Europe 2019: Belgium and Wrap-Up of the NRB Tour

(Written 8/18/2019)
I write from the Charleroi Airport cafeteria an hour’s train ride outside Brussels, Belgium. Post-adventure exhaustion has set in — the last several nights have involved more long life talks with friends, post-basketball-game hangouts with Belgian athletes, and long drives than hours of sleep. This morning started early as we moved our team from our three host homes in Leuven, Belgium to the airport to begin their journeys homeward. It was sad; it was meaningful; it was exciting to watch them walk through turnstiles as changed people. We’ve seen dreams born, heard inklings of God’s calling amplified, and watched as this group of girls named in each other the strengths and God’s giftings we’ve witnessed in each of their lives. I’m honored to have been a part of a work so intentional and so catalyzing.

Brussels — just go.

Our travel from Sweden to Belgium commenced after helping facilitate our hosts’ church service on Saturday evening and then enjoying a last dinner together at one of our hosts’ homes. We drove an hour to the train station and loaded up on a night train to find that the train staff had given away our reservations and we wouldn’t be able to get into sleeping cabins until about 3am (a bit of a bummer). The next few hours we joked, shared stories, and slumbered in the train’s cafe car until getting placed and sleeping from 3am until about 5:30am. Then we unloaded at Stockholm airport, checked in for our flight, spent the next 10 hours in airports on a layover-ed flight through Frankfurt, navigated more complications in Brussels with downed computer systems and train tickets bought to the wrong city before rectified, and arrived in Hasselt, Belgium around 8pm. Dropping our bags in a primary school where we’d be staying for the next couple days, we ate dinner with our first contact as he welcomed us and explained the camp we’d be running starting bright and early the next morning. Then to bed and off and running the next day.
Our fantastic Belgian basketball camp group

This was one of the more trying sections of the trip — we were running a bit ragged arriving in Belgium coming off the previous week in Sweden and after such a long travel day. However, our time in the last of our three destinations over the course of the News Release Basketball tour proved an equally distinct experience similarly to how our first two locations were quite different from each other and was encouraging and rejuvenating. We ran a two-day basketball camp for a local club, then moved to stay with other contacts in Leuven (similar to Hasselt, Leuven is another small city just outside Brussels) for the remainder of our time. I had happened to meet all three of our hosts in Brussels at a conference a couple months ago, and was particularly excited to see them and spend time with them again. The remaining few days we spent in Leuven were slightly slower-paced, but we still got the opportunity to hang out with a group of college students to build friendships and play basketball, as well as play scrimmages and games against four Belgian women’s teams (one of which competed at Belgian’s highest level of club play— the only game we lost as a team).
Getting to eat with one of the Belgian teams we played after the game

The three locales in which we found ourselves over the course of the trip involved different accommodation arrangements, basketball experiences, cultural variances, and expectations of our team. We were asked to shoulder a lot: long days coaching groups of kids, then playing scrimmages or being involved in outreach events in the evenings; lots of travel, new environs, new food and ways of life, performing when we were tired, and battling through pain and injuries. I’m extremely proud of the group we had. Each stepped up, did things that were hard, sacrificed for the good of the team, and endured things that were difficult or unpleasant. We grew close and learned to support each other, how to share our burdens and have patience for each other, and how to appreciate each other’s differences and points of view. So much good.
Our two incredible hosts in Leuven (left and right) and two members of my team (above)

There’s always so much more to be said, and not enough time to say it. I’m now heading back to Edinburgh where I’ll put the finishing touches on my dissertation this coming week, turn that in, and then have a few days to recoup before leaving again for about a week and a half to visit a friend in Denmark and then go to Ukraine for a friend’s wedding. I still don’t know what’s going to happen next for me. The next couple weeks are clear and in that time, I’ll be working on tying up loose ends around here, advancing my startup project, nailing down some writing gigs, and continuing to uncover what the next step is for me.
For now, I’m ready to get a little bit of sleep and finish my degree — looking forward to taking a breath. More hopefully soon. Until next,

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