Guest Post by Grant Tyler (self invited)
For some of you that don't know, I recently had the pleasure of taking a trip to South Africa and Mozambique with our Church, on a mission trip with soccer being the tool to reach out to others. The mention of Africa and soccer was all it took to get me 'all in' and so glad that I went, since what I got from the trip feels so much more than what I gave.
Jo, Alex and I were sent from our church and after spending a couple of days in Pretoria, SA, we met up with 6 others from 3CI church in Pretoria. The plan was to help run a youth soccer tournament for the local churches in Maputo, Mozambique, to allow for outreach among the youth and also bring unity within the local churches. However, the trip was much more than that and essentially turned into multiple mission trips within the same journey.
Below is a run down of our trip each day with some photos for added effect.
Day 1 (Friday, March 30th)
We left Folsom at 1.30am for San Francisco airport where we caught our 6.15am flight to Atlanta with a 6hr layover before our 15hr flight to Johannesburg. The 15hr flight actually turned into 16.5hrs due to our plane turning around at the runway to allow one of the passengers to be taken off by the paramedics (no additional information was given), so once they located and removed his bag we were allowed to continue. We had a lot of baggage due to the extra soccer kits we were taking for the teams participating in the tournament, but none of us was prepared for Alex's bag which weighed in at 86lbs!
Day 2 (Saturday, March 31st)
Due to the length of travel and also the time difference, we arrived in Johannesburg around 6pm, and we were picked up at the airport by a friend of Jo's with a single cab truck, which meant Alex and myself rode in the bed of the truck with all our luggage for the 45min drive to Pretoria - welcome to Africa!!! We all stayed with different host families and I was placed with an Indian family, which cooked both an Indian meal and a 'white' meal for me when I arrived, unbeknownst to them that I love Indian food!
Day 3 (Sunday, April 1st)
We went with our respective families to their local churches, all three families originated from the same church (3CI), but due to the growth and planting of the church they meet at different locations now. I then spent the afternoon visiting my Aunty Gwen and cousins Carlos and Ricky and their wives who now live in Johannesburg for the afternoon.
Day 4 (Monday, April 2nd)
We had time to relax and try to recoup-orate from our jet-lag in the morning, then had a lunch meeting with the youth leaders from the 3CI church to iron out some logistics for the trip to Mozambique. In the afternoon we traveled to a Lion and Rhino park where we saw a lot of different game as well as petted 5 month old Lions and a fully grown Cheetah. Jo was scratched by one of the lions and we were then a little scared due to some miss-communication from the handler who had us a little worried about rabies, but once we figured out that they would have "babies" not "rabies" we were reassured.
Some Oryx roaming around (type of Antelope)
Petting the 5 month old Lions
One of the Lions starting to attack Jo
Rubbing it's belly...their hair isn't as soft as I thought it would be!
The three of us from Folsom, with a fully grown Cheetah...he was fully awake, just trying to snooze. We were told very specifically where to and where to not pet him!
The Cheetah's leftovers from his meal - a chicken foot (the other foot is mine)
A baby leopard
We came across a couple of Rhinos, although we didn't want to stop for too long!
A Bushpig which was about 5 feet from our car.
From there we traveled to Soweto (SOuth WEst TOwnship), which is a sprawling slum and trained with the under 23's at the Nike complex with the leaders of the Hope Academy (http://www.aishopeacademy.org/). We each had an opportunity to share with them a little testimony and an encouraging word.
Day 5 (Tuesday, April 3rd)
This was a early start to avoid the traffic as we traveled an hour back to Soweto to conduct training sessions with the under 9's and under 10's at the Hope Academy. This was no ordinary "2hr" training session as we were led to believe, we were out there for 5hrs perfecting their understanding on the soccer field as well as the importance to be 'Excellent' in all areas of their life; with God, at Home, at School etc. To explain the impact that this had on us and the kids would not do it justice - to see the joy of the kids coming from nothing and the respect they had for their coaches as well as their willingness to praise God in all things was something I have never experienced before. They thought that we had blessed them by being there, while all three of us were the ones feeling blessed!
Our loaner car while we were in South Africa
Since I let them shoot on me for such a long time, I thought it was only fair that they let me shoot on them.
The kids being totally respectful listening to their instructions. The coach is out on parole after turning his life around through one of the prison ministries. He now mentors kids before they make the same mistakes.
Typical footwear, and these kids were actually lucky to have any in the first place! (look closely at the toes of the shoes. Those are his red socks poking through!)
The classroom piece, where they were learning all about being excellent!
The fun warm-up which included songs, and dancing.
Under 9's playing a small sided game of two touch.
All of us at the end of a 5hr training/learning session.
Typical scenes driving through Soweto.
