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Throwback Thursday: UNC Tar Heel Pitcher Hannah George Recalls Her 2017 Mission Trip to Zambia, South Africa

Hannah (front row, second from right) with her mission group behind the well they drilled in South Africa.

Hannah George is a pitcher for the University of North Carolina and is having a strong freshman season as she’s compiled a 5-3 record with a 3.62 ERA while currently leading the Tar Heels in several offensive categories including home runs, doubles, RBIs, and slugging percentage.

Tar Heel freshman Hannah George. Photo: UNC Softball.

In the summer of 2017, Hannah was about to enter her senior year at Northside (Columbus, Georgia) High in which she would earn 4A All-state honors three times (2015, ’16 and ’17) and lead her team that fall to a state title.

That memorable summer, however, softball—including her successful club ball play with the Georgia Power Demarini Gold-Tuñón team--took a backseat to a memorable mission trip where she traveled with a group from her church to Zambia, South Africa and, working with an organization called Reaching a Generation, was able to serve the people in the Bush areas including building a well to access fresh water.

Here’s Hannah’s account of her trip-of-a-lifetime to South Africa…

*****

On June 2nd, 2017, I left my parents, softball, and everything that was familiar to me to embark upon an adventure that would change my life forever.

The rest of the Africa-bound team and I had been talking about this trip for six months, and now it was actually happening!

Hannah and her friend Amanda on the airplane about to take off for the 16-hour flight.

That morning, we loaded all our luggage, piled into the vans and headed to the Atlanta airport for our 16-hour plane ride to Johannesburg, South Africa. This was my first time traveling out of the United States, so I had no clue what to expect, and I was also terrified because the majority of the trip was spent crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

We boarded our plane that night and started our journey to Zambia.

For the whole flight, I watch the plane tracker on the seat in front me; I didn’t go to sleep or really talked to anyone - because everyone was asleep!

As I gazed at the screen in front of me, watching the plane move slowly towards our destination, the thoughts of nervousness, anxiety, and self-doubt crept into my mind. I was thinking about all the “what if” questions: “What if I don’t adjust well?” “What if I get sick or hurt?” “What if the children do not like me?”

At that moment, I realized that God made way for me to go to Zambia. Playing travel softball is a huge commitment; therefore, time given to the game usually takes up the majority of the summer; however, God opened many doors for me to take time off from softball to go on this trip.

So I asked myself, “Why should I be worried or nervous or fearful if the God who created everything took the time to make a way for me to be able to take this trip?”

Walking up to the plane, heading to Zambia.

After contemplating that thought, surprisingly, I wasn’t scared anymore! I knew God has my back and His hand was protecting me. So when the plane landed in Johannesburg, South Africa, I marched off that plane with strong confidence that my God was leading me where I needed to go and protecting me as well.

In South Africa, the time is six hours ahead of the States, so it was nighttime when we arrived. Also, it was winter so it was a bit chilly.

When we finished going through customs, we ate our first meal on South African soil. We ate at a restaurant, inside the airport called Nandos and it was delicious! After walking through the airport and eating, we loaded on a bus that took us to our hotel.

The following morning, we left the hotel and headed back to the airport to catch our next flight to Livingstone, Zambia! To board our plane, we were bussed to where the plane was, and we then walked up to the plane, which was pretty neat.

Victoria Falls

After 90 minutes, we finally reached Zambia!

On the plane ride, we saw the mist from Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River, and the Bush.

When we got off the plane, we exchanged our American money into Kwacha (Zambia currency), got into the Reaching a Generation vans and headed off to the first pit stop, a pizza restaurant.

We grab some pizzas and then headed over to Victoria Falls. A fun fact about Victoria Falls is that it was discovered by a Scottish missionary named David Livingstone. I thought that was pretty interesting because Mr. Livingstone came to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in Africa three centuries ago and now I am about to do the same thing in the 21st century!

After we had finished studying Mr. Livingstone’s statue, we walked across a bridge that goes over a part of the waterfall and we all got soaked! The waterfall is so powerful that even the mist soaks you.

