Pastor Paul's Ponderings
Pastor Paul reflects on issues of today and how teachings of the Bible can help us on our path.
November 16, 2022
A soccer ball.
That is all it took.
Sarah was not thrilled about missing her soccer practice and a game to go to Cuba. She didn’t want to leave her neighborhood friends either after having celebrated her birthday with them together and a bouncy house. So, I deflated a brand new soccer ball and brought it and a pump along with us to Cuba.
During our first free afternoon in Placatas, Cuba, I pumped it up and invited Sarah to come practice with me at the little corner park down the street from the house we were staying at. For a while, she practiced dribbling past me. I was getting tired, never a soccer player, and getting old, and she was becoming bored. Just then a boy walked past. Sarah was embarrassed when I asked him if he played ‘football’, but it only took a second before he and Sarah were passing the ball back and forth and only a minute more before they were joined by a third kid.
I was able to retire to a bench and serve as an interpreter here and there when needed. Soon they went and found a fourth kid and a two-on-two game ensued.
The next afternoon two of these kids waited for Sarah and her ball to show up, and shortly afterward a couple of girls joined them too. Now they played three on three. In the heat after some intense play, laughing, and screaming they then switched to tag and hide and seek both the Cuban version and the version played in Jersey.
Each day Sarah couldn’t wait to join her new friends in the afternoon once they got off of school to play. The church we were visiting was holding an event that Saturday and Sarah invited her new friends. Not only did they attend but they brought along a couple of brothers and parents too. These kids were sharing more than just the ball with each other. They were sharing their time and their lives.
We were to leave early the next morning. Very early, and so goodbyes were said the evening before. I was shocked to get a hug from each and every one of Sarah’s new friends and pleased to hear her speaking some Spanish to them and hugging them too.
Sarah’s Spanish is limited. These kids had yet to learn any English. I really only interoperated the first day and only a bit—introductions and major questions, but then the kids seemed to be able to work it all out on their own. Despite differences in language and culture, and despite the negative information we receive about each other’s countries these kids became fast friends greatly and honestly enjoying each other’s company. And a ball.
Doing things together brings people together, even people that have major differences. It builds and forms relationships when we share experiences. I wonder if this is why Jesus was always eating with people, especially when he was with new people, and people from different cultures that he had just met. The shared activity builds relationships and bonds.
I am proud of Sarah for being willing to open herself up to risking being with and doing with kids from a different culture and for making new friends. Maybe we should distribute a few soccer balls to some adults.
Grace and Peace,