There is no question that Yahweh, the Living God, is greater than we could ever begin to comprehend. When we consider that He knows every leaf on every tree, every salamander under every stone along the mountain trails, the work of the mitochondria in our cells that keep our bodies running, and yet He holds the universe in His hand, we can’t help but be in awe. Our God is vast, encompassing, creating, sustaining, delighting in His work on a scale we can only start to observe or measure even with our most advanced sciences.
Yet the deepest places of His heart are for us. The ones He knit together in a mother’s womb. The ones He shared flesh with and gave His own life to ransom. If a sparrow does not fall without His notice, and if there is nowhere in all creation to hide from the presence of God, is there a young child in the streets of Lima or the mountain homes that He does not have His eye on?
Daniel goes to church with Andrea, one of our Peruvian sports ministers. She works with a coach named Aaron, who pours himself into two teams, mentoring youth aged 8-12, and young adults from 16-25. He invests in their lives in the Name of Jesus, because He knows that God sees and deeply cares for these young people that can easily get lost in the crowd… or become the target of human insensitivity and aggression.
Because Daniel was younger, skinnier, and darker-complected than most of his peers, he fell victim to social cruelty. He was continually bullied, called racist names, and belittled.
Coach Aaron reached out to him, recruited him to the soccer team, and offered him an environment that upholds a standard of respect. Daniel belonged on the team, and this place of refuge changed his life. He has found a fortress in Jesus Christ through the kindness and respect of his coach, and he knows how the heart of God sees and values him.
Coach Jhon has had a young man named Efraim on one of his teams for four years now. It was not an easy start. Efraim is extremely talented at soccer, but he came to Jhon with a hard and rebellious heart. Efraim led the team in skill but he carried a very negative attitude, and was even disdainful toward his teammates when the game didn’t turn out the way he expected it should. Sometimes he would simply quit playing, sit down and comment on how he would not play with a “bunch of losers”. Everyone expected Jhon would kick him off the team because of the negative influence he had, but this coach could discern there were underlying issues that needed to be addressed. He decided to stick with Efraim. As their relationship continued to develop and Efraim saw that Jhon actually cared about him, trust began to grow.
After time and observation, Jhon realized that Efraim was the scapegoat of his family. He was picked on by everyone in his home, and didn’t feel he could even trust his own mother, who was trying to raise him and his siblings alone. Jhon made a time to sit down with Efraim and his mom, trying to understand why things were the way they were, and what could be done to improve the relationships at home. By God’s grace and their willingness to work together, Efraim and his mother began to experience peace in their home.
Through this work together with Coach Jhon, God has brought incredible change to Efraim’s life! He is now the team captain and leads the team in unity and encouragement. When Jhon is unable to make it to practice, Efraim follows his instructions to lead the team. Efraim has also recognized Jesus as his Savior and trusted him at one of the weekend soccer camps during their team time. Now 15 years old, Efraim follows the example of Jhon, who follows the example of Christ, learning to walk in God’s ways and growing into the leader he is created to be.
Father, we praise You that You see and love each child in every nation of the world. Thank you for these young Peruvian men whose lives You have redeemed and whose hearts you have made Your own. We lift them up to You, as well as their teams and coaches, that You will continue to pour out grace on their lives, protect them from those who would seek to harm them, and assure them of Your nearness and care. In Jesus’ Name.