CSU assistant following heart to KenyaJune 27, 2003
By David Shelton, CSU Sports Information
CHARLESTON, SC Ė For as long as he can remember, Joe Peterson wanted to be a college basketball coach and for the last five years he has been living his dream.
In his brief coaching experience, Peterson has assisted on a team at Northwestern State that captured the 2001 Southland Conference championship and participated in the NCAA Tournament. He has spent the last two seasons as an assistant to Charleston Southern University head coach Jim Platt, helping to rebuild the Big South Conference program into a championship contender.
However, Peterson has found that God may have a different plan for his life. A late spring mission trip to Kenya changed Petersonís perspective and his vocation, at least for a year. Peterson has decided to leave CSU and will spend a year in Mbita, Kenya, serving as a missionary at Christís Gift Academy.
"I never expected to be touched the way I was when we visited there in May and God has shown me that this is where He wants me to go," said Peterson, a native of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. "Itís not like I was looking for this. Iíve reached a high level in the coaching profession at a young age. My career was heading in the right direction. But when God speaks I have to listen."
Peterson visited the Academy in Mbita for two weeks in May with a church group from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The school teaches kids from kindergarten through sixth-grade and is comprised mostly of AIDS orphans. More than 60 percent of the students have lost their parents to AIDS, a disease that runs rampant throughout the country.
Peterson will assist missionary Judi Ewing, the schoolís administrator for the last four years. He will teach bible classes to the older boys, establish a sports program for the students, and do much of the administrative work in the orphan sponsorship program.
"These kids have so many needs. They live in poverty and with AIDS so prevalent, they need guidance. I want to provide them a hope for a better future," said Peterson, who made two mission trips while playing basketball with Athletes In Action just out of college. "I think itís going to make me a better person. To get away from cell phones, from televisions, from cars, itís very freeing. Yes, it is a sacrifice but it forces you to be totally dependent on God now."
Peterson first became interested in making such a move while trying to counsel a friend who was considering the same prospect.
"I was basically trying to guide him and help him with his decision. One night while we talked, he said one day, 'Joe why donít you do this?' I thought, 'No way. I am a coach.' But at that point, God really started talking to me and He turned my heart.
Peterson, as you might expect, gets various reactions when he tells of his decision to leave the coaching profession to move to an under-developed country in Africa.
"I basically get two reactions," explains Peterson. "Some people say they are jealous and want to come with me. The others say, 'How can you do something like this now?' My answer to those people is simple. God has a bigger plan for me and my life."
Making such a move does come at a price. Peterson, slated to work in Kenya from January through November, 2004, will spend the next several months raising $25,000. The money will help with his cross-cultural training, insurance, housing, food and equipment that he will need in Kenya. Peterson resigned from his coaching post at Charleston Southern on June 30 to spend time preparing himself for the trip.
"I am selling basically everything I own," Peterson said. "I am sending letters to friends and family, speaking at churches and basically doing whatever I can to raise the money. I stay focused on the goal because I am positive that this is what God wants me to do at this point in my life. I have no doubts and no reservations."
For more information or to contact Joe Peterson, email him at email@example.com. Your words of encouragement and support are greatly appreciated.