Virtually

EXPERIENCE A TRIP

Svitlovodsk, Ukraine

Friday

The team members are A J Koele, Joshua Martin, Lynn Reinbolt, Payton Reid, Sarah Ellingson, Shawn Horan (leader), Silas Nacita, and Wendi Reid

Saturday

Our Ukraine team arrived safely in Kyiv today with all their luggage except for one coach’s personal bag. It was still in Germany and will hopefully be delivered to the team in a couple of days. They took the long drive to Svitlovodsk where camps will be held, had dinner in the hotel and shared about their lives. They are tired and resting now after 24 hours of travel, and excited about the week to come.

Sunday

Shawn reports for the team. Today we got to sleep in a bit which was great after a long day of traveling Friday/Saturday. We had breakfast and then took a short drive through town. We enjoyed a traditional Ukrainian lunch of borscht and pampushky (garlic bread). Our host, Levi, gave us an orientation to Svitlovodsk and Ukraine and explained some of their traditions and culture. In the afternoon, we took a 5 minute walk from the hotel over to the sports complex to start setting up our equipment and go over our where everyone will be on the court for camp. We met coach Vova at the complex. Once we were set up we walked back to our apartment for dinner, debriefed, and headed off for bed to get a good night sleep before we start tomorrow. We are looking forward to meeting the kids!

Monday

Shawn and Sarah report on the first day of camps. Everything is going great! Josh began the day by encouraging the team to stay focused on their purpose there. The morning camp had 21 girls and 23 boys for a total of 44! (More are expected tomorrow in both camps because today was a holiday.) These are the younger kids ages 10 – 12, and more reserved. The team is challenged to find different ways to engage the kids. Nine girls play volleyball and were happy to get to know AJ who plays volleyball for BU. The afternoon camp had 47 total; 19 girls and 28 boys. These are the older kids, ages 13 – 17. The boys are quite skilled in this camp, the girls are not as much. Tomorrow, Sarah will take the girls and lead a separate camp for them. There were 18 repeat kids in the morning camp, and 20 in the afternoon. That’s always exciting to hear. Each coach is doing well in their stations. Vova, the local camp director, joined Sarah in teaching the shooting station. And with the addition of 2 hands – up mesh defensive training men, dribble glasses, and heavy training basketballs (coming out tomorrow), we’re stepping up the challenge. The team is bonding well. They are enjoying the meals; rice and pork for lunch, and soup for dinner with chocolate cake for dessert, as well as the weather. It was in the 40’s in the morning, and got up to the 60’s during the afternoon. Nice.

Tuesday

Shawn shares about today’s camps. Things went really well again today! We had a few more kids than yesterday, 46 in the first camp and 49 in the second camp. Kids in both camps are doing a great job, listening well, and working hard. The kids are rarely off task or not listening which is amazing! A big highlight of the first camp is that the volleyball coach that a lot of the girls play for has been in attendance both days. She has been watching what we teach but also how we teach. The coach told a translator today that she is amazed how hard her girls work for our coaches even though our coaches are so nice and not very strict. We are looking forward to interacting more with her at camp the next few days. In the second camp we have a lot of our host’s basketball team. They have a lot of skill so we worked them hard today. They took the coaching very well. Our coaches noticed that they were more open during our team time and asked some good questions about the plan for us. We feel like coaching them well and also showing our love for them is starting to break down some of their outer walls that have been keeping them from asking as many questions. The team ended the day by going to a coffee shop and having some coffee, cake, and fellowship with our translators and hosts. The team is tired but excited about tomorrow! Day 3 of camps we try to play more games and have fun, and we can’t wait to talk about the Part we all have to play.

Wednesday

Another great day of camp! We took a break from stations and played more games to keep things fun and exciting. In the morning camp we did shooting competitions with all of the teams. The boys and girls loved being able to compete against each other after mainly competing within their own teams so far. The volleyball girls are really competitive and enjoyed the games. The volleyball coaches joined in and played with them some which was fun to see. In the afternoon camp we split boys and girls. The girls were really challenged with some harder drills and they worked so hard. They don’t have a high level of basketball skills but they worked hard and Sarah made sure to say how proud we are with how much they did. The kids seem surprised when we praise them for working hard rather than being upset that they didn’t do things perfectly. The girls also loved doing some relays. The boys are very skilled and loved competing in 2 on 2 and 3 on 3. After camps today our team took a trip to the banya, a Ukrainian sauna. It was a really relaxing experience as they encouraged you to go straight from the steam room to the cold pool and back again. The team got to eat snacks and enjoy the banya. It was a great time of fellowship together and with our hosts and translators.

Thursday

The team woke to find many missed calls and texts about the coronavirus. So we gathered early to eat breakfast and discuss the plans. We arrived at camp early too and set up for the last day of camps. Kids came early, and everything went by so quickly, but it was great fun. The kids loved the stations and competitions. After this camp was over, kids wanted their coaches to sign their certificates and take pics with them before saying goodbye. This left us with 10 minutes to eat our pizza for lunch before the second camp began. The afternoon camp ran similarly to the morning camp. The boys on Vova’s team really enjoyed being pushed to do better. (They bored at the pace set for the girls.) They loved the more difficult shooting competitions. Silas, the next level athlete, was really good for the boys. He has seen a change in their attitudes with each passing day The girls’ volleyball coach who attended with her girls in the first camp, was spotted in the stands during the second camp. During the presentation of gifts, Shawn asked her to join them on the court and presented her with a tshirt. She was touched and shared her gratitude. For her, it was so exciting to see such a positive coaching atmosphere and how the kids responded so positively. She saw them work even harder because of it, and yet they were having fun! Vova, the boys’ basketball coach and sports complex director, was presented with some basketball shorts and shirts, medals, and 8 leather basketballs. He was at a loss for words. Vova then presented Shawn with a third place medal his team had won, and Bones with a second place medal from the city for their placement in a national competition. These were special to Vova and quite a gift for Shawn and Bones. Shawn shares that in America, Vova would be recognized as an awesome coach. In Ukraine, he really stands out even more. It was a pleasure working with him. The team is traveling to Kyiv through the night to catch a 6:00A flight out. They should arrive in Houston tomorrow at 3:20P and be back home by the day’s end. We are grateful for your support all week long!

Puerto Maldonado, Peru

Sunday

The Peru Team arrived safely this morning in Puerto Maldonado! We are grateful. The HFH teams will begin camps on Monday; one team holding morning and afternoon camps in two gyms, and the other team traveling around to schools and making connections there. The construction crew will partner with the host there for work.

Please remember them as they get settled into a routine for the next week, for connections to be made quickly with the kids they are there to serve, and for everyone to remain healthy.

HFH Team: Paul & Kelly Thomas (leaders), Brennan Turner and son Chase Joiner, Britt Williams, Camey Gonzalez, Jason Maks and son Dillon Maks, JT Froese, Jonah Fox, Kelsey Taylor, Lynnsay Macey, Matt Caskey, Matt Dickey, Meagan Johnston, Paige Hoellen, Sarah Hosman, Suzie Wible, and Tracey Moore
Construction Team: Edger Vega, Grant Yawn, Greg Baucom, Joseph Bender, Luis Gonzalez, Ron Clay, and Shane Johnston

Monday

Kelly reports: What an incredible day! The HFH team running the traditional 4-day camps had a great first day. All the coaches brought so much energy and excitement, and our camps were filled with lots of chanting and cheers! The coaches noticed that several kids who came to camp today brought their basketball from last year’s camp, worn out and faded…meaning they have been used a lot! The coaches were able to make great connections with many of the campers on the court and during team time.

The traveling HFH team is going into multiple schools this week to teach a 3 hour camp at each one. Today our team interacted with about 110 kids. At one of the schools, we were invited to sit in on an English class to give the kids an opportunity to speak English with our team members, an unexpected but welcome addition to our time!

The Construction Team was up early & ready to get to work on the orphanage. They all did great, worked very hard, and feel honored to be working on this special project. Thankfully most of the day had cloud cover & a breeze. Such a great blessing!

We end each day at dinner with all 25 of us together. We talk about our day and are grateful.

Tuesday

The traditional HFH camp team had another wonderful day! There were about 40 kids in the morning camp who were all similar in age and basketball skill level. That allowed the coaches to go more in depth during mass ball handling and station time, and to have deeper discussions during team time. There were about 85 kids in the afternoon. With the larger number of kids the camp was full of energy and excitement!! We are grateful we have enough coaches on our team to pour into these kids. Every coach has an important part and is making an impact.

The traveling basketball team continues to love the opportunity to go into schools. Jason shared that they went into a school that has over 1,000 kids! In the morning, they had 230 kids come in 1 1/2 hour rotations. The afternoon time was with older and fewer kids, but this allowed them to go more in depth with basketball and conversation.

The construction team continues to work hard in the heat & humidity to get the orphanage completely wired and ready for electricity. They are hoping to have the electricity fully functioning by the end of Wednesday. Each of the men on the construction team has an important role and is going above and beyond to do their part. There is tangible evidence every day of the progress they have made.

As a whole team of 25, we are learning more about each other, showing vulnerability, and creating deeper and deeper bonds.

Wednesday

Today was another awesome day for all 3 of our teams! The traditional HFH team is humbled each day by the kids’ excitement as they arrive at camp. They look for their coaches to give a big hug, high five and do their team chant. The kids know their chants well by now and scream them at the top of their lungs! The teams compete to see who can be the loudest and have the most energy. The basketball stations are running smoothly and each coach is executing their station with excellence.

A tambourine somehow showed up at camp today, and I wish you could see how a tambourine can make the ladder station and other stations much more energy filled and exciting. There was lots of chanting and tambourine music happening at camp today.

The traveling basketball team continued to rock it! The coaches, teachers and principals love having the team come into their schools. It’s humbling to be so warmly welcomed into so many public and private schools here.

The construction team had a wonderful moment today…light! Fully functioning electricity!! This team of 8 men has worked so hard and with a great attitude despite the intense heat and humidity. They have been able to complete projects and each team member has used their skills and talents to be a blessing. They are drained at the end of each day but have smiles on their faces, grateful to be a part of this work.

Thursday

The traditional HFH team had a great last day of camp. The kids were excited to get their very own basketball and certificate of completion. Many of them wanted autographs from the coaches!

The traveling team had a good last day as well, but with heavy hearts knowing it was their last time to meet kids in the local schools, teaching basketball skills with a message of hope.

The construction team was able to finish up multiple projects they worked on at the orphanage all week.

Each member of the 3 teams here in Peru used their gifts and talents this week to impact the kids and the community and feel blessed to be a part of this special work.

On Friday, the whole team was able to go to the orphanage where the construction team worked all week. It was a wonderful time of celebrating together!

Eldoret, Kenya

Saturday

The team arrived safely in Nairobi Kenya today around noon, along with all their luggage! After lengthy negotiations, they wound up paying only $33 to take the basketballs through customs into the country. Bottom line: it’s all there!

The team will spend the night in Nairobi and fly into Eldoret tomorrow in the early afternoon.

Team members are: Brent Wilson, Bryan Hanysak, Pat Kekic, Brian Peters, Michael Hillman.

Monday

We had a great first day of camps. The kids are super nice and respectful. We all had lots of fun.

Moses, our host, has brought Hoops for Hope camp to Kenya from what he learned visiting our camp in Uganda last year. The coaches and kids have been through this camp several times before and are good at it.

