How faith and football led Wash U's head coach to Iraq

There are three things in life that Washington University's Larry Kindbom knows he loves: his faith, kids, and football.

It’s considered to be one of the most dangerous places for a United States citizen to travel to right now, but for Larry Kindbom there was never any hesitation. He was going to Iraq.

"I felt that I was called to go over there," said Kindbom. "So, I really wasn’t nervous and didn’t — even in those situations — get nervous. Just more in awe of what’s going on in this world. It was just different." 

His eyes were quickly opened to a world that’s full of turmoil. Where the destruction of ISIS was everywhere he turned.

"We actually drove through an area that just weeks before had been occupied by ISIS," added Kindbom. 

As Washington University’s head football coach, Kindbom’s players inspire him by not just what they do on the field, but off it. They travel the world. They embrace different cultures. Now, it was his time.

"As we’re talking we can hear bombs in the background and it was almost surreal," he said.

A devoted follower of Christ, Kindbom’s faith led him to embark on a seven-day mission trip through Iraq, where he visited up to ten different refugee camps. 

"These are people just like you and me. They had a house. They were working. Then all of the sudden one day  it was like, 'Get out of the area' because here comes ISIS."

He immersed himself in their culture. He listened. Showed compassion. And spoke the universal language of love that everyone understands, which is known as kindness.

"I’m not in to labeling races, or gender, and part of that is because when you play sports nobody cares," said Kindbom. 

And when kindness wasn’t enough to conquer the language barrier, you know what was? Football. 

"A lot of them had never even seen football before," said Kindbom. "But they knew there was some way that they were going to be able to communicate with me and me them, and how awesome is that to be able to go into that kind of thing?"

© 2017 KSDK-TV


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