- by Kelly McGugan, Sports Ministries“But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16: 7 (NASB)
My plan was wrecked.
After planning a month-long backpacking trip out west, my trip got cancelled. This gave my wife the in she needed.
She had been asking me to travel with her to Ethiopia where she would work with a ministry called The Forsaken Children. I explained to her many times that I would go, but my plans were set – I was going backpacking.
When the backpacking trip got cancelled, I no longer had an excuse.
Truth is I didn’t want to go - I wasn’t all that interested in going to Africa to work with kids. I can’t really explain why I wasn’t interested - I just wasn’t. Nonetheless, I pressed on and decided to follow my wife’s lead and head to Africa.
The numerous people partnering with us along the way overwhelmed me. We were blessed with an extraordinary amount of financial support, and we were able to bless others because of the support we received.
All that being said - my heart still wasn’t in gear for Africa.
When I stepped off the plane, I was immediately greeted by Nega (The Onesimus Director) and some of the drop-in-center children. We walked outside of the airport and immediately I wondered, “What have I gotten myself into?” Smoggy, congested and polluted Addis Ababa caused quite the culture shock for this American man.
When I made my way to the drop-in-center to greet the kids, my world completely turned upside down. A few of the kids had reasonably decent shoes, but the rest wore severely deficient footwear. Their clothes were torn, dirty and falling off of them. Some of the kids looked like they had slept in dirt for weeks.
Yet in all the ugliness, the kids were absolutely beautiful. Their smiles brimmed from ear-to-ear when we arrived and all they wanted to do was to hold our hands, sit in our laps and spend time with us. It was in that moment, that I finally saw the children and myself through God’s eyes.
We are all dirty, polluted, broken and sinful people - yet somehow, in spite of that, God sees us as beautiful.
When I returned to my American home, I immediately faced the question, “What now?” What was I to do with what I had seen – what I had experienced? I felt as if I had no excuse anymore. No reason to turn a blind eye to Christ’s call to help “the least of these” (Matt. 25: 45).
I began praying about my life and how the Lord had equipped me. Then it hit me.
Three years ago, God sent me back to school to pursue a degree in Sports and Leisure Management. I have been a soccer player, coach, and/or manager for all of my life. I also worked as a sports and recreation coordinator for the YMCA for five years.
In that moment, God laid it out for me as clear as day – “Kelly, use your gifts so that others will see.” So, I pitched an idea to TFC to start a sports ministry program for the kids of Onesimus.
What came next was an exciting and emotional journey that would test my will, faith and ultimately require complete dependence on the Lord to get me through.
God’s journey involved … (to be continued).