Pete Maravich Assembly Center

Pete Maravich Assembly Center

Friday, September 17, 2010

Think about someone else

I.Think about someone else.

It is amazing what happens when you think about others first. You get involved in their situation and what they may be going through. It begins to take the focus off what issues you have in your own life.

We are here not just to live a life that is just pleasing to us, but we are also here to help other people through the trials and transitions of life. You will find energy and excitement by helping other people. It could be someone less fortunate or a good friend. Who they are and what they do does not matter. Something about helping someone else is gratifying. It becomes even more special if no one else knows about the good deed. As a young person you are in such transitions, but that is when you dig down and find ways to help others you will be glad you did.

The greatness of Jesus Christ promised for those who serve is reserved for those who give to give. The folks who give to get are traders, not givers, and they raise a family of traders to follow them

Joe White

We have a young man on our team at Belhaven University that graduated in 2010, John Jibol, who is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. His story is amazing for what he has had to persevere. At a young age he had to run for his life through the jungle to get to freedom. His dad and a two of his brothers have been killed in the war in his country. In the last couple of years both his mother and another brother have died.

Because of the unrest, John cannot get back home and then get back out of the country quickly. He does all he can to help his family by working a job in the summer and on weekends during the school year so he can send as much money back home as he can. He also has to provide for his own meals and housing while he is a student here. He gets by with basketball scholarship, federal aid and student loans, but it is still tough on him.

John is one of the nicest and most humble persons you will ever meet. It has been good to see how many people have stepped up to help him here around our campus. He is helping his family back home and we have concerned people here that are doing all they can to help him. It is fun to see how much our team cares about John. They would do anything to help him and want him to succeed so badly. Each time John has had a setback his teammates have stepped up and been there for him emotionally.

In the 20 years of coaching John is one of the most caring and team oriented players I have been around. He cares about the other guys first and not for himself. How he stays so positive is a constant encouragement to me. As a coach, I get to see it everyday how much people can think about others and have that joy in their own life. John is one without question the player with the most unique background of any player I have coached. Also, he has come from the toughest background. The special thing is he is also the most sincere and appreciative young athlete I have ever been fortunate to coach. He is always asking about my family and thanking me for the opportunity we are giving him. We should be thanking him for the blessing it is to have him in our program. He sets a great attitude. If our players ever complain I can subtly remind them of how good they have it and if they do not believe me then go talk with John.

He did not set any school records or become an All American, but his impact while here at our school is tremendous. Never before have I had more people ask me off the floor about John and maybe I won’t have any like him again. He is one of the most unassuming people I have been around. The thing about his humility is that he is always willing to help and concerned for others. He is totally there for other people.

This spring John made some of the biggest progress he has made academically and it was one of my biggest thrills in coaching. I have been able to be around great players, great teams and great environments for the game of basketball, but this was one of the most heart-warming moments when he did so well academically and was able to graduate. He has had so much to overcome and he does not complain. The campers that come to our summer and winter basketball camps love to be on one of the teams that John is coaching. The parents love having him around and you can see how contagious his humble spirit can be to a group. He exemplifies the phrases “team player” and “serving others”. I hope that you have some John Jibol’s in your life to be such an example.

Here is an article that appeared in the Jackson Clarion Ledger Sunday October 1, 2006 about John. This was written by one of the best writers in the state of Mississippi and Belhaven alum Orley Hood

It's been almost 17 years since he's seen his mother, John Jibol, 23, says.

He's sitting in the stands at Charles R. Rugg Arena on the Belhaven College campus during a break in basketball practice. But his mind is in Sudan, Africa's largest country, where what's left of his family - those who have not been killed in a genocidal civil war - remains.

He talked to her on the telephone. "Mama," he said, "I want to come home."

"No," she said. "You finish school first." "But Mama, I need to see you." "No. Not now. Stay in school."

When he speaks of his mother, of his father who was killed, of two brothers who died in 1996 in separate skirmishes, a faraway veil slips over his face.

