Back to Nazareth - HOW and WHY?
For most of my life, I’ve lived with a more of a short-term focus and didn’t have the ability to envision what life could be. Maybe this was a result of dreams I had not working out. I went to Virginia Tech initially out of high school thinking the big university with a high level football program would fulfill what I was looking for in that stage of life. It wasn’t what I had hoped and I ended up withdrawing after the first semester. My sophomore year I transferred to James Madison and wanted to try and walk-on to the school soccer team. That idea was crushed when I tore my ACL in my knee and was unable to play for a year. I realized, whenever I make plans, they don’t go my way so why make any long term plans at all? A bit drastic but it was the sense I made from my life experience. And 10 years later I know that is not the best way to live either. Finding the balance between the two extremes truly is the healthiest way to live in most areas of life.
During the job interview with Missionary Athletes International, I shared again, Jesus, Soccer, and international are where my passions lie. Cliff Wright, the director of the Charlotte branch who is a visionary type person, described a long-term plan for what I could do that really surprised me. He said, “what if for a year or two you come to work for us and learn all about how to do ministry through sport. Then you take that knowledge and experience and go develop the first international branch of MAI back in Nazareth?” I replied, “wait, what? That could be a thing?” I had never even considered the possibility but that is what makes the differences of personalities so beautiful. Without Cliff’s abilities to cast a vision over me and see something greater using the passions I shared with him, I would not be sitting in Nazareth right now with the goal of pursuing something I enjoy!
I started in May and immediately started learning as much as I could about the organization. I was put in positions of leadership, service, organizing details and discovering how to create culture. I visited with the other parts of the office as much I could, developing relationships with those who worked in the Youth and Pro club departments, accounting, early development, neighborhood ministry, and with the international trip leaders. I wanted to be like a sponge, soaking up all I could about how to do this well. In early August I talked with a friend who had been able to get a long-term VISA to come back to Israel. I had been waiting all summer for the country to open for tourists however they kept delaying it because of COVID. But when I heard a year long visa was possible, I began the paperwork immediately. I’m very thankful that when I spoke with Cliff and the leadership of MAI, they believed in me and shared my excitement for potentially the first international branch of the ministry. After lots of prayer for the details to work out, my VISA application was approved in mid-September I moved back to Nazareth nine days later.
Now the WHY? Simon Sinek shares the idea of “Knowing Your Why”. Most people ask, “What do you do, but we rarely get to the point of “Why do you do it?”
Since returning I’ve often been asked the question by locals, “You were in America and you came here? Why would you do such a thing?” America to them is the land of “milk and honey” to put it one-way haha. Life is tough here, especially for the ethnic Palestinians who are considered 2nd class citizens in the Jewish state of Israel. (Side note for those who don’t know, Nazareth is a 100% Arab city. All its inhabitants’ ancestors are Palestinian). My response to the question is “because of YOU!” Honestly, it was the people who made me feel so welcome here that I love it. Furthermore, I want to help the local Christian community deepen their faith and provide activities of outreach for those who don’t know the amazing thing Jesus did for them. One of my goals is to start an inter-church soccer league with multiple churches around the country. One idea is once a month, the teams could get together, enjoy some competition of sport as well as fellowship and promote unity between the Christians here in Israel.