Yesterday, I had the privilege in playing in a soccer match with our Eagles Wings team. The team was started by some of our Secondary teachers with the goal of marketing our High School to local community members. At first I was hesitant, concerned that there would be requests for funding that we didn’t have to put into it, but actually our staff members have been the ones who have put in most of the financial contribution for our team to play in the league. The team asked me to play with them saying that having a white person would contribute to the attention gained for our school. With my wife’s permission, I happily accepted. I however, am not much of a soccer player. I enjoy playing, but most of our elementary school team can maneuver circles around me. And yesterday, I found out just how serious this “recreational” league is. Apparently, it’s a tournament and the winning team is to receive a new car and prize money to boot. Well, enter in the 6’2 ghostly white (now very sunburned) golf pro to the fray and to say I was out of my league, would be an understatement. After about 3 trips up and down the field chasing someone who was 6 inches shorter than me and who seemed about 10mph faster than me, I was praying that Paul (our team manager) would substitute for me at halftime. There was a crowd of around 500 people gathered to watch the contest. We don’t have many outlets of entertainment here. At first, I definitely felt most of the onlookers were mocking me as I tried my best to stay upright with the competition. However, as my performance revealed that I was much a rookie in the game, people began to encourage me from the sideline and even offer me advice. (Such as Mzungu you need to train more…..) I couldn’t argue with their observation. By God’s grace we reached halftime tied 0-0 playing essentially a man down the whole time with me in the game. I was feeling like I needed to go apologize to my teammates for all the extra work I was causing them, but each of them ran over to me and thanked me over and over again for playing with them. Then to my great relief, Paul told me he was going to substitute for me. As I left the field many of our teachers and students who were watching the game came over and shook my hand with big smiles and thanked me for playing and even told me that I played well (which definitely was not true). I was very moved by this gesture. I was in the process of receiving grace. It’s a beautiful thing to receive grace. You are given something that you don’t deserve and that you didn’t work for. I definitely didn’t deserve to be encouraged or thanked over my play, and yet my people gave it to me anyway.
That’s what God’s gift to man is. We have not earned it, and when people try to compete for it, they fall miserably short of the standard. It’s a game where they are out of their league, and yet oh how wonderful it is that in our moment of despair, God comes and extends His hand in grace. He says I will take away your sin. I will remove your guilt and I will take care of your needs. That’s what we are trying to do here in the Labumba community. We want to extend that same grace we’ve received to people who are also in need of grace. As Romans 10:15 says, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings, the gospel of peace! I have many children here who are in need of our grace. Will you extend that to them? If you can give, give. If you can pray, pray. But in all things let our love be without dissimulation. (Romans 12:9)