It’s fun to see how Hoops has multiplied through East Africa without our presence in Kenya.

We met Eliud Kipchoge, the best marathon runner in the world, today! What an honor!

From Wikipedia: He is a Kenyan long-distance runner who competes in the marathon and formerly the 5000 metres. He won the 2019 London Marathon in a time of 2:02:37, the second fastest marathon of all time, behind his 2018 Berlin Marathon win, where he broke the previous world record by 1 minute and 18 seconds. This is the greatest improvement in a marathon world record time since 1967. His fourth win in London marks a new course record, beating his own 2016 London Marathon record by 28 seconds. He lives in Eldoret with his wife and children.

Today was a great day, even when the cows came through!

Tuesday

Our morning session was great! All the kids are excited and were waiting for us when we arrived. We added 9 new kids to our group, which is exciting.

Everyone is really enjoying camp and the basketball outreach Moses has in Kenya; it is really impressive. It’s an entire community of people loving others and loving basketball.

It rained last night, so at the beginning of camp all the kids happily joined in sweeping the court with pine tree branches. It looked like our afternoon camp was being rained out after 30 solid minutes of downpour, but the rain stopped, everyone swept off the court again, and we got back at it!

Wednesday

Camps are going great! We added 10 people to camp this morning, taking us up to 41 in the morning camp. We are maxed out at 50 in the afternoon, with many watching from the sidelines.

We got a speaker today to play music for the camp and it was a huge hit. The boys had so much fun.

Thursday

It was a great final day of camp. The support team Moses has here in Eldoret is amazing. We had 3 or 4 friends come to our final ceremony and share with the kids. The leaders all love Moses and the work he is doing promoting basketball in Eldoret, and join him in pouring into the children here. Everyone in the basketball programs is hearing a message of hope because of the work Moses is doing. We are grateful to have partnered with them this week!

We will enjoy the sights of Kenya tomorrow before we begin our journey back home Saturday afternoon. Thank you for your support this week. It was awesome!

Cancun, Mexico

Sunday

Krista Pirtle reports: Hola from Mexico! After safe travels to Cancun – yes, we’re suffering with a camp in the Caribbean – we met up with Diego, our host for the week. Within five minutes of meeting him, Diego brought up Mark Wible’s favorite word about Hoops trips – flexibility. Apparently Horacio Llamas, the first Mexican-born player to play in the NBA, is hosting his own basketball camp this week. And he took our gym in Cancun. Diego said he received the call of the change of plans on Friday. We’re all set up with an outdoor court at a secondary school in Cancun. We’ve been told that there is a waiting list for each camp as they’re expecting us to have 50 kids in each camp.

Remember how we mentioned flexibility? Well, when we got here we found out we wouldn’t be staying in the apartments like we thought. Instead, we are in a BEACH. FRONT. HOTEL. So when we’re not doing a camp, you know where we’ll be. We also met April and Jordan, who helped arrange this whole trip.

Once we got things settled at the hotel, we went to a restaurant down the street. We ate appetizers on the roof with Diego and his wife, Rose. After that, we made our way back to the hotel to air up basketballs for camp. Our hotel is not that far from the city square where the leaning lighthouse is. Don’t worry – there will be plenty of pictures of that as the week progresses.

While we don’t have any jet leg – we’re in the same time zone as back home – we’re all a bit tired from the travel day. But, we’re excited to get the camps started tomorrow!

Monday

It is beautiful down here. We all got a good look at the sunrise this morning over the ocean from our hotel balconies.
But it’s also hot. As in mucho, mucho caliente.
We’ve got to do water breaks for the kiddos and ourselves about every 15-30 minutes. It was nice during the first camp when some clouds came in and threatened to bring some rain along with them.
The first camp went well. We had a little over 40 kids. The kids loved Scott’s defensive drill. One of Jeff’s kids told him that the camp was awesome. Amanda’s kids were a little all over the place. When they broke out into their group to talk about the purpose for their lives, her boys kept yelling, “Ardilla!” Yup, they were watching the squirrels.
The kids get a kick out of the fact that we’re from Texas for some reason. One of my girls, when I told her, started laughing and slinging a pretend lasso over her head.
We have three hours between camps, and you better believe we spent most of that time in the pool. There’s lots of seaweed on the beach, so we can’t really get in the ocean. We wanted to jump in the pool with our hoops clothes on.
It’s about a 30 minute drive from Puerto Morelos to Cancun. Diego has a big van that fits everybody and all of our equipment. On our way to Cancun we found out that two of our translators that we were expecting to come help had to cancel.
That actually turned out to be just fine as less than 20 kids showed up to the afternoon camp. We think the NBA camp took some of the kids who had originally signed up for our camp.
But we absolutely loved that group. We broke up into three different teams with Krista taking the five littles, Scott and Cheyenne taking the middle group and Jeff and Amanda taking the oldest kids. They wanted to take a group picture once camp ended for the day and repeatedly asked us how many days camp would be because they loved it.
They definitely loved Scott’s defensive drill. He yells, “Defense!” The kids slap the floor, get into a defensive stance and dance around while they say, “Oooooooooh yeah.” They pretty much sound like the Kool-Aid man. As we loaded the van in the parking lot, some of the kids walked up to us and said, “Ooooooooooh yeah.” While that camp is small, I bet it’s our favorite.
We’re headed back to the hotel now. It’s only been one day of camp, and we are wiped out. But it’s been such a blast working with Diego and his family and the people here. We’re really looking forward to what the rest of the week holds.

Wednesday

About last night… Have we mentioned it’s hot down here? With a side of extra humidity?

So we get to the hotel after the first camp on Tuesday and find out that the hotel has no electricity. Little did we know at the time that meant the hotel had zero water as well. And it was that way when we returned from the second camp. By that time, we’ve all sweat through our Hoops clothes twice and are super hot.

With no lights, we almost ate supper in complete darkness out on the porch of the hotel. Thankfully, Amanda rigged her phone to a pole with the flashlight on so we could see what we were eating.

The only place with electricity in the near proximity of our hotel was the supermarket. We’re pretty sure that thing was running on generators. It also had water which was good. With Brazil and Argentina playing soccer on TV, that place was packed.

We stayed there as long as we could before coming back to the hotel. The electricity/AC/water finally came back around 1am.

During our team time this morning, we all emphasized that we didn’t want our exhaustion from trying to get some sleep the night before – Amanda and Coker each slept on their balconies while Scott went down to the pool to try and sleep there – to affect our camps in any way.

I really don’t think it did. We didn’t do stations at camp today, like where we teach them dribbling, shooting and things like that. Instead, we did contests and then did some fun team competitions. The kids loved that!

As we talked to the kids about the fact that we all have a part to play, it was fun to watch them make the connections between their positions they play on their basketball teams and the role there is in life for them.

In the second camp, I have the little nuggets as I like to call them. They’re all six to eight years old. When we talked about our part and plan for us, one of the youngest said one of my very favorite things – “You know, it’s like a TV series. We just see one episode, but there is the whole series from start to finish.” Atta boy, Pablo!

Another one of my kids in the afternoon is David. He’s originally from Colorado, so I’ve talked with him the most because he also speaks English. When I gave him our team’s yellow bracelet on Monday, he was so excited about the fact that he didn’t have to give the bracelet back, that he could keep it forever. Well, if you thought he was pumped about that, you should have seen his face when he found out would get to take a Hoops ball home with him at the end of camp.

This is the first Hoops for Hope trip to Mexico, and we can see why Mark chose to come to this location. First off, Diego and his family are awesome. You can just tell how much he cares for these kids and how hard he’s working to make an impact. Then there’s April and Jordan who, like Diego and Rose, love these kiddos so well.

It’s hard to explain just how great these people are. You can’t see how they interact with the kids – like how Rose patiently checks everyone in for camp every day, how April carries on such intentional conversations with these kids, how Jordan drives to help us with camp two and is a great communicator with the kids and then how proud Diego looks when he sees these kids play and how he instructs them.

Now, I can’t write this recap without mentioning how we spent our afternoon break. If you pitied us at all about the whole no electricity/AC/water situation, you’re about to take it all back.

We went snorkeling this afternoon. And it was absolutely fantastic! The second largest reef in the world is right off the coast here. We got in a boat that took us to two different spots where we snorkeled for 45 minutes each. It was breathtaking. We saw barracudas, rainbow fish and a few from Finding Nemo.

Overall, even with the challenges we had last night, today was such a blast!

Thursday

Happy 4th of July! You better believe we changed up the clothes schedule so we could wear red and blue today. Today was so good, y’all.
Scott brought up a quote this morning – You’re one relationship away from changing your destiny. So we started our day thinking, “What if we are that relationship that changed things monumentally for these kids?”
Jeff has a group of young boys in the morning camp. They can be a little wild – as in climbing in the trees – during team time. Jeff was following up on the message that Coker gave, and his kids were asking about death and where you go after you die. After Jeff answered, his translator Carlos asked if he could share a story from his life.
Jeff said, “Absolutely!”  Carlos started that he had been in the military and nearly died. The kids stopped fidgeting. He was in Iraq clearing homes one by one. He entered one home and immediately got stabbed in the side with a bayonet. While his fellow soldiers apprehended the enemy, he fell to the ground, bleeding significantly. The kids climbed down from the trees and gathered around Carlos. He described his arms tingling, his vision fading, and the light growing small. He said he clearly remembers thinking in his head about his family, and God. He prayed scripture he had learned as a child. He told the kids he hadn’t followed God in his life but in that moment it was God who was there. The kids were as quiet as they had been all week, leaning in on every word. Carlos told them he faded to black, and then woke up in the hospital. The kids took it in, and then all started asking questions at once. The silence was broken but their interest was loud! Jeff was amazed to then see Carlos lift his shirt and show them a scar on his side where the bayonet almost ended his life.  As small group time came to a close, Jeff made a note to start tomorrow’s small group with a story about a similar scar.
My group also had good conversation. I’ve got the oldest girls in the morning. When we huddled up, we spent a good amount of time going over the difference between relationship and the institution that they’ve heard. Things started clicking for them, and they began to ask more questions.
Pablo, though, delivered once again. This time it was more of a one-liner than a deer thought. We were doing a layup drill where each team forms a line at half court and then goes to shoot a layup. Pablo missed his first attempt and then, when he got the rebound, turned around with his back to the basket and shot it backwards. The kid made it.
Afterwards he said, “I just wanted the people from the US to see my value.”
For the most part, we all had great conversations. Diego and Rose kept saying that they thought today went really well.
We knew we were strengthened today. Heat exhaustion is a real thing, and we’re starting to feel it with both of our camps outdoors in the sun with temperatures in the 90s along with a ton of humidity.
Now we need to finish strong with our last camps on Friday. We’ve all had such a great time here with each group of kiddos.

