Tuesday, July 10, 2012- Day 5 Nicaraguan Sports Team

Before getting into the activities of today, I’d like to get into the basketball game from last night. I know that this might seem like such an insignificant part of what is going on here- but for me it is a highlight of this trip and, quite honestly, one of the top ten moments in my life. I will try, with the help of David Cupp, to explain why this was such a meaningful event for two has-been basketball players and coaches.
First of all, there are not many moments that we can play an extremely competitive basketball game. The team we played was an adult team from Los Brasilies- a local city of about 10,000. They brought 10 players who play on a regular basis. In fact, we are going to attend their league championship game tomorrow (Wednesday) night to cheer them on. The game was also officiated by local Nicaraguan officials. There were two men who refereed the game and one woman who was the official scorekeeper- she kept the scorebook. Neither David nor I have played a game with real officials since high school. Another feature that was significant was the presence of fans. While not many, there were those present who cheered for both sides. Although the spirit of competition and friendship was more significant, both teams wanted very badly to win. At the bottom of the scorebook it read “USA wins 57-53…” There are just not many opportunities for men who are not athletes for a living to play a game like that.
Second, for the first time in my life I got to experience, in a very meaningful way, how sport can break down language and cultural barriers. In spite of all the differences between the men that played on the two teams we shared the passion to play basketball. I believe very strongly that the Nicaraguan team felt the same connection that we felt and that there was a deep respect between both teams at the end of the game. The coach of the team and their best player, Isaac, came to me after the game and said “I wanted to win that game very badly but more important for me was the experience of playing.” For us it was an opportunity to play the US style of basketball in a Nicaragua and for them it was the chance to play their style of game against men from the United States. Although far, far, far from the quality of an Olympic contest- I think I have a small understanding of what it feels like to play on that stage. I know that might seem dramatic, but we got to experience sport connecting two very different areas of the world.

Lastly, since I was in high school I have wanted to be able to play sport as a ministry. It was beyond incredible to have the chance to play this game in the name of the Lord. While our entire team was made up of missionaries, the other team had three men who were Christian. In fact, for Isaac it was an opportunity for him to minister to men and attempt to get them to church. He said that the men come to church on occasion but are not regular members of the church. So, the fact that there was a prayer in English at the beginning of the game, a short devotional thought from David after the game, and a prayer said in Spanish after the game allowed us two great passions in our life- the Gospel message and basketball. Further the game was played with a great spirit of sportsmanship and my hope and prayer is that our example can strengthen the claim that Isaac makes with his teammates. So, again, God has granted the desires of my heart and provided a great opportunity to bring glory to Him through the sport of basketball….and those days of me playing basketball like this are much closer to an end than they were five years ago.

Immediately following the game the Nicaraguan team was ready to play again. Maybe God will give me the chance to provide that rematch at another time…

The day today was very similar to yesterday. We opened the day with breakfast and a great devotional/discussion led by David from Philippians 2. We were challenged to humble ourselves- to empty ourselves of pride. It was a good start to our day as we continue to use sport and, for the women, manicures to build relationships. We played another great game of baseball and then it was off to a school to allow some of our team to meet students that they sponsor. We met seven students and took them to Pizza Hut for lunch. This was a fantastic thing for me to observe…I will let team members share for themselves their feelings maybe tomorrow in the blog or when they return. But as someone watching it was plain for me to see that there was an immediate connection of love and a great deal of gratitude from both sides. We went to another local Christian school where we were able to help teach English and play with students during recess/PE.

The day ended with a trip to Pastor Wilber’s church for Tuesday night service. It would have been great to experience hearing Pastor Wilber preach but instead he chose to include us throughout the service. One of our young team members, Andrew, read John 1:1-4, another team member sang a song and prayed, the entire team sang a song with motions, and David and I were asked to preach. Needless to say, it was fun but a bit stressful because we found out we were performing these duties literally minutes before we were on…

Tomorrow we go to the park for another morning of games. In the afternoon we will distribute bags of food to local families and have time to encourage and pray with them inside their homes. I think this will be a great experience for us all. Our day tomorrow will end with a surprise trip to watch our Nicaraguan friends play in their championship game bearing signs and wearing supportive t-shirts. We hope it works to build more trust with the men we played basketball against. Please stay in prayer for us…

3 responses to “Tuesday, July 10, 2012- Day 5 Nicaraguan Sports Team

  • Kathye

    I guess you are saying I wasnt a “Real” referee, that hurts (haha) Did Kerri play or just guys. sounds like you all are having a blast and receiving an abundance of blessings. Praise God

  • Nicole

    Oh this is so exciting! I would have loved to see that game, but I know I would have cried during the prayers. Beautiful! You said the Nica team was ready to play again immediately… how did you feel after the game? 😉 Can’t wait to hear how your new friends do in their champ game later tonight. GO TEAM NICA! Praying for Isaac and his ministry with his team. I can imagine how emotional it was for the sponsors to meet their students. I wonder how hard it will be for you all to say goodbye and come home. Praise God for such a special trip!

  • Nicole

    PS – post some more pictures!! (please)

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