Soccer Nights: Building Friendships from Around the World
By: Tim Fleck
Last week I had the opportunity to volunteer with Soccer Nights, a free evening soccer camp for children in Cambridge and the surrounding towns. Soccer Nights is a partnership between the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, other local churches , the Cambridge Police Department, and an apartment complex near the field, and exists to promote athletic excellence, leadership, and community. Most importantly, it gives Christians all over Boston the chance to unite and show love to our neighbors.
Soccer is the world’s most global sport, and Soccer Nights is probably one of the most global experiences in Boston. I volunteered just one week last year and one week this year, and I have met children, parents, and volunteers from Morocco, Algeria, Bangladesh, Jordan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Peru, India, Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Kenya, Haiti, Canada, and Alaska. The kids bond quickly with their teammates across boundaries of race and religion, and always get excited when a teammate scores, which shows how artificial these boundaries are. Of course, they are also quick to bad-mouth people on other teams (which are randomly chosen hours or days earlier), which shows our natural desire to have boundaries.
Soccer Nights has meant a lot to me personally because it has opened up relationships with Christians in different churches, who often approach faith differently, interpret the Bible differently, or otherwise can contribute a fresh perspective on what it means to follow Christ. Coaches work in pairs, and between running passing drills and trying to keep kids from wandering off, Roger and I got a chance to talk about what being a Christian meant to each of us. When I needed to talk to someone outside my church about a tough situation in my faith last year, I met up with Roger, and he encouraged me to persevere in my faith despite the doubts and fears I had at the time.
Some of the volunteers are soccer fanatics like me, but Soccer Nights needs volunteers for all kinds of tasks. Volunteers set up fields and sound equipment, register children, teach lessons on nutrition, distribute snacks, and play with toddlers too young for the instructional program, in addition to demonstrating soccer fundamentals. Maybe you’re looking to make a difference in children’s lives, build bridges from the church to those outside the church, reach out to the poor, meet other Christians (and non-Christians) from different backgrounds and denominations, welcome newcomers from around the world to Massachusetts, or engage with your community. Whatever your goal is, I hope you’ll give Soccer Nights a shot.
Soccer Nights runs 6-8:30pm at multiple sites in Greater Boston. The next sessions are July 11-15 and July 25-29. Volunteer times commitments are flexible. For more information, call 617-252-0005 (option 2) or visit www.soccernights.org
Tim Fleck is a UniteBoston Fan and Soccer Nights Volunteer
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