Being recognized –
The first Taekwondo Master (black-belt) Dan certificates arrived from Korea and the Kukkiwon (agency overseeing accreditation for Taekwondo) in November of 2010. It was a great moment for Rwanda and a great step in our journey. Until this point, all that had been done with Taekwondo in Rwanda had been on a very small scale. In fact, if I look back now, this was the moment when the vision for Taekwondo turned from something simple into something very complex and far reaching.
I’ve often thought about that point when I could have just worked and focused on a single club of Taekwondo. In the more difficult times, especially the expensive ones, I find myself wishing that I had. In reality, though, God, who knows me better than I know myself, knew that I just wouldn’t be able to do that. It was the “all in” moment where the dream of impacting Rwanda through the sport of Taekwondo began to emerge.
I had been advised to meet with KOICA (the Republic of Korea’s International Aid Agency). I had no idea where they were in Rwanda, but on our first Boy Scout camp out, I just happened to be wearing a Korea Tiger’s soccer shirt, and the head of KOICA was walking out of an office. In that moment the Republic of Korea entered mine and Rwanda Taekwondo’s lives. At that time also, we received recognition from the Rwanda National Olympic and Sports Committee.
2011 held many incredible firsts: our first national championships, first international events (there were three), first international medals, first All Africa Games, and our entry into World Taekwondo as a national federation.
Bear with me as I relate that experience:
It was March of 2011 and Rwanda Taekwondo had been invited to join World Taekwondo (the overseeing body for the sport). Travel would be to Eastern Kenya with our small team for an event and then on to South Korea for the World Championships and the General Assembly where we would become members of the then 187 member nations. The trip was going to cost about $7000 and in truth we really didn’t have it. On top of that, we were scheduled to take our family back to Togo that summer and I knew it would cost around $10,000. So, here I was about to use $7,000 for some crazy trip to South Korea? I kept thinking as I discussed this with my wife that there would be push-back from her or from others, but everyone just kept giving me the go-ahead. So, I did.
I packed up our small team and we all struck out for Mombasa, Kenya. I even road the famous train called the Iron Snake from Nairobi to Mombasa, an experience in and of itself. We learned so much as a team, won a match, and even got a little trophy (I think for furthest traveled). While there, though, I was concerned about the money and found myself kneeling in the hotel room, asking for God’s affirmation for this trip through somehow supplying the money needed. In the middle of the tournament, I received a message. A church had given an unsolicited gift to our work of, wait for it $16,800. The exact amount needed to cover both trips! Affirmation had come.
Two days later, I arrived in Seoul, South Korea. I traveled on to the city hosting the event and waited in my hotel, wondering what next, as I still had three days until the General Assembly. There I would stand up when Rwanda’s name was announced and then sit right back down. That would be it. It seemed so little reward after such a great cost to come. So, I knelt in the room and prayed. I was prompted to make my way to the hotel for registration and to get my credentials. As I waited in the lobby I was prompted, yet again, to introduce myself to a gentleman sitting across from me. At first, I hesitated, but eventually, I got up and made my way over. As I presented myself to the gentleman, he became really excited and informed me that he was the head of the expansion committee and they had been trying to initiate the federation in Rwanda for more than five years, unsuccessfully. Here I was and had done it for them! Within 36 hours, I had met with the Executive Committee for the world, had been given VIP credentials for the event and dinners, and even began having meetings with vendors. The rest of the week was spent meeting with the world’s best coaches and directors of all the top programs. It was a PhD in sport management particular to Taekwondo, compressed into one week.
I see, now, in retrospect, that it had all been by God and for God, for Rwanda.
I am still shocked at the telling of it.
Ephesians 4:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.