Truths, Testimonies, and Tattoos

“Ek het jou lief selfs in jou donkerste tye” – Afrikaans

“I loved you even in your darkest times”

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 5:8 (NLT) which says, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

What an amazing testament of how loving and gracious our great God and Father is!  When I was still wallowing in my sin (acting a fool) with my back facing God, He loved me.  That’s just insane.  It’s amazing and beautiful, and it has absolutely nothing to do with how holy or righteous I am.  I thank God for that because I am a mess; perfection is not a word in my vocabulary… but Jesus is.

Yesterday I made the decision to get a new tattoo (see Afrikaans quote at top of page).  Tattoos can be a touchy subject, especially in the church.  They come with stereotypes and judgements and condemning stares, but in my opinion, they can be beautiful works of art that have the potential to start deep conversations and reveal hidden truths about a person.  In some cases, they can even be tools for sharing the Gospel. Some people don’t like tattoos and some people do.  So what does that mean?  It means Grace.  It means that we as Christians have the freedom to develop personal and intimate relationships with the Lord, and if it does not go against His Word, then any decision we make becomes a heart issue between us and Him.  We have the freedom by grace to be set free from the laws of old, and we get the opportunity to now live in a grace filled and loving relationship with God through Christ.  How awesome is that?

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1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV) says, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

This past week I made the Stellenbosch Maties Professional Women’s Soccer Team in the SASOL league in South Africa.  When God says that He knows the desires of our hearts, He really means it.  I came to South Africa to coach, but my Heavenly Dad has also given me the chance to play for one of the best women’s teams in the country! Getting to join this team means so much more than using my God given gifts and talents to win games.  I have the chance to play in an environment that is full of racism, drugs and alcohol, sexual immorality, and discrimination.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 says this: 

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

When I showed up to soccer practice yesterday with my new tattoo, I got to talk about Jesus (in the funny Miami accent that I apparently have).  My tattoo is written in Afrikaans, and most of the girls on my team speak Afrikaans, so when three of the girls saw my tattoo and read it…I was able to share the meaning behind it.  Working and living in a non-Christian environment can make it hard to share the Gospel, especially if you’re not allowed to speak about religious things.  The tattoo on my arm opened a door that God could use to reveal Himself.  I think it’s amazing how the Lord can find His way into any and every situation He pleases, it says a lot about His sovereignty.

I tend to put God in a box, but He is constantly showing me every day that He doesn’t belong in a box.  God isn’t limited to just Sunday morning services or slow organ worship music.  He is bigger than that.  He can use anyone and anything to get the word out about His love, and I think that is so cool.  He can use Christian Tattoo shops like Disciple Ink in Stellenbosch, He can use sports (even ones like the MMA that Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale partnered with to put on an outreach last year), and He can use breweries like J Wakefield Brewing in Miami (run by an loving and awesome Christian family) to reach out to the lost and hurting.

I love that our God is so creative… In fact, He is the Creator which makes Him the source of any and all creativity within us.  Our abilities, talents, skills, passions, and gifts all come from our Heavenly Father, and He has assigned them to us for a purpose. Our job is just to use them, and that in a sense makes us into mini “creators” just like Dad (we were made in His image and likeness.)

So, I get to use my athletic ability to glorify God on and off the field through my playing, though my coaching, and through the relationships I build with my coaches and teammates.  I get the privilege of being a light in a really dark place.  Will I be a perfect Christian? Nope, that term “Perfect Christian” doesn’t actually exist (it’s an oxymoron…like jumbo shrimp)… but Jesus is perfect enough for me.  He continually chooses to use broken and weak people for His plans and purposes.  This way, there will be no question that God should be the one to get the praise and honor.

This week I’ve had a realization.  The breath in my lungs that I speak, run, sing, pray, and laugh with is a gift from my Father, so I will fight hard to glorify Him with every single ounce of it.

Part of A Team

Cloetesville, South Africa

It’s an area full of colored, afrikaans speaking South Africans.  It’s an area that is saturated with alcohol abuse, poverty, school dropouts, and pregnant teenagers.  The average person doesn’t have much of a job or an education, let alone a loving and supportive family.

But you know what, the kids LOVE futsal.

Futsal girls

Walk into an open field with a ball and some cones… and kids will show up out of nowhere.  It’s a beautiful sight.

Within this country, well-known for its history with segregation and racism, you’ll find training4changeS.  A nonprofit organization made up of: some radical americans desiring to impact the lives of kids through sport, a white south african girl with a heart for discipleship, a black xhosa speaking man who can preach and lead the youth with zeal, a colored afrikaans speaking man who just so happens to be the former head coach of the Futsal National team in South Africa, and a colored afrikaans girl who has a passion for changing the world around her in a big way.

We are all very different.  We come from different cultures and we speak different languages.  We are different ages, we are different genders, and we have different opinions and perspectives.

But… we all have the same passion and we all have the same heart.  Our heart is to break the stereotypes within South Africa and to impact the lives of young boys and girls through sport (futsal).  Our overall goals are to love, to teach, to mentor, and to lead.

It’s a beautiful example of the “body of Christ” aka the church in action.  Many parts combining with different strengths and weaknesses to accomplish something amazing!  1 Corinthians 12:18, 21, and 22 say this: “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where He wants it…The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you,’ and the head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you’…In fact, some parts of the body that seem the weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”

If we were all armpits or feet…we wouldn’t get very far (some parts of South Africa smell bad enough as it is so we really wouldn’t want that).  Luckily for us, we are a variety of “parts” that are working in unison, striving to create a movement.  Our hope is that this movement will shatter the existing expectations of what “life” is supposed to look like for these young South African kids.

The weather in Stellenbosch is hot, the apartment is finally decorated, the coaching meetings have begun, there are mountains outside my window (take THAT Miami), my Afrikaans is improving (hallelujah), and my best friend enjoys making fun of my strange American habits (like precutting my meat so I can put my knife down and how I put “too much” ice in my drinks).  I love it all.

School starts for the kids next Wednesday, and that’s when the real fun will begin, so pray for loving and honest relationships to be developed between the coaches and the players.  Pray for opportunities, growth, patience, grace, and for language barriers to be conquered.  Pray for no injuries and no expectations!  Finally, pray for the training4changeS team, that we will be united on this journey.

The Team.

Ecclesiastes 12:4 says: A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.