Kristen and Sprite live in Bangkok, Thailand. Each year they organize a soccer camp for boys in the community where they live. The camp is meant to be as much of a character building experience as it is to be an athletic experience. Kristen shares her story of this year's soccer camp.
I didn’t think we were even going to make it to Soccer Camp. As I sat in the pick-up truck, every bad scenario of what could happen was flashing through my mind - and let me tell you, they weren’t pretty. The truck was silent. Our staff’s faces were pale and worried. We looked back every two seconds or so to check and see if the boys were okay.
We had just pulled out of the driveway to take six young boys from our slum, Samakki Pattana, to Sprite’s annual Soccer Camp. In five minutes the sky went from clear blue to black. Rain poured from the sky in buckets. And these boys were in the bed of the truck getting completely soaked.
There we were, stuck in Bangkok traffic (naturally) as the bed filled with water and the boys got drenched. We were all holding our breath. Lightning crashed and thunder roared and I was sure every kid had pneumonia already.
Then, out of nowhere, we started to hear voices. Loud little boy voices. The truck starts bouncing up and down and we felt it shaking.
“Are they singing?” one of us asked.
“Yes. Singing and dancing, I think.” Sprite answered.
For me, that was the theme I saw from Soccer Camp. Six little boys with the whole world against them - coming from broken homes, poor families, tough school situations, peer pressure - took that world by the horns and made it into something beautiful. They sang in the rain. They laughed in the heat. They danced in the difficulties. They smiled through the push-ups and sit-ups and lunges and sprints.
Max, Gong, Beer (yes, that’s his name), Dell, Titus, Klaa are all between the ages of 10-14, all different sizes and shapes and all different backgrounds. We had hoped we’d have twice as many boys join us as we did but when only the six showed up, Sprite made the decision that whoever God gave us to pour into, we would give them our all.
And we did give them our all. Each morning we were up before the sun leading the boys on daily runs, making them breakfast (sometimes with their help), running team building exercises, some teaching here and there and lots and lots of soccer drills. The four days we spent with them were full and exhausting.
My favorite part were the times we got to call on them. “GENTLEMEN!” we’d call out. No matter where they were or what they were doing the boys had to stop and stand at attention and yell “HOO!” from their gut.
There is something significant about calling a gentleman out of a boy. About seeing the good in these kids and calling it up, calling it to come out, calling it into being. Sometimes, boys become gentlemen all on their own. But sometimes, you have to call it out in them. By calling it out, expecting it, requiring it you realize there was a gentleman in that scrawny, cussing, naughty little boy all along - you just had to believe in him. And these boys became gentlemen that week.
One night, they all made us dinner (and no one got sick!). Another evening, we did a mini-session on the 5 love languages and challenged them to show love and appreciation to each other and to their staff in different ways. The amount of bouquets of wildflowers I got that night was impressive! And the last day they wrote a card and picked more flowers (they stick with their strengths) to give to our camp hostess. Respectful, happy, fun, grown up little gentlemen they became.