Kicking goals with God

Violence, drug and alcohol abuse, hold-ups, murders, lack of education, unemployment and a loss of hope are all part of the culture for many of the young people living in the settlements in and around the city of Lae in Papua New Guinea. However, in the Hunter Settlement there are signs of hopefulness and change.

After graduating from the University of PNG law school in Pt Moresby last year, Alzaria Hombunaka was successful in securing a job as a criminal defence lawyer with the Public Solicitors Office in Lae. Alzaria has given up her privacy and the opportunity to live a more secure life and chosen to live among the people in the Hunter settlement together with her mum and grandmother in order to help make a difference.

The Hunter United Soccer Club (HUSC) started in February this year under Alzaria’s management with 4 teams playing in two different associations in the Lae area. Over one hundred young men and women literally come out of the bushes and onto the oval at Martin Luther Seminary for training three nights each week under the leadership of head coach, Lothar – an expatriate working with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELCPNG) in Lae.

When asked what has changed for them since they started playing soccer for HUSC, many of the former “rascals” said “now we are part of the team we no longer do drugs or cause trouble”. Alzaria recently organised a “gun surrender” attended by members of the government, police, law society and churches, where two young men who had been on the run from authorities for some years handed over their weapons to police. Following the surrender on May 28th, the two men immediately went to the Bethlehem House of Prayer in the settlement for counselling.

Asked why she is doing this Alzaria quickly replies “I love Jesus and depend on him. Being a follower of Jesus we can’t tell these young people to go to church – because they won’t go, but we can show them God’s love and his ways for living through the relationships we have with them in the soccer club.”

Alzaria has great hope for these young people and is making plans to provide them with practical vocational training. It’s no easy task, but Alzaria shares, “I can’t do anything without God – everything has to be done his way. We even pray together before and after the games”. Because of this, the Hunter United Soccer Club is not just an ordinary soccer club!

The Lutheran Church of Australia has had a long relationship the people in Papua New Guinea through its partner church the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea.

This story was also published in the April 2009 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.

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