March 26, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Last week while many of their University of Kentucky classmates took a vacation trip during spring break, Wildcat football players Marcus Davis and Jacob Lewellen made a journey of a different sort.
Davis and Lewellen were among five UK student-athletes who traveled to Nicaragua on a mission trip on behalf of Athletes in Action, an international Christian sports ministry organization. Ann Armes and Sarah Rumely of the volleyball team and Laura Novikoff of the soccer team also were part of the trip.
The UK contingent, along with a church group from Iowa, went to Nicaragua on March 13. They were at an orphanage for three days, then spent a day with the local AIA group at a university in the capital city of Managua.
During their time at the Arms of Love Orphanage, the UK students spent time with the children and also rebuilt a patio area at the facility.
"This was my first mission trip and it was a great experience, I loved it," said Davis, a junior center from Union, Ky. "It's powerful to see the kids at the orphanage deal with the trouble and struggles they've had. It was also a great opportunity (to visit the university students) to see how AIA is done at a different university in a different culture."
For Lewellen, a sophomore defensive end from Louisville, it was his first trip out of the United States.
"It was really eye-opening," Lewellen said. "They (the Nicaraguan college students) have the same basic mindset to go to school, better themselves and get ahead.
"At the orphanage, the thing I learned most was that they could have so much hurt and pain at the surface but they're just happy to live another day. It makes you realize that anything you experience in your life or your sport, like a failing grade or an injury, is really nothing compared to what they have to face."
"The trip was a complete and total success," said Bret Nathaniel, director of UK's AIA chapter and leader of the mission. "Our themes for the trip were service, joy and engagement, whether that meant helping with homework, engaging the children in play or in devotionals.
"They (UK student-athletes) fell in love with the kids and getting to show love in a practical way. The kids let them into their world and connected with them (UK students) in a huge way."
Read excerpts from the diary of Jacob Lewellen
Phillips Interviewed on KET: Coach Joker Phillips is the subject of an interview that will be aired on Kentucky Educational Television this week.
Phillips will be on the show, "Connections with Renee Shaw," that will be telecast:
- Friday, March 26, at 5 p.m. EDT on channel KET2
- Sunday, March 28, at 1:30 p.m. EDT on channel KET
Phillips will discuss growing up in Kentucky, the path which led him to become head coach of the UK football team and "Operation Win" - his plan for the success of Wildcat football.
For more on this interview visit http://www.ket.org/pressroom/2010/09/kcwrs_000524.html
UK Breaks Attendance Record Again, Continues in National Top 25: Kentucky broke the school attendance record and once again placed in the nation's top 25 in attendance, according to final figures for the 2009 season released by the NCAA.
Kentucky had an average attendance of 69,594 during the Wildcats' seven home games last season, setting the attendance record for a third-straight year. The previous records were 69,434 in 2008 and 68,824 in 2007.
Kentucky ranked 22 nd nationally in average attendance. UK has ranked in the nation's top 25 in attendance in 10 of the last 11 years since Commonwealth Stadium was expanded in 1999.
This journal was kept by Kentucky football player Jacob Lewellen during the spring break mission trip he took on behalf of Athletes in Action, a Christian sports ministry group. UK student-athletes Marcus Davis, Ann Armes, Sarah Rumely and Laura Novikoff were on the trip, along with a group of people from Iowa. The trip was to Nicaragua, where they spent time at the Arms of Love Orphanage and at a university in the capital city of Managua.
- Met with group from Iowa, had worship and devotion with them
- Introduced by Bret (Nathaniel of AIA) to the Iowa group and explained what AIA is about and who we are
- The kids (at the orphanage) were very accepting to both us and the Iowa group. Many kids were fascinated with the cameras and took pictures with our cameras
- Went to a fiesta with the children and it was a celebration for the men who opened the schools
- Went ziplining at the orphanage, played football (soccer), basketball and volleyball
- Met a kid named Alex who is awesome, just full of energy who just enjoys life and God, and his sport skills are amazing, has seen a lot but doesn't let his situation faze him
- This has made me appreciate where I am from and can't believe how going to a different country can open your eyes and make you realize God is not just spoken in English, it is spoken in many languages. As it says in the Bible every tribe and nation will confess Jesus is lord.
