AU Soccer Daily Diary
Final Day —
After arriving back at Asbury University, the feeling is that we’ve been able to be a part of something much larger than ourselves. The week-long trip is exactly that — one week. The trip’s impact is far more crucial than the trip itself. God has used us to deliver a simple message to the Costa Ricans: You are loved by the Most High. You are special.
One moment (of several) that will stick with me is when one of the freshmen on our team wanted to make sure Dennis, a young man who is a part of the Fut.I.Val program in Costa Rica, knew how talented a goalkeeper he was. Because Billy couldn't tell him himself, he made sure he got the message out by pulling someone over to translate. Potentially, this was the first time in Dennis’ life someone had told him how talented he was. God is in control and we have no idea how He uses us, but we know He is using us in a variety of ways.
Many players were torn between not wanting to leave Costa Rica and getting back home. As we pulled up in front of Johnson Hall back on campus, players, parents, coaches and loved ones circled in prayer. We couldn’t end the trip without blessing it and thanking God for His provisions.
Day 6 —
We woke up with expectant hearts knowing that, albeit the final day, God had a purpose for this day. The day in Limón had reaffirmed how gracious He has been to us this trip. We are still amazed by how much joy we are bringing to the poorest here in the Rich Coast.
When we pull up to these neighborhoods, barren land and field come to life with clusters of our players kicking around with the kids. This afternoon, after our game against a county team from Goicoechea, we traveled to Purral to participate in “Fut.I.Val,” a soccer program headed up by Reynaldo Parks and Steven Bryce, two former national team players.
“Fut.I.Val” stands for “football with integrity and valor,” two principles Reynaldo and Steven feel strongly about. The Asbury players dispersed throughout the field into the four age groups represented.
After an hour and a half of playing, the Fut.I.Val coaches gathered everyone to end the day with a talk. Paul Niswander, resident director of Johnson Hall, was able to speak truth to the kids in Purral for the afternoon. Paul spoke about his life and the challenges God threw his way.
Through the program, the kids are taught to play the game of soccer fair and clean while also being impacted by disciples like Reynaldo and Steven, a prime example of God’s light in a dark place.
Finally, I just want to include a few words to our trip director for the week, Cesar Rodriguez.
Cesar’s words the final evening before we left the country will stick with us for a long time. He talked about the needs for people to join together in the name of Jesus through sport. Cesar has shown us this week what true obedience looks like. His testimony and example to us has inspired us to continue His work wherever we go.
God has brought us all together in true discipleship for a reason, and we will surely be united again. Although volleyball is his expertise, Cesar led our team powerfully. Without him the trip would have been, well, not the same.
This trip is just the first step of many for the current Asbury’s men’s soccer team, as we strive for being a Christ-like team. We can strive.
Day 5 —
The team arrived at Limon FC's stadium around 10 a.m. after an early-morning drive from San Jose. The match against the professional team's Under-19 side tested the team's patience and discipline on several levels. Limon put out a strong side to win 3-0. With the game being played in substantial heat (and the turf didn't help anything), the conditions were challenging, but all in all, the team has felt honored to match up with these talented teams.
The team we played was assisted by Reynaldo, a former national team player, who is intentional in spreading God's love and Word through his country's greatest sport. With his help, we traveled to a local neighborhood in Limon to lead a clinic for the afternoon.
Cesar and Reynaldo led the team before we split in groups to lead different age groups. By simply rolling out a few balls on their rugged field that sat in the center of the area, God honored our time together. Simple acts can be used for great things, and it has been abundantly clear that God is the One who has made gatherings like these possible. God's Word is eternal and living. This much is true.
Day 4 —
Today we headed from Punta Leona to the district of Belen. The afternoon was spent at a local high school as the team led the school's afternoon PE session. It's safe to say the session was a highlight for the team. With our team packing their “Gimnastico,” we doubled the normal attendance on this particular afternoon. Some of us experienced the funny moments of instructing the students in Spanglish, but at the end of the day, the students enjoyed themselves, and we enjoyed being in their company.
Following the clinic the team jumped back in the vans to head straight to FC Belen's field for the evening's match. Through SCORE, the team was matched up against Belen's Under-17 squad. As it was not the priority of the trip, I won't get caught up in the details of the game, but this was definitely a closer matchup than our meeting with UCR. The game ended with Belen's academy side scoring a goal with less than a minute left to win 2-1.
After the match, we all gathered together again before junior John Nichols gave his testimony. The Belen players seemed to be receptive and open to the message God placed on John's heart. The country is crawling with potential, and it is the goal of SCORE to empower these individuals to use the potential for God's glory. As a member of Asbury’s men’s soccer team, I am proud to be a messenger and disciple to empower others this week.
Day 3 —
This was truly a day of recovery, a day to recharge. The team spent the day and night at Punta Leona resort where there was plenty of time at the beach. The team found plenty of enjoyment in wading in the waves and spending time in water (as many of the players come from Kentucky) ... We played soccer on the beach, explored the surrounding area and relaxed to the maximum.
Later in the evening, many players took advantage of the facilities offered and set up a ‘cancha futbol 5’ tournament (5 versus 5 turf soccer). This lasted only three hours. There has been substantial time spent on the road here as we commute back-and-forth from the SCORE villa and some deep sleeping is needed at the end of this day for what is in store tomorrow (travel, another soccer match and the opportunity to share God’s message).
Day 2 —
The team woke up this morning after a night they won't soon forget at Estadio Coyella Fonseca. The ministry, headed up by two former Costa Rica national team players, showed us all the powerful hearts God has been using in these individuals. After yesterday’s match, we were humbled by the love for the game each one of us on the field possessed. To experience this common bond and understanding with people we have never come across was something only a provisional God could make happen.
Today we played the University of Costa Rica, which proved to be a much more humbling experience than last night. Universidad de Costa Rica or 'UCR' currently plays in the second division of the Costa Rican soccer league system. Just last year the team played in the first (and highest) division in the country. We lost 6-0 in a match we saw truly as a growing experience, the scoreline having little importance to the greater goal of the trip.
After the match, we shook hands with the players, who dominated the match from start to finish, and sat for a few minutes to hear (Asbury junior) Jonathan Rehner's testimony (which he delivered in Spanish). We communicated to these teams how honored we were to be on the same field, and we encouraged them in their walks in life and in the beautiful game.
The team is in high spirits as we look forward to the challenges God has for us. We have been grateful to the SCORE staff here for facilitating everything. Cesar, Jose, Edgardo, Terry, Rachel, and many others, have been a blessing to us all.
Day 1 —
Today was just about a perfect first day. We started by joining a few other groups who are down here from the United States at a church service. It was a pleasure to worship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
We then were able to play the tourist role and shop around a bit. We were at a mall during the Under 20 Costa Rica National soccer team game. There is so much passion for the game here, and we enjoyed being there watching it with the locals.
We finished the day playing a team made up from players who are a part of a soccer ministry called FUTIVAL. Two former Costa Rican national/pro players started the ministry. We were able to win the game 4-0, but walking off the field, we were more fulfilled with the outreach we were able to be a part of. It was awesome to be able to use the game as a means to spread the love of Christ. We all brought some lightly used gear to pass out after the game.
Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This has been the theme of our trip, and I truly believe we lived it out tonight.
I'm looking forward to our day tomorrow as we will be able to play against the University of Costa Rica and then pass out food to some of the youth in the area. Until then ....