I don’t like soccer. I’m sorry Tyler and Ronnie (@YFPFP), but most people in the US agree with me. When I was young, I tried soccer. However, the amount of running you had to do non stop seemed ridiculous to me. I much preferred baseball where you ran and there was an end, a spot you can stop and it was never more than 90 feet; especially since I wasn’t much of a doubles or triples kind of guy. However, every summer I find myself inevitably playing the world’s most popular sport somewhere on a dusty field in a third world country with a bunch of kids who are running circles around me, laughing and enjoying the temporary distraction from extreme poverty and other challenges they overcome on a daily basis. Typically the kids want to play as a team against my friends I bring from the US. And, typically they make us look silly.
On one particular day in rural Zimbabwe we stopped in at a school. The children came pouring out of their classroom and filled the all dirt courtyard outside. My team and I were prepping for a program that we had prepared when we saw that that the kids had begun playing soccer. Only, we couldn’t really tell what they were playing with. We quickly discovered that in a country crippled by overwhelming poverty they had used the resources they had and made their own ball. A ball of trash. Trash, rolled and held together with string.
When we have the fortunate opportunity to travel to places like this, we come with a program. I am a person of faith, so part of what we bring are skits, music and other elements to bring a message of hope in Christ. But that’s not all we bring. We come with food, toiletries, school supplies, medical supplies, toys, candy and more. I have my feet in the ground. We don’t go into a place thinking we are going to fix everything. We can’t. It’s our simple desire to love people. To help people. To serve people. To leave people better, even just a little better than before our paths crossed.
Before we left, I went to our supplies bag and brought out a brand new soccer ball that someone had donated from home. None of these kids had probably ever seen, much less played with one before. We couldn’t believe the impact something as simple as an actual soccer ball would make. Soon, the whole school was running around, filled with a new excitement and joy that was so obvious and so inviting, I decided to mix in and play… the sport I hate.
If you’d like to see more from this project in Zimbabwe:
Incidentally, this summer I will inevitably find myself in another dusty field in Swailand or Haiti or Romania with more kids. If you’d like more info about how to get involved, DM me on Twitter.
Have thoughts about this article? Click here to tell us on Twitter!