Born in refugee camps and winning the title: CHAMPIONS!

Born in refugee camps and winning the title: CHAMPIONS!

Boys’ volleyball became an official school sport at 6 middle schools in the Fox Valley this spring. Games began in mid-April, and it quickly became apparent the Jayhawks were the team to beat.

The Jayhawks possess amazing athletic ability – enough to win it all in the end. But there was something beyond their leaping spikes or perfect digs that set them apart from the other teams: They play with electricity – a JOY – that is on the court from start to end. Even when they were down in a match, they never seemed to get rattled. Perhaps they have a greater perspective on life.

Two of the 7 boys on the team were born in refugee camps on the other side of the world. Being selected for resettlement is likened to “finding a needle in a haystack;” one of the boys’ extended family has been in the camp since 2005, his cousins were born there and know no other life. Their story is not uncommon.

As my (Ellie) son’s team prepared to play the Jayhawks, my friend ChiChi and I exchanged excited text messages about our boys playing each other. But the day of the game, ChiChi wasn’t in the bleachers. In fact, the cheering section for the Jayhawks was sparce (a fact that didn’t seem to bother the team one bit; perhaps the lack of yelling is another reason the boys play with such joy).

We had tea a few days later, and as we talked about the team, ChiChi asked, “Do parents attend the games?”

ChiChi lost her father at age 9; her family was hiding in the jungle from people who were hunting them, and there was no medicine to help him. ChiChi’s mother sent her 5 children into a Thai refugee camp so they could receive an education and be safe. They played games like volleyball and scrabble, but there was never an audience of parents.

Our teams played one another again the following week. ChiChi’s husband left work early so the whole family could watch their boy play. She cheered nearly every moment of every set; a lifetime of excitement pouring out. She watched every game after that one, including the final match that crowned the Jayhawks “CHAMPIONS.”

ChiChi watching her son play volleyball for the first time. She never missed a game after this one.

Friends on and off the court, connected through Radical Love and a deep love for family, community, and Christ.