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UC Volleyball team members spend two weeks serving in Kenya


University of the Cumberlands volleyball team members with the young Kenyan girl the team sponsors. From left to right: Amanda Hensley (varsity), Katie Johnson (junior varsity), Kara Clemenz (coach), Courtney Fout(varsity), Aileen Nescha, Tommie Thompson (junior varsity), Amanda Walton (volleyball alum, 2002 graduate, former head coach) Leslie Bellar ( volleyball alum, 2003 graduate)

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky.--While most college athletes were taking some time to rest or train for the upcoming season over summer break, members from the University of the Cumberlands volleyball team had something much different in mind. Coach Kara Clemenz and players Tommie Thompson, Katie Johnson, Amanda Hensley and Courtney Fout spent two weeks of their summer serving at the Tumaini Miles of Smiles Children’s Home in Kenya, Africa.

Over the past few years, the team has gained many connections with the orphanage. After former volleyball head coach and UC admissions counselor Amanda Walton visited the Tumaini, she arranged for the volleyball team to begin sponsoring a young girl there, Aileen Nescha. Since that time, Walton has moved to the orphanage to serve for two years, and the volleyball team has continued to sponsor Aileen.


University of the Cumberlands varsity volleyball team member, Amanda Hensley, plays with new friends at Tumaini Miles of Smiles Children’s Home in Kenya, Africa.

“The opportunity to make a summer trip presented itself, and those who were considering spent time praying about it,” said Coach Clemenz about the team’s decision to take the trip.

On July 20, the team members met up in Acworth, Ga. with the rest of the International Sports Federation team they would be serving with. There, they participated in a training camp including exercises in getting to each other, culture change and praying. The team then left together on July 22 for their journey to Kenya.

“It was such a blessing to have the UC volleyball girls and Coach K in Kenya. When I first began coaching at UC, God laid on my heart a vision for the young ladies on the team to have a heart for something so much bigger than themselves,” explained Walton. “One of my concerns when I left coaching was that I would never really get to see that vision fulfilled. So, when I saw these amazing ladies standing on Kenya soil with a heart yearning to make a difference, all I could think was how faithful God is to make His vision for the hearts of man a reality, on His time and for His glory.”

While at Tumaini, the team helped in any way possible. Each morning consisted of Vacation Bible School activities including games, crafts, story time, dancing and singing. In the afternoons, the team did manual labor, including moving and laying bricks for a new security house on the orphanage grounds, cleaning and planting in the field. Most importantly, the team always took time to love on the kids. In the evenings the team had share time to talk about what happened during the day and plan for the next day.

Though the team served in many ways, they stayed focused on the main goal of sharing the love of Christ with every person they encountered. UC senior Tommie Thompson explained however, that it was much different than she expected. “So many people think that we as a team were going to love on the kids, but they showed us so much more love. I also saw just how much God, as our father loves us,” she explained.

h team member was touched in a different way by what they experienced in Kenya. “What impacted me the most was seeing the kids eat food and knowing what starving actually means now, watching them inhale food and knowing it may be their only meal,” said UC junior Courtney Fout.

The way they loved us immediately and clung to us like we were the most important people in the world touched me so deeply,” said Amanda Hensley, UC senior. “Seeing how they lived and how they worked so hard for everything. Their responsibility was incredible compared to kids here in the States.”

Katie Johnson, UC senior added, “The kids there don’t have what American kids have access to, and yet they are so happy. Little things that happen in life have a greater impact on them, which then had an impact on me.”

For Coach Clemenz, this trip was a time for her to bond with her players in a much different way than on the court. “At the beginning, I reminded my players that I was not their coach on this trip. I wanted them to see me as a sister in Christ serving alongside of them. I definitely got to know them better, and they saw sides of me that they hadn’t seen before. I had moments where I was incredibly proud, but more than that, it was wonderful to grow with them in service.”

One special treat for the volleyball team members was the chance to meet and interact with Aileen, the girl they had been sponsoring. “I hope that through the trip, the team will get to know Aileen a little bit better, that we will have a better understanding of her as a person and not just a name. The girls who did not go on the trip were certainly there as an extension of those who did go,” explained Clemenz. Thompson added, “Even though not all of the members of our team got to go, it was as if everyone went because we were representing them.”

The girls are excited for the impact that the trip will have on their team this season. Hensley explained that while in Kenya they played volleyball, Kenyans vs. Americans. She noticed an immediate difference. “The difference between this team and the Kenyan team was the attitude. Here, whenever someone messes up, we get frustrated with them and the general attitude of the team goes down a lot,” Hensley explained. “There, the Kenyans would mess up, and they would laugh about it and one would correct another one on what they did wrong. I hope that we can have that mentality this year.”

Though the team currently has no concrete plans to return to Kenya, it is their hope that they can some day. “It was a great honor for UC to be able to go to another country,” said Thompson.

“I hope that other teams on campus will join us in sponsoring a kid and will have a burden to share Christ,” added Johnson.

Fout concluded, “We didn’t make it that far alone. Glory to God first of all and thanks for all the prayers. Also, for everyone else who thinks they can’t make a difference, you can. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”