A Journey That Has Only Started

Wadi Sports camp is an oasis in the middle of the Egyptian desert where God’s work can be felt and seen. This is my third trip and every year my relationship with Christ grows stronger. In a selfish way this trip lets me refresh my relationship with God and now it’s up to me to continue seeking him. The campers, counselors, and staff have shown me great love and this love would not be possible without God. I want to share with you my story and how I saw God work in camp.

The whole Red River Ministries team took turns sharing their spiritual journey and how they got to Egypt. I was first to share, and although this was my third time I still was emotional. I first learned about God and his Son at a Pentecostal Church that my grandparents took me to. We went to church 3 times a week. I chose to be baptized when I was in the sixth grade and it’s when I accepted Jesus in my life. A couple years later I strayed away from church and lost the strong relationship with God I once had. High school is where everything took a turn for the worst. I was a terrible boyfriend to my now Wife, Deidra, and was even sometimes a bully to my friends. During my junior year, I was cut from the basketball team and to cope with that I turned to alcohol and drugs. This whole time God was present through Deidra because she continued to love me unconditionally, and I want to thank her for that. After high school, I joined the Navy because I wanted to serve my country and escape from all the corruption in my life. I did not serve my full time with the Navy, and I decided to leave early for many reasons. For a long time, I thought it was the wrong decision, but later in life I saw why God made this happen. After the Navy, I moved to Austin with Deidra and applied to UT. At first, I didn’t want to apply to UT because I thought I wouldn’t get accepted. I found out that the top ten percent rule only applies to students attending college right out of high school. Deidra pushed me and even wrote one of my essays! (I hope UT officials aren’t reading this!!) By the good grace of God, I got accepted in 2008 and began my college career. My first semester went well. I made all A’s except for Psychology where I got a B. I still had not sought God and didn’t let him back into my life. My relationship with Deidra was still bad, and I was still a horrible boyfriend. I turned to alcohol again and began to drink too much. My sophomore year I took a volleyball coaching class that was required because of my Kinesiology major. My professor’s name was Geoff Rich, and it was my favorite class as a student at UT. I learned so much from Geoff, such as discipline, passion, and especially love. During my junior year, my life started to turn for the better. Geoff asked me to be a TA (Teaching Assistant) in one of his basketball coaching classes. Our friendship grew stronger, and I continued to TA for him. At one point, I was his TA for 3 different classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday’s. We would go out to eat every single day right before softball class, and he always insisted on taking care of the tab. Geoff showed me so much love and allowed me to learn from him on a daily basis. My life began producing fruits that had been planted by Geoff’s faithfulness. Deidra and I started to treat each other with love, and I started to show others love. Then one day Geoff asked me to go to Egypt with him on a mission trip to a Christian sports camp. Of course, I said yes. Although we could not attend that year, we did the following year in 2014. Before deciding to come on this trip, Geoff married Deidra and I. I feel like without Geoff in my life I would not be the husband I am to Deidra. I also have a great relationship with my parents, and I also owe that to the love the Rich family has shown me. The relationship I have built with the whole family is great. GG (Geoff’s mom) even game me her old car when she bought her new car. One of my favorite bible verses to describe the Rich family is 1 John 3:18, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

For me, our trip to Wadi Sports Camp is about sharing the love I’ve learned from God to Egyptians. Whether that’s through encouraging campers, through the major I coach, or through the relationships I make with them and counselors. Let me share with you where I saw God work this trip. There is a camper named Karim Iskander. He is an awesome camper I met two years ago when we came for the first time. He was in my football major and won Man of Wadi for the third time in a row. He also won MVP for our major. This year he choose to be in Dodgeball and of course he excelled. When we went to choose teams, I asked him to be a captain. He picked the campers who normally would not get selected first. This humility is something you don’t see often in a teenager who loves to win and compete. The ultimate sign of love that I witnessed was when the Man of Wadi competition came around. Karim, who by this time had won it 5 times in a row, finished the swim first (over two minutes before any other competitor). Instead of getting out of the water to do the run, he swam more laps with his friend Noor who was struggling. Baher the MC was confused and kept telling Karim to get out the water since he had finished his 4 laps. Once everyone realized what he was doing everyone started cheering for Noor. Of course, Karim didn’t win Man of Wadi, but instead showed that he put God first, others second, and himself third.

