I love soccer. I’ve been trying to get my basketball buddy Erik Cooper to start watching. He’s trying to like soccer, but he says;
‘Soccer is like an old school Pentecostal service: way too long, I don’t always understand what’s going on, and people keep falling down.’
Now that’s funny! In all seriousness, like music, soccer is one of those “universal languages”.
Growing up a missionary kid, I picked up a few skills and friendships while kicking a ball around. It never seemed to matter if my hair or skin was a different color, what language I spoke or my religion. Soccer fields—whether a sandy patch between war-torn buildings in Beirut, Lebanon or a groomed grass patch behind our school in Nice, France—always provided a level playing field. And everyone was invited to play.
One of the things I love most about working for an international ministry where I travel often is the fact that no matter what country I go to, everyone speaks soccer. In fact, one of my favorite “jokes” is to intentionally wear a jersey of an opposing team to spark conversations with people as I travel. I particularly like wearing my Brazil Jersey in Argentina and my Argentina Jersey in Brazil. I haven’t been killed yet, and it’s so worth it to see the looks of utter contempt and disbelief on the faces of my Brazilian and Argentinian friends.
This year, technology’s ability to connect us over distances coupled with the universal excitement of the World Cup has given rise to relationship-building among our staff and partners worldwide. It has been fun to watch our global OneHope Pick ‘em tournament create excitement with our staff and partners around the world as they choose who they think will win games and compete for bragging rights. The in-person, online and offline conversations and interactions around the tournament have opened up a window of play that allows the U.S. accountant to connect to pastor in Ghana; the Brazilian director to interface with the social media strategist in India; and the VP to enjoy an unlikely rivalry with the videographer based in the UK. We all have a heart for the Lord, and we all speak soccer. It’s beautiful to watch these relationships develop and grow around these common languages.
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