At the end of June a team of 16 students and adults travelled to the Dominican Republic to do construction and host a basketball camp. Lead Pastor Bill W. was kind enough to share his insights from the camp on our blog today. (You can read more of his experience on his blog.)
On our first day of basketball camp at Grace School in Herrera (an area in the inner city of Santo Domingo…kind of like saying “The Bronx” as a part of New York City), I made a promise to the kids. At our first session that first day we only had eight children. We had planned on a hundred for each session (although, in hindsight, we are somewhat thankful that didn’t happen).
A couple of our VisionTrust bags on our trip down were filled with deflated basketballs that had been donated. We brought seventy-five balls with us and spent a good deal of time putting air in them after we arrived. So on Monday I opened my mouth and inserted tennis shoe, and said that we would give a basketball to each child on Thursday, our last day of camp.
Many basketball camps in Colorado Springs do that. I had just helped at a camp at the Classical Academy a couple of weeks ago and each of the fifty campers got their own basketball.
So…no big deal, right?
Yesterday…Thursday, after our first session…the one that had eight children the first day…thirty-seven basketballs were handed to kids as they left the 8:30-10:00 session. By the end of the day we had given out all of our basketballs…plus the fifteen that the school had…plus we have the names of the eleven boys who did not receive one yet.
I need to buy the eleven plus replace the fifteen! It is an expensive lesson on making promises to kids…who have cousins…who have cousins!
In essence, about a hundred basketballs, or the promise of a basketball, exited the building yesterday. And I was the one who did the training session for our team about the American tendency to treat the problem of poverty with the solution of “giving people things.” Poverty is really brokenness…brokenness in terms of a person’s relationship with one or more of the four foundational relationships: with God, with myself, with the rest of creation, or with others.
We often treat the symptoms of poverty without acknowledging the core problems.
So today there are many children in Herrera who have a new basketball, but they still returned to the same situations of brokenness in their homes and communities.
I guess my hope is that as they hold their basketballs they will think about the week they had at camp, the hope of Christ that we shared with them. That as they think about some of our daily lessons of jumping, shooting, and shooting an impossible shot, they will think about the lessons we taught concerning grace, forgiveness, and the love of Christ.
Last night we met two exceptional young people who are graduating from high school- Pamela and Delton- who come from very difficult situations. Pamela taught herself English. She spoke to us last night more clearly than many of us talk. She volunteers with VisionTrust two to three days a week, and wants to major in tourism. Delton, who looks like a six-foot Kobe Bryant, and plays like Kobe, grew up in VisionTrust’s partner orphanage. He is heading to the University next year, but wants to help the children who are still living at the home. He wants to major in computer engineering.
Both Pamela and Delton were redirected in the course of their lives because, first of all, God loves them, and secondly, because God grabbed hold of the heart of some people and made them realize that he had a purpose for the lives of a little girl and a little boy, but that purpose could not be realized without someone being obedient to God’s beckoning.
It makes me wonder how many children are lost because someone didn’t heed the calling of God to come alongside.
A new basketball will not change any of the lives of those hundred children, but perhaps it will help them to know that there is a way of hope, a place of grace, and a plan for their lives that will lead them to make a difference.
I still have to get twenty-six more basketballs! I’m okay with that!