Another amazing story is all the counselors who volunteer their time. One counselor specifically that comes to mind is Youssef (aka Toadz), who spends all his summer at camp. He works all four camps and leads the kids in worship at the concerts all without pay. Not only does he do this, but he has so much fun while doing it that you would believe he was a camper. In fact, you will always find Toadz with a smile and no shirt on. Other counselors travel from around the world like ourselves. So, not only is Wadi Sports Camp about sports, but also about how we can grow our relationship with God through sport and relational ministry. After most majors, we prayed as a group. I would asked for two volunteers -one to pray in Arabic and one in English. I would always remind them that Jesus loves them and we should honor him by loving him and others. Thank you for all your support and prayers. We have been incredibly blessed by this journey and now we have to continue to grow in our relationship with God back at home. If you want to see more pictures of our trip check our @rrmgoestoegypt on Instagram. 

Sincerely,

Alfonso Garza, Jr.

{Edited by Hayden Rich and Jackson Cummings}IMG_2301

Red River Ministries Goes To Egypt 2016

Marhaban (Greetings)!! We want to begin this intro blog post by extending a welcome to the faithful readers of the last two years as well as the new readers who hopped on board with us this year. If anyone was curious, our 2015 blog reached a view count of over 1700 from over 800 visitors from 17 different countries! So, this is just a clear reminder to us as a team to sincerely express our gratitude and appreciation towards you because without your excitement, support, love, and prayers for us none of this mission would be possible. This trip includes a Red Rivers Ministries Team consisting of sixteen people. Throughout this blog, you will hear from each one of these team members as they share their story, perspective, and individual experience at Wadi Sports Camp. Our purpose and mission for this trip is to share God’s story and love for each one of us through relational ministry. We are committed to showing leadership in sports, love in every relational encounter, and service in every opportunity we get at Wadi Sports Camp.

Our trip began in Dallas, where the sixteen excited and slightly nervous Americans met at the airport. After checking what felt like hundreds of bags and getting through security, we departed on a 15 hour flight to Dubai. Next, we waited three hours before boarding a 4 hour flight to Cairo, Egypt. While all our bags, belongings, and team members made it safely to our destination, the turbulence gave Fons’ the “rumbly tummy” for a couple hours… Once through customs, our team was greeted by our Egyptian friends Shady and Mariz, who led us safely through the crazy Cairo traffic to the Flamenco Hotel Zamelek, which is located on an island in the Nile River. After dropping our bags off at the hotel, our team tradition is to slowly accustom our weak American digestive system to the Egyptian food by eating at Chili’s on the Nile. Once this was accomplished, we headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

Our first full day in Egypt began with a casual trip to one of the ancient wonders of the world- The Pyramids at Giza. This trip consisted of sightseeing, selfies, sweat, sunscreen, water, and many Egyptian vendors attempting to sell us “free” gifts. Thousands of pictures later, we saddled up on camels and were led around the pyramids. The next stop on our trip was the cave church of the Zabbaleen in southeastern Cairo. This church is a Monastery of Saint Simon and is a natural cave in the Mokattam mountain, which is located in an area known as “garbage city” due to the large population of garbage collectors (Zabbaleen) that live there. If you are interested in learning more about this beautiful church, click here. Due to the blazing hot sun and miles of walking (and a bit of riding) through Egypt, a hunger overwhelmed our stomachs. Luckily, Shady and Mariz knew of the perfect Egyptian restaurant for us to stop at, called Abou el Sid. This restaurant whipped us up some genuine Egyptian food consisting of Teheina (a hummus-like dip for bread), and Sharkaseya (a tasty mixture of gravy, chicken, and rice). From here, we perused through a couple local shops and headed to get our supplies at Carrefour (Walmart).  Finally, our exhausted group of travelers got its first taste of the famous Wadi Sports Camp around 9 pm local time. Geoff led us through a short info and prayer meeting on the roof of the camp hotel. While our campers will not arrive until Monday, we will be helping out with the current session starting tomorrow. We hope you enjoy, laugh at, and pray for our team while you follow us through this blog. We could not be more excited to serve in Egypt and witness the ever-present power and love of God in this very country. Again, we want to say thank you for all your support, both financially and spiritually. For more information concerning Red River Ministries or the Wadi Sports Camp, click on the names. You can follow us on instagram @RRMgoestoEgypt. Shokran (Thank you) and God bless!

Sincerely,

The Red River Ministries Team

RRM Team 2016