RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--The thick, humid South Asian smells flooded our nostrils, and the blank, hard stares of all the people followed us everywhere. The children quickly swarmed around us, smiling and snickering at the funny-looking white people.
Later, the older gentlemen took us to where they worked. My dad loves woodworking, so first we started at a carpenter's shop, then gradually moved on to the sawmill. The people were very excited to show us their work and let us try their tools.
Soon, more than 60 South Asian people surrounded us. The translator told us that some of the older men of the village invited us to hot tea. We graciously accepted. As we sat and drank the tea, we had the opportunity to share the story of Christ.
As we spoke, the crowd grew. Soon we were surrounded by nearly 100 people, including children, teenagers, young adults and even the elderly. The people listened intently as our translator interpreted for them. As we went through the Gospel, we handed out tracts, and the kids were literally fighting for them because we didn't have enough to go around.
After we finished our Gospel presentation, I found myself on a muddy soccer field surrounded by dozens of boys. The translator divided us into teams -- shirts and skins. I started out on the shirts team, but within a couple of minutes the leader of the village claimed the teams were unequal. I was quickly moved to the skins team that played with their shirts off. The translator soon told us why. They wanted to see if my chest was as white as my face because they weren't used to seeing white skin. I laughed at the idea, but continued to play.
Although I love running and playing basketball and baseball, my soccer experience was limited to games with my brothers in our front yard. As we continued playing, I slipped, slid and even made a few attempts at "headers," trying to make a play on the ball. I felt like I was stuck and was hardly able to run because my shoes were covered in the muck.
At least 200 people stopped to see the American guy, who was most likely the worst soccer player ever. Every time there was a hand ball or penalty, they lined me up to kick. Once I slipped and missed the ball twice before I hit it. After a while though, I started to get used to playing in all the mud. For the next hour or so, we continued -- back and forth, back and forth. I was relieved when Dad came out onto the field and paused the game for a minute.
All the kids surrounded me and watched as I pumped up one of the new soccer balls I brought from the States. When I finished, I presented it to the leader of their soccer club. As he held it high and passed it off to the kids, they continued to cheer and parade around with their new toy. This was a life-changing experience for me.
Seven dollars! That's all I spent on the ball, but they were running around like it was Christmas morning. Twenty of them sharing the same gift, and in America we complain when we have to share the PlayStation with our siblings.
I was covered head to toe in mud. The referee escorted me to a pump to wash off, and everyone followed. The cool water felt good after playing. My pants were destroyed from all that mud and I knew my mother would probably kill me when we got back for ruining my clothes, but it was all worth it.
Tim Young is a member of Parkway Baptist Church in Moseley, Va.
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