This past Monday through Wednesday (July 22 – 24) Jerusalem Ministry hosted our 6th annual soccer camp for boys from different orphanages around Seoul (pictures are below). Every year the camp gets better and better, but this year I “made the mistake” of praying for God to increase my faith. We hold the camp during monsoon season because it is the only time all the boys are available. Despite it being rainy season, for five straight years it had never rained during a camp day outside of a little sprinkle on one or two of the many past camp days. Instead it was always sunny and a bit hot. So this year I prayed for God to bring cloud cover during the three camp days. My exact prayers were, “I pray for thick clouds, cool temperatures, but no rain outside of some refreshing sprinkles here and there.” Well, that prayer of mine got answered for the third day at least…
The forecast for our Monday through Wednesday camp was MONSOON for all three days, all day every day. During the first day of the camp it began POURING rain a little before 6am. The camp was to start at 9am and we would have to begin escorting the boys from their various children homes at around 7:30am. Despite the deluge of rain, I had us go ahead. After all, God had always stopped the rain for our camp, so I was holding out on hope that it would stop. But even at 9am when the camp was to begin, the rain was relentless. We gathered all 47 kids and 44 volunteers in a rec room near the fields. Jee, one of our full time staff, asked the kids if they wanted to have the camp. All the boys responded with a resounding, “Yes!” They had been looking forward to this camp all year. So Jee told them, “Then we need to pray together for the rain to stop so we can have the camp.” She then led all the boys in a prayer for the rain to stop, telling God how much they want to play and asking God to make a way. Within five minutes, that downpouring monsoon that was supposed to last all day suddenly stopped. It completely stopped. The boys then all ran outside with big smiles, excited to start the camp. For the rest of that first day the weather was perfect.
That morning I had felt so burdened by the rain, blaming myself for a lack of faith and feeling responsible for everything. Little did I realize how God was answering my prayer and increasing my faith. Instead of the volunteers and staff experiencing the power of prayer, God wanted the kids to experience it. The kids were so happy as they received their uniforms, their Nike soccer shoes, and were put into teams. The first day is always the toughest because all of the kids are insecure meeting each other, but despite a few tough moments with a few kids the day ended well. We were confident the rest of the camp would be great. At night I prayed, “God, I think you’ve stretched my faith enough, please let the next two days be nice and easy with no rain.” The weather forecast hadn’t changed (100% rain forecasted through the end of the camp) but after the first day defying the forecasters, I was confident God would do the same.
I woke up Tuesday to beautiful, cloudy weather with no rain. I picked up my boys and they were so excited to get to the camp. But as we drove there the rain began to fall. It gradually increased to the point we had to huddle all 47 kids under our tents at 9am to pray again. We were all filled with faith that the rain would stop once the kids would pray. Jee led them in another prayer and we waited. But the rain kept coming. Thankfully it wasn’t a deluge like the day before, so we just shrugged our shoulders and decided to play anyway. And what ended up happening was we had the most joyful morning of practice in the history of the camp. The boys loved the cool, refreshing rain! The volunteers too! Some of the boys even mentioned, “I think God wanted to send us the rain to keep us cool and not too hot.” At lunchtime I went off base to pick up just over 100 McDonalds Big Mac and Chicken Sandwich sets for everyone (with a few extra for the hungry volunteers). It was boxes and boxes and boxes of food. We drove the van back on base to a certain location to set up, but then the rain began to increase and increase until it was a ridiculous downpour. It was the type of hard rain where it is hard to hear anything because the rain is hitting the ground so hard. We tried shuttling the kids to the lunch location in our van and cars, but the location had their air conditioning on full blast and so the wet kids were shivering. We had to move them. But wherever we moved them (three different locations) something would happen forcing us to move again. I was ready to cancel the camp day and instructed for the kids to be split in their homes, get a burger in their mouth, and get home as quickly as possible. But because of all the location changes we couldn’t get them home. All this chaos lasted over an hour, with many of us still not having been able to eat anything. We finally ended up back where we started, on the field under the tents, and we were able to feed everyone. Then, right after getting the kids changed and ready to go home, the downpour completely stopped. No rain whatsoever! This was around 1:15pm. In the same city of Seoul, just a few miles away to the east and a few miles to the west, we were told by different people from those separate locations that the downpour did not stop until 3pm. They were all worried for us. But for where we were, in the middle of the city between those locations, there was no rain. We were able to then continue with the camp (penalty kick challenge, team time, compliments, goodbyes) and end right on schedule. This was one of the most intense ministry days of my life, but throughout it the kids were great as were the volunteers and it ended up being a wonderful day. God is good! The attitudes in the kids had greatly improved from the day before. God’s love was working deeply in the boys.
The third day was perfect. Many of the kids arrived saying they had prayed together the night before for the weather to be nice so we could have the tournament. And indeed, the weather was excellent. There was heavy cloud cover and it was relatively cool but no rain other than a light sprinkle here and there, just as I had originally prayed. We had a soccer tournament in the morning along with a fun relay race in between games. Then we had a pizza lunch and gave out awards. One of our soccer camp traditions is that we swim together on the last day so we all shuttled over to a local public swimming area. I had prayed for sunny weather for the swimming and the weather was beautiful. The camp ended beautifully. The kids’ attitudes had all vastly improved, they were very receptive to hugs and love, and there was a lot of unity and support among the kids. One kid who won a soccer ball for the penalty kick challenge and won a Nike bag for his sportsmanship award told a volunteer that he would trade both prizes for a picture of him with his teammates and coaches. That just shows the impact of the camp on the kids! They really learned love.
God is good! Please enjoy the pictures… and for more pictures please log onto Facebook and visit our page “Jerusalem Ministry.” There are hundreds and hundreds of wonderful pictures of the camp posted there.
Praying for the rain to stop
Real Madrid team huddle
Team unity activity for Manchester United
Barcelona team unity activity
Another team unity activity
Kids reacting after a goal during the penalty kick challenge (the kids in the back are on another team, the boy on the right is his teammate)
Relay race… the team must walk across the field without letting the toilet paper around them rip
Another part of the relay race…
Game action shot
A valiant effort by the Chelsea goalkeeper
Another action shot (I was the ref)
Coaches and volunteers reacting after a goal
Two of our youngest players
Yet another action shot
Shaking hands after a match… something very difficult for competitive, insecure kids to do… but by the third day their attitudes and confidence had grown a lot!
Sportsmanship award recipients
Our 2013 Championship Team: Barcelona!
In contrast our first camp (2008) championship team: The Sharks… quite a difference, right? God is good!
2013 soccer camp group photo
Special thanks to Nike for donating us 60 soccer balls, for Diakonia for sponsoring us enough money to get every child Nike soccer shoes, for American Women’s Club and Second Hand Rose for covering all the food and uniform costs, and for Kkoom, Vatos, and other friends who also helped sponsor the camp covering supply expenses, swimming costs, the championship dinner, and transportation expenses. God is good!