Wednesday May 25, 2011

As we packed up our bags to leave the Grace House Resort in Nairobi and set off to begin our adventures in Nakuru, I could hardly believe that our journey is coming to a close. It has been an amazing week and a half, so it was a bitter sweet moment as we began to realize that this is our last opportunity to do sports ministry. We had a long car ride to Nakuru but we were blessed to have an amazing scenic route through the Rift Valley bearing witness to the beauty that God has created. Arriving in Nakuru, we ventured up into the mountains to a school named Mountain Park Academy. I know that the American football players have been chopping at the bit to show that they are good for more than just manual labor (only joking!) but today was finally there time to shine! Mountain Park Academy has the rare quality of knowing a little bit about American football, and in the country where the only real futbol has two goals instead of two uprights, this was a sports ministry opportunity that is few and far between! When we arrived, hundreds of children escorted us up the hill to their field we were to use for the clinic. While the guys took the older boys off to their clinic, many of us spread out around the open field to do various activities. Although the children are coy in the beginning, their fascination and eagerness to play quickly allows us to all become fast friends. Today I suddenly found myself staring at thirty adorable faces gathered all around me, walking with me, following me; their unwavering attention can be intimidating at first, but their admiration for each team member serves as an opportunity for us to serve as role models through Christ. The most precious moment of the day for me was when I asked the children if they knew about Jesus Christ, explaining the six color beads that we have used to tell the story of Christ. When I was finished, I asked if they knew the verse John 3:16. In perfect unison without missing a beat, they recited the verse back to me (ultimate Kodak moment-I just had to ask them to repeat it so I could record those cuties on video!). It was absolutely adorable seeing these young children beginning the foundation for a relationship with Jesus ChristThose thirty little voices reciting the Word of God is perhaps one of the best sounds I have ever heard. We come on this trip to spread Christ’s Love through something that we all love as well: sports, but frequently throughout our journey we encounter moments where the Lord is in fact using those we are helping to spread His Love to us, and those thirty seconds of pure elated joy will be something I take with me forever. After a little time to break the ice, groups were quickly busy laughing and playing. Who knew that Duck, Duck Goose, Red Rover, Miss Sally Walker, getting your hair braided and just silly dancing would still be cheek-hurting-from-smiling-so-much fun when you’re nineteen years old? Some of us soccer (ahem real futbol) players had the opportunity to play a short 8 v 8 game against some of the boys from the school! When the clinic ended and we separated from the children for lunch, I was able to learn from our football players that their long awaited clinic was a huge success! Although they had a little background knowledge, the young football players in fact knew very little. Some could catch, some could throw, but after two hours of teaching routes, blocking formations, and some basic fundamentals, the kids went from knowing nothing to running actual plays! I know the football players were incredibly proud of being able to help the kids and hope they can carry on their newly acquired skills. After a relaxing lunch, we were invited into the school’s assembly hall for a special program that school had rehearsed and presenting to us. Walking into the performance hall, there were hundreds of kids! Children ranging from grades kindergarten through eighth grade performed poems, traditional dances, singing songs, and even performed a skit for us! Many girls wore pretty, colorful skirts, some of the children had paint on their face, which later ended up on the faces of many team memers haha! Dance seems to be a large part of Kenyan culture. Their dances give us a glimpse into their history and how they worship and give thanks, so for them to rehearse and share their culture with us was such a unique experience. We were able to share our knowledge of sports and activities with them, and they were able to share their dance and songs with us! The program was so much fun! After it was finished, the principal shared with us the story of how Mountain Park Academy was founded eleven years ago. It began with the principal’s mother having a vision from God that she was to create a school. With the help of the Kenyan project, an organization starting in Kenyan that eventually grew to the United States, the school flourished through generous sponsors and has even allowed the school to house many of the orphans that attend the Academy. The commitment and dedication of all the teachers and staff through the help of the Kenyan project is unique in that no other outside foreign organization has helped them. Mountain Park Academy has created a sustainable and successful educational institution without the help of missionaries or other organization needing to step in! It was a pleasure to see such a wonderful learning environment. With the departure from the Academy, I knew that although our work, the Academy will continue to grow and I hope that future sports ministry trips will just see how much! Now began the amazing opportunity that not a lot of people will be able to experience in their lifetime. We arrived at Nakuru National Park, the location of our two hotels, and right away the animal kingdom came to life! Little spider monkeys were everywhere! They were adorable but so funny, some ate food off of a team member’s shoulder, one crawled in another teams van and stole food! I hope they enjoyed that peanut butter sandwich! As we drove through the trail to the Lake Nakuru Lodge (we are only saying here for the night and then moving onto our other hotel due to the generosity of the connection between the hotel and the Academy), words cannot describe the beauty of what we have seen. Rolling hills and mountains that looked majestic in the falling night sky, acres upon acres of trees, wildlife all around us. In terms of the Lion King we have already seen: Rafiki, Pumba, the evil hyenas, and Mufasa!! For those who haven’t seen the Disney classic, we have had the amazing opportunity to see monkeys, zebras, flamingos, GIRAFFES!, a lion (our van didn’t see it but there is amazing footage of the lion passing next to one of our vans!), a warthog, and a hyena! The lodge we are staying at is like nothing I have ever seen. I truly cannot believe that this is my life right now! God truly is so great in the wonders that he has created and the opportunities he has blessed each and every one of us with. As I reflect over my week, I am so overwhelmed with emotions, but the largest of them all is my gratitude. Gratitude towards everything that the Lord has blessed us with in America, everything the Lord has allowed us to have a hand in through spreading his Word, and everything that he has created for us to marvel at the beauty of our world. We have seen things that are so haunting we will never forget, innocent children living in filth and tin homes, burning piles of trash, children running around without shoes in a land covered with human waste, but now, as if thanking us, God is showing us his beautiful creation and showing us on the opposite end of the spectrum: natural habitats and creatures that are so beautiful, any words I write will not to it justice.  Currently as I sit staring out at the breath-taking view over onto the mountains on my hotel room porch and look at vast land of the national park, I ask that those who read will continue to pray for not only our safety and our experience, but that you also pray that all the work we have done, whether it is building fences, homes, laying concrete, donating sports supplies, and most importantly spreading the message of God and demonstrating his ministry, continue to become a sturdy foundation for those lives we have affected  remembering our message and inspiring them to continue taking action. Pray that those who are feeling ill on this trip currently to let God heal them so that they can experience these last amazing days in good health. Lastly please pray that the seeds of God’s love we have planted in the lives of every individual we have had the blessed opportunity to meet, grow into something as grand and marvelous as the beauty of this safari land that lays before my very eyes. Thank you so much for all your prayers, we truly appreciate all the love and support. God Bless every one of you.

