Breaking Cultural Norms The World’s Sport
This blog post is brought to you by my communication director, Jackie. Everyone can experience the Kingdom of Heaven here and now!
Sometimes the best way to minister to someone is to use no words at all.
When I first arrived in Cusco, Peru I was taken aback—as I assume most people are when they visit a third world country for the first time. It was the summer after my freshman year of high school, and I had no idea what to expect. My team of about 12, with ages ranging from 13 to 55, had been studying the customs and itinerary for our trip going on 6 months and still, I was not prepared for the smells, crowds, and realities around us.
We were there to help an organization called ATEK—a non-profit that translates the Bible into the language of unreached native Quechuan groups that live in Southern Peru. While with ATEK, we would be helping them with the construction of their headquarters; to include creating a recording studio where they could tape videos and audio files for their ministries and training. We would also aid them in several workshops they set up in the Quechuan villages to sell their bibles and train the local church leaders.
This trip would have been special enough, but it just so happened that the day we arrived in Peru was also the opening day of the 2010 World Cup. Now, for those of you reading who don’t know, the World Cup is an international tournament hosted every four years by countries all around the world where the best national futbol teams in the world compete against each other. Yes, that’s futbol, not football; or for the stubborn Americans out there, soccer. Futbol is the most watched sport in the world (more than basketball and football combined). It is the world’s sport; and basically everywhere else on the globe outside of America, the World Cup is a monumental event.
As a testament to the excitement that surrounds this tournament every four years, just two days before we arrived in Peru, ATEK had installed a flat-screen, color TV specifically for viewing the World Cup. The team had been saving for four years, and they loved watching the matches with the gringos (that was us) during construction breaks. Not knowing any Spanish myself, watching those futbol matches was the best way to connect with the ATEK workers and neighborhood locals.
As we traveled to the remote villages in the Andes, I was unsure of the difference I could make not knowing any Spanish or Quechuan. But I didn’t need the perfect speech or prayer to reach the people I met. All I needed to show the local people they were loved was a few minutes to play the game they loved. With worn shoes to mark the goal posts and a ball made of leaves—which was the most prized possession in every village, we ministered to—every cultural barrier, every language barrier, every socio-economic barrier, and every spiritual barrier disappeared. For those few minutes on the field, we were all equal as children of God. And though the villages we visited did not have much, I have never met such happy and generous people, always praising and thanking God for what they did have.
My team and I accomplished a lot on that mission trip, but I think our greatest impact came, not from our words, but from our hearts. Playing futbol with the locals was the highlight of my trip because I honestly think I made the most difference. As I’ve heard it said, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Kicking a ball around for a few minutes before our services reminded all of us of the incredible love the Father has for us.