Although there have been numerous roadblocks along the way, the futsal park project is springing to life at the hands of children who are following God’s lead.
Upon returning to ministry in Botswana after a home leave last August, we took time to re-evaluate what we were doing. We thought and prayed about what was working, what wasn’t, and how best to proceed. One big question mark concerned the development project slowly taking shape in the background of Bible studies and community building – a park for sports, environmental awareness, education, and generally just a communal area in a rough part of town. We had met many obstacles along the way, and though some encouraging developments emerged, especially relationally with our team and the local community, there was not much to show physically for our efforts.
We did not want to pursue something which God was not calling us to, so we prayed for direction and guidance. In response, we felt that God gave us an image of Jericho. Under Joshua’s leadership, the people of Israel made their first strides into the land God promised them. The park, a place known for vandalism, drunkenness, conflict, and crime, was a spiritual stronghold. Like Jericho, it was surrounded by formidable walls. So, like the Israelites, we knew that we had no chance in this place unless God led us through the barrier.
The Israelites followed God’s battle plan and simply walked around the perimeter of Jericho for seven days, so we walked around the perimeter of the park for seven days as well. We did so praying that God’s will would be done in that place, and that God would make clear whether we were to pursue the project or not.
On the second day, we slowly circled the property with our son, Malakai, taking in the familiar sites, relaxing in the evening cool. As we later packed up to go, we got a sense that we should wait a while and read the story of Joshua and Jericho again. After we did so and again prepared to leave, a local child who we did not recognize, a boy about ten years old, walked purposefully towards us. He respectfully greeted us and asked if we were preparing to build the park for the neighborhood kids.
In Botswana, conversations about God and spirituality are not seen as strange, as the spiritual realm is traditionally seen as a fact of life. So we told the boy that we were not yet sure whether the park would be built or not, and that we were asking God to show us what to do. The boy nodded thoughtfully, and stated that it would be beautiful if it were to happen. We agreed, and told him our current method for discernment. He nodded again.
We welcomed our young friend to continue walking around the perimeter, praying that God would bring down any walls holding outsiders at bay. He nodded and said that he would be glad to, and would get started immediately. As he turned to begin the walk, I realized that we had not learned the name of our new friend. Surely it was Thabo, or Kagiso, or Lesego – names common in Gaborone. But rather, it was a name we had never heard in Botswana before or since.
He said, “My name is Joshua.”
Our meeting with young Joshua, as well as other promptings, led us to believe that God was calling us to continue to move forward with the project. Now, a few months later, many of the obstacles have fallen away, opening a clear path forward.
But Joshua isn’t the only child who has made a difference with this project. Last summer as we traveled around to our supporting congregations Canada, we shared the vision of the park project with a few children’s Sunday Schools. In each case, the children took the initiative to raise money and send it to Mennonite Church Canada on our behalf. By the time we returned to Botswana, there was a sizeable amount of money gathered from the donations of all of these kids.
Encouraged by our young friend, Joshua, we decided to make a move. Using the money donated by Mennonite Church Canada kids, we hired a local company to manufacture and install a playground on the site with swings, slides, stilt houses, climbing apparatus, ramps, tunnels, and balance beams. There was even enough money left over to install five-meter-tall metal posts around the 5-a-side soccer court/basketball court. These were relatively minor installations compared to the vision for the whole site, but they were a good investment of money from children back home who wanted to bless their young Batswana counterparts.
Three weeks ago, we held a meeting on the site with a number of politicians, business owners, and local community members. The coach of Botswana’s national soccer team, a former English Premier League player, spoke to the gathering, along with some of our partners from the community including a few children from the nearby primary school. The brand new playground was being installed in the background, literally, while the shiny new poles provided perspective as to the scope of the court which we hoped to install, while we invited those gathered to share their visions for the park. Mennonite Church Canada had already thrown in their efforts, as had Joshua. And with inspiration from these young visionaries, sponsors began to step forward and pledge their support for this piece of land.
There is still a long way to go, but we are working hard to continue to bring it all together, with the hope of launching the site on September 3rd, just before celebrations for Botswana’s 50th year of independence. Please pray for the strongholds in Botswana to continue to fall, and for God’s will to be done in this place.