Then we took plenty pictures and headed back to vans to finish our pizzas. By the way there are a bunch of baboons all over the parking lot so keep that in mind. Mr.Simbia, one of the drivers of the vans left the driver side door open and my friend Amanda, was handing pizzas out of the box.

Hannah and the volunteers on the truck. Notice the "elephant crossing" sign to the left!

She was putting the box on the consul when a baboon jump in the van and stole our pizza! Needless to say, It was a nice “welcome” to Zambia for us!

After that unique escapade, we began our journey to Sioma, Zambia which was about five hours from Livingstone, Zambia.

The reason our journey was a 5-hour drive is that when we reached a certain point, the road conditions changed from excellent to terrible. There were pieces of the road missing and craters that a car can fit in were constantly challenging the drive.

Due to the rough terrain and the driving challenges, many of us experienced motion sickness. Fortunately, a team member named Ty kept everything positive by making us laugh and keeping conversations going.

Also, as I mentioned earlier that it was winter in Africa and that means the days are shorter, so as we drove daylight was quickly turning into night.

Four hours into the trip, it was completely dark, and Mr.Simbia stopped at a gas station called Vuma. We all got out of the van to use the restroom, and I realized there was a spider behind the sink that was the size of a fist! We all freaked, composed ourselves, got back on the van to continue our journey.

The conditions of the roads improved, and before long we reached our destination. Yay! To get to the base camp, we had to take a short drive on a dirt road on the back of a truck referred to by the locals as a buckeye.

A panorama of the children at the school on the mission group's first day.

June 5th, 2017 was the first official first day in Zambia.

The base camp‘s location was literally hidden in the bush so I did not know what environment we were staying in. The sunrise woke me up because it was right in my eye, then I realized that the walls were not walls, but they were screens!

I looked out of the screen in our room, and there was the Zambezi River right in front of this beautiful scenery!

The sunset on the Zambezi River.

I heard birds and running water, and, in my brain, I was like, “What is going on?” “Where am I?”

For a quick second, I thought I was in Heaven!

We ate breakfast that consisted of instant coffee and vanilla muffins which were delightful. Then, we had to prepare a lesson plan for our first outreach session at a school that was 45 minutes away from camp.

Also, this was the first time that Reaching a Generation was going to this school to preach about the love of Jesus Christ, so we had to make a really good first impression.

Our theme for the lesson plan was that “Jesus loves you no matter what.” I got an opportunity to share my personal testimony about how I was bullied in middle school because I was the new kid and how Jesus came into my life to show me what true love is through Him.

Personally, I am not the best public speaker but I shared my testimony in front of three hundred kids and the best part was that I was not scared or nervous whatsoever!

I could take my time and actually think about what I am saying because I had to pause so our amazing translator named Janix could translate what I am saying into Lozi, their native language.

Hannah (right) and Daroot.

Some children do know English but very little. After the lesson plan, we played with the children, and I met a girl named Rose and another girl named Daroot.

Rose was probably six years old, and Daroot was probably 13 years old. Daroot was a strong leader, a lot of kids looked up to her at her school. She would get all the kids in lines from the youngest to oldest, so we could play the game.

Even though Daroot and I had the language barrier in between us, we still made a connection. The game we played was very complex but super fun. After a little while, it was time to say our goodbyes, which I have learned is the hardest part of the trip.

I did not want to leave, the children were so grateful for our company and their smiles were so big and wide. The best part was when the majority of the children raised their hands to accept Jesus in their hearts. It was the best view ever, a wave of hands rising because they wanted to know Jesus was never less than incredible!

After the outreach, we went to the river lodge that Reaching a Generation owns and we met a guy from California named Ryan. He works with Reaching a Generation, so he constantly makes trips to Zambia and remains there for long periods of time, then goes back home to California. He was super sweet and fun to hang out with.

The view of the Zambezi river from the "sketchy platform" at the river lodge.

When we got to the river lodge, a couple of friends and I went up this sketchy platform to see if we could get a better view of the Zambezi River and it was breath-taking!

Also, the Wi-Fi hotspot was up there, but it did not work efficiently, so I only got to facetime my parents for a little while.

Later on that evening, we went on a pontoon boating trip on the Zambezi. This boat ride was my first and I was really nervous because we were at max capacity and I thought we were going to sink.

