The McKay's pose with a few new friends from the Soweto Academy in the town of Kibera. The McKay's and Tyler Baker spent eight days in Kenya with Athletes in Action.
Worlds Apart: McKay and AIA Help Bring Basketball and the Gospel to Africa ------ Vincent Briedis is an assistant athletics communications director for Liberty University who covers men's basketball. Photos courtesy of Julie McKay. Tragedy is something no one wants to wake up to in the morning headlines. It is not something that is readily embraced over morning coffee. A world of baseball fans uneasily rang in the New Year in 1973 with the news that Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente had perished in an aviation accident, while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. A slew of beloved musicians from Buddy Holly and Ricky Nelson to Ritchie Valens, have all had their lives cut short due to catastrophe. The list goes on and on. For the college basketball world, the Big South Conference and a town nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, tragedy was miraculously averted when the van transporting Liberty head men's basketball coach Ritchie McKay and three other collegiate coaches slammed into an embankment over a ditch, leading down toward a river at 50 miles per hour. McKay and the other coaches were in Kenya bringing the Gospel and basketball through a missions trip with Athletes in Action (AIA), earlier this month.
A former bodyguard, who serves on staff with AIA, was driving the quartet of coaches around the town of Kibera when he attempted a maneuver that was highly risky, in order to get the coaches from one place to another as quickly as possible. The move sent the automobile onto two wheels, nearly flipping the van. In the midst of a round-a-bout, the car righted itself at a high-rate of speed, promptly slamming into the embankment. "We should have been seriously injured or even died," said McKay. "It was truly by the grace of God that we walked away injury-free, and without incident, even when 50 Kenyans bum-rushed our vehicle." Encumbered by inches, their lives spared, the quartet of coaches pressed on with their mission. It was the grace McKay spoke of that enveloped the entire experience for him, his wife, Julie, and their daughter, Ellie. Liberty redshirt junior Tyler Baker also made the trip. "What a blessing it was to be part of a trip like this with AIA," reflected McKay. "There were so many lessons to be learned and I really commend AIA, Eric and April Nelson for the organization of this venture." AIA prepared basketball coaching clinics in and around Nairobi in Kenya for the nation's coaches. "Surrounding areas, like Uganda, are starving for basketball," commented McKay. "It was really neat to see the thirst for more basketball knowledge and to be able to share our faith with those people was simply awesome. We were fortunate to see a number of individuals we encountered come to know Christ."
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