Taylor Heatherly

“Faith by itself, it it is not accompanied by action, is dead” James 2:17


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Susan Douthit on May 26, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Safe travel to you all. Be inspired, as you leave, that other Christian groups will follow your path and continue the work you have done. Hopefully, many of you will have the opportunity to return to Kenya. Texas will be happy to see each of you return as there are many ministry needs right here at home. As a favor, I would appreciate some of you allowing Taylor to copy your camera cards to have some pics from this amazing 2 weeks as his camera has apparently decided to remain in Kenya and continue working there ! God bless you each and every one..


  2. Posted by Sam on May 26, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Thank you for the update!! Sounds amazing!! Praying!!


  3. Posted by Lindsey Johnson on May 27, 2011 at 4:40 am

    Thanks for keeping us updated!! So amazing to read all of the posts and hear how God is working in everyone’s lives! So thankful for the posts as they provide me with vivid memories of when I was in Kenya 🙂 love you all and continually praying for ya!


  4. Posted by Haylee Abbe on May 27, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Jamboooo! Thank y’all so much for sharing with us! I know probably the last thing you want to do while you’re in Kenya is write, but we all at home really appreciate it! I can’t even tell you what a joy and blessing it is to read about the incredible work y’all are doing everyday and to know that our prayers are being answered as you all continue to impact our friends in Kenya. Sure wish I could have gone again to experience it with you all, but it’s such a blessing to know and see y’all continuing the work and sharing the love!


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