By Mende Kitzman and Andrea Obregon | PERU
MARIA is a young girl who lives on the outskirts of Lima. As is common in Perú, Maria’s parents are separated, and she lives with her mother and brothers.
Ever since Maria’s father left the home when she was 11, she has resented him and struggled with depression. When he came to visit for her twelfth birthday, she got angry and told him she didn’t want to see him again. Almost two years passed without a visit, and Maria’s walls of self-defense continued to grow.
Earlier this year, a neighborhood Sports Friends coach spotted Maria curiously watching as other girls her age arrived for a summer Bible program. Since the coach lives in the neighborhood, she started to notice that Maria could often be found hanging around on the street.
A few weeks later, the same coach resumed practices for her neighborhood volleyball team and again noticed Maria watching. She approached the shy onlooker and asked if she liked volleyball.
Of course Maria’s answer was ‘yes,’ – she had only been waiting for an invitation to join in! Though she had no previous experience, Maria was happy to be accepted by the group and begun regularly attending practice.
After getting to know her coach and some of the other girls on her team, Maria started to smile a little bit more. Also, once she began receiving love and learning about Jesus, Maria started sharing more about her hurts, disappointments, and the walls she had built up.
When Maria learned that God is her Heavenly Father who has always wanted her, she was filled with joy and decided to pray to receive Christ as her Savior. She immediately began to experience the peace of His presence. Since then, besides a new countenance, there have been many changes in Maria. She has started attending the local church and desperately wants to learn more about God. As a result, she not only attends the youth activities, but all of the adult Bible studies as well.
Not long after Maria accepted Christ, she transitioned into high school. Along with the continued work of processing her broken relationship with her father, she also began to experience a common temptation of the teen years: to seek love and acceptance from developing relationships with her male peers.
Again, Maria felt the safety to share these struggles with her sports ministry coach. Her coach gently challenged her to put her faith into action both in her relationship with her dad and in her relationships at school. The support and accountability of her coach has helped Maria make positive, healthy decisions.
God, through His love in Maria, has now restored the broken relationship with her father that she once mourned. Her coach has noticed that she now has a new enthusiasm at practice, at church, and in life. The Lord continues to work in and through Maria.
Maria will undoubtedly encounter new struggles as she continues to grow and walk with God. Thankfully, she won’t have to face anything on her own anymore. She now shares an abundant life with her family, her teammates, her coach, and the Lord!