By Curtis Drever
Just last week, Shepherd’s Grove sponsored our first soccer camp for kids ages 6-14 here in Irvine. Our main goal was to include children from both Foster Care and the church to create a fun environment where they could build relationships, develop soccer skills, and learn about Jesus. Needless to say, this wasn’t your typical camp!
To help run the outreach, our church partnered with Ambassadors Football International, a faith-based organization that runs soccer camps throughout the United States and countries throughout the world. Ambassadors uses international Christian coaches to provide high quality instruction, a positive and loving environment, and an opportunity for participants to hear about and put their faith in Jesus Christ.
Our camp had eight coaches from countries including South Africa, Brazil, Latvia, Canada, El Salvador, and Bolivia, who stayed with host families from SG and other churches, enabling relationships to be cultivated both on and off the field. In addition, we recruited fourteen volunteers from local middle and high schools to assist the coaches sent by Ambassador. Besides supporting leadership, these volunteers played a crucial role in building relationships with the campers.
So how did it go? Overall the camp was very successful! Through the generosity of our church, we provided scholarships to many kids who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend. When the week started, we had 39 kids registered and if you can believe it, 34 to 36 of them actually showed up! These are really good statistics for a first-time camp. Even better, a lot of the kids in attendance were from Foster Care, and the camp gave them the opportunity to just be kids—to have fun and be loved.
As the week progressed, you could see the children and volunteers begin to bond, and on Friday, as camp was ending, there were tears shed and several asked, “Will there be one next year?” I take that as positive proof that we met a need! God was glorified, and we had a wonderful opportunity to not only talk about Jesus, but also to model His Presence in action.
Another positive aspect of the camp was partnering with Orange County social workers, who really appreciated the fact that we had scholarships available! I personally learned a lot about the Foster care community by speaking with them, group home managers, and the Foster parents who sent kids to our camp.
Although it was taxing, the week was also rewarding (isn’t that always how it goes with something worthwhile?). The hours of planning and fielding constant surprises both before and during camp really stretched me. As much as a great deal of effort was required, the positive outcomes far outweighed the work!
Because it was such a rewarding effort, we are already thinking about next year! With more time to plan, God only knows how many kids we can reach. If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved with the Foster care community, please talk with me, email me at Curtis.Drever@irvinepres.org or stop by the Outreach table. We would love to get you plugged in!