I had my third Wells Thompson Soccer Camp several weeks ago.
It was an absolute blast! Our mission is to use the game of soccer to love on kids and show them Jesus. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s all totally worth it, I mean totally worth it! The kids really love the camp and hopefully it’s impacting them eternally. That’s our ultimate hope. We completely affirm Paul, that “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8 NLT) Thankfully we do hear some amazing testimonies of how God uses camp to inspire, encourage and draw kids close to Jesus, but we don’t always get to see its full impact. We never really know what’s truly being done in the lives and hearts of those involved. It would be rad (yes I just used rad) if we could though.
Camp is one of my most favorite things in the world.
I get to take something that I love and am talented in, soccer, and use it for the glory of God. I get to do this as a professional athlete as well, but camp’s a little different. There’s no pressure to perform. I can fully focus on others. I can be a goof. I can wear American flag tights and a Congolese flowered ‘getup’ and get away with it.
For three years I’ve had camps at Forsyth Country Day School, a gorgeous and spacious private school right outside of my hometown, Winston-Salem, NC. I actually went to high school there. (It’s also the place where my wife started stalking me… I mean, where we fell in love.) It’s an overnight camp, so the kids AND us coaches, along with several fortunate parents, spend the night on the gym floor in sleeping bags and blow up mattresses. My back never really agrees with this arrangement, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. (I can only imagine how the parents feel). The kids love it. Now, they don’t get a good night’s rest, that’s for dawgon sure. Nobody does. But that’s okay, as long as they’re having fun right? The smart ones bring ear phones or plugs and sleep right through the chaos. But for the most part, we all stay up until around 1am waiting and praying for the kids to calm down and go to sleep. How can you blame them? (check out camp pics here).
This year was a little different.
There was one special camper who was not able to be there. In body, at least. Oh you better believe he was there in spirit. I could feel him. His presence was so real. His name is Nathan Clark. He came to camp the first two years, but wasn’t able to be there (in body) this year because he went home to be with Jesus a little more than one year ago. A tragedy, no doubt., but one that God has used beyond, I think, anyone’s wildest imagination for good and the glory of God.
Nathan was missed ginormously!
His huge grin and contagious spirit are irreplaceable. All those who knew him know what I’m talking about. But it was so amazing to gather with those who knew him and with those who didn’t, to enjoy the beautiful game Nathan loved so much and played so fearlessly. Off the field he was sweet, polite and jovial, but on the field it was all business. He reminds me of someone I know all too well…
It was such a privilege to use Nathan to point to Jesus.
That almost sounds bad doesn’t it? Unless you know Jesus, it does. But it’s what Nathan would want. And still wants. You see, I believe that Nathan is more alive now than he has ever been. And it’s what Jesus calls all of His followers to do. “Decrease so that He can Increase.” It’s John 3:30 and it’s also one of my favorite Bible verses.
Nathan’s at home. He’s with His Maker, Father, Friend, and Savior! He’s at peace. He’s where he belongs. Even though Nathan isn’t on this earth with us anymore, he’s still teaching and impacting lives like a maniac. He’s teaching me to enjoy every moment. He’s teaching me to be more grateful, enjoy life, laugh more and to not take things for granted. He’s teaching me that we’re made for a purpose. Not for ourselves, but for the greatest purpose: to know the one true God, Jesus Christ. He’s teaching me that nothing is guaranteed. Except death. It’s coming for all of us. We’re all dying. Some of us just faster than others.
What do you think? Do you think you’ll see Nathan again? Do you think this earth is all there is?
Hear me out, just for a moment.
I believe if Nathan could audibly speak to us, here’s what I think he’d say.
“I’m in my eternal home now!
It’s all true! This place is absolutely magnificent.
Human words cannot explain it,
And I’m so alive, so free, so happy, so perfectly content.
I’m home now!
My mind is clear, all pain is gone,
My hopes and dreams have all been satisfied.
The moment I left earth’s shores and landed here in Heaven.
Thank God, I’m home now!
There are no misunderstandings in this place.
No anger, no harsh words, no hurt feelings, no selfish acts, no problems on my part or that of others.
I’m home now!
The greatest thrill was to see my Savior – face to face.
If I could cry, I would, but I’m just consumed with such joy and love that it defies comprehension.
It’s just unexplainable. But I’m better off now than in all my earthly years.
I’m home now!
I’m filled with God’s glory and with His radiance.
If I could speak from this side to your side, I would say that the old adage is never out of date.
It goes, ‘Only one life, it will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.’
(Rev. T Allen)
I think he would also say: “I miss and love you Dad, Mom, all my family and friends so much. Everybody, please trust in Jesus! He is who He says He is. And you don’t want to miss this place. It’s AMAZING. See y’all soon!’
I found an article recently on my desk about Nathan.
As I reflected on Nathan and scanned the article, a quote from Ben Kerth, one of Nathan’s soccer coaches and mentors jumped off the page at me. Ben said, “Nathan loved soccer and he loved Jesus.” It stuck out to me like a mullet in a country club. What a statement! What a testimony! I know that when I die and go home that people will say I loved soccer. But I hope and pray they say, first and foremost, that I loved Jesus more than anything. That’s the greatest legacy any of us can leave to those behind. And the greatest purpose any of us can accomplish in life. Loving Jesus!
Nathan’s changed my life. And continues to!
Ain’t it absolutely mind blowing and incredible what God can do? In only 13 years, Nathan left a legacy that is unrivaled. One that God continues to use in radical and incomprehensible ways! He does tell us though, and shows us all the time, that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Whatchya say we start believing it!