We are excited to share with you a recap of our recent trip to Nairobi, Kenya with a group of our young Christians who are pursuing a career in the sport industry. On June 3rd our team of seven USG members and three staff took off to Kenya. This was our team:
Tom Doran- Assistant Basketball Coach, SUNY Oneonta
Conrad Chow- Basketball Analyst, Pro Insight
Garrett Sons- Student Football Equipment Manager, University of Oklahoma
Samantha Williams- Assistant Athletic Advisor, University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC)
Ian Keiderling- Women's Basketball Coach, Graceland College (Iowa)
Emma Prillaman- Women's Basketball Student Manager, University of Virginia
Erin Couwenhoven- Customer Service Manager, Uncommon Sports Group
Mikey Carpenter- Senior Engagement Associate, Uncommon Sports Group (staff)
Seth Ralston- Ministry Operations & Event Manager, Uncommon Sports Group (staff)
Sports Camps at Huduma Center
Our first week in Kenya was spent serving the youth at a local school called Huduma Center, located in the Kawangware slum. Kawangware is one of Africa’s biggest slums situated about 9 miles west of Nairobi in Kenya. It is a city of makeshift homes filled with hundreds of thousands of residents, struggling to survive on around fifty dollars a month. The Kawangware slum lies between Lavington Estate and Dagoretti. It spans approximately 2 miles and has a population of over 80,000 people, many of whom are children. Over 65 percent of the adult population have no permanent job and are without access to education. Some of the population turns to prostitution or crime to make money; others become pregnant and continue their struggle to survive. Many children in the slum do not attend school. Water supplied by the city authority is not available every day. Safe drinking water in Kawangware is scarce and expensive. Water-borne diseases, respiratory pneumonia, aspiratory pneumonia, and malaria are prevalent as well as many other airborne diseases due to the poor drainage system. Many people in Kawangware are HIV-positive and caring for those with AIDS and the orphans left behind are overwhelming for the families and communities in the slum. Sadly this has resulted in an increase in the number of street children, prostitution, suicide, and isolation of those infected.
The students in the Huduma school are very fortunate to have access to education, but they have little resources and are especially lacking in sports equipment for their recess time. Our team gifted fifty sports balls to the school and spent four days with the kids running "sports camps". These camps are designed to be instructional, fun, and relationship-building oriented. Our team broke up into groups of two or three and taught a different sport each day. The sports we taught were basketball, soccer, and volleyball. The ministry done through these camps was providing the children at Huduma with the joy and love of Christ each and every day, bringing excitement into their lives and giving them skills that extend beyond the world of sports, and reach into their day-to-day lives. My personal highlight was seeing the deep love and appreciation that these children have. Despite their circumstances, they have the biggest smiles on their faces, they are eager to learn, they laugh constantly, and they let you know that they care about you.
On Friday of that same week, the Lord blessed our team with the incredible opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people in Kawangware. Our group went out with a Kenyan translator and had conversations with the locals about their interests, home life, hobbies, struggles, and blessings, and finished by sharing the gospel and offering them the opportunity to accept Christ. We had around fifty people accept Christ and we were blown away by God's faithfulness during our time with the locals. Some of our biggest takeaways from this opportunity were two-fold: The first is that God is sovereign over salvation. Those who accept Christ are those who He calls and those whose hearts He softens. We are simply the messengers, but God is the one who brings about true salvation and faith in Christ (John 6:44). The second is that we have to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations to share our faith with others. The Kawangware slum is far from a comfortable place for Westerners, but just being out there allows God to use us to change the eternities of those whom He has called.
During the second week in Kenya, our team hosted a clinic for sixty Kenyan youth sports coaches. These coaches desire to uplift the youth of Kenya through sports and through faithfully leading and teaching like Christ. The Lord blessed our group with the opportunity to teach these men and women and provide them with Biblically-based insights into Christ-centered coaching. We taught about handling winning and losing, leading with humility, the meaning of glorifying God, managing injuries, handling gray areas in sports, and developing God-honoring teammates. In terms of the impact, our hope is that these coaches take what we taught and apply it to how they coach their teams, which in turn will develop a Christ-centered and honoring youth culture in Kenya. We are praying and praising God for what He has done and will continue to do through these coaches.
Outside of our mission opportunities, we were able to explore the city of Nairobi, eat some great food, and do an awesome Safari at Amboseli National Park near the border of Tanzania and Mount Kilimanjaro. Africa is beautiful and we would highly recommend it to any and all who have a desire to explore that part of the world someday. One of our favorite food items was Chapati, which is a soft unleavened bread dish that is popular in East African countries. On the Safari, we were able to see Zebras, Wildebeests, Elephants, Giraffes, and more! Seth Ralston and Noah Weiss, two USG staff members, were also given the opportunity to join a local radio show in the Kariobangi district of Nairobi to share their testimonies and the gospel with over 5,000 listeners in the area!
Thank you for taking some time out of your day to read this and thank you for partnering in this ministry that God is leading and nurturing. You are not just a part of life change, but change that brings glory to the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior.
If you want to get involved with our ministry and have a chance to experience an international mission trip, apply to join here!
Do you have questions about our ministry? Contact a staff member here!