Sports Camp Builds Student Skills and Faith

Sports Camp Builds Student Skills and Faith

Already raising 21 orphans and abandoned children, Pastor Malachi and his wife Soupha could not afford to receive another. With NGO charity funding recently stopped, they survive monthly on $90 USD and digging mountain root vegetables. Yet, in God’s sovereign plan, they had invited GIS Sports Leaders to run a camp for 300 village children.

Everyone worked hard to get ready, contributing different abilities, and one senior admitted learning to be less controlling. “I was challenged to improvise in two minutes: What could 300 kids of all ages play? I’ll remember simple games are best,” Nolan Flaa said. Everybody worked hard, was energetic, smiling, with new ideas. It was impressive, how the team willingly served.

“I learned more teamwork and to not compare myself with others,” Carissa Geske said. Grace blessed village kids, acted silly, sang, laughed, had fun, even when tired. It wasn’t a perfect weekend, but they persevered. Another decided to bring a megaphone next trip —or learn to finger-whistle!

The 23 senior students plus adults learned there was little money or food at the children’s home; dormitory roofs leaked, and bamboo-slat walls were broken. But in their deepest time of need, Pastor Malachi and Kuhn Soupha wanted to share Jesus’ message of love, with the community who mocked their faith, stole their belongings, burned their kitchen, and refused free school lunch to their children—because they are Christians.

“When we saw how happy and thankful Khun Soupha was, it challenged our gratitude. I wondered, Why can’t I trust God with all my needs?” Rebekah Hambrice said.

Many students felt challenged, with only beginners’ Thai skills. “At first, I was inflexible, afraid games were too hard to explain,” Bri Allen said. Even without Thai, Grace teens played with the friendly children, who didn’t care about a language barrier. Another student leader said he usually feels nervous but felt at home singing in Thai—though not well—and acting silly in a skit. “My lack of Thai or athletic skills shouldn’t influence how I lead,” Jonathan Hull said. “I was fine acting funny, but not taking unknown risks; fear controlled me. So I pushed myself.”

Initially, some teens were afraid to lead groups of 30 villagers, 5 to 19-years-old. Yet, these seniors practiced flexibility and quick thinking, when plans changed. One student said, “I had to depend on others, I’ve never done a sports camp, can’t speak Thai, had no ideas. I was homesick and emotional, realizing “failure” was my new normal—not ideal. I had to humble myself, to embrace each moment. I felt God say: ‘You’re here for a reason. Forget language barriers; love without words.’”

In muddy wet season, Khun Soupha prayed for God to hold the rain for the three-day visit. And while it poured heavily everywhere, the village remained dry. “Though dark clouds brought doubts, I was blown-away it didn’t rain. Her faith showed me God hears! He is more real to me. I’ve reignited our relationship and ‘pray big,’ knowing He’s honored, when we ask beyond our imagination.” Amanda Shim said.

“I was nervous I’d mess up—and I did. But in my worry, God was there. I wanted to stay! Philippians 2:13 says: ‘For it is God who works in you, to will and act, according to His good purpose.’ So, I got loud and crazy, and He showed His amazing light and love through us,” Stephanie Tang said.

One Korean student didn’t feel well but thought, they only get this fun once a year, so I’ll sacrifice myself. “Then I felt better and helped more. “ When children asked what are Chiang Mai and America like, I couldn’t answer. What is a city? It’s like describing the sun!”

After the weekend, Grace leaders agreed they learned a lot through long, hot days. The ministry was better than expected! Now more thankful, their eyes and hearts are open to love unconditionally, realizing God blesses them incredibly. They watched Him work and want more faith. GIS students coached a fantastic camp, donated clothing, and raised money in Chiang Mai and across the world for dorm repairs. “We saw the host family’s joy, raising many children! We needed extra prayer,” a student said.

“What a privilege to see God’s hand, working His will,” leadership  teacher Matt Coe said.

The final day, Khun Soupha encouraged everyone: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer,” (Romans 12:12).  She and Pastor Malachi are a testament to the God they serve!