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Soccer with the Boys in Ecuador

Summer is a special time for students. The four month break from school provides them with the opportunity to work in order to go back to school in the fall, take a break from the university workload, and perhaps allows some time for other recreational activities. Yet, for Providence student Julika Kehler, the summer of 2014 brought a whole new experience.

Kehler, a second year TESOL major as well as first-team All-American soccer player, had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador for three weeks in August to serve as a part of a missions team. This was her second time doing this trip, going first in the summer of 2012. The team, which was made up of mostly 16-30 year olds, left with the attitude to "be the change that you want to see in the world", and volunteered in orphanages and hospitals. They also spent a lot of time on the soccer pitch. For Kehler, most of her time was spent in between the orphanages and the soccer pitch.

"Having been on the trip before, I felt that I wanted to serve in the orphanage, because I felt like that was where the greatest need was," Kehler explained. "Yet, I also had the opportunity to play and run practice with the men's team, which was a great experience."

For many cultures around the world, soccer is much more than a sport, it is a way of life. This was the case for the Ecuadorian people, however, it was reserved mostly for the males.

"I found out that through me playing soccer with the guys, I was able to open up ideas in that culture for girls to be able to play soccer as well," stated Kehler. “They are very stern on this machismo where girls don't play soccer, girls stay inside and have kids, while soccer remains a guys sport."

Kehler explained that through her experience playing soccer with the men's teams out there, people began taking notice, and a door was opened for women to participate in the sport.

"I often take it for granted that I am able to play the sport I love, while many women in the world are not able to. This experience is not something that I take lightly."

Kehler credits her time at Providence as one of the contributors for her being able to serve in the way she did. On the soccer field, she credits women's head coach Giancarlo Calla for molding her into a more complete player, which allowed her to compete at a higher level with the men, further opening the door for women to play soccer in their country. Off the pitch, she states that Providence grew her as a person, in sociability, maturity, and spirituality, something she is really grateful for.

"Because of all these different experiences I've had, I've become a very open minded person," says Kehler. "I know there's so much more to life than what I've been told or what I've come to know. Taking things into a learning perspective makes such a difference."

It’s exciting to see Providence students taking what they have learnt from their time here and using it across the world, and we know this isn’t the only case where that has happened. But because of the work of Kehler's team, the people of Ecuador have been blessed, and the kingdom of God has been furthered. It’s our privilege to know that the work of Providence has effects not only on the local community, but the world abroad.

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