Soccer Beyond Borders Final Day

Soccer Beyond Borders Final Day

On our final full day we took New Life to the beach to have some time away and to celebrate the 4th of July.  All of New Life really enjoys this trip each year and we shared the trip with teams from Georgia, Virginia and Texas. I was blessed to sit with James a five year old with the greatest smile and Pastor Jacque on the drive to and returning from the beach.  James sang to me and fell asleep on the drive there and James slept while Jacque sang Creole worships songs on the return trip.  One of the things I always share with others about our team trips to Haiti is that you receive more human contact in one week than you may even get in a year back in the states. There is usually always a baby to be held a toddler on your lap or a hug from a teen.  When anyone holds Moses he loves to throw up his arms and yell hallelujah and then laugh.  I finally had the chance to spend some time with Samson today. Samson has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheel chair, but has a spirit we all could only hope for in our lives.  As I fed him his dinner I dropped some food on his shirt and he thought it was so funny he began to laugh. As I pushed Samson around New Life in his wheel chair (he loves the trip) I again realized that no matter how much we all give on this trip we receive far more love, laughs, hugs and blessings than we could ever imagine. The day finished with a time of dancing with the kids and we passed out glow sticks as a way to celebrate the 4th of July.  We even got a fireworks show as they would turn out the lights and throw all to glow sticks in the air to create a wonderful show.  We had a much larger team this year, but as in prior years the team came together and each member found their way to be the hands and feet of Jesus in Haiti. I was blessed to see the entire Keefer family experience Haiti this year. It was great as always to see Courtney hold the babies and Megan make new friends and Laura now understanding what I have shared with her the past two year.  I wrote this as we are on our final approach into Miami.  It was another truly blessed week in Haiti and I pray that our entire team will return home knowing each member did their best to be a blessings to others, but remembering how we are blessed even more profoundly by our time in Haiti.



Soccer Beyond Borders-Day Six

What a week it’s been! It never ceases to amaze me how quickly these Haiti mission weeks pass by. The week went as follows:
·         Day one (Friday): We spent the day in transport getting to Haiti. What strange trip it was. Flights being delayed and a round of “whose stuff is it anyway” with Haiti customs.
·         Day two (Saturday): We played and worshiped with 120 plus kids (over 20 with disabilities).
·         Day three (Sunday): We worshiped the Lord in an eclectic service in which an hour and a half felt like 10 minutes. Afterward, we invited the neighborhood futbol (soccer) teams to come by for the second annual afternoon tournament.
Day four (Monday): We ventured to love three other orphanages by feeding, watering, clothing, playing and sharing the gospel. Truthfully, we could only get to two because one was on the muddiest road I have ever encountered. While the pastor we were visiting thought our vintage 1970‘s yellow school bus could make it down the road, I wasn’t a fan. I could only see standing in the mud rut pushing the truck out or paying a few thousand Haitian. We did find a way to get him our gifts and give away the greatest of all gifts to the neighborhood boys – an indestructible soccer ball. The day ended with a teammate falling down the stairs.
·         Day five and six (Tuesday & Wednesday): We woke up before 6am and made it to the bus for a 1-2 hour ride to our good friends at Respire Haiti. There we held another soccer tournament for U12/U17 boys. We had 8 total teams and all heard a gospel message before their games. Additionally, we fed and watered over 300 people during the afternoon. It was really quite heartwarming to see the team fan out and meet folks. I believe the team started some great relationships with the community by handing out clothing, food, and water and soccer gear. We gave away over $80,000 in new soccer cleats, balloons (balls), shin guards and cleats. I have never seen a more contented Haitian. I am so grateful to our sponsors and the Chicago soccer clubs. We couldn’t have done this without them.

·         Day seven (Thursday – July 4th): We are waking up and heading to the beach. It’s another of the rarities the children and the staff at New Life get to enjoy because of the generosity of those on our “soccer” trip. I am so glad we are funding over 120 orphans and 30-40 adults who never go otherwise.
The trip is just about over but really, it has just begun. You see, lives have been changed. The ones we have served here in Haiti and ours. We had 10 newbie’s in the largest team ever for “Soccer Beyond Borders.” The stories from the team during our evening devotions have been inspiring. They are stories of unadulterated love for one’s neighbor – a love that somebody might not expect in the world in which we live. In addition to our “work” in Haiti, the “Soccer Beyond Borders” team decided to take the remainder of the funds raised for the trip to dig a water well for orphanage, purchase nursery items for the infant center, support the New Life rescue center and the amazing outreaches by Respire Haiti.

