By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
As the U.S. becomes a global nation, Brad Wos has a goal of bringing those nations together through soccer.
That?s a part of what brought him to Iowa Wesleyan this past weekend to lead the IW soccer students, many of whom moved to the U.S. at the beginning of the semester, in a game of Futsal. Futsal is the official version of indoor soccer recognized by FIFA. This version of soccer is internationally recognized and is one of the fastest-growing soccer games in the world, Brad said.
Although it was a chilly 36 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, Oct. 28, about 15 IW soccer players and high school students who attend Wellspring Evangelical Free Church came out to form teams. Brad called the players together, opening the games in prayer.
?The purpose of today is to build community,? Brad said. He prayed that the players would learn each other?s stories and develop friendships.
?Right here at IW, you have the nations,? Brad said, who has worked with four World Cups and one Olympic Games.
Brad and his wife Patty Wos call themselves a global family. Along with their children, they were missionaries in South Africa for 13 years before moving back to St. Louis, Mo., where the Wos? are starting a semiprofessional soccer team.
Before the Futsol games kicked off at IW on Saturday, Brad said that the players who impressed him that day would have the opportunity to try out for the Club Athletico team, which is expanding to other areas of Missouri as well as Sioux City, Des Moines and the Quad Cities. Brad will be returning to IW in April.
?This is the first time for something like this here,? Kent Rynders, with Wellspring, said. ?If (the IW soccer players are) interested, it could get really big.?
Patty said that it would be a privilege for these players to get to play on a semipro team, even though it?s unpaid. ?A lot of these guys love soccer enough they just want to keep playing competitively,? she said. ?It?s more about the joy of playing soccer.?
As the soccer players juggled the ball with their heads, Brad started talking to them about their respective homes. The students came from all over the world, from Ecuador, Venezuela, Australia and Italy.
?This isn?t about us,? Brad said. ?This is about them.? To the students, he said, ?We?re glad you?re here in America.?
The students who came out to play said that although it was cold, they would take any opportunity to play in a competitive soccer game.
Paolo Ancona, from Italy, said that he was an exchange student in Buffalo, NY, in high school, and when given the opportunity to play soccer and live in the U.S., couldn?t pass it up.
Jose Baldo, from Ecuador, said that as the team is mostly international students, it?s hard to come together as a team at first. ?But it?s a new challenge,? Baldo said. ?New relations, new friends.?
The weekend was coordinated by Roy Libby at Wellspring Evangelical Free Church. Brad serves as the Multicultural Director of the EFCA Central District. For the past few weeks, fliers about his visit have been passed around the church promoting Brad?s visit.
That?s what brought the team of high school boys to the Futsol field on Saturday. Jaden Davis said he thought it sounded like fun, got some of his guys together and made team T-shirts.
After the first half of the first game, Davis came off the field. ?Only three of us play soccer, but I think we?re doing a bit better than we expected,? he said, smiling sheepishly.
Libby said the whole purpose of this was to build relationships with people from all over the world and hopefully lead them to Christ. He said that Wellspring recently took Brad and Patty on as missionaries, supporting them financially with monthly donations.
The Wos? are currently in the process of raising money to get a $15 million soccer complex built in St. Louis. Brad said the purpose of a complex is to build faithful families. The complex won?t serve as only soccer fields, but it will act as a church. Brad explained that the year 2040 will be the first non-white majority culture in the U.S. Because of that, the traditional way of doing church is going to look different.
?They?re going to be a global generation,? Brad said.
Speaking at Wellspring on Sunday, Brad showed a picture of one of his semipro teams, saying that all the men were refugees. ?They grew up in war. That?s all they know,? he said.
?Sports has become a strategic way for us to build community,? Brad said on Sunday. ?You?ve seen Ferguson,? Brad continued, referring to the violent demonstrations that took place in the race-divided Missouri city last year.
Brad explained that 90 percent of international students never step into an American home. ?What a coach becomes is a father to the fatherless.?
It?s important to Brad that all international students find a place to call home, reminding the Wellspring community that one simple thing they can do is invite an international student over for Thanksgiving.
?America is now the third largest missions field in the world,? Brad said. ?This is the missions field. What this is all about is really connecting and welcoming the foreigners. So often it?s easy for us as churches to do missions elsewhere.?
As a missionary to South Africa for 13 years, Brad is passionate about connecting international students to one another and believes in the power of sports to do that. After returning from South Africa and settling down in St. Louis for a while, Brad and his family thought their next mission field was Brazil. God intervened.
?God said to stay here in St. Louis,? Brad said. When speaking at Wellspring, Brad added that he spent two years seriously wishing he could live cross culturally rather than in the States. However, as the fastest growing foreign-born city in the U.S., Brad has his work cut out for him in St. Louis.
Overall, the theme Brad kept coming back to over the weekend was connecting with his neighbors. In St. Louis, those neighbors are the nations. The city is already 50 percent non-white, leading the U.S. in diversity and giving a glimpse into what the future of the country will look like.
?Everywhere in the world, soccer is the number one sport,? Brad said.
?Soccer is a great way to break down those walls of separation, find out you have a common ground, and take down those walls of prejudice.? Patty continued.
?We have the nations coming to us,? Brad said. ?We can disciple the nations right here.?