I got to help lead the songs with Hayley, Minta, Sam, Kelli, and Haley S.  Then, Kelli, Kelsi, and Mary shared their testimonies.  They were all so powerful!  God truly spoke through them.  Then, we closed by splitting up into small groups and praying for each other.  After that, there was a newfound sense of community among all of us.

Oh, and Alexis and I learned today that the “peace” hand sign in America means “I have to potty” in Uganda…..no wonder they looked at us so funny!!  LOL  It was such a marvelous day.  There is beauty and love all around us.  God is here.

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