Friday

What an amazing week of camps!
With, like, 98 percent of these kids that we worked with playing on club teams, the basketball part of camps were awesome. Scott and Coker did a great job of making stations more difficult today, especially for the older kids, and they just ate that up.
As we expected, every kid loved Last Second Hero. Most of them, though, called it Superhero.
The heat was tough again today as it’s been all week. While the temperature hasn’t gotten above the mid-90s, the heat index keeps reaching into triple digits. My girls in the morning told me they were done with the heat and wanted to just sit in the shade and hang out for the morning camp.
The afternoon group had a lot more energy. Their energy is a bit more contained than some of the teams in the morning. Amanda and Jeff are rockstars for working with their teams of little boys who loved being in the trees.
Amanda’s team in the afternoon had a basketball game during camp, but as we rounded up for team time they all began to run in from the parking lot because they didn’t want to miss the last day of camp.
In the morning camp, it’s pretty much just the kids there. But in the afternoon, almost everyone’s parents stay and watch. When Coker does team time, most of them stand behind him and video the message on their phones. One mom told Scott that she sends that video out to a group text each day.
We stayed around for a while after that last camp as every camper wanted pictures with as many different coaches as they could get. They were so thankful that we came.
We have two club teams in that last camp – the Cachorros and the Dragones. The Cachorros presented us each with a certificate before their coach handed us a Hoops for Hope Cachorros jersey.
It was a little harder to say goodbye to our kids than most of us thought it would be.
Now we get to relax on Saturday! We are going to Xel-Ha, a natural water park with cenotes, zip lines, a jungle and so many different things.
I asked one of my girls, Olivia, what her favorite thing is at Xel-Ha. And the first thing out of her mouth was, “Chocolate cake.” Bless her heart, I love that girl.

Kumasi, Ghana

Saturday

Speedy Wible reports from Ghana: Greetings from Ghana. The Hoops team has made it to Accra where we were met by Vincent Asamoah of Shoot for Life, our hosts for the week. We arrived with all luggage! That is an answer to prayer. Thank you for praying in faith!
We met the FCA team that is also participating with Shoot for Life this week in the Amsterdam airport and began getting acquainted.
We are spending the night in Accra and will meet our host and friends before making the trip to Kumasi. Sunday afternoon will be spent preparing for camps that begin on Monday.
Pray for coaches and campers alike, that our time together learning basketball and sharing in life lessons will be profitable and rewarding. Please pray for safety for all. Oh yes, and please pray for favorable weather. We have a chance for rain all week.
Thanks for partnering with us.
Team members are: Kristy Beck, Preston Bradley, George Brinegar, Sam Glenn, Evan Hardin, Rachael Reddy, Lynn Reinbolt, and Speedy Wible (leader).

Sunday

The trip from Accra to Kumasi was eye opening for our first time coaches. It is difficult to explain how a 100 mile trip takes four to five hours on the highway. You just have to experience it.
We took lunch at a hotel on the outskirts of Kumasi. Fried rice is a staple of Ghanaian cuisine and lots of fried rice was eaten. We introduced Sam to Alvaro (a carbonated fruit drink). He wasn’t impressed.
We said our goodbyes to the Kentucky team after dropping them off at their hotel. Our work site is across town and we are staying near the court where we are teaching.
We checked into out hotel and then went to the court to prepare for the beginning of camps tomorrow. Preston and Evan scouted the court and made recommendations about how to set up camp. Sam, Rachael, Kristy, George and Lynn took on the task of blowing up 100 basketballs! We got organized and we are ready for the adventure to begin.
We ended our day around the dinner table back at the hotel. The food was good and we had the chance to talk through the day tomorrow. Preston closed our day with an encouragement about training up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. He reminded us that we are here to support Shoot for Life and their desire to change the culture of a nation by changing a generation.
We appreciate your partnership with us.

Monday

First Day of Camp! We started our day with a traditional Ghana breakfast: watermelon and pineapple followed by toast, an omelet, Ghana’s version of breakfast sausage links, and cold port and beans. (Kristy says that the cold beans must be the British influence.), instant coffee and Milo to drink. Preston describes Milo as a cross between hot chocolate and an energy drink, drunk hot. Then we headed off for the short 5 minute ride to the court.
No matter how many times I participate in Hoops camps, I am always amazed that the first day of camp is always chaotic and fun. It goes by in a whirlwind of activity and new kids. And today did not disappoint. What a day it was. I have received reports that there were children on the court at 6:00AM in order to make sure they had a spot in the camp. In both morning and afternoon sessions, we had to turn people away after the first 50 had registered for each camp.
The morning session had wonderful cloudy skies with a light breeze. The campers worked hard learning the routine for the day. Coaches did a great job of teaching the basketball fundamentals to the campers. Sam and George are working really well together and Sam is finding his role as a coach and teacher. Rachael is totally in charge of the agility station, working towards having athletic footwork as a fundamental of basketball. Evan and Preston and Lynn are manning the dribbling, offensive moves and shooting stations. Kristy started the day without a goal at which to teach rebounding. She was flexible in her approach to teaching the fundamentals of rebounding and by the start of the second camp, a portable goal was delivered and set up for use.
During team time we talked about discovering the purpose for your life. As each coach took their group to a spot on the court for the coaches to have the opportunity to share with their group about how they discover and maintain their purpose, most of the campers in the morning session were not very engaged in the discussion. The afternoon group time seemed to yield more discussion for some coaches.
Speaking of the afternoon session – oh my goodness, we had two hours of beautiful sunshine. The downside to the sunshine was that it sapped energy from both campers and coaches alike. But with abundant grace, the campers worked hard at the various drills and contests. We could see progress in the basketball skills of many of the campers, even after just one day of camp.
We are tired after our first full day.  We are blessed to have a good restaurant at the hotel. Dinner and a good night’s rest will take us a long way toward being refreshed and ready for tomorrow.
Thank you for partnering with us.

Tuesday

We got to the court and were excited to start the second day of camp. Campers were waiting when we arrived.
Oh my goodness. I think every partner asked for a nice cloudy day. And, my oh my, did we have one! Problem with that is that all of the clouds had rain in them from about 8:00 AM until noon. We started camp at 8:00 AM in a slight drizzle. By 9:00 AM campers and coaches alike were drenched to the bone. And then the slight drizzle turned to a steady drizzle. It would slack off for a few minutes and we would hope that the skies were clearing. But the rain continued all morning.
We had to make adjustments in the schedule because some of the drills were not safe to do on the slick concrete court. Interestingly, basketballs make a peculiar sound when dribbled into a puddle of standing water. All but two of yesterday’s students were back in the rain ready to learn.
Coaches and campers alike wanted to power through the morning and no one complained. We played Last Second Hero to end the morning and as usual, it was a big hit.
We did go inside to a large classroom to do team time so that we could sit down on dry plastic chairs. In today’s team time topic, we discussed the importance following the plan for our lives. Part of the discussion revolves around the problems created when we don’t follow the plan. The coaches reported that the campers were very focused during the discussion.
During our time between camps, we changed out of our wet clothes and took lunch at a local “fast food” place. They serve pizza and hamburgers as well as local dishes. It has become our go-to lunch spot. It was fun to see Kristy reconnect with Vincent’s daughter Amma. Kristy and Amma were classmates in elementary school when Vincent was at grad school in Waco. They had 10+ years to catch up on, and took full advantage of their time.
The rain stopped during the break between camps. By the time the second camp started, the court was about 90% dry.
Camp 2 didn’t have any of the challenges of today’s morning camp. A dry court and partly cloudy skies made an ideal setting for day two, Camp 2. Campers were eager to learn basketball and we worked quickly through many of the drills we introduced yesterday, adding new drills to challenge them and keep them motivated to strive to be the best they can be. We ended our basketball time playing Last Second hero. It was equally as big a success in Camp 2 as it was in Camp 1. And the campers were on their feet when the coaches took their turn. Props to Sam and Rachael for making layups, and to Preston for pulling up at the 3 point line and draining a 3.
All of the coaches have been intentionally engaged with the campers. I can see that the campers are beginning to allow walls to be broken down and are opening up to the coaches.
At dinner we talked through our day, enjoying hearty Ghanaian cooking. We end the day under partly cloudy skies and a cool breeze. Believe it or not, it is cooler in this part of Africa than it is in Texas at this time of the year.
Blessings from Ghana!

Wednesday

Hump Day! Rachael started both camps by leading the campers in 10 minutes of dynamic stretching. I gave the girl a whistle and she took over the court. She had the campers moving through a series of exercises. It was awesome to see them following her instructions. Great job, coach Rachael!
In a five day camp, Wednesday is “fun day”. We take a break from the normal camp routine and play some games and do some drills that utilize the specific skills that we have introduced or sought to hone. The campers got into the spirit of competition and tried their best to out play each other. The normal sounds of basketballs being dribbled on a concrete court were interspersed with the sounds of campers cheering for each other’s success as games were played and competitions waged. Money Goal was a huge hit, and the kids always love playing knock out. The competition was fierce.
Each camp was down 4-6 participants today. In the morning camp we had nice cloudy skies with a bit of a breeze – quite a change of pace from yesterday’s rainy morning. The afternoon was sunny, but not brutal. We were thankful that it didn’t rain. There is a 50% chance of rain tomorrow, and a 90% chance of rain for Friday.
Today we talked about the Part there is for each of us to play. Group discussions seemed more involved, from my perspective. Coaches challenged the campers to find their place at home, at school, and with their friends.
We are all tired but in good health. Thanks for your interest.

Thursday

Breakfast has been fresh fruit (watermelon and pineapple) followed by an omelet, bread (not toast) and a mystery meat sausage (we haven’t wanted to ask!). Oh yes, and cold beans were back on the table this morning, after making a brief disappearance.
We had 45 returning campers by the time the morning camp started. We ran quickly through the ball handling exercises to get everyone’s juices flowing and then had our last round of competitions. The campers are divided by age with each coach having 8-10 campers. We have kept score all week as individual team members compete against each other for first and second place. Each coach also gives a “Coaches Award” for the camper that had the best attitude, or worked the hardest, or best exemplified the values of Hoops for Hope. So competition was fierce for points on the final day of competition.
We also did a full round of station work. Sam and George stepped the passing station up with more complicated passing drills and the campers responded well. Coach Bones added more wrinkles to the shooting station. Rachael had the campers working on their footwork at the agility ladder, adding the element of dribbling. She was amazed at how well the campers did with the ball in their hands. Two days of reinforcing proper footwork paid dividends when the element of the ball was introduced. Kristy continued to build on the rebounding fundamentals, challenging them to be explosive in their going up for the rebound, and adding various footwork techniques for taking an offensive rebound back up to score. Preston tested the campers offensive moves with shooting competitions. Evan added the element of tossing a tennis ball while dribbling and ended his station with dribble knock out.
In the large group setting we worked on jump stops and pivots. It is amazing to see kids that had no idea what a pivot or a jump stop was on Monday, today performing them well. Other full court drills were reinforced with practice today. And our basketball session ended with game type simulation drills.
During the break between the two camps, we got our “fast food” to go and drove to a local market to shop. Following the second camp, we went to eat at a Chinese food restaurant with our Ghanaian counterparts who have been working with us all week. The fellowship around the table was filled with laughter and good conversation.
Upon arrival at the hotel, we had to tally scores from today and fill out certificates of participation that are given to each camper.
We are hoping for nice weather tomorrow, although there is a good chance of rain. Fortunately today was dry with cloudy skies and a cool breeze.
At the end of the day, we are tired but looking forward to a short version of both camps and a closing ceremony.
Thank you for partnering with us in our Ghana adventure.

