Sports Ministry Summer 2016 Update
Taking joy in the small things. Sometimes serving is not as peachy as it may seem. Most of the time, for me anyways, it is a very humbling experience without much of a tangible, visual “accomplishments”, for lack of a better word. One wants to tell stories of amazing, powerful things that are happening. Yet there are many days when one can look and feel like no impact is being made, and to be honest that is probably a bi-product of when you look for communities, people, or kids to be completely changed in a day, week, months, or year. The more I am down here the more I realize that it is a process. It takes time for seeds to be thrown on good ground, take root, and grow. When I look and try to find “big” things that have happened since I have been here, I can become frustrated because most of the time there are not many “big” things, or at least what we as human beings would consider “big”, that bless me or give me joy being here. However, there are the small nuggets that give me the boost I need to keep going. There have been plenty of these over the course of two years that I could share but since we are highlighting the summer months I will share three things that happened this summer.
- Before the start of our second season we wanted to go to each of the four communities and have a time to talk with the parents, but it only happened at two of them. One of them was Santa Matilde. I was with Ivan and Walberto and the idea was to just explain the purpose of the league/ministry and answer any questions they had. First, I was really blessed to hear what they, Walberto and Ivan, had to say about the ministry. After they had finished they opened it up for the parents to ask questions. One of the first people to raise their hand to make a comment was a mother of a child who plays for the Cardinals, we will call him Juan. Juan is the oldest on the team and although he has not given me any problems I had to talk to him during the first season because his coach had told me that Juan had been disrespectful towards the coach and towards some of the players who are not as gifted athletically as he is. The young mother who at most was in her early 30s looked at me and said that she wanted to tell me thanks and that she was very appreciative of everything that we are doing because this time last year her son was giving her problems and wanting to go hang out with the wrong crowd, but now when he gets home from school he rushes to get his homework down so that he can go and practice. It was the first time since I have been here where a parent had said something so heartfelt and was genuinely appreciative. It also helped me realize how much of a difference we can make in communities like Santa Matilde where on any given day starting at 5 or 6 at night you will see kids as young as ten years old on the streets sniffing glue. Given where we are working there are plenty of “rougher” kids who are not the most well behaved, but being able to give them an outlet to escape their surroundings is a powerful thing.
- As many of you know at the beginning of the first season we decided to buy cleats for all the players because probably about only ten percent had a pair. It turned out to be quite a frustrating ordeal because buying 144 pairs of used cleats in Nicaragua is not as easy to do as it would be in the States. The cleats have been a blessing to most of the kids and it makes me happy seeing the ones who deserve them wearing them each and every Saturday. But one instance struck me more than others. A few Sundays back we had a joint church service where all the churches came together. An event like this is always humbling as you see a large amount of people who do not have much materially speaking, dress themselves up with their best. As I began looking for a seat I spotted an elderly woman who I always sat beside when there where church services in the church in Candelaria. I had not seen her in awhile and it brought back memories as I sat down beside her. That night her grandson who plays on the Indians was with her. During one point in the service we were praying and I knelt my head down and when I opened my eyes I noticed her son was wearing his cleats. It struck a cord in me because those cleats may or may have not been the only shoes he has. His grandmother is a sweet, loving lady but she does not have much. Although some may have abused or not have been “deserving” of those cleats it really hit me that night how much those cleats meant to some of the kids if not only that little boy.
- This last one would be classified by a “big” thing my most so it might be cheating, but it is definitely worth sharing. Mario Gomez is the coach for the Reds of Candelaria, which is in the oldest age group. I met Mario during our first “coaches” meeting in the fall of 2014 when I was in Nicaragua for about 3 months deciding on whether or not I wanted to move here full time. I had never seen him before but one of the men who was helping at the time invited him to come. I remember he was looking at me like I was an idiot during the whole meeting, and I did not know if it was because of what I was saying about what this league/ministry will be about or because he just didn’t understand what I was saying. But either way I did not like the facial expressions he was giving me. Fast forward to January 2015 when we were trying to square the fields, putting marks where the bases and base paths were going to be, and Mario was out there everyday helping me out. Neither of us knew what we were doing and we did it about five times before we got it somewhat right, but he was there offering help. That is when I started developing a relationship with him. Unfortunately in the fall of 2015 Mario started dialysis and was making a trip five days a week to Managua (3 hour bus ride) to receive treatment. But, he promised me that in January he would be able to coach and help out even though he would be going to Managua three times a week. He stayed true to his word and Mario has been giving practices and coaching games while receiving dialysis treatment. Stan has a longer relationship with ole Mario and ever since Stan has started coming to Nicaragua he has been sharing the Gospel with him. It was during Stan’s last trip in June when the three of us found ourselves talking outside of the church building. Stan began ministering to Mario and during that moment Mario asked Jesus to save him. It was amazing to see and great to know I will be seeing my brother in heaven!