by Clayton & Ellen Kershaw
As the week got going, it was incredible to see Ellen in her element. For the first time, I got to see parts of her heart that I had only heard about. Watching Ellen love the people of Zambia taught me a lot about passion. When you are passionate about something, you give it everything you’ve got. Passion gets down so deep inside of you that you feel like, if you don’t do something about it, your heart might explode. I knew Ellen was passionate about Africa. But watching her pick up one child after another, hugging them all like they were her own, allowed me to see how God uniquely fits passion with a heart.
I could identify with how Ellen felt. I saw her come alive as she engaged the Zambian orphans, and I realized that the pitching mound is where I come alive. God’s goodness is so real to me when I’m playing the game I love. So I know what it’s like to feel passionate. For years, Ellen had supported me in my passion. She flew all over the country, staying in sketchy hotels near my place or on an air mattress with other girlfriends, to watch me play. Now it was my turn to come into her world.
At the end of our first day of manual labor in Zambia, we were all wiped out. We had spent the majority of the afternoon mixing cement, a project that takes its toll on your entire body. When we got back to the complex where we were staying, I rallied to go throw the baseball before the sun went down. A few of the guys on the trip had played baseball in high school, and they had brought their gloves with them to play some catch. Right outside of the complex stretched a long dirt road. I stood on one side and started doing some long toss across the road to another guy. Nearby, I could hear children still laughing and playing at the end of the day. We were staying close to a village. As we threw back and forth, I noticed a few kids wander over to get a closer look. They seemed intrigued by what we were doing. Heads bobbed up and down over the tall grass as kids ran through the field that separated our hotel from their village. Soon enough, the dirt street was lined with African children watching the ball go back and forth. With each throw, they cheered a little louder. For many, this was the first time they had seen an American baseball. The cheers got louder and louder, and soon I couldn’t help but laugh. I looked over at a young boy standing right next to me. I motioned to him to hold out his hands, and then I gently tossed him the ball. He broke into a hysterical laugh, and soon the whole crowd of children laughed with him. I held up my glove as he tossed the ball back. The children crowded around, forming a line to be the next one to catch a ball. The other guys with gloves caught on, and soon clumps of kids scurried around to join various lines.
As the sun set over the dirt road, we played catch with a crowd of Zambian orphans. I handed off my glove and, one kid at a time, taught them how to wear it and how to use it. The excitement on their faces reminded me of how much I love baseball. I feel like that every time I play. It was amazing to teach these kids about something that is as natural as breathing for me. Watching them figure out baseball was awesome. I felt like I was learning to love them in my own language. Suddenly it clicked. I realized how I could use the gifts the Lord had given me to relate to these kids. The Lord provided an avenue for me to show them a new world and my passion—baseball. My glove swallowed each tiny hand, but they quickly figured out how to compensate. I tossed the ball to them underhand, and then they would send it flying back overhand—just as we had been doing earlier. I was amazed by their perception. They copied us perfectly. We played until the sun sank below the horizon and the kids slowly trickled back towards the community.