A church mission trip to Brazil sounded pretty good to Jake Sterling, a recent St. Charles East graduate and Saints soccer player.
Then more details surfaced, and the trip went from intriguing to almost too-good-to-be-true.
Three months ago, Sterling was contacted by Tim Massie, his former Campton United soccer coach, wondering if he'd be up for a soccer-themed church mission trip to Brazil through Christ Community Church in St. Charles.
Then Sterling found out the World Cup was going on in Brazil throughout the trip, scheduled for June 20-29.
Then Sterling found out the group was staying in Manaus, one of the host cities for World Cup matches.
Then Sterling found out that one of the United States' matches is scheduled for Manaus while the group is in town, June 22 versus Portugal.
"I was like 'No way, that's crazy, but Brazil is a big country, we probably won't be by the [matches],' " Sterling, an avid World Cup fan, said of his initial response upon learning the international soccer showdown coincided with the trip. "And then two weeks later … when I went to the meeting, they said we were going to be in Manaus and stadium in Manaus is a golf shot away from where we're staying. So obviously we're going on a soccer ministry trip, everyone I'm with are soccer lovers, so they were like 'Yes! We're going to be at the World Cup, that's crazy.'
"I'm going for the mission trip, but considering the World Cup is going on then, that's just the cherry on top of everything."
Sterling said the group of 14 trip members will run camps for Brazilian children at which they'll play soccer together. They also plan to run contests outside the stadium on match days; Switzerland and Honduras are scheduled to clash in Manaus on June 25. Sterling said some members of the group might consider trying to attend the U.S.-Portugal match if tickets can reasonably be purchased.
There have been reports of anger and protests in Brazil about the cost of hosting the World Cup, such as building the new "Arena da Amazonas" in Manaus. Sterling said he and his family are keeping an eye on the news reports.
"I think it's going to be a lot of … I think chaos is the right word for it, but I'm not worried," Sterling said. "I'm excited to experience it all."
Brazilians speak Portugese but Sterling said the sport of soccer has a knack of minimizing language barriers.
"With how talented that whole nation is with the sport of soccer, I think we're going to connect well through that," Sterling said. "I know I'm going to get beat a lot on 1-on-1s, and I think that's the fun of it. I think that's how we'll connect generally, just by playing with each other."
Sterling, a defender, is preparing to play college soccer this fall at Spring Arbor University (Mich.). He said maintaining his summer training program during the trip will be a challenge.
Any interruptions to his formal regimen might be counterbalanced by picking up some slick moves from the locals.
"I actually can't wait to just get lit up by players." Sterling said. "I know they're going to show me up. I'm so excited for it."