Striving For Excellence

10 Coaches.  4 Days.  1 Purpose.

As I lay on my bed with cramps in my calves and dark circles under my eyes… my heart is full.

These past few days came and went, but the lessons I learned and the friends I made will last a lifetime.

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The training4changeS coaches training camp kicked off with team building challenges that pushed our limits and broke down our trust barriers.  We led, we served, we opened up, we followed, we supported, and we bonded.  As coaches from multiple cultures and walks of life, we learned how to love each other and how to simultaneously grant each other the grace and freedom to be themselves.  We strengthened our teammate’s weaknesses and we took advantage of their strengths.  We shared our stories and our passions, and we connected on a deeper level.

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Then we took it up notch (more like 50 notches, actually).  The National Futsal Coach of South Africa and the training4changeS Director of Coaching, Quinton Allies, taught us the fundamentals of playing and coaching futsal.  Using the sole of the foot, proper body positioning, and communication were just three of the tools we learned to implement while playing this fast paced and intense sport.  About eleven hours of futsal sessions later, I can’t walk or feel my legs…. but more importantly, I have gained significant insight into the game of futsal and I have developed the skills necessary to be a successful coach.

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Next comes the theory.  Sylvester and Quinton taught us about child protection, the history and rules of futsal, and the power and influence that a coach has on and off the futsal court.  Children will “follow the leader,” and they are not biased to whether the one leading them is a good or bad influence.  Our goal as training4changeS coaches is to stand out as positive role models for the kids we coach.  We want to provide a safe place for them to grow and learn by teaching them core values and life skills that will lead to their success and well-being like: discipline, encouragement, forgiveness, teamwork, love, communication, sharing, acceptance, and determination.

training4changeS has taught me that futsal is so much more than a sport.  It’s an incredible tool for impacting the lives of the next generation.  If we can make a difference in one life, then that one life can impact even more lives down the road.

As we, the futsal coaches, reach out to these young and talented athletes, our hope is that one day those athletes will become the coaches (and players) of the next generation.  Their example and lifestyle will set the new standard for the South African culture, and change will happen.

But one step at a time…  

SCAS (Sport For Christ Action South Africa) Director Hein Reyneke shared some wisdom with us when he said that we should, “Strive for Excellence, Not For Perfection.”  I am bound to make mistakes along the way, and there’s nothing shameful about that because my mistakes will become the stepping stones for my improvement.  This will be a long journey, but I am ready and willing to do whatever it takes, mistakes included.

Lastly, I have to give a shout out to you all: my family, friends and supporters who have been following my adventures and encouraging me every step of the way.  There’s no way I would be here without your help.  Thank you all for believing in me, thank you all for motivating me, and thank you all for having enough trust in my vision to support me financially.  I am BEYOND grateful.

The Lord has used you guys in a big way to strength my faith, and He has proved His faithfulness to me through all of the support and provision that I have received.  I don’t deserve any of it, but He is so good.  I am simply an imperfect girl in desperate need of a perfect God who has overwhelmed me with His perfect grace.

And for some CRAZY reason, He chose me to be an ambassador to share His truth all over the world, and my hope is that a tiny bit of Sam and a whole lot of Jesus will rub off on the wonderful kids I coach.

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Let’s keep making things happen! The season has just begun!

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.

The Road Less Traveled

Unfortunately in Miami, we only get two seasons: Summer and Hell on Earth (which usually happens around July or August).  But for me, as one season of my life ends, a new one begins…

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What do you get when you put an elderly Korean, a golden hearted Guatemalan, a Jehovah Witness, a Colombian, a Pentecostal Haitian, a dancing Puerto Rican, and a white girl with no waitressing experience in an Italian restaurant?   You get Pizzafiore Miami Shores, and you get an incredibly hilarious and slightly dysfunctional group of people that come from very different walks of life.  These people started out as strangers, but quickly became a part of my family.

I never thought that my life could be impacted by others so quickly.  I walked into this job with anxiety, doubt, and fear, but I left it with patience, love, and an open mind. (Not to mention the ability to make a killer Cuban coffee.)

I was put in this place for a purpose, and I know that God’s hands were all over it. I was taught how to serve, how to listen, how to stand firm, and how to let go.  When my “prideful self” thought that I would be the one making a difference around this joint, I was the one being changed, being humbled, and being challenged.

I am incredibly grateful for the time spent at the restaurant, but every season eventually comes to an end.  This step of faith is leading me into a time where preparation, focus, and perseverance are going to be crucial.  Spending time with my friends and family is going to be a priority, and fundraising will be my main goal.  Though the season may seem less hectic, it won’t be easy.

I have trouble “resting” because I have always been a “doer.” I’ve realized that it’s time for me to be still.  It’s time to finally let go of the parking brake and the steering wheel and enjoy sitting in the passenger seat of this wild ride called life while my God, who I like to call my “Sovereign Chauffeur” takes the wheel and drives. There will be twists, turns, speed limits, detours, accidents, and oh so many adventures….

But my God knows where He’s going because He paved the road, so I will roll the windows down with my seatbelt buckled and the music blasting… and I will make the most of every second of it.

Ready, Set, Wait?

Waiting.

It’s a tough thing to do.  Like for example, waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for the work day to end, or even waiting for your favorite TV show to start it’s next season.

But what about waiting to leave the country to begin an adventure of a lifetime?  Yeah. That’s really hard.

About a year ago, the Lord used close friends, scripture, and prayer to reveal to me a new and radical mission for my life.  It was a mission that I never would have dreamed up on my own.  To be honest, I was scared to death.  God was calling me to become a missionary.

I have aways had a passion for soccer, and I loved being able to play it as a kid and coach it as an adult.  In college, majoring in Sports and Fitness, I was given the opportunity to partner with the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) on a summer missions trip called IMPACT.  The first time that I attended the trip I was a student, but I knew God was calling me back so I returned the following summer as a co-leader.  This was the first time the thought had crossed my mind that maybe the Lord was calling me to become a full-time missionary.  We learned about using sport to share the gospel and how it can be used to impact the lives of people around the globe.  Daniel Thomae, a current missionary in South Africa and partner with IMPACT, approached me about joining his nonprofit “training4changeS,” and he invited me to come alongside him and his wife Kendra as a coach for the young girls.  Daniel’s mission has been to open a futsal academy for the local primary school kids in the Western Cape of South Africa.  He has wanted to raise up young leaders and coaches to impact the nation, which he hopes will help to prevent the cycles of poverty, fatherlessness, and violence from reoccurring amongst the people.

My heart felt right at home.

I have this dream to help young girls all over the globe realize their worth and value.  I want them to know that they are loved beyond measure by a Heavenly Father who will never let them down or disown them.  I want them to develop life skills and values that will change their lives and their families lives forever.  I want to share the grace and love of Jesus Christ by teaching them about the Bible and using the sport of futsal to do it. (By the way, futsal is a 5-a-side version of soccer that is played on a hard court without walls, using a smaller ball than regular soccer and a standard match consists of two 20-minute halves.)

The crazy part?  The Lord has blessed me by giving me an opportunity to do it.

The journey begins now, by spreading the word of this mission, by raising support, by prayer, and by letting the Lord lead the way.

The wait is almost over, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Join me on this adventure.

Donate to the cause at: http://ssmfi.org/missionary/samantha-stokesberry/

Learn more about training4changeS and their mission at: http://www.training4changes.org/

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Habakkuk 1:5 “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

 

– Sam