“ ... I am going to watch the first half and then go home and watch the Broncos game on TV,” a friend, BJ Rhode, Eagle High School Junior Varsity Football coach and a former Broncos quarterback, announced as we entered the Meridian football field, where my son, a senior, was to play that night. I had no clue my beloved Boise State University football team was even playing a game that day.
That sentence, as simple as it is, was a major revelation on how my life had changed.
My family and I had watched Broncos games for years. I gave my first motivational speech to the team in October 1998. That marked the beginning of years of amazing relationships. When the head coaches left for jobs at schools within more competitive athletic conferences, they used to ask me to help them motivate their players and coaches, teach them how to overcome challenges, be team players, live as accountable people and succeed beyond the football field.
The highlights of my involvement included being asked to be the homecoming grand marshal in 2003 and giving the final speech before the BSU team left town for the first Fiesta Bowl game against Oklahoma in 2007. We won. For 15 years I watched every BSU football game, in person or on television. I recall spending time to find out if the hotel I was to stay at in Canada had ESPN so that I could watch the 2009 season opening game.
In 2010 I returned to Kenya after living in the USA for 24 years, and I was depressingly devastated by seeing hopeless children who had lost their parents to AIDS or those from poverty-stricken families who were unable to attend high school. I had seen a man cry as his daughter was about to miss her high school education because he lacked the $500 annual tuition that covers school fees, room and board, books and other school supplies. In Kenya, those who cannot afford it are unable to progress beyond eighth grade.
After I returned to the USA, the enthusiasm I had watching my son play football with amazing athleticism suffered. The joy of watching my Broncos diminished. Much of what I had considered important, was no longer filling me with pleasure.
My problem culminated from putting things in perspective.
For what it cost me to purchase some of the football gear my son needed to play the game, a teen in Kenya could attend high school, with all living expenses paid, for a full year. A $4 cup of coffee equaled a week’s worth of meals for a child in elementary school. I had a massive sense of guilt.
Soon after I frantically worked 24/7 to create awareness of what I had experienced, and established a nonprofit organization — Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope. I began by approaching concerned people who would sponsor one student for a year. Little by little, one sponsor after another, I started to see the scope of how transformative change could impact the children. As the new demands kept on increasing, time for leisure was viewed as time taken away from seeking sponsors, creating a website or networking.
Football had been a joy and a priority in my life for years. But God thrust other priorities into my life. Raising funds to educate orphans, provide medicine for HIV-positive mothers and build decent houses for widows had become my full-time concern.
Coach Rhode’s words revealed what my family had expressed for four years, that helping vulnerable children in Kenya had become my life. There are human situations that, once we are exposed to them, our lives are forever changed, for better or worse and/or anything in between. Yet, you are fearfully humbled by the knowledge that you are playing a small part in God’s miracles of saving and transforming lives. You see His people’s hearts melted by the suffering of children living in a place they only hear about — and they give generously.
You just have to learn to keep things in perspective. Meanwhile, go Broncos.
Vincent Muli Kituku is an author and speaker for business organizations, schools and Christian groups. He is the founder of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope and Caring Hearts High School, a vulnerable girls’ boarding school in Kenya. Contact him at (208) 376-8724 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.