This week our congregation is totally immersed in our Annual Soccer Camp. I am amazed at what started as a desire to reach kids that do not attend church and has developed into CLEAT Soccer Camp. This past week we have had the chance to minister to 150 kids plus numerous coaches and our own congregation. I know after 16 years that it has never been easy, but it’s worth it!
I am continually reminded at the relevancy of God’s Word. Thinking about this year’s camp, I could not help but think of Galatians 6:9. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) The simple truth is ministry is hard, very hard. And our camp this week was no exception. I must confess at some point during each camp over the past 16 years I have asked myself, “Is this really worth it?” Why, because ministry is hard. The term used for “weary” is a term that communicates becoming discouraged because of the challenges. It could be translated “to lose heart.” Anyone that has done ministry has experienced this.
Running a good soccer camp is a huge challenge. It has been over the past years that we have learned all that is involved. Our plans for next year’s camp begin with scheduling the fields, lining up a college coach, and placing an order for our custom made “Wordless Soccer Balls” that come from Bangladesh. The responsibilities increase as we get closer to camp. There is mailer to be designed and mailed. We send it out to about 28,000 homes. The process continues with processing registrations and answering questions. There is the donation, collection and processing of 5 days of snacks for all those players and coaches. There is also the coordination of the equipment, the field preparation, the recruitment of coaches and training. There is also housing and meals to be coordinated for our guest coaches. Oh and there is also the challenge of dealing with those “fires’ that start as well as dealing with difficult parents. Let me share one from this week. The first day you could see she was not happy when I would not let her take her daughter onto the field. (This is a long time practice of ours that greatly helps with the camp). It was while we were getting 150 kids registered and on the field that she started to verbally badmouth so that the other parents could hear. She then came to me with the concern that her child was standing on the other side of the field crying. So I broke away and walked across the field to find a sweet child standing there waiting for activities to begin with a smile from ear to ear. The player confirmed that they were doing fine. My report to the mother was met with an “I don’t believe you!” Well, at that point I almost offered here a full refund on the spot. Yet, this is why we do camp, it is to minister to families. We never know what is going on in individuals lives. And yes, our adversary the Devil is active when we do ministry. Ministry is a declaration of spiritual warfare.
But we must not miss the promise here, “for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Now, we have been doing this long enough to get a glimpse of the harvest. We have seen our reputation in the community grow. I was recently told by a local league officer that we run the best camp in the county, period. We have also presented a positive testimony of Jesus to those kids and parents. Our desire is to make Jesus attractive through our actions. We have also seen players respond to the Gospel each year and see followers of Jesus encouraged. We have seen the Lord develop our own people through the exercising of their gifts, talents and treasures. It has also impacted our congregation by giving them a community ministry. It has also drawn our congregation together and we have added families over the year. Yes, it is hard, but it is worth it!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson