By Kathryn Flippin
A run-down town about 20 miles outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Hot weather. Cold showers. No electricity. Abundance of joy. Grateful hearts.
This describes the setting, atmosphere and attitude of Union University’s 2012-2013 women’s basketball team’s trip to Thomazeau, Haiti, Aug. 4-10.
Every year, the women’s team takes a retreat so that players and coaching staff can bond. This year, Head Women’s Basketball Coach Mark Campbell, professor of physical education, said he wanted a trip that would motivate the women, both in their athletic and spiritual lives.
“Being on mission — whether on a mission trip or walking with Christ every day — exposes your heart,” Campbell said. “My job as a coach is to expose our girls’ hearts to areas that are uncomfortable, so they can gain perspective. I wanted them to realize that no matter how we use our abilities or what kind of effort we give, we cannot meet our needs, only Christ can.”
Campbell also said experiences like this drive hearts to dependence on the Lord.
While the team did not participate in athletics in Thomazeau, players did use their physical skills in a different way. The ladies manned mobile medical clinics where they treated more than 800 people in a four-day period. They also spent time, mostly at night, encouraging children at the local orphanage.
The clinics were set up by an organization called Mobile Medical Disaster Relief, a Christian humanitarian organization started by Dr. David Vanderpool, a Nashville surgeon, to reach the needs of poor and under-served people around the world.
“MMDR just opened the first clean water tank that will provide clean water for 8,000 people in Thomazeau,” Campbell said. “They eventually want to have enough clean water for the whole 180,000 population and use the 60 acres they have acquired to build a hospital, guest houses and an orphanage for this area of Haiti.”
“We are hoping to build an ongoing relationship with this organization where we are bringing our team over every two years to help further MMDR’s efforts,” Campbell said.
On this visit, the team did no sightseeing. From the time they woke in the morning to the time they fell asleep, the women worked with the organization to serve the community.
Campbell said he thinks the trip inspired his team with a new perspective and brought players together in a way no other retreat has done before.
“When you are on mission with those you love, it brings about camaraderie and togetherness that is based on spiritual things and not just athletics,” Campbell said. “That was our goal — to help the team see their potential in another country and bring that back to their daily lives here.”
“It was important for them to see what happens when those spiritual and physical needs cannot be met on their own but how the struggles have to be given over to Christ,” Campbell added.
LaTesa McLaughlin, junior social work major and guard for the Lady Bulldogs, said she was hesitant at first to go because she knew it would push her outside her comfort zone. Once she was in Haiti, though, she noticed a change.
“I started realizing all the things I took for granted and how small my needs are compared to what the people in Haiti need,” McLaughlin said. “Even something as small as turning on a light switch is not available to them, but I can switch on a light anytime I please. Spending time in a place like this, with unordinary circumstances like this, made me be thankful for something as simple as light. ”
“Another thing I noticed was how grateful the community was. They were so grateful for our help, but it is ironic because I felt like they blessed me and helped me in a way that nothing else could. Also, serving alongside my teammates really helped us form a bond that I feel has prepared us for an amazing season ahead.”
Teammate Emily Sissom, sophomore exercise science major and guard for the women’s basketball team, said her favorite part of the trip was getting to spend time ministering to the children.
“One day I was able to help a young boy with cerebral palsy,” Sissom said. “It was special because I am hoping to go into occupational therapy, and I feel like an experience like this really made me see that I want to do that.”
Sissom also said she thinks the circumstances were lessons by themselves.
“None of us had experienced something like this before, and it was cool to see how everyone forgot the need to be comfortable in order to serve others,” Sissom said. “It makes me thankful to be a part of this team and thankful for the gifts God has given each of us.”
“I think all of our hearts were changed completely with this trip, and I hope we all get to go back at some point in the future,” McLaughlin added.