Soccer - Ethiopia

  • Beyond All Expectations: A Fitting End

    Section: Soccer

    For individuals who play soccer their entire life, the dream of stepping out in front of thousands to play the beautiful game is one that lingers in the back of everyone's minds.  It’s a intangible hope; one that rarely ever becomes a reality.

    Yesterday, our team stood shoulder to shoulder, facing a stadium cut into the overgrown hillside completely overflowing with Ethiopian fans, clapping and chanting in a joyful anticipation that Canadians do not seem quite capable of. I feared that the fence surrounding the field would collapse with the weight of the additional supporters. Even the street behind the field had buses stopped on the road with hundreds more straining to catch a view of the game. It would not be fair to speak for all of my teammates, but the overwhelming numbers (estimates ranged from five to ten thousand while one audacious match official put the total close to fifteen thousand) initially made me a little worried. These people didn’t just come to see a bunch of white men play soccer. They came to see a competitive match and I really hoped that we had something to offer them.

    This would be the fifth and most difficult game we had played in the last eleven days and throughout that time we had been plagued by sickness and injuries, affecting almost every team member. To put it bluntly, our bodies were beaten and burnt by the African sun. In all honesty, it was ridiculous to step out onto the pitch and pretend that we could compete with a team that was far fitter than us, backed by the thousands of fans, and accustomed to the uneven and unpredictable ground.

    But we went in laughing, laughing at the sorry state of our team. Laughing at the ball as it bounced over our feet time and time again during warm up. Laughing at the ridiculous number of fans who came to watch a rag tag team of players from Canada, South Africa, Albania, Germany, and Ethiopia play a game of soccer.   Many of whom had only met and started training together two weeks before. But mainly we laughed because we were filled with the joy of the Lord. We reminded one another of the incredible opportunity this was to show God’s love to thousands of His beloved children. This match was a chance to demonstrate love in the way we treated each other, the referees, the opponents, and the fans. As we prayed for the Spirit to fill us, I still felt physically exhausted but I looked up and saw the majestic mountains, lit up vividly by the slowly descending sun and I remembered that my strength comes from a source infinitely greater and more timeless than these.

    Not only did we get through the game, but we actually competed! We created chances and had a number of exciting plays, hitting both the post and the crossbar in the first half. Players who had no business being on the field, experienced miraculous relief from injuries and were able to glorify God playing the game that he gave them the passion and skill to play. Although in the end we lost 3-0, we walked off the field with our heads held high and with hearts full to the brim with an astounding sense of joy and thankfulness. The crowd cheered us on and we were able to bring smiles to the other team as well. Over a faulty speaker system we were able to share our purpose for being in Ethiopia with thousands of eager ears. God moved in power and I pray that He continues this movement through the relationships that have been built and the people He has called to this ministry full time in Ethiopia.

    As we left the field, we were able to hold hundreds of hands and meet even more excited smiles with our own. I believe that those people will not soon forget us and I can guarantee that none of us will forget that game and the ways in which God moved in His mighty power. There could not have been a more incredible way to bring our time on the soccer field to a close. God blew up our expectations all trip and that final game was one last reminder that He has greater plans than we could ever ask or imagine.

    Psalm 121:1:  I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.

  • Hope for Korah

    Section: Soccer

    Day … Hope for Korah

    Just like most days, this was a very early morning start (AIA Canadian Soccer), where the whole team had to get up quite early to visit a feeding place for little kids.

    At first, we weren’t sure why they were feeding the kids so early and why they were pushing us so much to be there, but once we got there we understood. Of course we got there a bit late (running on African time), but we got to see a group of 20-30 kids that were being fed the simplest of meals, who had huge smiles on their faces when they saw us. Because this neighborhood is not in the main part of the city, a bit secluded, they were not only happy to see ‘different’ people, but wanted to hold our hands, something that we hadn’t really experienced before.

    We only stayed there for a few minutes and then the leader got us to follow him for about a 10-minute walk. We weren’t quite sure where we were going, until we got there. It was a public school. When we got there, we saw 2000+ students lined up and dressed the same, and singing the national anthem together. What was amazing was the fact that they only had 36 teachers, which makes the average class size over 60 students. In the courtyard, we saw what was a hard ground dirt area, very uneven, and with random yet very limited patches of grass.

