Megan Dunnigan: My Story
“The only way you’re going to reach places you’ve never gone is if you trust God’s direction to do things you’ve never done.” – Germany Kent
Nearing the end of my college soccer career, I was given the opportunity to play professionally overseas. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, something that seemed to be every young player’s dream growing up, but it hadn’t been mine. Or at least I didn’t realize it at the time. Instead, my plans looked completely different as I was studying to work in the medical field and dreamt of one day doing medical missions overseas. I desired to serve and help others, but had no idea what that might look like.
Growing up, I was never the best player on the field and I didn’t attend a top name college like some of my teammates. For that reason, the idea of becoming a professional athlete seemed to be a dream that was hard to grasp. However, I worked hard through college and stayed disciplined as a student-athlete. I continued to grow as a player and lead the team as a captain for two years. I finished my career by making school history with four conference championships and becoming one of the first players to sign a professional contract.
I left immediately after graduation to pursue my first season abroad in Iceland. My love for the game grew stronger and I matured exponentially as both a player and a person. I was faced with challenges like adjusting to a completely different culture and language, the time difference between my family & friends, and the moments of feeling isolated and alone. My first season abroad allowed me to trust God more than ever before. Then, what I initially planned to be just one season overseas, somehow turned into four and also some of the best years of my life. A dream that once seemed out of reach became my reality, and I watched God so graciously replace my plans with His.
After each season, I would return home to Texas to train hours upon hours each day, waiting for the next opportunity to come along. During most off-seasons, several months would go by without receiving any offers, and at times I didn’t know if I would step onto the field again. I learned to trust that God would lead me where He wanted me, knowing that it could potentially not include soccer. Yet I continued to train to the best of my ability and chased after the desire He had grown in my heart. Each year, God faithfully sent me back to Iceland to compete with a new team at a higher level, and what was once a foreign place soon became a country that I called my second home.
During the 2018 season in Iceland, I was invited by my American roommate to join Ambassadors for the Rwanda Tour. She had served on a previous tour in Peru, and when she told me of her experiences on the trip, a desire stirred in my heart to join. Immediately, I
committed to the Rwanda Tour, and four short months later we were traveling 24+ hours across the world to spread the love of Jesus through the game of soccer.
The Rwanda Tour was nothing short of life-changing. It was amazing to watch God work in and through the hearts of our team, outpouring His love onto the Rwandan kids and people. We spent 10 days coaching clinics, playing games against the women’s national team,
exploring the city, and learning about the hardships and suffering of the Rwandan Genocide that took place 25 years ago. The clinic days were filled with hours on the field as hundreds of kids ran around with a ball at their feet and the biggest smile on their faces. We split up in groups to coach them in skills and fun games, while always finishing with everyone’s favorite – a classic scrimmage.
Laughter was heard from every section of the field, “GOALLLLL” celebrations screamed loud every few minutes, and each game usually followed by an African dance celebration. We had breaks off the field where we talked to the children about the horrifying reality of sexual abuse, which happens far too often to girls their age. We followed with stories from the Bible as a source of encouragement, and verses were read aloud and memorized in their native language. Apart from the clinics, we trained and prepared for two games against the Rwandan Women’s National Team. This experience was incredible in so many ways. The Ambassador’s team was made up of elite players from all over the country, most of us meeting for the first time, and coming together to serve and work alongside each other in mission, both on and off the field. The team so gracefully and organically worked together, encouraged, respected, and carried each other to win both games against the national team, in a way that glorified God in every single moment on the field. Respectfully, the Rwandan girls put up a battle and proved themselves of their high talent. These games were historic for the Rwandan Women’s National Team and the result of their high performance gave their program the recognition from the Football Federation for future opportunities.
The Rwanda Tour encompassed God’s provision and love in such abundance. He provided in ways that we could never explain, working in and through the hearts of the people we encountered. God poured out His love and grace through the game of football and allowed us to use our talent to bring joy to those Rwandan kids and people. I was reminded of the gift this God-given talent is and how it can be used for such a greater purpose.
When reflecting on the tour and the past four years as a professional soccer player, I see the Lord’s guidance in each and every step along the way. The moment I surrendered my plans, He faithfully answered the desires of my heart in a way that I could have never imagined. The dream I once had to do medical missions overseas, came to life in a completely different way through the game of soccer.
My encouragement to any player is to continue to persevere and chase after your dreams, because no dream is too big or too far. Be coachable and dedicate your time to learning and growing in all aspects of life. Recognize the desires that God has placed on your
heart and trust in the direction that He is leading you. You will face trials and hardships along the way, but God is walking with you through it all. It’s likely that even in the midst of chasing after your dreams, life will not look anything like what you had in mind. But we can always and forever trust that He knows what’s best, because His way is always better.