Sixteen players from the women’s soccer team, along with Head Coach Dan Mouw, traveled to South Africa on May 18, 2008. They spent 16 days working with schools and orphanages, as well as playing against the Under 20 National team. Bringing talent and a relationship with Jesus together, they used their skill and passion to reach out to the young people.
This was the first time the team had traveled outside of the U.S. together.
“Some of us had never been to Africa,” junior Jill DiRenzo said. “I think we really learned how to love the people.”
The Ambassador of Sports organization planned service projects and soccer games for the team, and they visited the organization’s two headquarters in South Africa.
They used soccer as a vehicle for making relationships, leading clinics for kids and sharing their testimonies. One clinic in particular had about 350 kids that came to play soccer and learn about Jesus.
“We always pray before we start a game, and when I get in the goal I always pray again,” senior Amanda Smith said. “I never prayed for the other team before, but that was really cool.”
The team was able to encourage their new friends to pursue their dreams, to have fun and to play soccer.
“Women playing soccer is not encouraged, but soccer gets them out of their situations,” junior Liza O’Keefe said.
In visiting an orphanage, they found that God had not planned for them to play soccer but had other ideas in store.
“Every time we wanted to play outside at the orphanage, it was raining, so we would sit inside and talk with the kids,” DiRenzo said. “They have literally nothing and holes in their shoes, but they were so happy.”
According to Mouw, the girls played six games during their stay in Africa. Of those matches, they won four, two of which were in the women’s premier league.
The trip also included a clinic at Hatfield Christian School where they played a boy’s team and won 1-0, thanks to a second-half goal by senior Ashley Hackman. Afterwards they were able to hang out and have dinner with the students.
The women readily agreed that this trip was key in uniting them as a team. Not only did they bless the people of South Africa, but they learned about each other, who they are and how to respect one another.
“God has given us the ability to play soccer,” Smith said. “It’s not just a sport. God’s given us the talent.”