Soccer city stadium which was built for the 2010 World Cup.
From there we took a detour to the Apartheid museum to really appreciate the transition that the country has gone through in the last 18yrs.
Alex (Aryan race), and myself (Black power), posing in front of the Apartheid Museum.
Alex and I, outside the Union Building in the capitol city Pretoria, SA
Day 6 (Wednesday, April 4th)
This was an even earlier start due to our long drive (10hrs) to Maputo, Mozambique. We met up with the youth leaders, Marnus and Sonja, as well as the 4 youth, Keegan, Jesse, Brandon and Sebastian from the 3CI church at 6am, and headed north for the border. Unfortunately the car ride wasn't the greatest since I was up sick the previous night, most probably from being out in the sun and altitude for the 5hrs the day before. We arrived at our makeshift campsite at MozOvos around 5pm in time for "lunch" followed by dinner an hour later. Our campsite comprised of a few trees, a couple of flushing toilets, running showers (cold only), and lots and lots of sand, flies and ants...oh and did I mention that we were sleeping about 30 feet from the chickens!
Approaching the South Africa/Mozambique border crossing.
The entrance to MozOvos - which means "Mozambique Eggs"
The chickens, sleeping roughly 30 feet from us.
Our campsite, communal area...
The kitchen - the flies loved this place!
To cook we had to have fire, which entailed one of the youth cutting up firewood.
Prepping the potatoes for some deep fried wedges. Marnus and Sonja were experienced campers...
and camping was not going to stop us having good food!
Day 7 (Thursday, April 5th)
This was our orientation day to get comfortable with each other and our surroundings. We headed to the beach with our host missionaries from World Venture who started the MozOvos chicken farm in Maputo (Rodger, Lynne, Andrew and Stephen Schmidt). In order to get to the beach we had to take a ferry boat across a river, not sure if it was more of a raft than a boat! While a couple of the cars were waiting the locals just happened to be dragging a dead body out of the river - not a sight any of us wanted to see. Once at the beach we played in the Indian Ocean waves, had a South Africa vs World soccer match on the sand and learned about the mission and also a quick Portuguese lesson.
Rodger, our Mozambique host negotiating our ferry crossing tickets - everything is negotiable!
The river we needed to cross to get to the Indian ocean.
They squeeze up to 6 cars onto the boat at one time!
Plenty of options to spend your money!
So-called ferry, definitely felt more like a raft with an engine.
There are no regulations as to how many people you can take.
The gang at the beach, it was an amazing, deserted beach with warm waves!
Rodger giving us our Portuguese lesson on the beach.
Seat-belts are optional...
We headed back to our campsite in late afternoon to sort through all the donated soccer kits and have an improvised game of cricket...I think the South Africans were a little surprised at what a Yank and a Brit can do with a machete as a bat, although we were all a little surprised at what Sebastian did when the 'bat' went flying out his sweaty hand directly towards Marnus' head who was blinded by the sun at the time...fortunately he could hear it coming at ducked right at the last minute!
A little international cricket to work up an appetite before dinner.
We sorted through the seven kits ready to hand out to the teams in the tournament.
Extra gear we were going to pass out too...
Day 8 (Friday, April 6th)
We were privileged to work this day at the Project Purpose orphanage. Project Purpose is a Christian Mozambican Non-Government Organization working with "Princesses", girls 10-24 years old, who are prostituted on the streets of Maputo. The goal is to see them spiritually and emotionally restored, transformed and reintegrated into their families through Bible-based teaching, practical and academic skills training, recreational activities and community service projects. The orphanage allows the girls to keep their children and know that they have somewhere safe to place them while transforming their lives. So many of the girls on the street have abortions every 3 months, since being pregnant helps with their skin, nails and hair etc. but they don't actually want to keep the babies. There we played with the kids, sanded and varnished tables and benches and also cut some of their grass (manually with a scythe).
The boys dorm at the Orphanage.
Part of the new building that was constructed through donations.
Sebastian being a human jungle gym.
Jo dancing with some of the girls.
All of them wanted to play with Alex's hair (I wonder why)
Typical transportation in and around Maputo.
The kids washing their hands before lunch.
They all loved to just pull silly faces constantly.
The entrance to Project Purpose Orphanage.
The old kitchen before the new building was donated.
Sanding the benches before varnishing.
Marnus being a manual swing.
The kids saying goodbye to us - they absolutely loved playing and climbing all over us!
The smoke is from the trash piles that are burning.
Nicer accommodation in the city
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Jo and myself put on a training session for the International team the night before the tournament.
