When Clay Goodson played with the U.S. national soccer team at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer, he wore a piece of tape on his wrist that simply read “Jesus.” That’s because he wanted to remind himself that everything he does on the soccer field is for the Lord, above all else.
Clay and his wife, Kelsey, are part of Hverdagskirken Foursquare Church in Kristiansand, Norway, pastored by John Henry and Lisbeth Nosen. John Henry, who also serves as national leader for Foursquare Norway, defines the Norwegian word “Hverdagskirken” as “Everyday Church” and emphasizes their desire to see Christians live consistently for Christ, every day. Nowhere is this message lived out more clearly than in the daily lives of Clay and Kelsey Goodson.
Clay has played soccer since he was a child, and by age 17 his club team had won two U.S. national soccer championships. He played soccer for the University of Maryland and was drafted in the first round, seventh pick, to play professionally for a major league soccer team in Dallas. After four years he was a free agent, and in 2008 he acheived his childhood dream of playing for the U.S. national team. Ironically, Clay joined the pool of players who would represent the U.S. after signing a three-year deal with the Norwegian soccer league.
“When you are on the Lord’s path, even professional decisions will be in line with His plan for you,” Clay told foursquare.org.
Still, it is remarkable that the couple met in the first place. Clay is from Virginia; Kelsey is from Washington. They never would have met in the states, Kelsey admits, and their “chance” meeting in Norway was indeed providential.
God took them around the world for very different reasons: Kelsey wanted to connect with her Norwegian roots, and Clay was taking a big step of faith in his career. On Kelsey’s last night vacationing in Norway, they met. Clay told his Norwegian teammates the next day that he had fallen in love. The same day, he called his pastor and his father in the U.S., and told them he had met the girl who would become his wife.
“It was a divine appointment,” Kelsey says, and after a four-month international courtship, Clay and Kelsey married. “He is my dream man,” she says, “and my best friend.” Clay tells her that she is his No. 2, emphasizing that Jesus Christ is always No. 1.
Soccer is an important part of their lives, but the game never comes before their marriage or their relationship with Jesus.
“Clay never prays for a win or a goal during a soccer match,” Kelsey says, “but rather he prays for protection and a platform as a professional athlete to share the love of Christ with others.”
For two years running, Clay has been voted the fan favorite player in Norway, and his fame is spreading. Throughout Scandinavia and in the U.S., Clay gives his testimony as he speaks to soccer fans and tells them that when he is feeling tired or discouraged on the field, he looks at that piece of tape on his wrist and sees “Jesus.” Then, he remembers to give his all to the Lord and to represent Christ in all things.
Playing for the U.S. in the World Cup was an unprecedented thrill for Clay, and the team victory wasn’t so bad either. Head coach Bob Bradley selected Clay and 22 other players for the final roster from among the 30 men who were called to the World Cup training camp in the spring. Clay was one of two players to start and play the majority of the World Cup send-off matches. He assisted in goals and helped his team win the group in the World Cup, beating England’s legendary team in goals.
Kelsey especially remembers the feeling she had when Landon Donovan scored the winning goal for the U.S. team in stoppage time against Algeria.
“The stands were full of American fans screaming for joy, hugging strangers,” she recalls. “As I watched grown men cry for pride and the joy they felt for their country, their sport, their boys, I was reminded of how blessed Clay and I are for him to be a member of our U.S. World Cup team,” she affirms.
Though the U.S. team lost by one goal in the next match against Ghana, Clay believes the team’s experience in the World Cup was successful. Part of that success, at least for Clay and Kelsey, is an increased opportunity to share their faith in Christ and His love for the people of the world.
Back in Norway, Clay and Kelsey see a great spiritual need among the people of their newfound home. Although almost 95 percent of the population claims to be a part of the national Lutheran Church of Norway, only an estimated three percent to five percent of the people attend church on any given Sunday.
“Norway needs Jesus,” the couple asserts, and they are doing their part to help reach the nation for Christ.
Clay is a “full-time missionary with soccer shoes on,” describes John Henry Nosen. “Since he is an extremely good soccer player, he is often on the front pages of local and national media.” He says Clay maintains a crystal clear Christian witness on and off the field, and is an effective voice for the Lord in a mission field where only professional athletes can serve.
As they share their faith in Christ with others, Clay and Kelsey hope the testimony of God’s leading in their lives—and how He miraculously brought them together—will help them make a spiritual impact in Norway and around the world.
By: Rod Light, an ordained Foursquare minister and educator in Los Angeles