Posted by: JennyRain | February 2, 2010

The Ministry of Soccer

John sent me an inspiring story about the interaction of soccer, a Christian school, and young women.

His school ran an article about a young woman who had recently spoken at his school. She had sponsored eight Afghan girls to come to the US to play soccer for six weeks (*).

On the night of the event…

Awista Ayub explained how under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, Afghan women could not go to school, hold a job, play sports, or leave the house without a male relative as escort. The social effects of this oppression still linger, but playing sports in one way Afghan girls can gain confidence and leadership skills.

Ayub chose to promote girls’ soccer because “all you need is a ball” — it doesn’t require elaborate equipment or facilities… There has been great progress; the first team encourage by Ayub spawned a movement that now has some 250-300 girls playing under the auspices of the Afghan Sports Federation.

In regard to women’s education overall, “opportunities have increased tremendously,” she said; there isn’t complete gender equality yet, but women’s access to education is improving, particularly in the capital city.

[Ayub’s] is an inspiring story, as are those of the Afghan girls who had the courage to try something new. “Girls playing soccer is a big step for the country,” says Ayub. “Some of the first players are now stepping up to be coaches. Others are on scholarship in the US. The country is moving ahead.”

The inter-mingling of a Christian school, sponsoring a young woman who has advanced the cause of women through the sport of soccer – to me – is intriguing.

Perhaps this intrigues me because John is such a soccer fanatic. Maybe I am intrigued because too many times I have heard people say to him that he should quit soccer to focus on real ministry.

Give me a break – Sunday mornings on the soccer field John has a “captive” audience to share his life of faith (which is more than some preachers get!). I mean, how many soccer refs do you know who have an MDiv degree?

Perhaps I am curious because I have seen sports break down dividing walls between cultures.

I think about the times I have stepped onto a foreign mission field and a soccer ball becomes the universal communication tool.

How many of our hispanic neighbors have opened their lives to my husband because they know he is a soccer ref and because of that feel more connected to him?

I think about the beauty of Ayub’s story and how she has used soccer to help young women step up and out of the oppression they are living in.

This is something that all of us called to a faith-walk with Christ can learn from.

Your mission field is right in front of you.

Whether you do missions at work, in the sports arena, from a training room, and whether you use your life as an example, your written words to motivate and inspire, or your words in a neighbor’s life, you are on mission carrying one of the most important messages.

Share it with words.
Share it with kindness.
Share it in writing.
Share it over the watercooler at work.
Share it on the soccer field.
Just share what you know with others – like Ayub – from wherever you are and whatever you know.

*Their stories are told in Ayub’s book, However Tall the Mountain: A Dream, Eight Girls, and a Journey Home.

 

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