Patty LaRoche: Colorful Soccer Balls

Last week I wrote about the connections God made possible through Debbie Rodriguez, the owner of a beauty salon here in Mazatlan, Mexico. Debbie introduced me to Heather and Andrea, two YWAM (Youth With a Mission) workers who are involved in several local ministries. Before long, connections were made involving people I know who could help the ladies’ outreach.

Little did I know how far back God’s plan extended. One connection had begun two years earlier in Nevada, Mo., with Mike and Betty Morris. The Morris’s had met with me to describe their ministry of using color-patterned soccer balls to share the gospel. They donated several balls for me to bring to Mazatlan. For a year, they stayed in my closet—the balls, not Mike and Betty– because I had no clear direction as to how they should be used. Not surprisingly, God did.

Last December, a former professional soccer player, Andrew, spoke at church, asking for help with his soccer ministry involving some of Mazatlan’s toughest youth. If he could turn them to Jesus, he said, he could turn them away from the drug cartel that was actively pursuing them as delivery boys.

I about tackled him after the service.

Two Saturdays ago, Andrew and I drove to the colonia where he ministered to those kids. His rule is simple: If you want to play soccer, you come to the Bible study first. Twenty boys and girls—ages 8-16, attended. Holding the multi-colored soccer ball, Andrew explained the gospel. Pointing to the black patch, he spoke of sin. The red patch represented the blood of Jesus. The green one was new life. White was how God sees us after we make Jesus the Lord of our lives, and gold is Heaven. He spoke for 30 minutes, but since it was in Spanish, I just stood at his side, nodded, and pretended to understand. (I think “Amen” makes me look bilingual.)

Fifteen minutes into his talk, a flirtatious young girl sashayed onto the concrete slab where we were meeting. No language necessary. Her skimpy dress and heavy make-up caused the young men to almost salivate. Andrew invited her to join the Bible study. Not on her radar. She then was asked to leave, much to the young men’s frustration.

Five minutes later, Mr. Cool Guy arrived. Donning several gold necklaces, GQ clothes and shoes, he was out of place with these shoeless, dirty-clothed adolescents. He jumped on the concrete water bin next to one of the boys. Immediately he had the adulation of everyone there who laughed as he tussled the hair of his seat-mate. Clearly, he loved the attention. Clearly, Andrew did not. Andrew gave him three chances to pay attention and then told him to leave.

Following the Bible study, the “futbol” game began. It was rough. Bare feet and flip-flops blasted the soccer ball as hard as any shoe could, and not infrequently the boys ended up on the concrete. When a fight broke out, Andrew broke it up. My job was to stay out of the way, guard the two extra soccer balls and not break up any fights.

On our way back to town, Andrew and I spoke of his mission. He needed help. Immediately I thought of Heather and Andrea. Once back in my condo, I contacted them to see if they were interested in connecting with Andrew. They were thrilled.

In all honesty, I have done very little throughout this “Connection” journey. I’ve listened. Sent out a few emails. Partnered to watch other’s talents be used. God simply multiplied my meager efforts. Of course, if He can use a soccer ball and a beauty shop, there’s nothing off limits…including me and including you.

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