Friday

We awoke knowing that the week of camps was ending today. The last day of camp is bittersweet, knowing that it will be time to say “goodbye” to new friends, but having memories of experiences shared both on the court and in small group time.
We took breakfast at our normal time (7:00AM). The watermelon and pineapple have been wonderful each day. Most of us have tired of eggs, mystery meat, and cold beans (which did not reappear today). We loaded our bags on the bus and headed to the court. We ran shortened camps this morning getting the fifth session in for both camps. It is always amazing for us to see the basketball progress made from Monday to Friday. Coach Rachael led the group in a quick review of the dynamic stretching that we had introduced on Wednesday, and Coach Kristy led mass ball handling. We ran through a shortened session of stations, reinforcing the things that we had taught during the week. Our final basketball events were Money Goal and Last Second Hero. These two were the big hit with the campers. At one point in Last Second Hero, the boys hit six shots in a row – bound to be a first for our camps in Ghana. Props to Evan, Preston, George, Sam, and Bones for coaching them up! Oh, and it should be noted that Kristy’s girls’ team won Money Goal in the second camp, with Coach Bones boys winning it in the first camp. Coach Rachael’s little kids spent a lot of time at the Money Goal, getting knocked out just before the end in camp 2.
We recounted our lessons from the week, and ended our time talking about the Power we have been given to live a purposeful life. Coaches shared their own story.
After camp, Shoot for Life held a closing ceremony. Songs were sung, drums were played, medals were awarded for the top finishers in the competitions, and certificates and balls were handed out. Goodbyes were said and pictures were taken.
Our counterparts from FCA Kentucky had ended their camps yesterday and were on site for the second camp session. Following the closing ceremony, both teams piled on the bus and left for the coast. It is nearly impossible to describe driving in Ghana, you just have to experience it. There are speed limit signs, but you can hardly drive the limit due to the traffic, the road conditions, and the fact that every hamlet and village along the road has a speed bump to make sure that traffic slows down. When I say speed bump, I’m talking a concrete estrus turn that is a good 6′ wide and 6″-10″ tall, all the way across the road. They are very effective in reducing the speed of the traffic. We arrived around 7:00 PM to the sounds of crashing waves and the smell of the sea. Awesome! Dinner at the restaurant was eaten in the open air dining area, with the sounds of the sea and a cool breeze our companions. Fellowship around the table was sweet, with many stories and life experiences shared among the two teams.
Tomorrow we will have a leisurely morning, tour the slave castle, and head to the airport to begin our homeward journeys. Our flight leaves Accra around 10:30 PM.
Thank you for holding us up this week.

Bridgetown, Barbados

Saturday
The Barbados team arrived this afternoon all safe and sound! It was an easy flight. The team is excited to be there and looking forward to the week ahead. They are settling into the apartment where they will stay. Team members are: Benji Clay, Cindy Raines, Kate Pruett, Laura Wright, Laurie Wible, Madison Clanton, Mark Wible (leader), Michael Brinsko, Thomas Brinsko, and Tyrek Perkins.

Sunday

Kate brought today’s devotion and did a great job of pointing us to persistence in love through story of The Velveteen Rabbit. Throughout the week we would be worn out, under stress, and tired, and that’s when our true character is displayed. She encouraged us to be ready to present love each day this week. Laura Wright has been doing a great job cooking. We are eating well. After lunch, we team – bonded in a most unusual way. All 10 of us were in the ocean together, bobbing up and down in the waves and sharing life. It was the most unique team bonding experience I’ve ever had. The water was beautiful, just the right temperature, and the weather was great. We stayed in the ocean for about two hours. Afterwards, we went to the school to set up for camps and blow up basketballs. Remember flexibility, right? We got and there was no electricity for our pumps to work to blow up balls. We had to search to find somewhere to air balls (in the meantime we were using handheld pumps). They found a home about 15 minutes a way willing to let us use their service. While we were there, Dean (our host) took 30 balls to a local gas station to air them. Near the end, it began to rain, and what fun it was airing and counting balls in the rain! We came home at dark and had a wonderful chicken spaghetti meal with garlic bread and dump cake for dessert. Our hosts, Dean and Rodny, ate with us. These two are genuine people who really love others and want to serve this community. Afterwards in our debrief, everyone expressed how great it was to meet others in another culture and feel so warm and welcomed. We walked through camp for the next day and at 9:00P everyone went to bed.

Monday

Cindy & Laurie brought today’s challenge for us to be real with the kids. Be intentional. Listen to them. Be quick to listen, and slow to speak. Bond with them in their world. After breakfast of pancakes and sausage, the team headed for the court. The first camp was a challenge. It was hot and humid, and we had to make adjustments on the fly. These younger kids were less skilled and had lower stamina. The coaches considered them as blank canvases on which to color with basketball skills. Tomorrow, there will be water breaks every 20 minutes. The ages of the 31 in the morning camp ranged from 4 – 11! Six were under the age of 7, so it was like herding cats. The youngest kids were too small to handle the balls and had no concept of basketball or competitions. So kudos to Laurie & Cindy for being creative and making up their own competitions on the kids’ level. Dean’s camp is 8:00A – 3:00P, and while the younger ones are in HFH camp in the morning, the older ones were out in the cricket pits conditioning in the morning sun for 3 hours. They had a one hour lunch break, but after taking a quick 5 minute break, they were out there playing again. Mark was concerned that these kids were going to be worn out by the time they came to the HFH camp. Dean assured him that the older campers were able to handle it and would surprise him. There were 47 kids ages 12 – 18 in the afternoon camp, and sure enough, they were a surprise. They were intentional, eager to learn, and didn’t slow down one bit. They were great about encouraging each other too. They were very polite and well mannered. Every coach said how much they loved these kids! Then the clouds rolled in and brought a cool break. The rain came crashing down hard, and the kids ran to find shelter. They don’t like the rain. Everyone gathered under a pavilion, standing room only. They continued there with story time and team time, but when the rain stopped, the court was wet and puddles formed. Afternoon camp was over… at 3:25P. We will rest this evening and look forward to another day with the kids tomorrow.

Tuesday

This morning began with Benji challenging the team to stand firm. Yesterday, the kids in the morning camp were unresponsive, and that was discouraging. But the team stood strong and they had good kids in the afternoon. After a delicious breakfast of ham quiche & blueberry muffins, we headed to camp. The kids in the first camp had a much better attitude today. The younger ones had been informed that they were too young for camp, so Cindy & Laurie assisted coaches on two other teams. The 30 kids were placed on 5 teams and it went well. It was hot, but the 10 – 15 mph winds brought in a steady breeze. It was funny to watch the shooting drills. The ball may have left the hands headed straight for the basket, but when the breeze took over, it was anyone’s guess. The kids are getting used to the structure of camp. They are attentive and well behaved. The younger kids are not used to going strong for 3 hours, so at a little over the 2 hour mark, we move into an extended team time. Most of the kids have been exposed to the Gospel, but still ask good questions. Laura provided a great sack lunch of pulled pork sandwiches while we enjoyed the breeze, which continued through the afternoon camp with 50 kids. There was some shade on one court, and some of the gals enjoyed that spot. Benji did crosscourt drills and the kids got into it. They are great at encouraging each other. They worked hard through stations and competitions. Then they played 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 for a few minutes. You have to end with last second hero, and again it was a huge hit. The purple team (second oldest boys) did great. To show how tough these older kids are, they arrive at camp at 9:00A and for 3 hours, they’re in the sun running and conditioning. At noon they play basketball and are made to sit down for 15 minutes and have a quick lunch and rest. Then they pick up the HFH camp from 1:00 – 4:00P. They play hard.

Wednesday

Tyrek started the day off by challenging the team to stand strong and endure. Don’t give up, double up! Quitting is not option. Stand strong, even though it’s hot and you may feel like giving up. Do it for the sake of the kids. The kids were late arriving to the morning camp. They started with 18 campers, and about 30 minutes later the rest showed up. In was an interesting day – hump day. Kids and coaches alike struggled with lethargic bodies. Even though the youngest kids were removed from the camp yesterday, there is still one 5 year old and two 6 year olds. Teams were reorganized to better serve the campers and moving these youngest ones to another team seemed to help. Wednesday is Fun Day. It’s not as structured with stations and drills, and the fun break in the middle of the week is a good plan. Moving team time to about halfway through camp helps as well. Having a 30 minute break to sit and listen and ask questions seemed to perk the kids up. Once they were back on the court, they were all into the relays and games for the remainder of the time. The bottom line is these younger kids like to play, so the coaches made it fun. The team sat in the shade and enjoyed lunch of ham and turkey or peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. The older kids in the afternoon camp had a blast. The break in the middle for team time was welcomed, but they were ready to be back on the court as soon as that was over. We played shooting games and 2 on 2, ran relays and taught them bang ‘em. We ended on knock out, which was the highlight of the camp so far. They loved it! Benji took the whistle in the morning and afternoon camps for mass ball handling and cross court drills and did a good job setting the pace.

Thursday

After breakfast of quiches, Laura and Madi started us off with encouragement to find rest in the midst of the busyness of the camp. These are secrets to finding rest in the storms:

  • Glory soak – take time to enjoy the outdoors
  • Gratitude – find something to be grateful for in every situation
  • Give – of ourselves
  • Worship – through singing
  • Word – read

Camp one started slow once again with 18 kids, but they worked hard. About 45 minutes in, we were up to 26. Everything runs on island time. After lunch of burritos, we were back on the court with the older kids. We were up to 53. They worked hard and were eager to improve. And they have improved dramatically. We ended the camp with Money Goal and knockout, and they were over the top excited. Quite fun. We filled out certificates and calculated scores to get ready for camp tomorrow. We are headed home now, tired but rejoicing over our new family. We have been blessed with tremendous meals this week cooked by Laura Wright, so tonight we are giving her the night off and going out to eat dinner. Thanks Laura! We pray that we finish camp well tomorrow. Our hearts have been knit with the people of Barbados.

Friday

Wow. Just Wow.

This week culminated in a GREAT day five camp. Thomas started us off this morning with a growth grid, challenging us to see opportunities for growth as we end the camps today. We had French toast and bacon for breakfast, followed by our last trip to the campus of Harrison College. It was impressive to ride past the sign that said, “Founded in 1733.” The first camp started just like the others – 18 kids. About 45 minutes in, here came the other kids, up to 26. We switched up camp and did away with contests. This is the first time kids have not wanted to do contests. We replaced them with games; around the world, full court shooting, and a variety of other first time ever games at a HFH camp. They were a hit. Some of the more reserved kids got a chance to be stars and it was really fun. We handed out balls, medals and certificates and the faces of the kids were priceless when they got their rewards for a hard week’s work. Lunch on the grounds has been a hit all week and we finished with pimento cheese sandwiches or peanut butter and jelly. The last camp began with an energy that had not been there before. Everything went so well that when it began to rain, the kids did not run off the court but wanted to keep going. And we had a HFH camp first – Musical Basketball. I had a whim and just made the decision to try it — oh my goodness, it almost brought the house down. The kids loved it. We ended talking about “I have a power,” the power to forgive and overcome temptation. We were open about these topics and that led to some great conversations. When we handed out the awards, the kids were so thankful. Many asked for our autographs on the certificates and on T – shirts. Dean told us that in Barbadian culture, you have to either be very famous (a pro NBA player) or highly respected (someone who has deep meaning to another) to be asked to sign something. So he was blown away that they wanted our autographs.

It has been a fantastic week

Dean and his team have been incredible. We feel loved and blessed. Tomorrow is our down day – some will go sailing and some will just hang out at the beach. But it will be well deserved down time. Thanks for partnering with us in the wonderful venture.

