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AROMA ministry team combines love of sports and love of God during trip to Uganda

For me, walking off the plane into the airport in Kampala was a dream come true. I have had a heart for Africa for the longest time, and I was finally there. I had the privilege to join nine other student-athletes; Brad McCarty, Messiah’s men’s head soccer coach; an athletic trainer; a Messiah soccer alum; and a Messiah alum representing Sawyer water filters on an AROMA sports ministry trip to Uganda in May 2013. Our group represented a variety of sports and personalities, but it was so encouraging to see God work in us and through us as we served together in Uganda.

Different culture, same God
We spent our time in Uganda in Soroti and Kampala, working alongside Sports Outreach Institute and their soccer teams, the Good News Team and the Divine Stars. We had the opportunity to work alongside these groups that are already sharing the gospel in Uganda. Every morning we would gather at a different place to have a time of morning worship and devotions with the teams. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was an incredible experience to be a part of this pure, honest, African worship. They may not have a lot of material things, but they have incredible love for our God, one that is so evident in the way they sing and dance. If we weren’t comfortable dancing and singing when we first arrived in Uganda, we were more than comfortable by the time we left!

We also had the opportunity to do sports clinics with the soccer teams, as well as with other groups of people. Head coach McCarty led the Divine Stars and the Good News teams in soccer clinics to help give them drills to use as they continue their ministry in Uganda. We ran basketball clinics, field hockey clinics and our track and field athletes even took the Ugandans through a track clinic. During these clinics, some of us had the opportunity to lead, teach and participate, but we also all had the opportunity to play with the kids and talk to the adults that had gathered to watch.

There were two evenings we spent in two different villages in Soroti for a soccer match with the Divine Stars. Aaron, Jarrett and Kyle, two soccer players and a wrestler, had the opportunity to play with the Divine Stars in the match, while the rest of us played and interacted with the thousands of people that showed up for the game. After each game, Sports Outreach would share the gospel with the people that had gathered for the game and have an altar call. It was incredible to see the number of people that stepped forward to accept Jesus Christ into their hearts after hearing the message.

Rich in love
This trip was a life-changing experience. We had the incredible opportunity to combine our love of sports and our love for God, and share these two loves with the Ugandan people. We were able to work alongside Sports Outreach and encourage them in their ministry, and I can only pray that we were as much a blessing to them as they were to us. We made friendships that will last a lifetime—both with the people we met in Uganda as well as within the Messiah AROMA team.

It was incredible to me to see the joy and love that these people had, even though they don’t have much here on earth. I’ve never seen people more willing to put other people first and to worship God with their lives. If there is one thing I learned while in Africa, it is to love and worship God as you are, how you want and with your whole heart and being. Habakkuk 1:5 says, “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” God truly did amazing work in Uganda and He continues to, across the world, as we fix our eyes on Him and strive to honor and worship Him in all that we do.

Reflection and photographs by Emily Martz ’14.

Read other reflections about AROMA experiences: Brittany Horst in Argentina and Victoria Hepp in Uganda.

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