A quick background: two years ago we heard about Fields of Growth, an organization that was working to bring lacrosse to Uganda and Jamaica. Since Robert had taken sticks the previous summer to the orphanages and clinics, we were excited to meet other people with the same passions! We stayed at the FoG guesthouse for two days that summer and met a few members of their team. We learned of their Dream 2014 campaign to bring Team Uganda to the FIL World Championships (the World Cup of lacrosse) the next year in Denver. During that year, Robert worked as an intern for the Dream 2014 campaign, and Keith helped too. Last July, Keith and Robert traveled to Denver and served as Team Liaisons for Team Uganda, the first African lacrosse team to ever compete internationally.
Today, when we saw the guys from the team again, it was a great reunion! They were disappointed that it was me, and not Keith, because they grew close to him in Denver. They told me all about how he took care of them and advised them, and was a great and trustworthy father to them all. Robert was in absolute heaven. He helped coach a youth practice, and then taught the Team Uganda guys some plays from the Dripping Springs Tigers' playbook! There are not words to express how proud I am as a mom to see Robert combining two things he loves-- lacrosse, and the people of Uganda. His smiles at practice today were the best!
During practice, I had the chance to visit individually with many of the guys on the team. They told me more about the exhibition tour they have put together this summer, playing every other weekend in a new town or school trying to promote awareness of the game. DJ Lubz told me about making an appointment with the sports director for northern Uganda, where many of the players are from, to discuss promoting the game there. Ken is out of town this weekend because he is in Kenya trying to start a team so that Team Uganda will have someone to play against! They all spoke of their dreams for having teams in Tanzania and Rwanda as well-- they dream of lacrosse all over East Africa! The girls' game is growing here too-- perhaps even faster than the men's game! Here is what is most impressive to me: these guys are doing this all on their own. Fields of Growth is focusing on Jamaica now, and this team, who have been through so much that they are now like brothers, are playing with no competition and no coach. They gather all the sticks they have and travel with them to each youth practice, where the youth take turns using sticks. The love for lacrosse and what this sport has meant to them is absolutely contagious, and it is the reason that the sport is growing here in Africa. There are no white people, no coaches, no former players, and no organizations-- just a group of guys who have seen the realization of one really big dream, which empowered them to dream bigger-- and more than that, are working to make it happen. They make no money for this, often take away time from jobs and families, and have no sponsorship for things like this exhibition tour. None of that matters to them.
As someone who works in missions (which is a dumb thing to say-- don't we all?!), I have a love/hate relationship with the word "sustainability." It's great in theory to talk about missional projects that involve people eventually being able to help themselves or their close neighbors, but in reality, things like orphanages typically need continued support, because for an orphanage to generate its own income would involve child labor. Team Uganda, though, is a model of sustainability. People came and invested in these guys, some of whom were former victims of Joseph Kony. They formed a team, found a game and a purpose that elevates them beyond their circumstances, saw a dream come true, and now cannot help but share it. They are crossing borders (figuratively and literally) that Americans might not have even tried to.
I am so excited to have seen this and spent this time with the team guys. I am grateful for the way they embrace Robert as one of them, and for the way they sacrificially share what they love, and what has changed their lives. THAT, I think, is the model of sustainability that God designed for us.