Madrid, Spain

Sunday

Jason Phillips reports: Praise the Lord, we made it! Everyone is feeling healthy and we are blessed that all luggage made it safe and intact.
We visited both sites today and we are excited to have 50 kids in each camp. We are reminded that this is tough ground to plow, but we are not discouraged or afraid because we know that God has gone before us. We also know we have the game of basketball to break down barriers and build relationships to allow for the Gospel and the Holy Spirit to move forward.
It is always great to worship in these churches where there are many first generation Christians who are on fire for sharing the Gospel. It is definitely motivating and encouraging to us as a team.

Monday

Day one is complete. It started with a great devotional from Taylor where she reminded us to be intentional with everything we do today and throughout the week.
Everything about this trip and everything with HFH for that matter is done with intentionality. We know when reservations are made and bags are packed and the whole team begins to pray, everything is done with intention. That also goes for when we are on site doing camp. Everything we do needs to be done for a purpose so we can show excellence and begin to build relationships that will allow us to share the Gospel.
It is a good thing we are intention in our preparation and knowing our mission. We had some significant opposition today. Satan was working in the heart of a Muslim dad who was upset that after basketball, we began to talk about Jesus and God and the Bible. Lucas, our host, told us that this was going on behind the scenes and he was doing his best to take care of it. This reinforced for the team that we need to press on because we are making a difference.
Taylor had absolutely wonderful conversations today with some older teenage girls who were questioning evolution and if God really loves them. It was evidence of the Holy Spirit working. These were great first steps we are sure will bear fruit while we are here or after we are gone.
Both camps have very well behaved kids and they are pretty well skilled as well. We are going to be challenged in the drills we are doing to make sure they are challenging and engaging for the players.
The team is well and healthy and ready to get some rest. We’re looking forward to Day 2!

Tuesday

It was a great day – Day 2 of Camp in Torrejon de Ardoz and Serracines. We had a few more walkups in the morning group which pushed us to about 50. In the afternoon all 50 showed back up and were excited to be there. The kids’ skill level has not necessarily improved yet but things are running smoother. The coaches and the kids know what to expect and are beginning to enjoy themselves and not feel so confused by the whole process.
Grayson’s devotion this morning reminded us that we do all things because we love God and want to be a part of what He is doing. He does the work, and has already forgiven us for our sins and guilt. This is especially important in this spiritual climate where Catholicism is so heavy. The children and families believe things are done out of rote tradition, not out of love.
The morning was absolutely beautiful, but the afternoon started to get warm until some clouds rolled in with a little moisture, and we smelled the fresh rain in the air. It added a nice cool wrap-up to the evening session in Serracines.
In the afternoon session, Taylor continues to have great conversations with her older girls. A lot of these are sparked by great questions they feel comfortable asking Taylor.
The Muslim father who was upset yesterday about us professing our faith and talking about Jesus did come back and brought his kids with him. We were thrilled we were able to pour into this Muslim family.
In Luke’s group, he came face to face with one of the Muslim kids who was very upfront, saying he worships Allah and respects Christianity. Luke is beginning to build a relationship there that will hopefully lead to deeper discussions.
Everyone is well and healthy. We know tomorrow is hump day and will take an extra special positive attitude full of energy to get us through, but with some rest and a good quiet time we will be off and running.

Wednesday

We survived the midweek lull. We had a great devotion this morning from Luke that touched on the fact that we do not need to be anxious about anything, whether it is anything in our lives or anything at camp. God is in control and we can rest in that peace.
Another good thing about this morning and a good start to the day is the fact that we had cold milk, (that is important right, Mark Wible?!).
It was cool in the morning and we thought it was going to be toasty in the afternoon but it actually cooled off a bit and we were able to use the indoor and outdoor court at Serracines.
In the morning group, kids were definitely in awe and captured by the story of Richard Hurd. The coaches were then able to expand on the part they play in God’s kingdom and God’s purpose and plan for their lives.
We had one more boy show up this morning. The morning camp at Torrejon is definitely loaded with boys, whereas the afternoon camp at Serracines is heavier on the girls side. The kids always appreciate the way the Wednesday format allows for more fun competitions and less rigid drilling. The one minute shooting competitions are always a hit and get the kids competitive juices flowing.
The boys in the afternoon are really good players and there are a couple of really good girl players as well. The afternoon group is no different in that the children are mesmerized by the Richard Hurd story. It always sets the perfect stage for the coaches.
The opportunity for talking to parents is a great thing that is happening in the afternoon group. Even better, two girls wanted to talk with Lucas, our local pastor. As always, it’s good to see the children want to talk more even after we break camp. It is also encouraging when we heard that one of the moms of one of the girls in Taylor’s group is communicating directly with Lucas.
Some of the words used tonight after dinner were tired and more sore each day. We are glad that we fought through and made it through Wednesday. We are looking forward to a great Thursday with the children.

Thursday

Energy levels were high on day 4 and we had a great day! We hit the ground running and had a great camp in the morning. Competitions were heated and instructions on how to set a ball screen and screen off ball went really well. The kids in the morning and the afternoon for that matter, are both well skilled in basketball. That makes our job sometimes difficult and then at times easy because they are very coachable.
Lucas, our local pastor, gave a great talk to the morning group. When I introduced him they applauded for him. He is well loved and well respected among the morning group. At this point Lucas made the decision that presenting the gospel and praying the prayer of salvation was not the best thing for this group. He is trying to plant little seeds with the group and hoping and knowing that the fruit and growth will come later.
In between the morning and afternoon camps this week, Taylor has been running a mini coaching clinic for some of the older boys who will be coaching some of the younger players. That has gone really well and has been very well received. Those mini clinics Monday through Wednesday were put together on the fly with Taylor being flexible and adaptable. Those clinics were in Serracines, the town that we drive to in the afternoon. She goes ahead of us and does a clinic an hour before we get there. She is definitely missing out on her siestas! She has been a trooper and has done a wonderful job coaching these younger coaches up.
Today was the preplanned bigger clinic with the more experienced coaches. That was this evening from 6-9:00P. All indications were that it went really well. We heard good reports while we were at our second camp all evening. There were plans to expand that and make it more tailored to what the coaches from this area need from the Hoops for Hope organization.
The energy level from the afternoon camp was really high and really fun. Each night more and more parents have shown up and tonight was no exception. There were at least 20 parents in the bleachers for the majority of the evening session. As you can see from some of the pics, the parents see our camp in a good light and think it is a well run camp and they show their gratitude by bringing us food, snacks, and drinks every night. We usually end up staying at least 30 minutes after camp is over visiting with players, partaking of the snacks parents have provided and sometimes even talking with the parents. This has been a great opportunity for Lucas and Michael to build relationships in this community.
The gospel presentation in the evening camp had success we could see and success we could not see. Guy had at least 4 or 5 young boys accept Christ. He prayed the prayer of salvation with his interpreter and when he opened his eyes, 4 or 5 of the boys had tears in their eyes as they had accepted Christ. Guy was overjoyed to say he would see them again some day in Heaven.
As the day went on, I am reminded, and perhaps other coaches as well, of Courteney’s devotion this morning. She came to realize that maybe our testimonies don’t always have much impact because we come from Bible believing parents. In all actuality, our testimonies do have components that appeal to anybody in any situation in their lives.
We are anticipating our last day with these Spaniards with mixed emotions of course, knowing we have made an impact but not to the extent that we wish we could. We know we have done our best and will be sad to go. We are leaving behind nuggets of truth that will one day impact these children and maybe even parents, and maybe lead to a house church in Serracines.

Friday

Our final day of camp in Spain may have started off slow but it ended with an amazing night. Morning camp had a bit of a sluggish start to it but did end with an award ceremony that was fun for the campers and coaches. We of course saw some tremendous improvements in the kids’ basketball skills and we know we were able to make impression that will last.
The hospitality of the security guard that let us into the court everyday was really cool. At the end of every day he would have some “cheches” (junk food), drinks, popsicles and fruit for us. He really enjoyed serving us and had a heart of gold. In the picture you can see that he presented us with a banner from one of the clubs that use the facility.
The evening was something special. There were at least 20 to 30 parents in the stands for the last 30 minutes of our evening. This happened on more than one evening so we know they heard the gospel and about Jesus more than one time this week. I have never seen this many parents for an awards ceremony. They were fully engaged with phones out videoing and enjoying seeing the children presented with their awards.
During small group time Taylor was able to pray the prayer of salvation with her older girls’ group and we believe there were five or six girls who accepted Christ. At the end they were in tears and it was definitely evident they had bonded with Taylor and had seen Jesus in her. The Holy Spirit was moving.
In talking to our local contact, Pastor Lucas, he was absolutely thrilled with the evening. He was almost in tears as he told me about the relationships he was able to begin tonight in the moments after camp was over.
When awards had been presented and certificates and balls handed out things were just getting started. The parents of three campers cooked out for us. We had pork and sausage and chicken wings. It was true fellowship with friendships being created and connections being made. We hung around and visited till about 10:30.
We hurried back into Torrejon and watched a water light show. The evening ended with gifts of olive oil being presented to the HFH team from Lucas and the church at 1 AM in the hotel lobby. It was a great way to end a long but rewarding day. We are off to a sightseeing tour tomorrow in Madrid.

Pilar, Argentina

Saturday
The team left this evening and are scheduled to arrive early tomorrow morning. Team members are; Jason Maks (leader), and son Dillon, Blaine French, Chris & Brandi Jackson with daughters and son Kayden, Kinsey & Tyler, JT Froese, Will Sears and son, Tyler.

Sunday

Once in Buenos Aires, the team made quickly it through immigration and customs, picked up the rentals and followed James Greenwood, our host to Pilar. We made our way to Siga La Vaca for some lunch and met our host’s family and friends. We enjoyed some Argentine beef and good fellowship before heading to the hotel to check in and catch up on sleep. After a nap, we prepared for camps to begin tomorrow.

Monday

The team started off, after waking up from some much appreciated sleep, to find breakfast of eggs, ham, an assortment of other food items and coffee. Blaine shared his heart about the loss, at separate times, of both his parents and challenged us to find peace. Our camps are back at Club Sportivo Pilar (CSP) for a second consecutive year, but now under new management, Marcelo. He welcomed us with open arms, allowing us to use his facility and actively ensuring that everything we need is available. We started off the morning camp with an immediate increase in the number of campers from last year, when we had a single participant! This year we started with 22. Camp went fairly smoothly as we had to be flexible with time and stations. We wrapped up at 12:30 and elected to eat lunch at the club to save on time. Most of us had the Argentine equivalent of ravioli filled with ham and cheese. We started off the afternoon with another 23 campers. The afternoon session is geared towards older kids and it did not disappoint. Many of the kids are clearly high level basketball players. They bring a great attitude to the court and a willingness to continue to work to hone their skills. We are also conducted a condensed third camp at one of the local clubs, Athletico Pilar. We ran through mass ball handling, some crosscourt drills, quick stations and discussed our message of hope to approximately 50 boys and girls. We then got to watch the athletic director and basketball director at the club pick the coaching brain of Will Sears. Meanwhile a few of us had a chance to play some pickup ball with the more advanced boys. What a great time!