    As we paid more attention, we realized that there were nets on each side of this courtyard, and it was their soccer field. Though we had soccer balls, we wanted to wait to present them to the principal, so we were playing soccer with anything we could with the little kids (bottles, bottle caps, socks etc). It was sad to see, but the joy they had just kicking something around put a smile on our faces. When we presented them the soccer balls, we of course started a fun game of soccer. Though the sides weren’t quite even (probably 20 kids to about 7 of us) the kids played full of passion, and played hard, and after about 10 minutes we were down 2-0. Though I’m sure we would have come back and tied the game, our time was cut short cause we had to keep moving.

    To get to the next location, we had to walk another 15 minutes, which may not seem like much, but trust me when I say it was not easy. Uneven roads, puddles, back yards for short cuts, high and steep slopes, constructions sites, and slums, and we got to our next location. This was a house that Hope for Korah had rented to support people with needs. In there we met people that had a sickness needing surgery, amputees, blind people etc.

    After another 15-20 min of walking, we got to a house of elders (some sick with leprosy and other sicknesses) that Hope for Korah also rents. Their community rejects everyone living there, because their sickness is still viewed as a curse, and they are outcasts. But Hope for Korah has given them hope, and a place they can call home. It was so inspiring to see them have joy still, and praying for them was very touching, and impacted some of us in a way we will never forget how privileged we are.

    Last but not least we went to a residence where they house women that were outcast or had challenges no one else wanted to deal with. These women were not only helped, but they were given accountability, and taught to work and be self sufficient so they don’t start becoming too dependent on the program. This not only builds confidence in them, but also teaches them on how to be good mothers, and how to appreciate work. One way they earned to support the program was sewing all kinds of materials and crafts (like a scarf and soccer balls with numbers or the alphabet on each side) and building various crafts, like fruit bowls, statues, bracelets etc.

    By the end of the trip, considering the terrain conditions, and the fact that it was 40 degrees outside, we were all exhausted, and excited for lunch, but this was an eye opening morning for us. Not only did we see the reality of how a lot of people live, but how humble and grateful these people were for the very little that they had. They had learned to rejoice in very little, and appreciate it with a big heart, instead of focusing on negatives that life brought them or giving up, they had decided to fight and live another day of hope. This hope was transferred to all of us, and we were all impacted in a way we will never forget.

    During this day, a verse that kept coming to my mind was Psalm 46:10:

    “Be still and know that I am God”

    Such a simple yet powerful verse, just like the lives the people we met today. Despite the circumstances or the storms we go through live, and sometimes we don’t think we are ever going to come out on the other side, we have to be still, and trust God, because for Him, nothing is impossible.

    So if I can encourage the people back home that have supported us and prayed for us every day, I would say, no matter what your day looks like, how work or school goes, or how your relationships are going: “Be still and know that He is God”, and that is when you will find freedom.

    God bless you all.

    Glen K.

  • The Privilege To Work

    Section: Soccer

    Our journey so far feels too surreal to actually be happening. There are times in your life when you are given the opportunity to be a part of something that is much greater than yourself. This trip is one of those times. We have had the privilege to work on a soccer field close to where we are staying. A few days ago, we worked on leveling the field to give the children more space of the field to play on. The next objective was to install new soccer goal posts. The current set was made out of wood that was bound together and holding on for dear life because of the way the kids were playing on them. The plan was to install steel nets for them that would be able to take the hours upon hours of soccer that these kids would dish out on them. The night before the install, the nets needed to be transported to the field, which was no easy task due the lack of transportation vehicles and low lying power lines. However, with such strong, muscular, and wise men on the team, the task was accomplished and ready for the next morning. We only had a few close calls with ditches and on coming traffic.

    The next morning, with high spirits and unblisterded hands we started our work. The locals watched on and contributed to help make our work easier while continuing to shoot on the nets we were working behind. After hard work and well-blistered hands, the holes were dug and the nets were settled into position with the concrete slowly drying. However, there was no time to wait for drying concrete and the locals made quick work of taking the old nets out and using the new ones. We needed to go, but we returned later in the evening to speak with the locals and share why we had come. Yes, we love soccer, but we care about something much more: Jesus Christ. We see the importance of helping to build the groundwork for missionaries to minister, baptize, and disciple new believers in Christ. We are but one part in God’s kingdom, and we willingly need to step forth in obedience to the role and task He is calling us.  God is at work and moving here in Ethiopia. Let us rejoice together in that!

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