They first started out at Greenville early in the morning. They left from St. Louis and arrived in San Jose, the largest city in Costa Rica. The team went with SCORE International. This organization does mission trips around the world with sports teams and churches.
The Greenville Men’s Soccer Team started their second day in Costa Rica at a school named St. Francis at 9:30 that morning. At the school, they got the opportunity to put on a clinic for 14 to 15-year-olds, about 15 boys and 15 girls. “If these kids had half as much fun as our team did, then they had a good time because we had a blast,” midfielder Caleb Mulholland said. For over an hour, they played soccer. The kids knew English and Spanish, so there was not really a language barrier. They even scrimmaged a little with the children. Mulholland mentioned,
“I would be lying if I told you I didn’t have to pick up my ankles several times after these kids blew by me. What really stood out to me in this experience happened at the end. One of the players, John Adams, gave a testimonial to everyone out on the field. He really expressed God’s love and how He has worked in his life. Afterward, one of the girls stood up and thanked us for coming and playing with them and explained how she felt connected to us not only as a soccer player but a follower of Christ… such a powerful statement because we should be thanking them for this experience and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I can’t help but think about how evident [it is] that God and faith are a universal language like soccer. I may not know Spanish very well, but through soccer, I was able to connect and share my own relationship with God.”
After a quick practice, the team headed to a restaurant, then to the artisan market. Mulholland commented,
San Jose is a beautiful city with so many colors and when you can peek out of the crowded streets, you can see a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains. We are two days in and I have already marked this down as an incredible experience. The weather, the food, the companions I’m traveling with, the people of Costa Rica, and soccer every night is like a dream for me. I do have to mention the people of Costa Rica for a second because they are amazing. There is a sincerity and realness in their joy that they seem to have 24/7, which blows my mind.”
On the third day, they had their first game. They started the day at 6:30 a.m. and got on the bus for three hours to the Estadio Municipal Carlos Ugalde Alvarez. After a long drive through the Costa Rican countryside, they arrived. “The competition was good, and although we fought hard, we ended up losing 5-1, with a last-minute goal by Jonathan Adams to break their shutout. The opposing team was very humble in their victory and thanked us for coming out to play,” sophomore Ian Maclean said.
Their SCORE leader shared some words of Christ with both teams after the game and they gave them a set of their jerseys as gifts. “Overall, we are all grateful for this chance to share the game of soccer and glorify God across the world,” Maclean mentioned.
On the fourth day, their morning started early. They went to an orphanage Glorioso Dia (Glorious Day) to help them improve their facilities. They arrived at Glorioso Dia and were given a tour of the place. Their leader gave them some history about the place. “One thing that stuck out to me is that here in Costa Rica kids are allowed to come and go in an orphanage,” stated goalkeeper Micheal Gonzalez. “Glorioso Dia is different; they not only care for the boys here but also teach them about God and try and give values to boys who have no parents. Each boy has a different story. While working I was able to chat with a few of them. I am one of four players that speak Spanish on the team, which is great because I get to communicate with people left and right.
“Each boy’s story is different but one that stands out with me was a boy named Marvin. Marvin is about 14 years old. He came up to me and we began to talk. He asked if I spoke Spanish and I replied ‘yes.’ From there the conversation continued and then he told me he went to school because he had two goals in life. He said his first goal was to learn English. His second goal he said was to get a job as a chef.”
After finishing the project, they had lunch and headed to a local gym to play some dodgeball and futsal with the boys. After a couple matches of dodgeball and futsal, they had to say goodbye to the boys. “The team was thankful for the experience. It gave us joy to be able to give these boys a few hours of happiness and love. This is an experience that many of the team, including myself will never forget,” said Gonzalez. After they left the orphanage, they went and watched a professional soccer match in San Jose between La Liga and Olympia.
On the fifth day, They started the off going to an elementary school and running a clinic in San Jose. Jon Adams stated,
We showed the Ticos (that is what the Costa Ricans call themselves) how to pass, dribble, shoot all with the ball, but what was really good was watching those kids without the ball. The main goal was to keep the kids interested for two hours, which can definitely be hard, but it was super easy and fun with tons of relay races and shooting. These kids were having a blast with each other in piggy-back rides, dance-offs, and even log tag. Coach and I watched and almost fell over laughing as an 11-year-old kid carried Caleb Mulholland in one of the relays. Caleb barely had his feet off the ground, but the kid was still running with this 20-year-old, 160-pound college student on his back. After the penalty kicks with the girls ended in a tie, a dance-off decided who would win the title of best players in women’s Costa Rican history, or so they thought. Joy was in the air along with the many happy cheers as the entire Greenville Men’s Soccer Team faced the fierce 30 Ticos. As the dust settled on the field, the Ticos won 2-1. We said our goodbyes, ciaos, and adioses, laughing as we left.”
After lunch, they played San Jose F. C. at their home field, and both teams fought hard.
On the sixth day, their final game day, they competed against Guacimo. This city was on the outskirts of the rainforest of Costa Rica. The team got on the bus around 9:15 in the morning, having a two-and-a-half hour drive through the rainforest. “On the drive, we saw the beauty of God’s work in the world — seeing the huge rivers, the wildness of the trees, and heat that the jungle brings,” stated Donovan Graydon, sophomore midfielder.
The team got to play on a grass surface, and this game was in the blazing heat, so they got several breaks under the trees. The team won 3-1 after a really hard game and gave the other team their jerseys. Then GU athletes went to a local church where they fed them lunch and gave them ice cream for winning the game. After they ate they helped clean up the church. The team stopped for dinner and arrived back home around 7:45 that night. They had group devotion when they got back, which was led by Max Schimmelpfenning telling his story about learning that God is everywhere, that God is in nature and will always be with you.
Their seventh day was their final day. They started the morning off on a trip to an active volcano that was nearly 11,000 feet in elevation. After that, they had lunch and stopped by the Basilica, learning the church’s history. They finished the day off with a church service with another team associated with SCORE International.
These guys definitely had a great time and did amazing mission work. One can definitely tell God’s hand was on this mission trip the whole time. This trip definitely impacted the lives of all the players.