He's a little boy again, running from war, living in refugee camps, taking cover in Ethiopia, returning home for two months, and then racing for his life again, this time to Kenya.

For the young in Africa, sometimes the best that can be hoped for is a narrow escape, through desert and jungle, across rivers teeming with crocodiles, away from civil wars and genocide and hunger and AIDS and malaria. You can't think about tomorrow when it's so hard to hang on to today. When you're running for your life, there's no room for school and basketball to squeeze their way into a boy's dreams.

Tom Kelsey, beginning his second season as Belhaven's basketball coach, looks down to the court and sees No. 55 warming up, getting loose, and he smiles. "He's a gift from God," Kelsey says, without the first hint of hyperbole in his voice.

It was spring 2005. He gets a call from an assistant coach at Mississippi State. You need a player? There's this guy down there ..."We're all set, full," Kelsey told him. Still ..."Then a week later Julie Mabus called about him. He was a refugee from Sudan. She'd seen him at church at St. Andrew's. I watched him work out at the YMCA on Fortification Street." He was 6-feet-6 and as raw as a stalk of celery.

For the Lost Boys of the Sudan, who swam for their lives across the Gila River, working on their low post moves was not a priority. There was, Mabus says, a former Mississippi first lady, 5,000 of them. In 2000, 67 of them came to Jackson.

They'd been caught in a war of attrition, racism, religious intolerance and economics - the Arabs of the North against the blacks, many of them Christian, in the oil-rich South. "The war created an exodus of 20,000 young boys in 1987, as bombs were going off and the Arabs were annihilating villages," Mabus says. The idea was both comforting and chilling: To preserve the boys until they could mature into the South's army of the future.

"Many died along the way" to Ethiopia, she says. "They traveled at night - the North was hunting them in the daytime - in a straight line, and you could hear the lions picking them off at the end of the line. For four years they trained and were educated at a military refugee camp." Then the regime in Ethiopia fell "and the new government came down one night after them.”They've been through so much," Mabus says. "All they want to do is go home and see family." They didn't know who was alive back in Sudan and who had evaporated into the mists of war. They swam across a swollen river, some surviving the crocs, some not.

"They lived in the desert for a month and half," Mabus says. "They had nothing to eat. Finally, the Red Cross found them and took them to Kakuma, on the border of Sudan and Kenya."For nine years they lived in the refugee camp. An English school was set up. The United Nations High Command for Refugees went about the business of finding the Lost Boys home countries, places without genocide, without crocs and lions, places with hope, where boys could be human beings again, where they could have futures.

Where, here, they could go to Bailey Magnet School in Jackson. And where one, John Jibol, could find a spot on Belhaven's basketball roster, where he could be No. 55, not a target for madmen half a world away

"When the boys came in, in the custody of the state, our program provided the services," says Barbara Pigott, director of social services with Catholic Charities in Jackson. "Most all the boys see education as their priority and they worked to support themselves and live in the community.

"Despite the language barriers, they've all excelled. It's just remarkable. They are so appreciative of everything because of where they came from." And because of what they've been through."Miss Julie helped us find tutors," Jibol says. "Catholic Charities have been a big help.

"He's polite, hard working, the favorite of a lot of the guys," Kelsey says. "He works at St. Dominic (hospital, in radiology) on the weekends to make money to send back to his mom. For him to have success would do wonders for his confidence. It's heartwarming." Mabus, seeing their courage, their steadfastness, their humbleness and their lack of bitterness, says, "These boys have changed my life. And Tom thinks John is magic."

But many battles remain.

Blood still runs in the streets of Darfur as the U.N. and western powers struggle with the notion of sending troops into the genocidal maelstrom. John Garanga, the father of the southern independence movement, died in a helicopter accident, putting 2005's peace agreement at risk.

In the meantime, for John Jibol, life is school and work, with basketball in the afternoons and deep dreams of home at night. After graduation 2 1/2 years from now,

"I try to go back and help people back there," he says, and to see the mother he aches for who he's not laid eyes on since he was 6. "I pray to God," he says. "I pray for the people back there."

Acts 20:35
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.”