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Bulldogs football coach fulfills mission
The hardest part of Brett Johnson's goodwill mission trip wasn't the grueling work.

But rather, the time spent apart from his loved ones: wife Robin, and sons Caden and Conner.

"Eighteen days was a long time to be away from my family," he said. "We were fortunate because they had a phone we could use periodically. I could call home and briefly talk."

Johnson and eight other members of Modesto's Big Valley Grace Community Church traveled to South Africa to assist with the construction of a worship center.

"It was absolutely incredible," Brett said. "It was fun being a positive influence on a community that doesn't have much excitement. I'd love to do it again."

Johnson and Co. were lodged in a house at AFnet Headquarters in Pretoria. Africa Network is a ministry focused on leadership, training, strategic church planting and AIDS orphan relief.

Situated on a 10-acre parcel, the compound is surrounded by an electric fence with razor wire on top.

The 4,500-square foot worship center was built in the township of Soshanguve, where low-income families live in 100- to 150-square foot shacks.

"It's an extremely impoverished place but the people were just so excited and proud," Johnson said. "When we were working, it caused quite a stir because we were the only white people there. They were wondering what in the world was going on."

Johnson's daily schedule included waking up at 6:30 a.m. each morning. The drive from Pretoria to Soshanguve lasted 45 minutes. Work started at 8 a.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m.

The sound of children playing soccer on a nearby dirt field could be heard.

"We ended up laying over 26,000 bricks in eight days," Brett said. "It was very hard work but the most rewarding work I think I have ever done."

About 60 people attended church service at the worship center. Tears of joy flooded their eyes as they sung and danced.

"It was overwhelming," said Johnson, who was greeted with hugs and thank yous.

Brett's final dinner included homemade Kudu and Impala chili.

"I was a little nervous," he said. "But it was actually pretty decent."

Johnson returned home on Monday, Aug. 6. The flight from Johannesburg to San Francisco lasted 22 hours. They made one stop in Paris.

Using a digital camera, Brett documented the whole South African experience. All of the hard work and fun included. Brett had a blast participating in excursions to the Lion Park in Johanessburg and Safari Game Preserve in Mobula.

Johnson resumed his head football coaching duties at Ceres High School on Aug. 7. He watched as players lifted weights and executed conditioning drills in preparation for the upcoming season.

"They've been committed throughout the summer," Brett said.

Just like their coach.