Soccer Camp 2016 – Sweet Unity Among the Boys

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On August 8 – 10, 2016, Jerusalem Ministry held our 9th annual soccer camp for 3rd – 6th grade boys from different children’s homes in Seoul. We had a total of 40 boys participate from eight different orphanages. They were divided into four teams: Manchester United (red), Manchester City (navy), Barcelona (yellow), and Real Madrid (white). Each team had their own coach and about seven or eight assistants/helpers (soccer moms). There were altogether about 45 volunteers serving at the camp. With so many volunteers the kids were literally surrounded by love and encouragement throughout the camp.

For this blog post I will share about our camp chronologically through pictures and then share a few more sweet testimonies from the camp at the end.

The summer of 2016 has been one of the hottest summers on record for Korea. The heat wave was so strong that there were advisories to not be outside for more than five minutes and many athletic camps were cancelled. We decided to still go for it and upon arriving with the boys to the camp at 9am the sun was already scorching. The non-escorts had arrived at 7:45am to set up and they had prayed together for the weather to cool off, but it was still extremely hot. So before giving out uniforms and new shoes to all the boys we gathered them to pray for the weather.

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Miraculously, within 30 minutes a big cloud came across the sky and covered the sun. The kids and volunteers all rejoiced and enjoyed the cloud cover. It was still hot, but not as scorching. Whenever the sun would come back out we would gather the kids under the tents for a break and pray again. And sure enough more clouds would appear. We even had an unexpected rain shower during Day 2! While I refereed I never heard the kids complain once about the heat and all of the boys remained healthy throughout the camp. Praise the Lord!

A big emphasis for our camp is unity, and this camp had perhaps the strongest unity of any previous camps. Our volunteers created chants and cheers for each team and the boys responded to them very well. The coaches also had creative icebreakers to get the boys connected to each other and to the volunteers. Here are some pictures showing the unity among the boys.

Icebreaker game… remember, these are boys of different ages from different children’s homes. These boys are usually filled with insecurity and fear, but through the love and cheering of the volunteers joy broke through all of them! These pictures were taken during the first two hours of the camp when the kids are usually the most insecure and fearful…

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Manchester United during one of the icebreakers…

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Real Madrid learning their team cheer

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Go team!

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Before matches the teams would gather together to huddle and get excited. Soon the boys were holding their own huddles and doing the fun cheers even without the volunteers!

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Unity!

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The boys connected with each other quickly…

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Joy!

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Action shot!

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To keep the kids cool we rested them under tents and also refreshed them with a hose throughout the day…

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At the end of each day we held compliments time for the boys. This little cutey here is Woo Jae; he was the only 3rd grader (youngest) on his team and new to the camp. He didn’t have any older brothers from his children’s home on his team. Thankfully the boys on his team really looked out for them. They made sure that Woo Jae felt included and even affirmed him during compliment time. Typically at homes the older kids bully or ignore the younger kids and over the years we’ve had to work hard at making sure the younger/less skilled players were included and felt safe and loved. It’s such a joy for me to see a change in the boys over the years and the new, younger ones accepted not just by the volunteers but also by their “older brothers” at the camp.

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Another picture of Woo Jae, smiling happily on Day 1

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During the scrimmage time of Day 2 dark, thick clouds covered the sky protecting us from the sun. Then huge drops of water began falling and splattering as they hit the ground. There was no thunder or lightning so we were able to keep playing and the rain not only refreshed us but released a lot of joy. It hadn’t rained in Korea for some time and it was great that this rain fell during our camp!

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Such heavy rain and so refreshing!

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Barcelona and Manchester United continuing to play in the rain

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A penalty kick shot under the thick cloud covering…

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This is Shi Woo on Day 3 (our last day). On the first day when we gave out new Nike shoes to each boy some of the shoes didn’t fit so we had to exchange them. For Shi Woo though, his shoes still didn’t fit on Day 2 so we had to exchange them a second time, meaning he had to wait until Day 3 for his shoes. Thankfully Shi Woo never complained or got down about not having his shoes on the first or second days but instead kept positive and expressed a lot of thanks to us. We’re so proud of him! Remember, these kids don’t have a loving mother and father in their lives teaching them how to act. They have a social worker who is also looking out for a bunch of other kids. We do our best at these camps to teach these kids good manners, how to be thankful, and how to affirm/love each other. We’re proud of Shi Woo for not just learning to be thankful but for being sweet and mature beyond most regular boys his age.

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On Day 3 we held a tournament. Seung Hyuk scored the first goal of his match against Man U

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He ran straight into the arms of his coach, Larry 🙂

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Here are a few more celebration shots…

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The kids thrived from the joy of their coach and volunteers

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The enthusiasm was contagious!

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Here is the championship team from the tournament, Manchester City! This picture was actually taken on Day 1 and you can see how close they had already become from being together for just a few hours…

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Here is the Jerusalem Ministry staff: my wife Sky, Mijeong, and Jee. I’m so thankful to serve with such amazing friends!

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Here are our four coaches with their sportsmanship awards. Some of these boys were a bit difficult in past camps but with each year we’ve seen their attitudes improve more and more. We’re proud of these boys!

