On a sunny morning Jan. 25, the Hawkesville Community Centre was packed with friends and family of Nathan and Emma Harris, all for a friendly three-on-three hockey tournament.
Dubbed the first annual Harris Winter Classic, the tournament saw four teams face off on homemade ice to vie for the hand-carved trophy, all while raising money for the Harris’ outreach trip to Africa.
Nathan Harris was born and raised in Zambia, living there with his parents, while Emma, a registered nurse, has been working at a rural hospital in the African country for the past two years. The trip is a kind of scouting mission to look at longer term options to continue their outreach work.
The hockey tournament was a surprise for the newly married couple, and to see their friends and fellow community members come together to support their trip to Zambia was a “humbling” experience – one they are grateful for.
“It is a hometown thing. Our friends here were interested in what we were doing, and it is really cool to see,” said Nathan. “So many of these people have never been to Zambia, or know much about it, but it is really neat that they are lending their hands.”
Emma shared how much the event meant to her.
“It is humbling, and it is cool to know that our friends came together to do this for us,” she said. “It means a lot.”
Their trip to Zambia, they left on Jan. 26 is relatively short-term and will give the couple a chance to do some work at the rural bush hospital and check out future, longer term options. Nathan says there is a sense of familiarity in Africa.
“My parents were missionaries. I am one of three siblings and I am the only one that keeps going back. It feels like home when we go there,” he said.
The Harris Winter Classic also gave people living in Wellesley and Woolwich townships a chance to contribute to the work the Harris’ will be doing.
“Not everyone is able to go to Africa and yet everybody here has a part in sending us out there,” she said. “In that way, they are helping Zambia too.”
For those wondering why the Harris’ want to go to Africa and lend their expertise to those in need, Nathan says it is about spreading the fortune and love that we in Canada are so lucky to have.
“It is definitely a faith-based thing for us. We believed that God blessed this country so much, and the work that God has done in our lives, we want to go share that with people who really need it,” he said, adding that a lot of the players in the hockey tournament were from the couple’s church community.
The couple is planning on working in Africa on a long-term basis and say having the community behind them lends to their success in Zambia.
“Knowing that this community is here, it kind of keeps you accountable for the things you do over there. It is not just a vacation for us,” said Nathan.
Emma echoed her husband’s comments.
“People are sacrificing to send us out there and it makes you think seriously about how you spend your time and your resources,” she said.
The couple is more than grateful for the work put into the tournament and pizza lunch put together by their friends, mentioning this was one of the bigger going away to-dos they have ever had.
“It was unexpected for us. We have travelled there before and normally, we just head out,” he said with a laugh.
Emma shared how happy she was to be a part of a community that could put something like this together.
“We love the small town thing. This is so typical of Elmira and Hawkesville and we are just so happy to a part of it,” she said.