By Alex Alford
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
A mission trip to the other side of the world may seem daunting to some, but for junior Sune Agbuke, it was a life-changing opportunity she refused to miss.
Agbuke traveled to Kenya in the summer of 2012 with fellow Baylor student-athletes and staff, and again in 2013 when she went to both Zambia and Kenya. Agbuke claims it was teammate Lindsay Palmer who first compelled her to go.
“A week after I got on campus, one of the seniors on my team, Lindsay Palmer, had just come back from Kenya,” Agbuke said. “She told me about it and it just sounded really interesting. Everyone who I talked to seemed like they had life changing stories that I wanted to be part of.”
Her trip was nothing short of life changing. From feeding homeless children to building relationships with strangers, Agbuke came back with a deeper appreciation of her life.
“You realize how much you have and you realize how small your problems are, because you see people who are up against some dire situations,” Agbuke said.
Although those they were serving may have led more problematic lives, Agbuke recognized their joy and hospitality, a trait sometimes lost in America.
“My first day there I noticed that people said ‘you’re welcome’ more than I said ‘thank you,’” Agbuke said. “People were just really nice and there was a really big sense of hospitality there that’s not normal here.”
Not only did Agbuke notice a difference in the joy of those less fortunate, but she also gained a deeper appreciation for basketball.
“It gave me a different perspective,”Agbuke said. “When we’re there, we do camps for children. The kids just absorb whatever you’re teaching them, even the simplest drills, and they love it. I remembered how important basketball is to me and I was glad I got to share that with them.”
Even though she is only a junior, Agbuke has cultivated maturity through her experiences allowing her to become a leader for the Lady Bears both on and off the court.
“She’s one of many leaders out there,” said head coach Kim Mulkey. “She’s going to be our leader next year and she has a way about her in the locker room that can diffuse intense situations, because she can say something funny. Sune doesn’t want to disappoint you, but yet at the same time she is never going to get too high or get too low.”
Although Agbuke gained a deeper appreciation for basketball, she was impacted most through a connection with a complete stranger. A woman she not only met on her first trip, but was able to reconnect with on her second trip.
“The first time we went, I saw this woman and I stopped her to ask if I could pray with her,” Agbuke said. “She was like, ‘Yea I am a Christian this is so nice.’ So we prayed and she was like, ‘Oh this is so nice, what you guys are doing.’ She was on her way to work, so we said goodbye.”
However, the story does not end there. Agbuke saw the woman twice more, once the next week and again a year later on her second trip.
“I went the next year right around the same place and I am looking around wondering if I will see her,” Agbuke said. “I was praying with one of the street children and someone tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around and it was her. We lost it. I was so happy to see her. We were crying and so ecstatic. She is someone I think about all the time. I think about her every day. Knowing that we pray for each other, miles apart.”
Agbuke believes you don’t have to travel across the world to have a servant’s heart.
“I just really wanted to help people and serve people,” she said. “You can do that in Africa, but you can also do that in Waco. You can do that wherever you are. That also became an emphasis when I came back, just to bring that same heart here.”
Her servant’s heart also extends to her teammates who turn to her for advice.
“I always go to her for advice like ‘Sune what should I do here?” said roommate and teammate, Kristina Higgins. “Any questions I have, I go to Sune.”
Agbuke’s experiences in Zambia and Kenya left an impact on her life and made her appreciative of her opportunities as an athlete and aspiring law student.“It made me more appreciative of my scholarship,” Agbuke said. “The fact that I have an opportunity, because that’s really what’s so great about our circumstances compared to theirs. It’s the opportunity to be different, the opportunity to grow and leave your circumstances; just the opportunity to play basketball or the opportunity to go to school. That really made me appreciative.”