Hopkins fifth-grader shares soccer skills, Christ in West Africa

Carson Floyd is like most 11-year-old American boys. He follows his favorite sports teams (the Atlanta Braves, Citadel Bulldogs (his dad’s alma mater), South Carolina Gamecocks and New York Jets). He enjoys swimming and playing video games. He takes care of a pet fish, and he likes being outdoors, especially in the summer.

Carson Floyd, a student at Horrell Hill Elementary School in Hopkins, made some new friends when he spent a week with his church’s mission team at a village in Mali, West Africa.

Unlike most kids, however, the fifth-grader is also an experienced international missionary. Carson recently returned from West Africa, where he rode donkeys, played soccer, shot slingshots and learned to eat “African style” from a common bowl.

Oh – and he prayed with two Mali boys as they accepted Jesus as their savior.

Carson, along with his father, Jay, traveled to sub-Saharan Africa with a group from Beulah Baptist Church, Hopkins, in early October. Beulah, a modest congregation southeast of Columbia, began in early 2007 sending mission teams to the Mali region of West Africa every few weeks to spur a church planting movement among the villages of the Bambara people. Church members coordinate their work with International Mission Board missionaries in the region.

Carson is the youngest member from Beulah to make the trip. When others at his church came back from West Africa and talked about their experiences, Carson thought he would like to go and build relationships “with the kids.”

“I knew God was calling me to go,” he said. “Even though I’m a little kid, it doesn’t mean I can’t still do some things grownups can do, like teach Bible stories. I can be brave enough to fly to another country and tell people about the Bible and God.”

His first night on the ground in Africa, in the city of Bamako, Carson was homesick. He prayed that God would help him, “and he did.”

The next day team members traveled to a small village, where they spent eight days and nights without electricity or running water. They slept under mosquito netting in small tents. Conditions were unsanitary; goats and donkeys roamed freely. The only water was from a well; while team members drank filtered water, villagers lowered a bag into the well to collect the unclean water. The latrine was a hole in the ground covered by a toilet seat, the bathing area a concrete slab and a bucket of water from the well.

Children ran about the village, some in tattered clothing, some with no clothing at all. Some had shoes or sandals, others did not. Carson noticed that the bottoms of their feet were thick with callouses “from walking on rocks and stuff.”

Despite their spartan existence, Carson said the Mali villagers he met were happy and friendly. “When you greet people (in the United States), they may ignore you, but (in Mali) they are friendly and greet you with respect and are nice to you,” he said.

He said he won’t forget the mission team’s driver, a man named Lameen, who was “really funny and nice.” The team didn’t speak Lameen’s language, but he knew a few English phrases, like, “Very good,” “Good morning, sunshine,” and “Git ‘er done.”

Carson Floyd and his dad, Jay, enjoy riding a donkey led by a Mali villager.

Carson communicated with his newfound friends with the help of a translator. Also, if the translator wasn’t around, Carson would point or nod his head, and “sometimes they could tell what I meant.”

Carson’s father, Jay, said 26 villagers accepted Christ. Three converts were children about Carson’s age, including the two with whom he prayed.

Jay also said a man walked all night from a distant village when he heard the mission team was there, and he accepted Christ the next morning. “He said many people wanted to hear the good news.” In another village, the chief accepted Christ.

“Each trip our church takes seems to be more successful than the last,” Jay said. “We are now beginning to see a harvest of seeds that have been planted over the last year and a half.”

Jay plans to return to Mali in December. His 8-year-old daughter wants to go (she’ll have to wait till she’s at least 10, Jay says), and his 13-year-old son wants to go next year.

For Carson, leaving his newfound African friends was “kind of sad, but I knew that I had a good adventure to tell in America, so I felt good about that.”