In late July this summer, I had one task, coach team Germany to a championship.
Team Germany in this instance consisted of 12 fourth, fifth and sixth graders from all over Seoul. With each kid living at an orphanage in the city and every year Jerusalem Ministry holds a volunteer-run soccer camp for some of the orphaned youth in the city.
When I first volunteered for the camp I thought, yeah, we will play some soccer, give high-fives and have a little fun. But by the end of the camp most high-fives became hugs and having fun meant investing eight hours of encouragement into these kids. As you can imagine, love is not necessarily rampant at the orphanages. So, the camp aims to blind-side them with encouragement.
I bought in to this idea. By about hour two, it became obvious that this three-day camp was about much more than kicking a ball.
I was the head coach of team Germany and while I couldn't communicate fully with the kids, I had seven Korean-speaking volunteers right there with me at every turn.
We poured into these kids. Whenever they pulled the ball back quickly, made a crisp pass or went in for a solid tackle, we cheered obnoxiously. Most of the time, if we weren't doing drills or playing a game, the team and the volunteers were interacting. Laughing. Joking. Smiling. Enjoying.
At no point did it ever occur to me that this experience would impact me so greatly, until it was over. After winning the camp tournament, our team was treated to a victory dinner.
At that dinner, I understood. The kids were truly grateful for their meal. They made us lettuce wraps and basically stuffed them into our mouths as a sign of endearment. The older kids were teaching the younger ones how to cook. They asked me about my wife, and told her she was ugly (a Korean custom when you think someone is very pretty). We joked about how badly they beat the other teams and about how good if felt to be champions.
For a moment, I witnessed them in a family style environment. Mother and father figures sitting around them and simply looking at them, with that gaze of appreciation and endearment. And in that moment it became clear; this was a life-changing soccer camp.
Above is a video my wife, Elysabeth, made of the camp. She was the volunteer videographer.
...get Lost my friends.