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Here are the coaches with our 4 MVP’s.

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After the awards ceremony we all headed to the swimming pool for a couple hours of fun in the water. I was blessed watching the boys line up at the diving board and cheering each other on as they goofily jumped into the water. Seeing unity and joy among the boys really touches me! Here is a picture of one of our volunteers, Brock, playing with one of the boys

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After swimming on the last day the championship team gets treated to a special dinner at Vatos Urban Tacos in Itaewon. We’re grateful to Kenneth Park, Eileen Han, and the others at Vatos who help make this happen each year. The boys love the food!

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During the championship dinner, per tradition, we have the winning coach call up each boy by name and speak some words of affirmation. Then each boy receives a framed team picture from the camp. Coach Shalom has served as an assistant in previous camps and this was his first camp as head coach and his first camp winning it all. We were blessed by how sincere and detailed his affirmations were of each boy and I could see the boys were really soaking it in. It’s rare for kids from children’s homes to receive personal affirmation other than simple words like “Good job.” I’m so thankful for loving volunteers like Coach Shalom who really pour into these kids.

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One of the highlights of the camp for me (and my staff) was having 3 volunteers who grew up in the children’s home serve as volunteers at the camp, including two of our Oak Tree Project scholarship recipients. As the camp progressed and the kids found out that some of their favorite volunteers also grew up in the homes, we could see hope and light rise up in them. Many of the boys expressed how they also want to become volunteers when they grow older. And for these three volunteers who grew up in the homes they also grew a lot during the camp. There is something about giving back that builds a person up in confidence and in gratefulness. Here is one of our staff Jee with her Oak Tree Project mentee Tae Yang. Tae Yang was one of the favorite volunteers among the boys. We love seeing Oak Tree Project and Jerusalem Ministry come together!

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This is Team Barcelona. Despite coming in last place the boys kept positive thanks to the cheering and encouragement of the volunteers. They still had a wonderful time and blessed us and the other boys at the camp. Losing teams at past camps used to sulk for hours and feel devastated and insecure from losing, but Barcelona kept positive. This picture was taken just after they ended in last place in our tournament on the last day. We’re proud of Barcelona!

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This is Do Hyung. We had to add him to the camp at the last moment because a boy from another children’s home had to pull out. Do Hyung is actually in 8th grade, so this was his 5th soccer camp. He has some health deficiencies so he hasn’t grown as much as other boys his age. During his first three camps Do Hyung was loud and brash, taking the camp for granted and not having the best attitude. But then after 5th grade some events happened in his life that opened his eyes to who really cares for him and who doesn’t. He was a different boy during his last camp and soaked in all the love and encouragement of the volunteers. For this year, being the only 8th grader, he was a great role model to the other boys and acted very mature even for an 8th grader. We are so proud of him! Here is a picture of him with my wife, Sky.

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Here is a picture of Do Hyung from 2011, his first camp, while doing a trust fall.

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Do Hyung with a younger boy from another children’s home. We love seeing the unity among the boys and love seeing the younger/smaller boys feel safe.

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During the camp our escorts go to the children’s homes to pick up the boys and bring them to the camp via van, car, bus, or subway. After each camp day these escorts then take the kids home. Here is a reflection/testimony from Danbi, one of the escorts for Oryu Home. She has been escorting the boys from that home for a few years now…

“During the previous camps, I knew my words and actions made an impact on the lives of the boys, but I couldn’t always see the results of it then and there. I just had faith. I hoped hard and believed well that even if I couldn’t see big changes during the camp, when the boys go back to their homes, they would recognize how precious they are and how loved they are. I was obedient to God’s faithfulness and his promises that he’ll take care of the little ones. But this camp, it was visible and so tangible. I had boys asking me to visit them. My Oryu boys, they told me I can visit anytime. They shared their school schedules and told me when they were free. Although I couldn’t promise anything, the fact that they were desiring to see me again made me so thankful. There were boys I’ve served years back from Oryu that remembered my name. I met boys from previous camps: Inhuk (인혁), Gunwoo (건우), Yoongu (윤구), Yoobin(유빈), and Mingi (민기), who are all in middle school now. They remembered me and talked about the past camps and reminisced about them. They all came down to see me and said good bye. It wasn’t just confirmation that God used me. That’s the least I think about when I think about the camps. It wasn’t a ‘must’ but I did really want to know if the boys’ hearts were opened and had areas of their hearts that were healed to receive love. Even if they were small wounds or small healings. And this camp… it just showed me that prayers, genuine love, our actions and words do really make a difference. I saw the fruit of what was sown years back and it was beautiful.”

Her boys asked her to take a picture with them (boys rarely ask for pictures!) and their goofiness shows how safe and joyful they felt around Danbi. 🙂

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There are so many more testimonies I could share. I plan to post some of them on our Jerusalem Ministry Facebook page. We are grateful to all of the volunteers and sponsors who helped make this camp happen and we’re thankful to all those who were praying for us. It was a wonderful camp and the boys are all already excited for our 10th camp next summer. God is good!

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