Here’s a rundown of what our days are like now that our 5-day soccer camp is in full swing at Santiago, Panama (I’ll add what the VBS is like in another post).
From Hotel to Soccer Stadium
We have breakfast in the hotel at 7 am (where we read daily encouraging letters we brought from home). Then we ride a rented bus for less than 5 minutes to a local soccer stadium (Estadio Toco Castillo), and unpack our goalnets, soccer balls, cones, pinnies, sound equipment, and lunch supplies.
Soccer Field Setup
From 8ish-9 am we setup the field for 3-4 different age-group stations and prepare the sound equipment before camp begins.
Registration for 100 Kids
At 9 am, around 100 kids (sometimes with parents) flood the stadium and signin to receive an orange wristband (which doubles as a voucher for their free lunch).
Warmups with H.S. Athletes
Next, we split them up into age groups, do warmups, drills, and scrimmages lead by our soccer players, the coach, and president of Finney (an interpreter joins each group to translate our instructions into Spanish).
Speaking Spanish to Kiddos
I’m no soccer player, so I just attempt to communicate with the Panamanian kids. I try to learn their names and practice remembering Spanish phrases by typing them in the Notes app of my iPhone.
For example, this year I mastered “encantado de conocerte” (nice to meet you), “gusto en verte (nice to see you), and “buen trabajo” (good job)… Though, the niños probably wouldn’t agree with me on that.
Some Jesus Time
In between drills and scrimmages, we take a break to share about our belief in Jesus. Each session includes one excerpt from the bible and an explaination on how it has taught our team something valuable about Jesus.
Drinking Mud Water
We try to make this part interactive for the kids through illustrative challenges. For example, the first day we used a cup of clean water to represent what we were like when God created us. Then asked the niños to plop handfuls of dirt into the cup to represent choices like lies, lust, hate, etc. that ruin our original design. We asked if they’d drink the mud water and they shook their heads, “NO”! We explained that once the dirt goes in, we can’t make the water clean by picking out the dirt. We need to filter out the dirt with minerals, just like how we need Jesus to take the punishment for our wrong choices to return to our pure design.
Brown Bag Goodbyes
After soccer, we gather the Panamanians on the bleachers and feed them bagged lunches before it’s time to say “hasta mañana” (see you tomorrow).