Junior guard/forward Candace Nevels will be doing more than refining her jump shot and working on her rebounding this summer. The Chicago, Ill., native plans to spend a month of her break doing mission work in the east African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
After undergoing intensive training, Nevels will spend the month of June working for an organization called Adventures in Missions where she will assist in building churches and wells, volunteer with local orphanages and share her faith with the people of east Africa.
Nevels said she knew for a long time that she wanted to do a big mission trip one summer during her time in college, and when she heard about this trip to Africa from another Murray State student, she knew it was the one she had been looking for.
“I knew this was the trip for me because it’ll be the perfect start to my dream of eventually opening a boarding school in Uganda,” Nevels said.
Disturbed by the dangers and lack of education in Africa, Nevels explained her ultimate dream to minister to and educate young girls in one of the most dangerous and impoverished parts of the world.
“We are constantly going over there trying to teach English and give them computers,” Nevels said, “but then we leave and they go home to face the terrors and dangers that come with living in that area. That’s why I want to open a boarding school for young girls where I can share my faith with them and give them hope about the truth of who we really are, while giving them a formal education in a safe and caring environment.”
Nevels will undergo formal training before she leaves in which she will learn the intricacies of Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan culture. From learning the proper way to shake hands, to trying foreign foods, Nevels said she anticipates a huge culture shock.
Ever since she committed to going on the trip in January, Nevels has been working hard to raise her own funds for the trip. However, she said she has not always been the type to give up her summer to travel to third-world countries. Growing up, Nevels traveled a lot for pleasure, but never went on any big mission trips. After her freshman year at Murray State, she became a Christian, which she said has dramatically changed her as a person.
“If you talk to my teammates and coaches, they’ll tell you that I was a crazy and angry person when I came in,” Nevels said. “God just took a lot of the anger that I had away and he really changed my life, from Campus Outreach to Hardin Baptist Church, the people there have challenged me to grow every day, and it’s changed my life.”
According to Nevels, the changes carried over to the basketball court.
“It’s even changed me in basketball and how I treat my teammates,” Nevels said. “Before, I used to focus on me and who did something wrong to me, and who looked at me wrong and how I felt they were treating me,” Nevels said. “Now I just have a raw love for my teammates and I don’t worry about disagreements or not getting along because I have a solid love for my team that I didn’t have before.”
Nevels said some of her other teammates have made similar changes to their lives and it’s been seriously affecting the team as a whole.
“My teammate Mariah Robinson has come to Christ recently too, which is really making an impact on our team in bringing us together and building that love as sisters,” Nevels said. Coach Cross has been emphasizing that forever, but now that we’ve put our selfish ways aside, I think we’re finally getting it.”
Nevels said that it’s this same transformation that gave her the desire to give up a large part of her summer and spend her spring semester raising funds to finance her trip. Ever since she went on a trip to an Native American reservation, she knew she needed to go and make a difference.
“We went to the Native American reservation in Arizona and it was literally like a third world country,” Nevels said. “The people were so poor and fought so much that it looked like the poorest part of Africa mixed with the worst gang territories in Chicago.”
Since then, Nevels said she has dreamt of eventually making it to Africa to experience the culture and learn more about the people’s needs.
“In my faith, I don’t feel like I’m just called to go to the safe places,” Nevels said. “God calls us to go to every nation to share his love.”
Nevels will have the opportunity to share these views and potentially begin the process toward achieving her dream this summer.
She will return from Africa to play her final year of Racer basketball as one of six seniors.