God is so good and occasionally, when we allow ourselves to make peace with His will, so are we. Hope to see you on Sunday in Oswego. I’ll be the one with the farmer’s tan!

Pastor Coach Bob


Soccer Beyond Borders-Haiti Day Five

Haiti Day Five

                The start of our journey began at 5:15 in the morning when it was still pitch dark.  After making sandwiches and packing all the gear and water, we left New Life with 11 New Life Children and traveled to Respire, Haiti.  The ride was quiet on the bus, but the city of Port-au-Prince was very much alive.  After capturing a few embarrassing photographs of team members sleeping, we arrived!  In order to prepare for the festivities of the day, we had to sort the players’ gear into individual bags to efficiently and effectively distribute without causing chaos.  Each team received 18 of the individual bags and the goalie also received goalie gloves and shirts.  Each coach received a coaching soccer bag with cones and a clipboard.  Each team received a bag of balls, one of the soccer balls was the Mission Ball and the other was the “indestructible” One World Soccer Ball. The tournament to be played consisted of eight total teams, four under 12 boys and four under 17 boys.  Prior to the start of the under 12 and under 17 games, Pastor Bob shared with the players a message from the scriptures, which was written on the Mission Ball Soccer Ball we provided with each team.  The purpose of this was to remind the players and the community why we came to see them and spend time with them: Go and make disciples of all nations.

                The games began with the U-12 teams from the area playing 20 minute halves, 9v9, on half of a field. Will and James held down the sidelines as AR’s as Nick and Pastor Bob were the goal line refs, and Patrick was the head ref for the first two games. Respire and Equip Ruj won their respective games with the score of 1-0 and will meet each other in the final tomorrow. It was very interesting to compare the youth soccer of what we know of in the states with that of what Haitian youth soccer has to offer. They are very skilled on the ball, extremely high intensity, but they fail to understand the concept of spacing, defense, and the fact that high kicks with brand new cleats WILL HURT! In between each game we fed all of the players on each team with rice, beans, pikiliz (spicy coleslaw), and a chicken leg. We also provided each team with water. The next portion of the day consisted of the U-17 games. They played on a full sized field, 11v11, with 40 minute halves. Respire and Equip Orange won 1-0 and 2-1 respectively.
                While the games were being played on the field, relationships with fans and children alike, and moments we will always cherish, were being developed.  Ayla and Mr. Kibler served as human jungle gyms for the children playing with makeshift toys.  For example, one little boy was playing with a “car” he had created by placing four wheels on the sides of a soup can.  Whoever was not involved with the soccer games, spent time entertaining the children and speaking with the locals. Patrick had a special moment with a man named Osmin, who had many questions about the word of Christ that Pastor Bob preached about earlier. He did not understand how playing the game of soccer was living out God’s word. Patrick did a bit of preaching while learning a bit of creole along the way.
                After leaving the fields, we went back to Respire and walked up the mountain to see their property.  Megan took us on a tour of their schools and told us her story about how she came to Haiti and how she came to start her program with Josh.  She also revealed to us that she learned creole after praying to the Lord to help her find a way to communicate with the Haitian people because she was overwhelmed after initially going to Haiti.  Megan and Josh are incredible people and they have expanded their program immensely after starting the program 2 and a half years ago.  The purpose of their program is to save, rescue, and employ restaveks, which are basically child slaves.  There are approximately 500,000 restaveks in Haiti and therefore, this is a major problem she wants to raise awareness about.

                Ready to go back to New Life, we all packed back into the bus for a very loud and joyful bus ride, in contrast to the morning ride. Ate dinner, the meal we were are always looking forward to. Had devotions with the children and shared our special “out of the boat moments” for the day amongst the group. Now trying to mentally prepare for another 5:15am wakeup call tomorrow morning.