Tuesday

Today started off much like the day prior with breakfast at the hotel. The team has become accustomed to the breakfast offerings at the Centro de desarollo Cristiano (El Nazareno) so there were not as many strange looks after trying something for the first time this morning. During breakfast JT and Dillon presented today’s challenge, to be still and trust. We arrived 30 minutes ahead of camp start time to find that some of the kids were already in gym. It was so reassuring to all of us that the kids were excited enough to arrive so early. We started camp promptly and went through mass ball handling, cross court drills, stations and Last Second Hero, which is always a camp favorite and today was no exception. It was perfect when the last kid in line drained a three to finish on a high note.

Wow!

Today we presented Plan during our large group time. Building on the Purpose from the first day, we used the example of utilizing a plan to build the gym we have used for camp. The kids could relate to the building plan and allowed us to then the plan for each of us. The afternoon session went much like the morning session. Camp flowed and we were able to see kids more involved, more confident and continuing to evolve their basketball skills. The breakout groups stood out as the kids seemed to open up a little more than the day prior. Following camp today, the entire team headed over to a favorite club from our visit last year. Basquet Pilar Penarol is a club in downtown that would be considered slightly underprivileged by US standards. The people that run the club are beyond kind and the kids who attend are full of love. Our visit tonight is one of two planned for this week and tonight certainly did not disappoint. When we got to the club we were greeted with a welcome sign outside the gym and a plethora of smiles on the faces of kids, parents and coaches alike. We introduced ourselves and said hello to some old friends. Blaine French stepped into the leader role for camp and did a fantastic job. He was a complete natural. It was a memorable time with good people and, on a cold night, very much appreciated hot chocolate. We concluded the day with team time enjoyed with pizza. Will discussed the change day over day in the development and intensity of some of the kids. Kayden commented on the level of energy the girls brought to camp today. Brandi shared a story about a kid who came to camp with his grandmother. It was discovered that boy’s family lives in our host’s own neighborhood. In a town of more than 300,000 that probably doesn’t happen every day. They might have never met if not for this basketball camp.

Wednesday

Another morning in Argentina started off with breakfast back in the hotel, followed by the challenge from Will and Tyler. Will opened by telling the story about his coaching journey and referred to it as a journey of perseverance. He and Tyler challenged us to persevere, regardless of the difficulty of the task at hand. We walked out of the hotel to beautiful blue skies with the sun shining bright. It looked a lot like Texas, but the 40 degree weather sure didn’t feel like Texas in July. With jackets on we headed to the club for the third day of camp. When we arrived at camp there was once again a number of kids already shooting in the gym. We put our stuff down, grabbed some balls and started shooting with them. It is such a great feeling of joy to see these kids day after day and the happiness they seem to genuinely have for camp. We kicked camp off once again with mass ball handling. Today we added some more complex drills to the mix. The boys here are extremely good on average at the game of basketball. As Will can attest, their offense is fantastic, but there is a lot of opportunity on the defensive side of the ball. We later went into crosscourt drills and again added more complex drills to keep the kids advancing in their development. We spent time rotating through stations and then moved into large group time. Today we discussed the Part that we play in the Plan. During this session we talk about the story of Richard Hurd, a basketball player who is known for the one part he played. The afternoon session went much like the morning. Of notice today was the continued growth of the group with the oldest boys. Brandi shared that some of the boys are driving from 90 miles away to come to camp. It is amazing to see the coaches work with them and the genuine interest the boys take in learning from the coaches.

Thursday

We headed to the gym and kicked mass ball handling off quickly. As the kids have grasped most of the skills very well, we moved through and proceeded to cross court drills and team competitions. The teams which have been separated by age and gender competed within themselves for first and second place. More importantly the kids unknowingly competed for a coach’s medal, which is awarded to the kids who best exemplify the personal attributes Hoops for Hope models. It was great to see how hard the kids competed. They really don’t complain. They just give it their all, all the time. Today we presented our fourth P, Place, then presented certificates and balls to the campers. They were extremely thankful for our spending time with them this week and for the basketballs. The afternoon camp went much like the first and ran very smoothly. As we wrapped up we were able to share some conversations with the older boys over hot chocolate and some pastries. They all have a favorite NBA player and they vary widely in who they like. It was just great social interaction with the kids. We started back towards Club Penarol for another visit with the kids we had met on Tuesday night but were informed that they had cancelled our engagement because the rain was coming through the roof and made the court unsafe. We informed James that we were going regardless. Once at the club we were met with wet conditions, but we were also met with smiling faces. The kids were so happy to see us and we were so happy to see them. The court did indeed have some wet places but not enough to stop anyone from shooting around. Blaine led the camp through mass ball handling before taking the opportunity to present Part and Place. Blaine again did a great job with the kids and they did a great job listening to his message. We finished up at Penarol with a real treat, Choripan, sausage in be tween two pieces of bread. The director of the club had made the sausage and cooked it for us. As good as all the other food has been in Argentina, this was a personal favorite. We wrapped up and headed back to the hotel for team time while we ate empanadas and ice cream from a local place. It was a good time to reflect on the week and to acknowledge each person and their contribution to the success of the team. One thing about Hoops teams is that they are all different, but they are all special.

Friday

Tomorrow is our travel day. We are thankful for our time together and pray that the impact we can have on the kids goes on after we are gone.

Kodiak Island, Alaska

Saturday

The team left this morning and were scheduled to arrive this evening. Team members are; Michael Eddy (leader), with family Kelli, Caroline and Carter, Austin O’ravez, Jared Tice, John Beck, Josue Jimenez, Kiley Jo Noday, Paetyn Peterie, Sam Meeks, and Tim Peterie.

Sunday

Tim cooked sausage and egg breakfast tacos for the group in the morning, coupled with kiwi, cantaloupe, and pineapple. Our team got to meet with our hosts and friends today. The community is so loving and appreciate that we are here. The views are unbelievable, and it’s nice and cool. We are out of town near the ocean in a family’s cabin.

Monday

We had another wonderful breakfast cooked by Chef Tim. On the way into town we saw two bears and three deer. The drive by the ocean and the mountains every day seem to put us in the right mindset. We talked about Purpose today. Many of the kids who signed up did not come. We are hoping for more tomorrow.

Tuesday

The day started as Tim challenged the team to continue to invest in the kids, regardless of the numbers. We were excited that several new kids came! The kids worked hard today. Many had an amazing time and smiles were seen all around; a mark of accomplishment. At the end of camp, Sam spoke about the plan for our lives. He shared how he had been healed from brain cancer; how it felt as the tumor shrunk and eventually became benign and died. He was not sure he was going to make it through, but he was given the strength to overcome radiation treatment. The kids really listened well and were challenged by his , life story. The day ended with fried chicken, corn, mash potatoes, Lau Lau (Hawaiian dish), chocolate cake, and a trip to Fort Abercrombie, a point on the island that overlooks the ocean.

Wednesday

We were challenged today not to be anxious. We continue to love on the kids, hoping to break down the walls. The kids are shy here. The first camp went well, and both camps continue to grow. We are at over 60 kids for the week. Tim shared the message at both camps, sharing his story of the part we have to play and how he has learned to live out his part. One of the Kodiak Park and Recreation directors cooked an authentic Filipino noodle, chicken, and vegetable meal for lunch. We celebrated Josue’s 18th birthday with cupcakes at the beach.

Thursday

Today was the biggest day of the camps this week with 65 kids attending! Both camps continue to work hard and give their best. Jared shared his testimony of how he was rescued from struggles in his life and given a place. Losing his grandparents seemed too much to bare but he found comfort, peace, and hope.

Friday

Today was the most energetic day of the week from our campers. The kids seemed to have more strength and power in both camps, even though it was the coldest day since we arrived. They really seemed to enjoy the day as both gyms were noisy and loud. As we closed out the w eek, we shared our one word to take away and why it was meaningful. It was uplifting to hear what was accomplished during the week. Our hosts were grateful for our coming, and they along with the city, invited us to return. They were both amazed at what a great camp and week it was.

Torokszentmiklos, Hungary

Saturday

The team left from Waco yesterday afternoon and arrived safely this morning with all their luggage. Team members are: Mark Wible (leader), Landon Steinke, Luke Eason, Trent Collier & daughter Ashlyn.

Sunday

Mark reports: We had an outstanding breakfast after a good night’s rest in the Verdi Grand Hotel, a new hotel in the heart of old Budapest. We took the train to Hillsong Budapest and had a fun time meeting new friends. Even though the translation did not work we enjoyed being there.

After a quick lunch, we drove to our host city, Torokszentmiklos. We are staying in the same B&B as last year and the precious couple greeted us fondly. They haven’t learned any English and we haven’t learned any Hungarian, so we just hammered at each other and nodded a lot.

We learned a cool fact about the arrangements for our camps. Our host, Baptist Aid for Hungary, did not have the budget to put on our camp this year, so we had been cancelled. The kids contacted the leadership and they got together and found sponsors so the kids could have this camp!

We are “aired up and ready to go!”

Monday

Day One is in the books! The day started with a delicious breakfast of eggs benedict, cold cuts, cheese, bread and fruit, followed by a Trent’s challenge in team time. Approximately 75% of our campers today were repeaters. It was great to see them again and share hugs and high fives. It was great to see the translators again too. They are the best!
The morning camp was scheduled to begin at 8:30A, but when only 1 kid was there at 8:30A, we knew something was wrong. The school secretary published the time for camp to begin as 9:00A, so everyone else showed up around 9:00A, bringing us to 26. Camp started about 40 minutes late… Flexibility! This worked out well, giving our coaches some time to get to know their campers a little bit as they played on the court.
We enjoyed lunch of cheesy broccoli and hominy soup, cold fruit and berry soup, and Cordon Bleu.
The afternoon camp was held in a tiny, hot gym. The 29 campers plus the coaches had a good workout in the heat.
Dinner was fried cheese and chicken fried chicken. What’s not to like?!
It was a great first day but we are all ready to turn in for the night.

Tuesday

Today was a good day! Mark started team time with Hebrews 11:11-13 where Sarah considered God to be faithful because He blessed her with the fulfilment of the promise He made to Abraham. Mark challenged the team to remember God’s faithfulness in their lives and to use it to encourage the kids.
Breakfast this morning was mostly the same as yesterday; hard boiled eggs, cold cuts, veggies, but there was one huge blessing for Mark. The staff remembered the team from previous trips and provided him with his very own liter of COLD milk. No sharing required.
Campers were ready to get started at 8:30A, so they went at it. Trent led the 26 campers in mass ball handling. They could really see improvement over yesterday. The kids got after it in stations and had a good time. Contests were heated… spirited. Coaches engaged the kids well. They added some new wrinkles to money goal and that was fun. Coaches played in some shooting drills with the kids and they all enjoyed that.
The kids were a little more interactive in break out time today. They are learning their coaches and feeling more freedom to talk. Today’s focus was on God’s plan.
Lunch was delicious Hungarian stew. It’s so thoughtful of the staff to learn their American ways. They brought the team a big bucket of ice!
They added a couple of girls who were a part of last year’s camp to the afternoon one, putting them at 31. They added a lot to the competitions. It’s easy to get kids spirited in competitions and station work.
While playing Bang ‘Em, Big Nondy, a 250 pound 15 year old, came down on his shoulder and was injured. His parents were called and picked him up. He had brought his ball with him from last year and left without it, so a friend got it for him. His team passed along the message that they are praying for him. If he is not there tomorrow, his team will go visit him at his house.
The older girls had a breakthrough in the afternoon camp. They were not responding to Ashlyn, and Eta, the translator, had finally had enough. She stopped Ashlyn and spoke directly to the girls. She asked them why they were not talking. She explained that Ashlyn is their age, has similar life experiences and is opening her life up to them. What’s the deal?! She told them to shake their head yes or no if they understood and believed what Ashlyn was saying. Finally an older girl shook her head and explained that she and her teammates attend a catholic school where they are forced to believe. She just set her mind that she was not going to believe. They all understood that HFH is not forcing them to believe, and responded that it’s the very reason they love our camps.
Small group time was extended 10 minutes to accommodate this deepened talk with the girls. Eta told Mark she would make those older girls her project to talk with again.
They ended camp with the translators and the 3 young coaches playing a game of full court 3 on 3. It was fun.
They had a fun time bonding on the way back to the hotel. The road they travel is a 2 lane one, and a truck had overturned, causing the traffic to come to a stand still for about 30 minutes. They learned that Landon can make some incredible sounds with his hands over his mouth. They laughed and laughed, and it didn’t get any better when he tried to teach them to do it.
After dinner of chicken spaghetti, and the debrief, the team is headed out for some ice cream. Sweet end to the day.