- Have spent the day at the beach with children from Arms of Love and the Iowa group. It is great to see that we can enjoy the same things and the beach is something that goes across many cultures and is something that brings joy and excitement within everyone.
- Many friendships and bonds have formed with the orphans and Iowa group. The kids trust the volunteers and have clung to us. They enjoy the company and the family feeling. Once we leave the orphanage for the University I will miss the kids because they bring a smile to my face.
- Kids are fascinated with cameras and they are very proud of their schools and language. The kids are amazing and respectful of us. I am growing close with them every minute. Growing alongside the other athletes has been amazing. I have learned even more about how we are of the same heart and we just want the same things from life.
- While swimming in the pacific for the first time I was out 300 yards away from shore. As Bret noticed he told me to come in but it didn't look like I was moving anywhere. My arms were shot and it was hard to swim. I was scared for my life but Lord was by my side and Bret there just in case.
- Woke up early to say goodbye to the children. They are up at 4:30 AM to get everyone ready for school. The children are self-sufficient. It was hard to say good-bye because the next time I might see them is in heaven. The children were so appreciative of what we brought them as we gave them T-shirts and beanie babies. Their faces lit up and their smiles make it all worth it.
- Saying good-bye to the Iowa group is going to be hard because they are wonderful people who we just bonded with and grew together very quickly. As we move on from Arms of Love, not really sure what to expect, it will be interesting, but I'm sure it will lead to something great.
- An unexpected turn of events, we stayed at Arms of Love as plans fell through with University so we stayed and worked at the orphanage and did chores. We built a patio and made a log piles. This allowed more room for the children to play, as well as create a safer environment. Also, we played in a 3-on-3 soccer game just to see how the kids would interact. They really loved that we played with them.
- Last night the kids celebrated one of the Iowa group members birthday with a piñata. It was funny to see the little children swing when the piñata was way above their head. I fell asleep so early last night because of the work we did yesterday. My body was exhausted. Today is our last day at Arms of Love. We will leave roughly around 8:30 AM to drive into the city of Managua where the university is located. The time spent at Arms of Love is unforgettable. The children were great. The stuff was very accepting and the great teamwork and learning experience are unmatched.
- As we rode down into Managua we saw how the people live and the conditions are not very good. There were many rundown buildings as well as buildings left from a large earthquake in 1972.
- We arrived at the University of Nicaragua in Managua greeted by Junior, the director of campus ministries to the university. As we walked through campus we turned many heads because we looked different. We arrived at a soccer/basketball court where we watched and joined in with the students playing soccer. As Laura talked about soccer with the help of Junior, the students saw that we have something in common, which is Jesus.
- After losing a game of soccer I joined in on the other court in a two on two basketball game. The international rules were different, instead of checking the ball at the top of key, you threw it in from the base line and it was make-it-take-it. The game was interesting because I know a little Spanish and I was playing with native speakers. Then we split up into four groups. Ann and I were escorted by Antionte, who was one of the student leaders for junior's campus ministry. She showed us around campus while we handed out flyers in Spanish about the Gospel. All the students were receptive of what we handed out.
- As we got to lunch we got to meet with the leaders and talk about life and get to know what their lives are like.
- We went back to the university and played more soccer and basketball and enjoyed the heat and beautiful weather. We then went to the market to shop. With so many shops selling the same items you tried to find the best bargain.
- Dinner with university and good-byes after dinner.
- Travel from Managua to Louisville. As I split from the group to go home my mind started to wander. And just process everything that had gone on through the week. Three things have come to my mind and just stuck.
- Life is all perception, my eyes have been opened, what I live through is nothing compared to the children at Arms of Love or students at the university go through. So I have the opportunity to see the world I live in is not that bad and that those children need more people in their lives because we aren't the ones who need to complain and it is them but they don't
- Language is only a barrier. Just because I don't speak their language doesn't mean we cannot communicate, it means we as people have to take time to understand that we're not alone, that Jesus is the same in every language he is working and moving for everyone and to relate that to someone I can't speak that with is amazing.
- Loving with timing and patience is key. We spilled out our love for people on our trip and they spilled their love as well, patience to just know that with being able to wait for the understanding and it pays off. And timing God will put us in the right place in time to love one another.