B A S K E T B A L L / by Courtney Copeland

Written By: Wes Cole

“Coach Wes, we have been praying all year for your return!” This was a greeting I will never forget. I hear it in Ken's Ugandan accent perfectly every time I think about it. They all surrounded me and we exchanged hugs and high fives. It was good to be back.

This was my second time in Uganda with Reaction Tour to coach basketball, and I was overwhelmed by this greeting. I felt loved by these kids who I was here to help. I felt empowered and important. I’ve worked with kids a lot. I currently work at a Christian sports camp in the United States and love it. But it is just different. It is different to be in a third world country. At my camp in the U.S. I had kids who I hung out with 24/7 for two weeks in my cabin come back the next year and not remember my name which is fine. It is not about me, and that isn’t the point. The point is that it is different. These boys were in my basketball class of 75 kids for around 4 hours a day for one week a year ago. And, they were “praying all year for my return."

As undeserved as it is our presence is noticed, and our words are heard, and our actions are seen. Instructions are understood. Things just sink in harder than if someone from their own country came and coached or taught the exact same thing.

Is it because we know more? No.

Is it because we have been trained to coach for years? Certainly not. 

Does it even make sense? No, not really.

But, it is real. 

Jesus called fisherman and tax collectors to be his disciples and eventually to spread the faith of Christianity. They had no training, no background, and no real preparation. I didn’t deserve the respect these kids gave me, I won’t be the best basketball coach they ever come across. But I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to be used by God to make some sort of an impact on these kids. 

Coaching was an amazing experience, the kids laughed at me when I tried to speak their language or say some of their names. I laughed at many of them when they tried to play basketball. Some of them thought I was crazy because of the intensity I had on the court and during training. We were different.

I think our different background, our different experiences, and our different lives allow us to connect. It isn’t easy and it doesn’t always feel comfortable to do something different. But, it is powerful. Jesus did it all the time. He was a carpenter who spoke to thousands of people, he was the Son of God who interacted with prostitutes, beggars, the rich, and anyone else who needed it. The most mighty man to ever live didn’t try and do what was the most comfortable, and for that I am thankful.