Society

Taking the gospel, baseball to Uganda

Mission trip ‘life changing’ for volunteer
By MIKE BROWN
Reporter Editor


‘Lunchroom’ in Ugandan orphanage is outdoors, on the ground, no utensils other than hands and fingers. Note the soft drink bottles. Kaufmann said some orphans will make each drink last up to a month by swallowing only a mouthful a day. ‘Lunchroom’ in Ugandan orphanage is outdoors, on the ground, no utensils other than hands and fingers. Note the soft drink bottles. Kaufmann said some orphans will make each drink last up to a month by swallowing only a mouthful a day. The old joke, popularized most recently by author George Will, is that God must be a baseball fan because the Bible starts with the words “In the big inning.”

David Kaufmann of Rockdale can appreciate that. He has returned from what he terms a “life changing” experience this fall, a mission trip to several orphanages in Uganda.

Part of his duties on that trip included teaching baseball to Ugandan youngsters.

Kaufmann is uniquely qualified for that task. The office manager for GFL Americas in Rockdale, he was formerly a major league baseball scout for the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals.

PRIORITIES—Kaufmann, who is also a deacon at First Baptist Church, is very clear that baseball wasn’t the prime reason for the trip, under the auspices of Parental Care Ministries, which operates the orphanages for about 600 Ugandan youngsters.


Kaufmann said the mission group fell in love with the Ugandan orphans and the feeling was obviously mutual. At right, batting practice came naturally to children who had never seen a baseball game. Youngster at right is wearing one of the many Rockdale Tiger baseball caps brought by Kaufmann. Kaufmann said the mission group fell in love with the Ugandan orphans and the feeling was obviously mutual. At right, batting practice came naturally to children who had never seen a baseball game. Youngster at right is wearing one of the many Rockdale Tiger baseball caps brought by Kaufmann. “First, and foremost goal, is to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “Then comes medical needs, clothing and feeding the children and then comes education.”

After that? “Recreation,” Kaufmann said. “We thought it would be nice to expose them to something they’ve never experienced before.”

“All they’ve ever had for recreation are soccer balls which they have to make for themselves out of banana leaves,” he said.

BASEBALL CAPS—Uganda has generated thousands of orphans, mostly due to war and disease.

“It’s such a poor country anyway and then when you become an orphan you literally don’t have anything,” he said.

“These kids will have everything they own in a little box on their beds,” he said. “And that may be one or two pieces of clothing and a Pepsi. And I’m not kidding. I’ve seen those kids make a soft drink, something we just take for granted, last a month.”

But Kaufmann added many prized possessions to Ugandan orphans lives last months, delivering more than 300 baseball caps, donated by Rockdale residents.

“ Those caps immediately became treasures to the kids,” he said. “I don’t know if I can explain to people who gave us caps just how much it meant. I know once a child came up to our vehicle on the road and I reached out and tossed him a cap.


Rockdale Rotarians, your caps are now treasures in Uganda. Above, orphans aren’t only toddlers as Kaufmann hugs 17-year-old Edson. Rockdale Rotarians, your caps are now treasures in Uganda. Above, orphans aren’t only toddlers as Kaufmann hugs 17-year-old Edson. “You could just tell that became about the biggest thing in his life,” Kaufmann said.

WIFFLE BALL—The baseball teaching was a surprise.

“ They were great, both boys and girls picked up the skills right away,” he said. “We started out wanting to teach them to catch, but that skill was already there. Batting was what they really loved and their hand-eye coordination developed so quickly. It was just wonderful to see. I was amazed how quickly they picked it up.”

With limited space and equipment, the “baseball” was limited to plastic wiffle balls, bats and tees. “We did get them running to a base, though,” Kaufman said.

Did the old scouting reflex kick in? Did Kaufmann start evaluating something he’s very good at?

He laughed. “ I guess you always think ‘what if,’ but I just enjoyed watching the kids have so much fun at doing something new.”

WORSHIP—Kaufmann obv iously loves the children he encountered and the feeling of awe creeps into his voice at times.

“ They’ve got nothing, and I mean that literally,” he said. “I mean you look at a child and, besides the clothes they’ve got on, they may have one other shirt and that’s it.”

“And yet their spirits are good and they are relentlessly cheerful,” Kaufmann said. “They have tremendous love in their hearts and it’s all w ithout material things.”


All ages gather in crowded ‘ low-tech’ classrooms but children are getting an education, thanks to supporters, Kaufmann said. All ages gather in crowded ‘ low-tech’ classrooms but children are getting an education, thanks to supporters, Kaufmann said. A Ugandan worship also sound like something a “you better let us out of here at noon to watch the Cowboys” church-goer might find interesting.

“ The services last four and a half hours,” Kaufmann said. “But it doesn’t seem like it. And you don’t want to leave. You don’t want to go anywhere else.”

RETURN—He’s going back.

“This has been a life-changing experience for me,” Kaufmann said. “I’ve already got plans to go back in June.”

“It was hard to leave all that love,” he said.

Parental Care Ministries was begun by Ugandan Pastor Emmy Nnyanzi and w ife, Sarah, in 1997.

Today, it oversees close to 1,000 children in several school settings along with more than 40 pastors and churches.

Partners in the United States may sponsor a child for $35 per month, which includes food, clothing, shelter, security, medical care and a Christian education.

For information go to www.pcmonline.org or call 903-526- 0499.


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