WALESKA, Ga. — Lindsey White, a student at United Methodist-related Reinhardt University, has two passions: soccer and mission.
During a recent spring-break mission trip to Ixmiquilpan, Mexico, with her sociology class, the two came together in what she calls a “God moment.”
“When I was preparing for the trip,” said White, “I asked my coach if he could donate any of our old soccer jerseys for me to hand out to the kids.” The school sent 44 jerseys. Upon arriving at the home of her host, Lindsey pulled out the jerseys and a new soccer ball and asked if she could distribute them at the school. What happened next changed White’s life.
“Our host ran out of the door smiling and yelling something in Spanish,” she recalled. “I had no idea what happened.”
The host quickly returned to explain that he knew a soccer team of 12-year-old boys that needed jerseys. The team has no coach, no sponsor, no ball and no jerseys. The boys’ lack of soccer resources made it impossible for them to move on in their league. They won the championship for their town, but since they did not have jerseys, they could not continue playing. Every day, the eight boys went to work right when they got home from school just so they could have five pesos to pay the game fee.
“As a college athlete, this obviously struck a place in my heart,” said White, who was a sophomore. “That night I was able to do the most incredible thing. I lined up the boys and presented them with a new ball and a set of ‘home’ and ‘away’ Reinhardt soccer jerseys. They were able to pick their number, and they were ecstatic.”
The cultural diversity programs at Reinhardt University in Waleska are an example of how United Methodist-related institutions provide opportunities for young leaders to learn and create tangible change in the world.
Living her faith
“Lindsey is one of thousands of students in our 800 institutions globally who are learning and living out the core values of the Methodist tradition,” said Gerald D. Lord, associate general secretary, Division of Higher Education, United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. “We are proud of what our institutions and our students are doing together.”
A lifelong member of Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church in Dacula, Ga., White is majoring in cultural diversity and family counseling with a minor in Spanish. She spends her summers supporting a Christian organization in Jamaica by coordinating mission work teams to help impoverished communities.
She said the different dialects in Ixmiquilpan made communicating with words difficult. However, the mutual love for soccer overcame that barrier.
“The captain of the team, Noberto, asked me what my number was for soccer so that he could get the same number as me,” White said. “At this point, I was completely overwhelmed with emotions.”
Love of the game
Noberto told White, “It is the love for the beautiful game that keeps us going. We do not have much in life, but we know that we will always have soccer. You have kept our dream alive, and we will now be able to play forever.’”
The visit included a Mexico vs. America soccer match in the town center. Today White is a Facebook friend with the players and must translate messages to keep up with the team’s progress. She plans to continue mission work upon graduation.
“It was an incredible experience,” White concluded, “and these boys taught me how to truly love the game all over again.”
To learn more about United Methodist colleges and universities, visit the Division of Higher Education.