Malawi Soccer Mission Team
During the last two weeks of June 2019, Nate Maust and I (Jamie Dato) took a team of local high school, college, and one junior high (Nate’s son, Jack) soccer players to the Passion Center in Malawi, Africa.
Nate and I have been to Malawi on past mission trips with much of our focus soccer-related activities. This was the first time we were able to bring a team of soccer players whose talents could be used to show and spread the love of Christ with those in a foreign land.
Since we’ve been back, many people have asked me about the trip and the word I use most to describe the experience is “fun.” This trip was genuinely fun and rewarding, and we could see God’s hand throughout.
Our travel from Ohio to Malawi was smooth with no hiccups and no lost luggage, which is never a sure thing. While in Malawi, no team member got sick or hurt, which was a minor miracle if you saw some of the soccer fields we played on. We had many opportunities to share the love of Christ and the truth of the gospel with thousands of Malawians through our soccer games and clinics. And we had a lot of time just to be guys and share life with each other and ask and answer questions about the Bible and the life of Christ.
We were a part of seven soccer activities… one tournament, four games, and two skills session clinics with local teams. After each clinic, one or two guys on the team would share their testimony or how God was working in their life or something they were learning in their quiet times. Each clinic always ended with us sharing Cokes—in glass bottles—and bread with the teams and getting to know them a little better.
We played four games in the area, compiling a 2-2 record. The competition was tough, as most teams were comprised of 18–22 year-olds who had played together while our first game in Malawi was the first time we played together.
The field conditions were even more challenging. Many of the fields were just hard dirt and rocks… something none of our guys had played on before. But our guys never complained or made excuses. They went out and played hard, always making sure to be witnesses while doing so.
After each game, we had a chance to share the gospel with crowds ranging between several hundred and a couple of thousand people, many of whom gave their lives to Christ! We also were able to have some time with the teams and pass out much-needed uniforms and equipment.
Besides soccer, we joined with the other short-term missions groups that were visiting the Passion Center for a village widow visit and a local hospital visit. In both cases, we were able to pass out needed supplies while also sharing the love of Christ with others. Our group liked these activities as they were calmer and more intimate than the large crowds at the soccer games.
Wherever we went, the guys got a chance to interact with other guys their ages as well as hundreds of younger children. They had a lot of fun just playing and hanging out with these kids who had as much, if not more fun, hanging out with a bunch of American teenagers. We also got to hang out with some kids and the staff at the Passion Center when we were waiting to go to the next activity. These were nice, relaxing one-on-one times that we appreciated, especially in light of the crowds we encountered throughout a lot of the trip.
When we weren’t involved in ministry opportunities, we were back at our place on the Zomba Plateau hanging out with each other, building relationships. This was important, as we were made up of five groups of people from different schools and parts of the country. But the guys thoroughly enjoyed each other and being able to spend time with each other. And it was not just each other, but they made our Malawian driver, Captain, feel like part of the team and our housekeepers, Vincent and Allen, feel like part of the team. The guys on our team always seemed to know how to make everyone we met feel involved and important.
It’s hard to take two weeks and condense it into a few paragraphs. If you’ve been before, you’re saying, “Amen to that!” We want to thank everyone who supported us before and during the trip. We appreciate all the prayers. Aside from the typical Malawi things like broken cars, loss of power, cold showers, nothing really happened that was negative. And even those minor issues were laughed off and taken in stride.
Though our trip is over, please be praying for all those who heard the gospel message. In Matthew 13, Jesus gives the parable of the farmer sowing on the different soils. We definitely spread the message on different soils, both literally and spiritually. We pray that the soils were good and ready to receive and not rocky, thorny, or dried out. We also pray that those who were saved can find a good church so they will grow in Christ.
Speaking of soil, I almost forgot… we got to spend an afternoon on Chris Weaver’s farm, making a large pile of fertilizer using “brown stuff, green stuff, chicken manure, water, and plenty of guy power.” We had a blast, and Chris reported that our pile is fermenting quite well!
Also, be praying for the hearts of all of us who went on the trip. Each of us is closer to God than when we first went, but some of us have some more steps to take.
Pray that this trip would not soon be forgotten and it would be a defining point in all of our lives. I know a couple of the guys are considering missions or serving in ministry as a result of this trip. Pray that the flame of service grows as God sees fit.