Wednesday

Wednesdays at camp are always a great/hard day. Everyone is tired and the newness of the experience has worn off. But the kids are also tired. So we knew that going into camp today. In preparation for that, Ashlyn challenged us in team time to see things that happen to us through the prism of “maybe.“ She painted a beautiful picture of the Romans 8:28 principles of all things working together for good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
Breakfast was good again.
So as the first camp began, the kids immediately noticed the change in the structure. We did dynamic stretching and zipped through mass ball handling. Soon the fun really began. Wednesday has become “game day.“ We played musical basketball, ran relays, had around the world shooting competition, played knock out and full-court layups competitions.
There were 26 kids in the first camp and 30 to the second camp. The walls are beginning to come down and we are seeing an opening in the discussions and small group time. You can tell the kids are warming up to us, especially in the afternoon camp, in that they waited around, shot and played and talked for 25 minutes after camp ended. We were taking pictures and had a lot of laughs. After playing with the kids our gang played 5/5 full court with the translators.
Big Nondy, the kid who got hurt yesterday, showed up today just to be with the team. He dislocated his arm/shoulder and is in a sling. We were able to express to him that we were praying for him.
One of the translators overheard 5 girls talking. They said, “We have been looking forward to this for a year! We love this camp. We hope they come back next year.”
Please pray for us as we share the gospel salvation message tomorrow. These kids love us and love talking with us. But they still adamantly say they don’t believe in God.

Thursday

Gospel presentation day always gives opportunity for the enemy to try to attack. Several in our group had a hard time sleeping Wednesday night. So we recognized that the enemy was trying to create tired bodies because of our plan. We prayed for one another as the day began.
Landon challenged us in team time not to take anything for granted and to do everything as unto the Lord. It was a good concise word to begin our camps with.
By day four of camps, the kids are familiar with the routine and the coaches. It’s really the first time they get fully comfortable in the camps. We added several new wrinkles to ball handling and all of our stations. We remained very upbeat and quick in everything that we did. Competitions went smoothly and stations were challenging yet quick.
We prayed that there will be no distractions during gospel presentation time and the Lord was faithful. The kids listened intently and then went to their small groups. Three of the four teams went into overtime in their small groups. There were lots of discussion and lots of deep questions. Even the young ones asked hard questions about heaven and hell, life and death. It was truly amazing to see these kids who, just four days ago, came to camp not knowing what to expect and now they’re wrestling with the truth of the gospel!
When given the opportunity to receive Christ over a dozen in the first camp indicated desire to follow Jesus! We were ecstatic!
The restaurant in which we eat lunch and dinner has been really nice to us and fed us like royalty this week. Today they did not disappoint at either lunch or dinner. The food has been excellent.
We were late getting started with the second camp and all of the kids were waiting and wondering where we were.
Trent and Ashlyn led them through stretching, mass ball handling, defensive slides, jump stop-jab-and pivot. A new wrinkle we taught today was the screen and roll. They were a little slow picking it up, but at least they got the concept. The kids really enjoyed steal the bacon for the second straight day. It may be a new camp favorite.
At team time we really sensed the presence of the Lord in the group as the kids listened intently to the story and testimony that was being told. Then they went in the small group and longer discussion ensued. We finally had to cut off two groups because we were running 15 minutes overtime. But the kids really wanted to talk and have their questions answered. When we pulled them all back together and the sinner’s prayer was offered, we told the kids to bow their heads and close their eyes. We prayed the prayer, and then asked them to pray along with us. At the end, Mark said, “Everyone keep your eyes closed and head down. Now those of you who prayed that prayer, please raise your hand.“ The translator heard (and translated) “please raise your head.“
Our team was fairly disappointed when we saw no hands lifted up. Then several kids raised their heads and looked up at Mark. He kept saying, “Please keep your heads down and eyes closed.” It wasn’t until we were at debrief afterwards that the translator told me what he had said. So here these kids were lifting their heads as commanded to if they prayed the prayer to indicate that they gave their heart to Jesus, and Mark was telling them to put their heads down and close their eyes!
We were grateful to know of the mistranslation and encouraged to know that some gave their lives to Jesus.
It seems hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of camp and then we have a touring day on Saturday and we head home Sunday. Thanks for being with us on this journey. Eternity has been changed for 20+ children in Hungary this year. It was an honor to represent the Lord and Hoops For Hope to Hungary.

Friday

We enjoyed the final breakfast with our wonderful no-English hosts. They have pampered us all week, making sure we are happy and well fed.
Luke led devotions this morning. He shared from Psalm 23 about the Lord leading us beside quiet waters, and asked us to quiet ourselves, think about the character traits of God, and contemplate on our favorite one. He instructed us to take a deep breath in and think, then breathe out a prayer for the kids we would encounter today, that they would see an expression of that trait in us. It was a powerful challenge.
Attila, our driver for the last 2 years, is a communist and atheist. He told us today that he has enjoyed being our chauffeur because we make him think. Seeds…
We switched up camps, did some fancy ball handling, quick movements, and fun games. We had the kids running from station to station. They were exhausted but had a great time.  We gave extra team time to say our farewells, and everyone took full advantage of the extra 15 minutes.
Before the awards ceremony, the school presented us with gifts, which was a sweet touch. Then we loaded up the van, went back to the guest house, gave HFH gifts to our hosts for the week and said our goodbyes.
The 30 minute drive to the second site was filled with talk of “I can’t believe it’s over!”
At the restaurant where we’ve had lunch and dinner every day, we again enjoyed a sumptuous feast. We gave sackpacks, t-shirts and water bottles to the wait staff who had helped all week long. They were surprised and blessed.
The final camp was filled with high energy and seemed to fly by. Team time was all about relationship building. One teenage boy who joined part way through the week was on Landon’s team. He was rather aloof and thought he was a pretty good player. We had all noticed his attitude. At the end of team time today, he asked Landon if they could be friends on social media, because he had questions about God and didn’t know who else to talk to. Seeds…
The school where the afternoon camp was held also gave us parting gifts. It was very thoughtful. In this camp, there is one set of older girls who are definitely good players, in fact better than the boys. They’ve been with us 2 years now and one of the girls who had aged out of the camp came back to watch today. She joined in team time, came forward and got a certificate and ball! (This is the same club who presented our coaches with gifts last year. Some older ones had aged out and new young ones were added. They recognized Mark and Trent, the returning coaches, right away.) Those girls had made a special gift for Ashlyn. They all cried together at the presentation.
They presented a bag of goodies to all the coaches, along with a note. When she handed me my bag and note to me, I was told not to read this now, but wait until I got to the hotel. She started to cry, and said to go ahead and read it. I asked her to read it to us, and she graciously did. Here’s what it said:
Dear coaches, I know that my English is not the best, but I hope you will understand this letter. I would like to say Thank You for coming to us. This 5 days was more than amazing. You are all so kind and funny. Each of you have a lovely personality. We learned a lot of things about basketball and about the life. We have become better players and better people. You have opened our eyes to see every beauties in this world and of course we got closer to God. We learned how to look after the little things because these are make big difference. We have been teached so many new things. I hope you will come back next year too. Love you all and thank you very much. Love, Dorka
By the time she finished, everyone was crying! We all hugged and had a great time. Our goodie bag was filled with candy, cookies and candy bars. It was very sweet and thoughtful.
We said our last goodbyes and drove 2 hours back to Budapest. To say we had some weary coaches would be an understatement. We stopped at McDonalds for a quick bite.
I stayed in the room, and everyone else went out for a while to enjoy the city. Tomorrow the team will go sightseeing in Budapest, then we will begin our journey back home.
Thank you for your prayers this week. Lives have been changed, the Kingdom advanced!

Boca Chica, Dominican Republic

Saturday

The team left this morning from New Mexico and arrived this evening. Team members are; Jesse Harden (leader), Claire Meyer-Hagen, Gabe Town, Lauren McAuley, Taylor Potter, Tyler Baker.

Sunday

Jesse reports from DR: Hi! We just got back from meeting our hosts, lunch, setting up for two camps, swimming and eating again!

The 2 courts are very nice. We will have an outdoor court for the morning camp, 9-noon and a covered court for the afternoon camp, 3-6:00P. We expect about 80 to 90 kids total and we’re ready. Everything seems set up well.

The team is doing well. We’re all excited to get started, meet our kids and encourage them.

Monday

We just finished the first day of camps. We had about 80 kids, 40 at each camp. The kids are pretty good at basketball; most of them have played it seems and the skill level is higher than I have seen at Hoops for Hope camps.
Kids at both camps are really engaging with the drills as well as the talks and small group time. It was a good first day of building relationships. I invited one of the translators to share his story of finding purpose as he grew up an orphan in the same neighborhood. The power of a testimony from a man who many of the kids knew was powerful.

Tuesday + Wednesday

We’ve had two solid days of camps! The kids here have a pretty high level of skill. Three or four of them can dunk easily and many have great shot and ball handling skills. I’ve invited one of these FCA coaches (also a translator) to share his story today because it fit perfectly with the build up of purpose, plan and part. The kids responded really well in small groups.

Thursday

We finished up both camps today. It was an incredible week with these folks in the DR.

Dallas, Texas

Monday

Todd Helgeson reports: Sunday’s storm knocked out the power in Dallas where the HFH camp was to be held starting on Monday, but the kids were not deterred. The start time was moved from 9:00A to 10:00A, and by 10:20 most of the kids were there. Camp started with 34 quiet kids, but as they learned what to expect, they warmed up to their coaches and each other. The camp sponsor, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, sent 2 workers and they were great at helping the kids to feel comfortable. By the time competitions began, the kids were all in.

Tuesday

Today also went well. Due to the size of the gym we went to 4 stations. We had about 35 kids again. The younger group is a little restless, but we have had a great response from the older kids. Last second hero is always a crowd pleaser and the kids had a blast with it.

Thursday

We had another great day at camp. The kids were attentive. Brother Bill’s Helping Hand has been extremely happy with the results of the camp and the overall HFH program. It’s a pleasure to partner with them this week.

Svitlovodsk, Ukraine

Friday

The team left from Houston this evening headed for Ukraine! They are scheduled to arrive in Kiev tomorrow evening. Please pray for safe travels and for all their luggage to arrive as well.
The team members from HFH Denton are: Michael Eddy (leader), Anna Martin-Denton (Brown), Ashley Deveraux, Jacklynn Williams, Joshua Lowe, Trey Lowe, Tyler Eaton, and Zane Brown.

