What is a guy like me doing working at a soccer camp?
Why is someone who has spent the majority of his sporting life as a distance runner learning about playing the 4-1-2-3 and teaching kids how to move off ball and create space for each other? These are questions I’ve asked myself often over the past three weeks that I’ve spent here in Cape Town helping out with Ubuntu’s U13 team and running soccer clinics for kids in Fish Hoek and Meadowridge.
1 Corinthians chapter 12 reminds us of the importance of possessing certain individual, tangible, or highly technical gifts when it comes to ministry. Paul likens the technical gifts that we all have in abundance to members of a body, eyes and feet and hands, working together in unison to create a delicate balance of vibrant life. Yet, Paul also tells us in the next chapter that there are things greater than this: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and knowledge,” he muses in one of the most famous passages in Scripture, “if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
My time here in Ocean View working with Ubuntu has taught me that there truly is no gift you can give someone greater than love: the love that you use to spend time with them, to care for them, to show them even in spite of your lack of expertise in other areas, and in spite of your imperfect way of showing it, that they mean the world to you.
A few days ago, I went for a run and when I came back, I began to do a set of drills designed to improve my form. As I began, one of the boys loitering nearby watched me intently and then began to join in, trying his best to mimic my various leaps and bounds. At first, I was stunned, then a little amused, but eventually I treated him like a training partner, explaining to him what drill I was doing next and what his focus should be, applauding him when he did well and correcting him when he missed a step. The encounter hammered home to me the fact that there are so many people in Ocean View and across the world who need to be not just led, but loved, who need someone in their life who is willing to take the time to show them that they matter, even if it is in some small and seemingly meaningless way.
The good news is that any one can do this. Any person, Paul writes, is capable of bringing that kind of meaningful love into another human being’s life, no matter how bad you may be at pulling the v or playing keeper.
Dylan Thayer feels like he’s in over his head, and would rather be running. He lives in Washington D.C. with his parents and twin sisters.