Patrick and Nick


Soccer Beyond Borders Day Four

Haiti day 4
Today was pretty adventurous, we have to say… this is Ayla, Megan and Denise reporting in from Haiti!!  We woke up this morning with a few tummy aches with the team… that passed quickly so to speak.  After a scrumptious breakfast of French toast and scrambled eggs we were ready to tackle the day and with that all the bags in the depot.   The plan was to bless three orphanages with supplies, food and clothing.
 After packing the bus, we were on our way!  Driving through the streets of Port Au Prince was and excursion in and of itself.  Loud with honking horns and miles of street vendors, motor scooters and pedestrians to navigate…. Our bus driver was AWESOME!!  We reached our first orphanage and we heard the children’s voices singing to welcome us!  The home of 30 some children was a cement structure with 2 rooms.  One for sleeping and one common room.  The gravel yard provided some shade and seating area for the kids but overall it was very desolate. Though they didn’t have much, they seemed grateful for the little that they had.  We were as delighted to be there as they were to have us.  We started with craft bracelets, bubbles and coloring as well as goodie bags for all the children.  The guys on the team initiated play with the soccer ball and the gals were busy outfitting each girl with a new dress.  We gave the boys soccer uniforms which were sooooo adorably big and thusly very cute!!  After play we fed them lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, a drink and what amounted to cheese puffs (called chicos).  The children’s faces and fingers were all orange! J  Before leaving we prayed over their pastor which caused some tears among our group.  We left them with supplies and smiles.
We moved onto the next orphanage further down the road.  We started this time with lunch during which we all sang and prayed together.  It was particularly moving when one of the children came up and sang by themselves a song they wished to share.  A couple others followed suit!  How beautiful it was!!  Once they were finished eating we brought in their brand new clothes and watched as faces lit up across the room!  Before we left we noted that their supplies were all but gone, so we ended up leaving them a bulk our remaining supplies.  Last but not least, we left them with the mission ball, the one world ball and the New Testament book.
At that point we were getting a little hungry and headed back to New Life for lunch … yum, yum.
We boarded the bus to take our longest journey of the day to an orphanage an hour away.  We were excited and happy given our first two experiences of the morning. Pouring rain accompanied our journey, which at first we thought a blessing to cool us down.  After the hour trip, we were about a mile away and realized after some debate and deliberation by pastor Bob that we could not continue on our way in fear of getting stuck in the mud with a big bus and lots of people!!  Yikes… not expected!!!  We then worked and worked and worked to get the bus turned around on the muddy road!!  It almost seemed impossible given the conditions, but after a half an hour we were on our way!! We dropped the orphanage supplies off at a local law enforcement office to be delivered when the roads were better.  We created quite a scene and attracted many locals, so on the way out we tossed a new soccer ball out the window in their direction which they fought over but we quickly moved away as not to cause a riot!
From there, we stopped at Metal Works – a Haitian art which is garbage tins turned into art work.  This area was a village of shops.  We bought many items and supported the Haitian community.  We made our way back to New Life to spend the remainder of the day with the kids.

What a great day it was!!


Soccer Beyond Borders - Day Three

Haiti Day Three

Day three in Haiti was extremely eventful. Shortly after breakfast our group walked over to the church for morning service. The service began with a traditional song that had the congregation up and clapping. Witnessing the celebratory spirit of the kids and other teams was a powerful way to join with the community, and it illuminated how important God is in the foundation of New Life. Pastor Bob gave the congregation a message about forgiveness and the invited the crowd to share in the peace of Christ.
Following the service, the team gathered together and prepared for the soccer tournament – laying out the donated shoes, socks, and jerseys for the two outside teams, two New Life teams and many other visitors. The event caused a big buzz in the community and there were at least 100 people waiting to come inside and watch.  The energy of the four teams was palpable and by the time the championship game ended, all of teams’ competitive spirits shone through. The passion, vigor, and skill of the Haitian players reminded all of us how much the game of soccer means to the people in this country. Before each team departed we shared the Gospel message with them – sharing New Testament booklets, a soccer ball with the mission statement, and some food for the way home. After the tournament concluded, we shared a meal with the players and had a chance to interact and see how much they appreciated the team’s presence.
After a long day in the hot sun, dinner gave a chance to wind down and share our stories concerning the day’s events. To end our day, we shared some time with the babies from the nursery and played in the park. It was fun to see the kids interact with one another and we all took turns holding them and helping them down the slide. The evidence of a great day in Haiti was seeing the boys interact and smile with each other, enjoying time with the team and enjoying the light summer breeze.

Goodnight! Peace and Blessings to you all!


Mary Jo, Nicole, and Jason