Monday, July 20, 2009

It's ON!

Soccer Tournament 2009 - July 19

Round Rock & Outlaws (MA)


Today was a good day in Malawi. Did you know that these kids only play in tournaments every 5 years? That is all they are allowed because it coincides with Parliament votings and such. Isn't that amazing and mind boggling? Well this day was very special to over 500 kids in Malawi and we can't thank all the people and groups that donated to make this soccer tournament happen we couldn't have done it without you!

Jesus said, "Be careful. Don't think these little children are worth nothing." matthew 18:10

We started our day going to church services. I have never been to an African church service and was very excited. We dressed up and off we went. We drove for ever! I couldn't believe how far it was and I was finding it hard to contain my excitement - how many kids will be playing? Are girls allowed to play? How will be work the bracket? All that stuff that we would think about before holding a tournament. 1 hour later we pulled into the small village that was hosting our church services. There were a ton of people around but I couldn't see the church. And then I noticed, there aligned in front of the worshippers were a row of 16 chairs. All different shapes and sizes. And there, under the big tree, we would worship for the next 3 hours. Theresa Malila led worship with the attending pastor. It was just amazing how exuberant these folks are in their love for Jesus. They sang songs to us and we sang songs to them and it just seemed to click for all of us. I felt honored to be there. I noticed something else I had not seen so far - teenagers! They were all dressed in their sunday best holding a bible and sitting on rocks or the dirt ground. Nobody complaining; nobody talking to each other; and nobody on their cell phones. They were there to worship and that is what we did. It was fantastic and inspiring and beautiful.

When the service was over we started the much anticipated 'football' tournament. Many of the youth leaders came forward to show us their teams. We had 8 teams all together - only the 14-17 year olds played. This was a serious village to village competition. Girls are not allowed. Small children are not allowed. It is just the real men of Lilongwe who will be playing this day. As we set up many people started to show up to line the perimeter of the field. You could feel the anticipation the excitement in the air. They told us that although they were there to worship as one family under God when it came to football they were going to be looking to win. And they were right in telling us that. The guys lined up for the uniforms. They were so excited. Shirts and shorts and socks and shoes... WOW! They couldn't believe it. You could feel the excitement in the air. We didn't share with them that they would get to keep the uniforms right away. They thought they were just borrowing. Each team played. Nearly every game ended in a shoot out. They are very good players for sure. They didn't like playing in cleats and socks. They were way more comfortable barefoot.

While I was on the sidelines filming the big game many of the teenage boys were fascinated with the camera. They called it a TV. I taught many of them how to use it and they really enjoyed it. I met the chief of Misula, a zone in the Lilongwe area. Their team was wearing red and they were cheering them on like crazy. One man turned to me and said that he was so proud because he had never seen the children look so good. It struck me right away. We take for granted that our children have clean clothes every day. These guys have one set of clothes typically and they are very rarely clean. The adults were proud to have their kids in the uniforms and to watch them play. They kids felt empowered to play harder for their village. Once again I was struck dumb in the presence of these amazing people. At the core of our being it is our fondest wish to have our children do better than we did and to see a parent with his eyes glowing because his boy had a uniform and was playing in a tournament... an event that occurs every Saturday morning in my town, was humbling.

Cheryl and I can't thank you all enough for your generous donations. Without you this wouldn't have been possible. I have to tell you that whenever they scored everyone jumped so exuberantly up and down on the field. You gave young men and an entire community joy for a day and a story to tell around their fires that night. Because Malawian's are still oral story tellers this story will be with them for many years to come and it will be passed down to their children and to their children's children. It was good this day for sure.

"I tell you the truth. Anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me." matthew 25:40


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