As we were getting ready to leave Camp Djabal for the last time, my new friend Rahma kept telling me that it was to be a very sad day. That it wouldn’t be the same after we left. All I could think of was to agree with Rahma, as he is rarely wrong with his thoughts. Because so much was unfolding before my eyes during our journey, I have to admit that my words were anything but eloquent. As Rahma was waiting for my response, it all became very clear to me.

I very easily could have shrugged off the opportunity to join Gabriel, Mark and James in Eastern Chad. They had months to plan their trips and mentally prepare. I had three days to decide, and two weeks to prepare myself. Even after the night I spoke with Gabriel for the first time, I woke up thinking, “what am I, crazy?” In that moment, all of this was on the line. Luckily, if you know me at all, I tend to be quite spontaneous. I knew that in just a blink of an eye I could have wished away what could have been some of my life’s most memorable moments. Some of life’s most important decisions are made this way. Even when you list pros and cons, isn’t it what feels right that you end up doing? Well, I felt like this was meant to be.

So, when I responded to Rahma, who seemed to have some tears in his eyes, I said, “Rahma, don’t be sad that we’re leaving, but be happy that we came.” In the moment, I knew I meant what I was saying, but I knew how he felt. Sitting in a hotel room now in N’Djamena, I’m back to that feeling many of you have, that the only way to help is by being there. I’d like you all to know that our friends at Camp Djabal including the Darfur United players, expressed how grateful they were for there friends back home, even the ones they haven’t met. Somehow, some way, they understand that they have people miles away supporting them in ways that are just as important as physically traveling and interacting with them.

As I prepare for our departure, I again find myself thankful. I’m sure reality will hit me later on when I’m sitting in my home in Connecticut, that it will be tough to get back out here the way I did, to see my new friends again. And as Rahma said, it will be a sad day. But, as an optimist, I must look at this as just the beginning. The beginning of something incredible.

We must get this team to Iraq.

Brian Cleveland
Darfur United Assistant Coach