Soccer camp is both a week that we dread and look forward to most of the whole summer! There are so many things to worry about when it comes to soccer camp and these specific kids that we are reaching out to that make it terrifying and beautiful all at once. And this week fulfilled all of those emotions, but never exactly as we might expect.
This year we decided to focus on the fruits of the spirit, teaching them about Love, Joy, Peace, Gentleness, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Patience and Self-Control. Combining even the tiniest bit of any of these with competitive sports is always a major challenge, even for us christians who have grown up being taught about the fruits of the spirits in sunday school, this is no small task. So as the kids come and go everyday, you wonder if they are really absorbing any of the messages that we are teaching them. Do they go home and remember the memory verse we taught them? Do they apply any of the fruits of the spirits when they are out with their friends?
There was an incident that happened on the very last day of soccer camp. Two of our gym night kids, let’s call them John and Henry. John and Henry were getting a bit too physical while trying to get the ball from each other when one of the coaches stepped in, told them to cool down and split them up. For some reason, John was still very heated about this and decided to take out his frustration on an innocent bystander, let’s name him Charlie. So while John was trying to get the ball from Charlie, he decided to shove Charlie to the ground with force. Charlie was slow to get up as he landed on his knee. After making sure Charlie was okay, I immediately went over to Henry and told him to go sit down as this behaviour was not acceptable. I was so frustrated that after spending a whole week with these kids trying to instill making good choices that he would do something like this. As I continued playing soccer, I could not get the situation off my mind so I went to sit on the bench where Henry was sitting. He wouldn’t even look at me so I just sat there and didn’t say anything to him. Every part of me wanted to yell ‘Why would you do that? Have you learnt nothing all week?’ but something just told me to stay quiet and just let it go. So I let him be and just continued on with the day. As we moved on to coaches corner, which is our devotional time, we were learning about patience and self-control. Alex shared a bible story as usual but what stuck with me was the memory verse:
‘A fool loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11
Just as we were finishing up lunch and I started to work my way back into the dome, John came up behind me and said “I told him I was sorry.” I was shocked! He did what? I couldn’t even get any words out and just smiled at him and he smiled back. This was not about me trying to make John or any of these kids understand how to make good choices, this was all about God! He is evidently at work in these kids lives and we just have put ourselves aside. I could have easily gotten very upset with John and told him how disappointed or angry I was, but God had something else in mind. It wasn’t until I stepped out of the way that things really started to sink in for John who acted out in a moment of anger and felt compelled to apologise for his actions. Not because he wasn’t allowed to participate or because we forced him to do so, but because he WANTED to! Something inside of him told him that was the right thing to do, so he did it. And I could have easily gotten in the way of God working by losing my own cool and in turn he would have learnt nothing. But instead, God used this opportunity to teach both of us about self-control. If you ask me, that’s a pretty big victory!