Day 9 (Saturday, April 7th)
The tournament begins - this was the main focus of the trip. MozOvos wanted to run a successful soccer tournament where all the local churches could come together and outreach in unison. You need to understand that the churches in Maputo do not work together in anything and are more seen as rivals rather than partners. Each church was to bring a youth (12-16yrs) team which consisted of half believers and half non-believers. You don't really understand the intensity of the occasion until you see the registration table checking every player's birth certificate before allowing them a participation wristband. Apparently there has never, ever been a successfully run soccer tournament in the area. There were 7 teams total - 6 from the local churches and the 7th was a combination of our 5 youth, and extras from one of the churches. There were 3 first round games where the best loser played an additional game against the international team for the final semi-final spot. Lunch was provided for all the players, and a gospel message was presented by one of the MosOvos graduates who now leads one of the local churches. After lunch the 1st semi-final was played, before we all headed back for some rest. I was allowed to participate in the tournament but only as a referee, Jo and myself were the official international referee's with Marnus and a local taking turns to fill in as a linesman. We were absolutely exhausted at the end of the day, refereeing in the heat for every game, but it was great that the others had an opportunity to love and play with the locals who came to watch.
Most of the kids playing in the tournament were playing barefoot, and to see some of them kick a ball 40yds with the outside of their barefoot is quite astonishing! What's more remarkable is when they go into hard tackles with those kids who do have footwear and carry on playing through the pain. The competitive nature of the tournament was extremely high, but the donated kits allowed each team to feel some sort of unity to each other. The kits were all donated from our local high schools in the Sacramento area, and we made sure to take a photo before each game.
The joining of hands and prayer before every game.
This kid was the best player, pinging balls over 40 yards with his bare feet.
Me with the captains, doing the coin-toss pregame.
Keegan wanted a ceremonial handing over of his shirt before the tournament.
Pre-match photo before every game. Based on the shirts in this game, it was Belle Vista home and away teams.
Penalty shoot-out brought in a crowd of supports.
Lunch with a gospel message was given midway through the first day.
Sebastian trying to be like the local kids.
Jesse and Brandon posing as jungle gyms again.
1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies along with the kit that 1st place would also receive.
Day 10 (Sunday, April 8th)
Our group split into two and went to a couple of the local churches which were started by graduated MozOvos interns. There we were allowed to worship and congregate with the local believers. Alex was able to share his testimony at the church, and we heard an Easter message given in both Portuguese and Shangaan. The kid's Sunday school and the worship was quite remarkable. There was so much joy being emitted from a congregation of less than 50 people, that it would put some of us 'church-goers' to shame.
Sunday school before the main service.
Alex giving his testimony, with Rodger translating into Portuguese.
We headed back to our campsite for lunch and then back to the soccer field to finish off the tournament. The 2nd semi-final was played and then the loser from each semi-final played a penalty shoot-out for 3rd and 4th place. While this was happening, we found out that one of the teams that made the final the day before had in fact played ineligible players, and since we were running the show we had to make the tough decision to disqualify them and promote the 4th place to 3rd and then 3rd place was then promoted to the final. It took about 30mins to get the protesters off the field and a lot of negotiations to stop the pending riots. The presentation ceremony was great, where 3rd, 2nd, and 1st all received a trophy, all teams were allowed to keep their kits that they were given the day before and the 1st place team was also presented with an additional kit.
The final two teams, green ended up winning it.
Even 3rd place was so excited to win something.
The international team enjoying their unity.
The neutral referees!
It sounds trivial to travel that far to run a soccer tournament but to see the impact that it had was beyond words and pictures, you truly had to feel it.
Day 11/12 (Monday, April 9th/10th)
The next few days all merge together...we got up at 4am MZ time (7pm Sunday night pacific time) to pack up camp and head back to Pretoria, we finally left our campsite at 5am and after an uneventful border crossing, arrived in Pretoria at 3pm. The three of us said our goodbyes to the South African group and then took the train to Johannesburg airport to catch our 17hr flight to Atlanta, followed by our 3hr layover, and 5 more hrs of flying from Atlanta to San Francisco and then just a 2 hr drive back to Folsom. All in all we traveled for a total of 46hrs to get back from Maputo, Mozambique to home and arrived around 6pm Tuesday evening.
Everyone starting to pack up camp at 4am for our drive home.
The gang, just inside the South African border.
Thankfully this wasn't us.
For 3 of us, this was a lot of luggage to cart on trains, planes, and automobiles!
So there you have it, hopefully you had some time to read through everything as well as look at the pictures. Please feel free to ask me any questions the next time you see me, I'm more than happy to share what an amazing experience this was.
Grant (aka "Papa Grant" in Mozambique since the average life expectancy is only 35yrs)
Grant (aka "Papa Grant" in Mozambique since the average life expectancy is only 35yrs)