Friday, July 25, 2014

Ball is life

Jen, with her game face on

Jen presenting a basketball to the winning team
by Jen Warner 

  The other day when Jen first told us all of the girls would be playing basketball at the refugee camp I was extremely excited. The idea was to help get the girls active and to show them that sports are not only for boys. Having 10 years of basketball under my belt I figured I would be able to show the girls in the refugee camp a thing or two. Well I was very wrong about that.

     The teams were 5 girls from our group against 5 girls who lived in the refugee camp. We got completely demolished, the final score was about 2-30 (with our 1 basket being scored by yours truly). Trust me we are not that bad (well a couple of us aren’t). It didn’t help that the only girl from our group who actually plays on a basketball team was unable to play in the game due to a recent injury. Playing basketball in a long skirt and sandals was definitely a new experience and it is not easy. For the record, it is also not possible to dribble a basketball between your legs when you are wearing a long skirt. Unfortunately, I did not realize this and ended up embarrassing myself in front of everyone. I think the moment that we realized we were about to get whopped was when we decided it would be a good idea to have me, the second shortest player on our team, do the jump ball. 

     All of our disadvantages and lack of skill aside, I have to give lots of credit to these girls. They were SO good at basketball and made us look silly. Looking back on the game it makes sense why they are so good. Being stuck in the refugee camp, these girls probably spend a lot of their time playing basketball. There are not many job opportunities and teenagers cannot go to school after grade 9 unless they have enough money to pay school fees, which is expensive and out of reach for many families. I’m glad to see that these girls have the opportunity to play basketball in the camp because many kids their age who live in refugee camps turn to drugs, prostituition, and alcohol abuse to fill their time. 

     One of the coolest things about the game was the fact that our 2 teams did not speak the same language, but we were still able to have fun and bond together through  a game of basketball. This game helped me realize you do not have to use words in order to connect with someone. Everyone had lots of fun just being on the court and playing against the girls from the camp even if we were not very good. 

     My favorite part of the basketball game actually took place off the court when the game was over. As the captain of our team I had the privilege to be able to stand up in front of everyone one and present the game ball to the captain of the refugee team. It was such an amazing experience to be able to pass the ball over from our team to their’s because basketball was clearly something that was very meaningful and enjoyable to both of us. I’m excited because I know that the basketballs that we left for them will all go to good use. It was so much more meaningful to be able to actually play basketball with these girls instead of just giving them a bunch of basketballs. I hope those girls are ready because I will be back for a rematch! 


  1. Jenny-Bump!! I was laughing so hard when I read about your basketball game, that's awesome!! I would imagine it'd be hard to play in a maxi skirt :'). I love that you could connect with these girls and not even have to speak. What a cool experience!! I'm glad you guys were able to use what you gave them, it's really special. They will remember you all I'm sure when they use them :) XOXO

  2. Jen -

    FYI, Ellie is better at basketball than tennis.

  3. I can imagine you balling in your skirt and it not being easy at all. It's great to see how something that we would do over here such as playing basketball, can be so different there. Loved how a game can help you bond with others too even though you can't speak the same language. It's fun to know that things like that have the universal appeal of just being able to bring everyone together.

  4. I am enjoying each and everyone of these postings. The joy just gushes how you all describe your day. I laughed as I pictured Jennifer trying to dribble the ball between her legs with a long skirt on. Were you able to at least twirl the ball on your finger? I've gone back and forth between these two pictures noticing the difference in Jennifer's face. The first picture is that game ball face, determined to do her best. Then the happy face presenting the game ball, even after getting creamed. A reminder we are all on the same team under one big sky.

    I also can't miss the opportunity to comment on one important point Jennifer made. I know these are 13 awesome kids all from wonderful families. But it should not be denied that throughout their high school/college years, they will be tested with alcohol and drugs available to them. May this experience always be a reminder to them that if these kids in the refugee camp, who have far fewer good choices available to them are able to make the right choice, then that should give them the courage and strength to also make good choices.

    Praying for you all.

  5. The photos of Jen -- married with her description of the game -- are priceless! First I was thinking "girl power," then "game power, and then "God power." I love that fun, physical effort, and such personal interactions are part of your ministry.

  6. Jennifer - What a great story (and great pictures)! I wonder if you having to play basketball in a long skirt is life balancing things out from all of the times that you used to wear cargo shorts when you were younger..? I am still catching up on the blog. I cannot wait until you are home and you can tell me about all of the great experiences you are having in Rwanda!
    Love, Dad

  7. Great story, Jen!