Sunday

Michael Eddy shares: The gym has no ac. It will be hot in there this week. It is believed that it is not healthy to have an air draft coming through the gym. It reminds me of growing up in the gym with just big box fans and no ac. Many years of hard sweat staying humble and hungry to be better at this game and in life. Sweating to make better people better and better basketball players is not always easy but the cold shower at the end of today brought refreshment and rejuvenation!

We saw many people riding their bike today as we drove to the city.

The day fittingly closed with a beautiful sunset and wonderful meal of beef and potatoes, cabbage, cucumber salad, and a cherry compote drink; a wonderful homemade cherry drink. We ended with Black Forest cake and milk.

It is going to be a great week with 100 kids coming. We hope for rest and strength this week, that we will have the words needed, and that our team will work together the best way possible to make the most of our time!

Monday

We started the day with a wonderful meal of Ukrainian pancakes, eggs, and sausage.

The cool story of the day was three campers came last time we were here and traveled 200 kilometers (120 miles) to attend this week. They are staying in a hotel just because they had so much fun last time they wanted to come back.

We had Olive Garden Ukrainian style at lunch. Very good! Pizza for dinner with chocolate ice cream cones.

We had 95 today; 45 in the first camp and 50 in the second.

It’s a blessing that we could join the work here this week.

Tuesday

This morning’s breakfast was so good. The food continues to be amazing!!  Had some of the best Oatmeal ever, with fresh strawberries, cashews, and crancherries. For lunch we had buckwheat, salad, and chicken, and for dinner; wonderful soup, bread, chocolate cake, and tea.
In our devotional time to start the day, Trey talked about passion and enthusiasm. He challenged us to do everything like your life depends on it!
The plan for our lives was brought to the forefront today. We encouraged and challenged the kids. We also had good talks with the head of basketball.

Wednesday

Today our food was delicious once again.  We had crepes and eggs for breakfast with strawberries and different fillings. Lunch was salad, chicken meatballs with cheese noodles and chocolate bars for dessert. For dinner we had potato and chicken pancakes with salad and cake for dessert.
The kids worked hard today. It is hard to believe we are halfway through. Trey shared the talk today about playing your part, and groups got deeper in their discussions. They enjoyed the fun activities that were planned. And we had our first girl in camp today!
At the end of the day, we got to go to a Ukrainian/Russian bathhouse. This banya experience of a pool, cold tub, and sauna was very relaxing!

Thursday

What a great day! Tyler led our team time this morning and later shared his life story with the camps.
The local community has taken an interest all week in what we were doing. Today the local newspaper and TV station stopped by and interviewed us.
Our host has been wonderful this week and has really taken care of us. Our translators have been outstanding! We celebrated tonight with a Coke and a smile. Near the end of the night a hot air balloon even stopped by.

Friday

It was a great last day of camp! The award ceremonies went well.

As we boarded the bus, tears were shed by many because of the new connections we made.
Before we left the city, we ate at a traditional Ukrainian restaurant and the food was awesome, especially the cherry puff with sugar on top at the end.

We were all given chocolate and toasts were made thanking everyone for all their hard work. The head of basketball also presented a medal to Coach Eddy, one that the city had given him. The first year Hoops for Hope came they had gone to Nationals and gotten 2nd. This last year they placed 4th, and we were a part of that tradition this week.

Saturday

We had a long drive through the rainy night and got to Kiev early this morning. As I look back over the camp, I could really see how the coaches connected with the kids and each member played their part at the right time. I can’t stress enough how amazing our support team was; our host, translators, and cooks. And thank you for being here with us in spirit.

We are excited to tour Kiev today, and begin our trek back home this evening.

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Sunday

The team arrived safely in the early hours this morning and have just finished breakfast. They will meet our host soon.
Team members are: Steve Clark, Maddy Davis, Sarah Ellingson (co-leader), Shawn Horan (co-leader), Joshua Martin, Trey Mena, and Halleigh Thompson.

Monday

Shawn and Sarah report: What’s the word? F. L. E. X. I. B. I. L. I. T. Y. It’s a strong part of our vocabulary when we take teams abroad, but today this word was stretched to new lengths!

The team showed up at the first camp site to 83 kids in 7-9th grades waiting to get started! The small gym was full to say the least. The teams were huge (one had 22). Trey and Joshua were rock stars in working with the boys.

The coaches worked hard to connect with the kids and many campers listened well. They wanted to learn. They had good questions during small group time. It was great to see the coaches working together well too.

The team rested over lunch at a Guatemalan clone of KFC. The food is very good, and it was a good time to bond with the local coaches/translators.

The afternoon camp was held at a school in San Miguel, a municipality of small villages on top of a hill. Most of the 50 campers were 6-8 year olds; none were over 10. They were energetic and ready to learn. Many ran up to the coaches when they arrived and hugged them. There were several repeat kids from last year and they were quick to share that they remember their coach and asked if their coach remembered them.

These kids are so loving, but this hour and a half camp is all they can handle. Many walk up hill 1-2 miles to get to the gym, then walk home afterwards.

The team walked around the neighborhood. One family they met was what one would imagine as the perfect Guatemalan family; dad, mom, and 3 beautiful children. The coaches enjoyed meeting them.

The team was ready for a good night’s rest.

Tuesday

Maddy kick started the day in team time with a challenge to remember their purpose for being there and give it their all. Love on the kids and teach them some basketball skills. It really helped the team pull together and refocus their efforts.
After 15 kids were kicked out of the morning camp on Monday, the atmosphere changed. It seemed the 76 who were there yesterday were more respectful and helpful. Perhaps they expected the coaches to be upset or unhappy with the campers, which settled them down. Our coaches showed up with the heart to love on the kids, and the camp went smoothly! Several kids stepped up to help lead their team in counting or putting the team in line. The principal stayed with the camp just in case there was any more trouble, but there was none. It was a great second day!
The kids who attend the afternoon camp located in a very hilly area are fed lunch by a local ministry through the week, except for Tuesdays and Thursdays. Last year on those days when they weren’t fed, very few kids returned for camp after lunchtime. And when camp began yesterday, there were only 10-12 kids. Coaches were expecting the same slight attendance. But to their surprise, only a few minutes after camp started, almost all of the campers returned! They have younger kids in this camp, some only 4 years old. Coaches were great at tailoring what they could teach to a younger group of campers.

Small group time with the campers has been good. Many kids ask great questions, showing they’re listening and wanting to know more about the hope we have in Jesus.

The team is strong. Everyone is healthy. They’re having a great time together, even though it’s really hot during the day.

Wednesday

We had a really good day at camp one. The teams continued to work hard and show the positive attitudes that they did on day 2. It ran very smoothly and the team did really well. The team times went well also! The kids listened well and had a lot of questions.

Before the camp we did a community walk through. We were able to see where the kids we work with live. This had a big impact on the team going into today. Last year we were able to walk through the community but this year it was too dangerous. The reality of what these kids live in hit the team members very hard. We were able to rally and put on a great camp like I said before.

We ate lunch at the seminary again today then headed to camp 2. We did contests instead of stations today and the kids loved the change of pace.

Halleigh has a sweet story, “This little chica is the smartest and sweetest girl. She ran up to me today and gave me this bracelet with her name on it even though she doesn’t have anything to give. She gives me lots of hugs!” Maddie also had a great story, “One of my girls from the second camp asked what my favorite verses is and it’s Isaiah 43:18. I told her and then she wrote it on her hand to look it up later.”

We went to another home visit today after camp and it was a very cool experience. We met a mom and her 6 kids. They have all attended the basketball academy except for the 2 youngest. She is doing an amazing job raising some beautiful children.

We went home, took some quick showers and then headed to Beto’s house. We enjoyed some delicious pizza and fellowship with FCA. Beto lead us in worship and it helped remind the team why we are here and that we need to find our identity in a Christ. The team is very tired from a long day and we are looking forward to getting some sleep.

Thursday

Camps are going great! Sarah and Shawn and the team are doing well in bringing positive attitudes to the campers each day. The kids are having fun working through drills and competitions, and listening well and asking great questions in small group time.

The team has been able to meet some families of campers on their walks through the communities, which has had a big impact on the coaches. It endears the kids to the hearts of the coaches even more.

Halleigh shares about a little chica, the smartest and sweetest girl giving her a bracelet with her name on it. It meant a lot!

Thursday was a great day! The team is tired, but so pumped about the kids.

In the morning camp, they enjoyed the time in contests and competitions. They introduced Last Second Hero to the kids, and as expected, they LOVED it!

In a five-day camp, the fourth day is when the coaches share their life stories with the campers. Halleigh and Maddy combined teams and shared together. It was an emotional time of vulnerability for the coaches and the girls were intensely engaged. Afterwards, the girls gathered around the coaches and loved on them! It was truly a sweet experience of healing and bonding for everyone.

Trey and Josh also said the boys were engaged and listening intently. When the coaches began to share, they sat quietly and soaked up every word.

The afternoon camp consists of younger kids, generally ages 5-10. Their camp strategy is modified to accommodate this age, which means they had a lot of fun doing contests, relays, and Last Second HERO, a high energy favorite for sure.

The team is grateful for good health. They’re all tired, but everyone is feeling well. They are also grateful to Steve who has poured into the team all week, encouraging them to stay strong.

Friday

Sarah and Shawn report on the last day of camps.

Camp one was super cool. We were in the national stadium all day. The kids had a ton of fun doing relays and stations. We finished with last second hero again.

In the small group huddles at the end it was clear the impact that we’ve had throughout the week. There was a wide variety of responses between the teams, with some asking a lot of follow up questions, and others requiring a more in depth discussion.

Irma, on Sarah’s team, said that she got baptized between last year and this year because of her decision she made last year. Trey’s team had an intense discussion, they asked a lot of good, tough questions. Maddy and Halleigh’s group drew in even closer to them today, and that has been increasing each day this week. With how intense the emotions were yesterday it was really good to see them draw close with joy today.

We had lunch at pollo campero again, and it was delicious as always.

Camp two was quick and fun. The kids had a blast, as they always do. Even for their young ages it was really good to see how much they understood what we told them about this week. With how small they are, it really hasn’t been about their basketball skill, but more about the relationships and it was great to see the joy they had each day.

After camp we were privileged to visit two homes in the community. The first was the home of two kids in the basketball program, but one was not able to come to camp this year because he was involved in a motorcycle accident. We were able to pray over him and his family. The second was the home of 3 of our campers from this week. We prayed over their mother, who was dealing with multiple health issues while trying to raise 3 kids on her own.

After camp we drove to Antigua, ate dinner, and debriefed. The team is looking forward to exploring Antigua tomorrow!

 

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What Others Are Saying

"Anytime I see you, you motivate and encourage me by God's grace and I really love that."

Shoot 4 Life Coach

"We learned how to look after the little things because these are make big difference. We have been teached so many new things. I hope you will come back next year too. Love you all and thank you very much."

Dorka | Hungary

"Thanks Hoops For Hope for celebrating with us the 10th anniversary, we thank the whole team and we really appreciate the impact you always make on our lives, both the coaches and the campers"

Shoot 4 Life Coach

"Thanks so much for the sacrifices and thanks for celebrating and climaxing the 10th anniversary with us."

Shoot 4 Life Coach