Anyway, we began our sunset ride on Zambezi and Pastor Jacques, the missionary guide, was pointing out villages that were positioned on the river banks and telling us cool stories. When we got back from the boating trip, we ate an amazing dinner. Then we showered and stayed up all night playing card games.

For the next five days, we would wake up and have the same routine, but each time we visited a school or a village, the experience was never the same. With each day, new friendships were developed, never forgetting memories were made, and smiles were formed.

On June 6th, we experienced something different.

We gave something that was essential for life and it was water. In the Bush, people would walk for miles and miles to get water from the Zambezi and villages would lose men, women and even children every single year to crocodiles.

Assembling the pipes to the well.

When we arrived at the village, a couple of people walked out their village to greet us. I remember this beautiful girl came out, she was probably my age and she had a toddler. My friend Amanda and I tried to play with the toddler, but all he did was cry and run behind his mom. His mom would laugh and pick him up and make him wave at us.

After that, we got to work. The drillers had already drilled the hole and assembled the body of the well. It was our job to finish it, so we put in the pump that pumps the water from the ground and metal pipes that transport the water from the pump to the surface.

The metal pipes were three meters long, very heavy and there were several pipes to install. With monkey wrenches, we held one metal pipe while someone else screwed one on the top to the one we were holding.

It took a team effort to set up the pipes.

Holding the metal pipes in place was physically draining, the entire project was intense because if we dropped the metal pipes in the hole before it was finished, we would delay the process; fortunately, we got the job done.

During my moments of struggling, I would look over to the village and see more and more people come out and watch us. At one point, some of our team got some beach balls out of the van and played with the children.

These kids had never seen beach balls before and their reactions were priceless! It kept me motivated to endure the challenge. I knew what having clean water near their village would mean the world to these precious people.

After we had finished, the workers asked Pastor Joe, our youth pastor, to do the honors of pumping the well for its first time, and he did. Everyone was clapping and smiling from ear to ear when they saw the water come out of the well!

Hannah and Pastor Joe.

Then they got a cup filled up with water and let one of the elders be the first person to drink from the well. Some of the team and I were overwhelmed with tears as we saw the children playing in the water.

When I was a child, I never thought about where I was getting water from; it was always there. It was the norm for these children to wonder where they would get water and most of all, at what risk would what they had to endure to get water.

Now they could get fresh, clean water right at their village door.

After everyone had got to drink and play from the well, we put concrete around the well to make a little runway, so it was easier to collect water from the well. This process was no small task.

In America, we have huge concrete trucks that make and pour concrete for us but not in the Western Province of Zambia. We had to make concrete with dirt, water, concrete mix, and shovels.

The villagers having a taste of fresh water.

It was hard at first because the workers had a method to make the concrete and we had to learn it but after we had fun doing it. We would rotate people in and out, so they will get a break and also get a chance to play with the children.

I remember when I was playing with the children and I had a beach ball in my hand, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the little boy from earlier standing with his arms up wanting the ball. I tossed it lightly to him, and he caught it. He was extremely happy! When everything was done, we gave out our “high fives,” fist pumps, and hugs to everyone and left.

The tripe was something that I will never forget, and I will hold this experience close to my heart forever. In the midst of all that happened in Zambia, for me, Jesus was the center of this trip!

I wanted to fulfill what He has called all of us to do: make disciples of all nations so His name can reach the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19).

Moreover, this trip was a tool, so to speak, that served to draw me closer in my personal relationship with Jesus. He showed me that I need to keep Him in the center of everything because when I don’t, that is when I start to get fearful, nervous, anxious and self-doubt creeps in.

The villagers and guests with their new well.

Before I left for Africa, I dealt with a lot of confidence issues, I felt like I never was good enough because my identity was tied around softball. My confidence would reflect on how I would do in a game: every time I did well, I was happy and my confidence was up but every time I did poorly, I was angry with myself and my confidence was really down.

My emotions and confidence was riding on this never ended roller coaster going up and down and through loopy dups.

But that all ended on this trip as God told me that my confidence should not be in my worldly self but in Him and His Spirit lives inside of me so that confidence that I have in Him will shine from the inside out of me.

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