Over his eight years as a Sports Chaplain Enroy Talamahina has had plenty of experience communicating with young people – particularly young men – through his work with 1st XV rugby teams. He became a Sports Chaplain for school teams because he wanted to help these young men achieve goals in life and become good role models when they leave school.
One of the lessons that Enroy has learnt about teenage boys is that they tend not to communicate much in general. This can make it difficult to know what is going on under the surface in their lives. Often boys in the 1st XV rugby team have lives centred around rugby, and they do not take the time to see that there is a lot of life that they are not paying attention to outside of rugby.
In 2012 when Enroy was with the team as Chaplain at the Sanix World Rugby Youth Tournament in Japan he was looking for a tool for devotions. He had seen some communication tool pictures and wanted something visual to connect with the team and help them open up and be vulnerable to each other.
Someone had recommended Soularium to him as an option, so he decided to try it out. As he prepared to start the devotion he laid the 50 pictures of Soularium out on the ground and asked the players to pick up three cards that represent where they are and where they want to get to.
So the boys looked at the pictures and picked some out.
Enroy then told the players that he was going to ask them to do something that they might find difficult. He was going to ask them to share why they had chosen the pictures they had chosen.
It was one of the junior players who led off. He had picked a picture with stairs going up. He said, “I was down here, and each step represented a different stage in my life, and now I’m in a place where I can see my future as I get closer to the top.”
After this example of honest vulnerability, the rest of the players began to open up and share about the issues that they were going through. This helped shift the team culture to one of openness and accountability.
People opened up in unexpected ways. Even some of the team management opened up and were vulnerable in new ways. One of the senior management became quite emotional as he described a picture of a broken down and rusted bicycle and said, “That was me …”
For some of the players Enroy has worked with he has found that the pictures allow them to communicate what they don’t have the words to say. More than once he has had a player hold up a picture with tears in their eyes and unable to say any more, and has understood the courageous step they have just taken in sharing a deep personal hurt or struggle.
In Enroy’s experience a tool like Soularium is huge in having real conversations with young people. As a result of the conversations he has been able to have, many of the members of the teams he chaplains have asked him to pray for them. The visual aspect of the tool means that they can open up as much as they feel comfortable to at the time. It has helped him build a culture of respect for the message and character of Christ in the teams he works with. He says that a tool like this gives him the tools he needs to open doors to the conversations Jesus wants him to have.