By Greg Rich
WHAT A DAY! Really…What a week. It’s nonstop action and excitement here at Wadi Sports Camp and it is an incredible honor to be a part of it. Today was certainly no exception.
Our day started out with Majors before breakfast. Scott and I are coaching baseball and it was a big day for our campers. Today, they got to pick up a bat and hit…some for the very first time in their lives. While it occasionally makes me sad to think that many of these young Egyptians have never had the opportunity and exposure to the variety of sports that we are teaching them (like baseball), I often find myself envious of these new experiences they are having. I don’t remember the first time I swung a bat and made connection with the ball. Nor do I remember the first time I threw a ball that landed squarely and soundly in my dad’s mitt. I was so young, it was a very long time ago, and those memories are overshadowed by the countless hits and throws that I’ve had over the many years. To see the joy and excitement on the faces of these campers when they connect with the ball and hear that very distinct “ping” of the bat when it makes solid contact…priceless.
After Majors, we had breakfast and a quick break while the campers went to a brief gathering with words of encouragement and wisdom for the day. Next, I was off to officiate a game of Drapou between two cabins of female campers. Drapou is a field game much like our “Steal the Bacon” back in the states. The two teams line up side-by-side on a field. Each team member is assigned a number from 1 to 7. We would call out a particular number and each girl with that number would race across the field to pick a baton (think track and field, not twirling). The girl who got there first would pick up the baton and try to race back across the starting line before the other girl had a chance to pull her flag (think flag football, not stars and stripes). It’s extremely fun to see their competiveness, yet at the same time, it is plainly evident they really enjoy when their friends on the opposing team do well.
We quickly transitioned back to our second major after Drapou. Picking up where we left off before breakfast, hitting drills ruled the day. They were introduced to the training aids of a batting tee and a hit-away. They were big hits (sorry for the easy pun). I was stuck by the attitude and ethic of two of my Egyptian friends today…Sandra and Bavly (sounds like lovely with a B). Sandra is a 17-year-old bundle of joy and enthusiasm. She signed up for the baseball major because she wanted to challenge herself with something new. Sandra had never even seen a baseball or bat before this week, but she is probably the most attentive student I have ever had. When she asks me a question, she has an intensity about listening to the answer that is very rare and refreshing. Every day, she takes a glove and a ball with her so she can practice tossing the ball to herself and catching it. She hit her first baseball today and I thought her face might break because of the size of her smile. It was incredible.
I’ve known Bavly since coming to camp last year. He’s a 22-year-old counselor that is helping us out with the baseball major. The amazing thing about Bavly is his passion and eagerness for this sport. I just taught him to play last year at camp and he has developed into a pretty great teacher of the game himself. Today, he showed me a list that he has been writing of all the drills and teaching models that we have been using so that he can be a better teacher when he has to coach this sport without the help of his “American friends.” I really love this guy.
After a really good lunch and a rest time that was far too short, we entered into the online gaming world of “Clash of Clans” come to life in the real world…the Wadi Sports Camp real world. This is yet one more example of the leadership of WSC (shout out to the Real Slim Shady – Shady Sameh – the best Egyptian friend, little brother, and camp director on the planet) going All In (I capitalized it because that is our camp theme for the summer of 2015) in terms of creativity, logistics, and preparation for these kids. The guys and girls were dividend into 16 clans that were competing and challenging each other for resources to build their “castles” and “level-up”. I’m not familiar with the online game, but if it is anything near the controlled chaos that I experienced today, it must be a wild ride. We had an absolute blast at this 5-hour extravaganza. The event culminated by each clan cooking their dinner over an open pit of their own construction. We got to partake in the “feast of burgers” and this carnivorous Texan was a happy little boy. Definitely the best meal I’ve had at camp.
You’d think that after all this activity, we’d put this day in the win column and head off to sleepy town. Well, you’d be wrong. We had yet a concert to participate in. Notice I did not say attend, because these concerts are not for mere congregants, but for interactive contributors. Songs in English or Arabic…it doesn’t matter. We sing. We dance. We have a wonderful time. After the concert, there is a short talk by an Egyptian staff member, a picture slideshow of the day’s highlights, the “Goodnight Song” and then off to our respective cabins. Whew…now that’s a day…Wadi style.
I’ve been coming here since 2007 and God has permanently imprinted this nation, this ministry, and these people upon my heart. I cannot impress upon you enough how much I love being a minor component in the major plans that our Great Father has for this nation and these wonderful people. I am constantly reminded of how much sacrifice it takes to get us here and I would be negligent in my calling if I didn’t take a few moments to thank some pretty important people who continue to make our dreams possible by sharing and partnering with us in those dreams. My first round of thanks have to go to my wife, Ann, and daughter, Riley (Scout). You know that you two are the bedrock of my world and sometimes I miss you so much that I get physical pains. Thank you for allowing me to follow God’s call for this ministry. Thank you for loving me so much that I can feel it, even when I’m 7, 020.18 miles away (yes, I googled the exact distance that I am away from you.) I look forward to the day when we will all do this together. I must thank my boss for providing me with the time away from work to come and labor for something greater than a paycheck. I’d also like to thank my mom (she’s also my boss) for her encouragement and support for this ministry. You have raised us to love God first and think of others before ourselves. I hope that I honor you as I try to live out what you and Dad taught us. And to all of you who continue to support us with your love, prayers, emails, texts, and every other method that our modern technology provides, I say shockron, shockron, SHOCKRON! (pronounced SHOW KRON). That’s Arabic for “Thank you”. We love you very much and are so grateful for all that you provide. Our families, friends, coworkers, neighbors, church brothers and sisters, CBS friends, camp friends, classmates, boyfriends, girlfriends, and all those in between…near and far…WE LOVE YOU…WE MISS YOU…WE ARE DOING WELL AND EXACTLY WHAT GOD HAS CALLED US TO.
Thank you for giving us this day, this place, these people, and this nation to show us just one more way that You love us, provide for us, and include us Your incredible story and plan for this world. We feel Your presence and are in awe of Your Glory. Please help us to honor You by loving others…all others…for we know that we are others too and need Your love more than anything. Most of all, Father, thank You for Your gift of Jesus…who came to show us that You’d rather die than live without us.
Amen and Amen.
Love to all…Greg