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December 26, 2013

Clark Mussman: Giving back without borders

Put yourself in the shoes of a 23-year Division I student-athlete. You have just finished your final football season, your finals are over ... forever. The holiday season is fast approaching. It would be time to relax, right?

For outgoing senior tight end Clark Mussman, that is the exact opposite of what he did as the 2013 fall semester came to a close at Western Michigan University. Clark, along with his father Al, joined members of the Storyline Church from St. Joseph, Mich., on a week long mission to Haiti.

"I have been fortunate enough to go many places and provide service since I was a teenager," said Mussman before the trip to Haiti. "We have gone to Mexico to help out and we also went to New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina when I was in high school.

"I have participated in Habitat for Humanity and always made a point to be active in the Kalamazoo community while at WMU."

The group traveled to Haiti to the House of Blessings Orphanage. There children are orphans for many reasons but they are not there to be fostered out to other families. This orphanage is almost a refuge for them to learn, go to school and build a family among one another.

Clark and the rest of the group cleared three feet of brush from the entire perimeter of the orphanage. They helped make cement for other projects to be completed by paid workers. They painted and did electrical work throughout the facility.

"I was surprised to see how happy everyone is, they love going to school, love going to church. I just took it all in."
Two people caught the attention of Clark, Jefferson and Rosey. Clark and Jefferson exchanged email addresses and hope to continue their friendship, while Rosey was a breath of sunshine every day.

"She would come into the room and give us a kiss on the cheek and a hug. She is the sweetest thing. Some times I would just pick her up and carry her around. She's an adorable little girl," added Clark.

Impressions were left for both sides during the trip. Clark hoped those affiliated with the orphanage knew how much it meant to the missionaries to be there assisting with the work, but also the relationships formed during the week are what left the biggest impression.

"I realize how much you take for granted. A person here that is the worst off is in a better situation than the people we encountered. It is an eye opener."
During the entire trip, Clark kept a journal detailing his days and nights. The following are excerpts from that journal:

DAY 1 - Dec. 7, 2013
"Driving on the bus to the orphanage, I could see rusted tin shacks so close together you could stick your hand out the window and shake hands with your neighbor."
"At the airport we were heading outside with our carts and a man tried to help me with my bag. I said no and I had it covered. When I looked up, the guy is wearing a Western Michigan hat. What are the odds?"

"It's sobering. Many of the people have nothing to their name besides the clothes on their back. I feel as if the entire country is an orphan."

"It's amazing to be here and experience a different culture. The people are so grateful for what they have and so happy and polite. After seeing how they live and their positive attitude, I have no reason to ever complain about where I come from."

DAY 2 - Dec. 8, 2013
"After church today we hung out and played sports with all of the kids all day - basketball, soccer and hand egg (what they call football). They were all very funny and were a great time to play with today."

"It's a beautiful night here because there is no light pollution. You can see so many stars and even a few planets."

DAY 3 - Dec. 9, 2013
"I asked about the goats and cows I see everywhere. Apparently they only use them for milk. They don't eat them or plan on eating them. They are viewed as an asset, like money being put away. They will raise them and then sell them in case of emergency."

DAY 4 - Dec. 10, 2013
"We shucked beans for hours today. Really makes you appreciate how hard people here work for food. Several hours later and we barely filled one bucket."
"As I sit here thinking how hard it is here, Carlo (one of the kids in the orphanage) is sitting next to me on his phone listening to music and checking Facebook. They are just like American kids (in a way) - obsessed with technology."

"After dinner Jones (another kid at the orphanage) asked me to teach him how to play chess. After a short explanation of the game he started to get the hang of it. After a little while the rest of the boys came to his aid. I am no chess guru by any means but I like to think I have a pretty good grasp of the game. The boys made me look foolish. They worked together and smoked me. I admitted defeat only to find out later that they were all chess champions at one point in time. I was tricked."

DAY 5 - Dec. 11, 2013
"Tonight at devotions, Richard asked me to pray to the group and say whatever else was heavy on my heart. I felt a little uncomfortable speaking in front of everyone, especially the Haitians. They are so serious about with prayer and their faith. It was intimidating but I think I did alright."

Clark and the group returned a week after departing for the mission. He came back with an empty suitcase, giving away almost all of the clothing we went with, but with a full heart knowing he was able to start the holiday season off by building connections with new friends like Jefferson and Rosey.

Would it have been easier to plop down on the couch after your senior football season and final undergraduate semester of college? Sure, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.

-Article written and provided by Mat Kanan, WMU Media Relations.

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