While we felt God telling us to spend a year in Nicaragua, we really didn’t know why. Upon arriving here, the first conversation we have with new friends goes something like this: “So, which mission group/church are you with?”
Ummm… we aren’t exactly here with a particular organization.
“OK, well, which sending organization is supporting you?”
That’s the thing, we are sort of independent. You know, doing the whole tentmaker thing and supporting ourselves.
Yeah, uh… That’s pretty much how most people respond when we say we’re trying to support ourselves. I had one person actually say, “Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s going to be really, really difficult.” Another guy just laughed.
The thing is that we know we’re a little bit weird. My husband says you pretty much have to be a little… uh… eccentric… to sell most of your stuff and move to a developing country. So I guess most folks would think all the North Americans living here are a bit off their rocker. In that regard, we fit in nicely. 🙂
Not having an official purpose or plan before arriving means we are flying by the seat of our pants, so to speak. But, it also makes us a whole lot more flexible than most supported missionaries who land with a set plan in place.
I guess that flexibility is what has gotten us plugged in so quickly. (Or maybe we’re just suckers, but I’ll let you decide. ;-)) Within a week of school starting — and just three weeks of our arrival — we were made aware of two significant and immediate needs.
First, we found out there was no one who could teach AP Calculus at the kids’ school. There were four students signed up, but no qualified instructor… what a shame. Oh, wait. Have you met my friend Erinn, who came (with her family) from the US with us to live here for a year? Did I mention she is an amazing math teacher with experience teaching calculus (and plenty of other advanced math) at both the high school and college level? Coincidence? Right. Sure. Guess who’s teaching AP Calculus now? 😉
And then, I opened an email I’ve gotten before — the kind where someone says “your kid can’t play soccer unless we get a coach.” Five years ago I received the same email from my local rec department and I couldn’t deal with the guilt. I volunteered. I ended up coaching both my girls’ teams for the next few years, and expanded to both indoor and outdoor soccer. What shocked me most was just how much I. Loved. It.
So when I got this particular email, I was interested, but two phrases prevented me from replying this time: *head coach* and *varsity soccer*. Oh yeah, like I have any experience with either of those! Actually, I was hoping someone else would step up so I could just maybe help that person. But my daughter came home from school and excitedly announced, “Mom, I talked to my teacher about it and guess what… this is so awesome!… you get to coach soccer!”
That’s one way to look at it.
And then my husband ran into the athletic director later that evening and (keep in mind I still had not replied to that email) told him I’d love to coach the varsity soccer team.
When I finally arranged a time to talk with the athletic director about maybe helping out, he simply asked, “So, what days do you want to hold practice?”
Guess it’s settled then. Did you know God made appointments via email these days?
I didn’t think I’d have anything to contribute to this team. I mean, they want me to coach a varsity soccer team? Did they know I only coached rec before? The title of Head Coach scared the bejebbers out of me.
And then we held our first practice… in the pouring rain… 25 girls showed up, ages 12-18. In case you need a refresher on high school soccer, there are only 11 spots on the field. Wow. That’s a lot of girls! I couldn’t imagine how I would handle all of them on my own!
Thankfully, I don’t have to. God sent me a next-door neighbor who doesn’t have any kids at the school but has a soccer program back in the US. Seriously, could it be any more perfect?! She is here for a few months adopting a little baby boy, and agreed to jump in as my assistant coach. Picture a spunky new mom running around the field wearing a baby on her chest while shouting coaching instructions, and you’ve got Laura. 🙂 She’s awesome and an amazing source of encouragement to us all.
While there are certainly some girls with skills, there’s at least one player who has never played an actual game of soccer before. Many had no idea what I meant when I asked them to go play “Left Forward,” and even fewer (i.e.: no one) was initially willing to play goalie.
We had our first game today and it was a significant learning experience. Just before the game started, we got some pretty tough news. The referee told us that we could only let 18 girls actually play. We had 22 girls all suited up and ready to go, but I had to somehow find a way to pick four players to sit the bench the whole game. And then, I had to… gulp… tell them.
It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do as a coach. There were tears, and anger, and frustration all around. My stomach was in knots for hours after that. 🙁
We lost, 0-4. At halftime, I asked the girls to focus on a few key points to try and get the ball on the offensive side of the field a bit more. The second half was a significant improvement in that regard, so we definitely had some successes to celebrate, despite the final score.
It was a great opportunity for us to start figuring out how to play as a team, and for that I’m so grateful. There are plenty of things about this season I would already change, had I known I’d be coaching at the start of it ;-), but we’re the flexible missionaries, right? So we’ll roll with what we’ve got.
In summary: these girls are really no different than the 13-15 rec team I coached last winter (well, except for the whole Spanish thing, and living in another country and all). They are just a bunch of teenagers who want to be good at something. They want to know if they will play in a game. They worry what others (mostly the boys team that practices on the other half of the field) will think when they miss the ball or fall flat on their faces. They fear no one will come to cheer them on (or that a certain someone will come!). They wonder whether we’ll ever win a game (they haven’t exactly had many successful seasons in the past).
They just want to play soccer and have fun. And… like kids everywhere… they can never have too many adults in their lives that comfort, encourage, and support them.