Fifty soccer balls fill one duffel bag, all deflated of course. That is about how many we took on our trip in 2008. We received them from churches, individuals, and soccer teams in and around Beausejour, MB.
Our plan was to give one away to each village we visited simply as a way to bless the people there. They weren’t really door-openers, because we had already been invited to the village (I never go anywhere in Africa without being invited), but they sometimes did serve as heart-openers.
Since I managed to visit over 50 villages in the course of our year there, we had no trouble giving the balls away. Sometimes I deputised my oldest son, Robert, to go to villages when I could not be in two places at once. He did a great job of representing me, and the goodness of God, whenever he went.
I remember very well one particular place where we were in the meeting room of the village chief presenting the youth leader with the ball. There were a couple of windows full of young boys looking in on the proceedings, and when they saw the ball (they could not understand English) they started to shake with excitement. We took the ball outside, walked down to the soccer pitch (a brown patch of earth with some poles in the ground at one end) and I gave the first ceremonial kick of the ball.
I was wearing some semi-formal footwear, and was a bit nervous, but still managed to send the ball towards the upper left corner of the ‘goal’ when the keeper stopped it.
Our message when we gave the balls was always the same. We gave them as a present for all the people in the village, especially the young. Both boys and girls were included, as were all different religions (usually Islam predominated, but not always). The gift was to be a reflection of God’s love for the people, and a reminder of his nature and desire for all of us: that we live in joy and peace together.