Clara Wong hails from Michigan and recently volunteered for 3 months with RYAA as part of a gap year between high school and college. Below is her final reflection on her time with us as she goes back to Michigan, and likely to Honduras for her next adventure. We miss her already! Follow her blog at http://clarasviajescondios.blogspot.com
Following God—what an adventure. Sometimes there is so much to say, so much that He’s taught, so much to be thankful for, that finding words is overwhelming. But I will try anyway! These past three months in East Palo Alto have been such an amazing time of growth and joy.
It probably seems foolish in the eyes of the world to coach soccer without an ounce of experience with playing soccer, let alone coaching it. And it probably is foolish. Soccer is not my strength. But in this time, God has taught me more fully what it means that in our weakness, He can be stronger. I remember one time in particular, when my assistant coach, who has been a huge help, was last-minute unable to make it to practice. He usually lead the first half of practice, and I the second half, and I had prepared ahead of time expecting it to be that way. When I found out twenty minutes before practice that he wasn’t coming, I scrambled to figure out more activities to do, but came up rather dry. But the time came, and I had to go without much plan. I walked to the field, praying, “God, I really need you to come through tonight! I don’t know how I am going to lead this team well! I honestly feel like I really don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know a lot about soccer and I feel like I can’t improvise. Please, provide!” and He did. I asked one of the players dads, a former soccer player, if he would be willing to help out with some drills that night. He was more than happy to help and led the boys through drills until the sun was gone. I saw for one of the first times in my life what it means to rely on God. Honestly, in my life, most of the places I’ve been, I can handle everything. How many times have I said, “God, help me,” and then proceeded to do everything on my own power? But this time, God took me to a place that was actually beyond myself. I cried out to God and He provided. He didn’t magically give me knowledge about soccer or how to coach. Because He has something different in store. This is not ABOUT me knowing everything there is to know about soccer. It’s not about doing everything I can to keep from looking stupid! When I came to the end of myself, I saw a parent involved in his child’s life, and in the life of the community. I saw him engaging, I saw him living vicariously through the boys. And if I knew what I was doing, that wouldn’t be the case. God really moved that night, and it was in a great moment of weakness.
I believe that God has also begun to make me a more honest person. In my time here, I played with kids during recess at Cesar Chavez school. I quickly saw much brokenness and many kids in difficult situations. The sense of hopelessness was strong. At first, I tried to fend off this hopelessness through optimism; I would use one positive interaction or one “good day” to assume that everything was going to turn around and be alright. But God broke through those walls of over-optimism and made me more honest with myself and with Him. When I let the hurt and the heartache get to me, it really did. It was hard to believe that a few minutes of playing could do ANYTHING for the amount of brokenness in that place. It was even more hard to believe that God was actually PRESENT there. I began to doubt if He was moving at all. Turns out that place of doubt was the first step in God teaching me what it means to live in a world that is “still trembling in the wake of the fall” and yet to never forget that we serve a God who is ultimately going to wipe away every tear. We are living between the already and the not yet. Christ already did what it takes for us to live with God; but He hasn’t come back yet. He is going to bring foretastes of redemption, yes; but final redemption has not come yet, and until it does, there will still be tears for all those hurting. And our job is to keep letting our hearts be broken for the brokenness, so that we hunger more for Christ to come. Through time and many wise, encouraging people, God brought me to a place of peace, where I realized that He hears the cries of His afflicted ones and will surely finish whatever work He started. This is perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since being here.
I am so grateful for the three months I’ve had in East Palo Alto, to get a bigger glimpse of life and of the God we serve. It has been an immense privilege and I hope I never stop thanking God for it.