by Goran Hunjak
For two decades, Goran Hunjak was one of the most outstanding professional soccer players in the world. Between 1983 and 2005, representing teams all over America, he was named Most Valuable Player of the Year four times and Offensive Player of the Year five times. A seven-time all star, he played on the 1996 U.S. World Cup team, is one of only 16 players to score more than 500 professional goals, and one of only 10 U.S. players to score more than 1,000 points.At the height of that success, Hunjak realized it wasn’t enough. Seven years after his wife led him to saving faith in Christ, he opened a Gideon Bible in a quiet hotel room, and determined to make Christ his Lord as well as his Savior. Not long after, he began looking for a way to use his soccer skills to share Him with others. The result was Victory Soccer Camp, a summer program for children that combines top-notch coaching in the basics of the game with a clear presentation of the Gospel. More than 10,000 children have participated in the camp over the last decade —and at least one-fourth of those youngsters have found Christ through the program.
For all the success God has given us with our soccer camp, it’s still necessary to put out the word each spring … letting people know who we are and what we offer. Which is why, one April day three years ago, my wife, Gina, and my sons, Trae and Tanner, were standing inside the Overland Park Soccer Complex in our hometown of Kansas City, Kansas, handing out flyers to people moving through the facilities.
The complex is used mostly for children’s league soccer games and practices, so it naturally draws a lot of families who might be interested in our camp. It’s surrounded by public sidewalks that actually flow right into and through the complex itself, and there’s a lot of foot traffic. We had never tried handing out flyers at the complex before, but people were very receptive. Gina and Tanner handed out quite a few before the agitated man approached them.
He introduced himself as a representative of one of the local organizations renting the facility—a children’s soccer league that offers its own summer soccer programs. Apparently, they had decided not to see us as friendly competition.
“You have no right to be in here,” he said, telling my wife that his organization owned the complex. She pointed out that, in fact, the complex is owned by the city, and that she was on public property. Seeing the man’s frustration, though, she offered to move our distribution onto the public sidewalk out in front of the complex … which was where I joined them, a little later.
After a few minutes, the man came back. He didn’t want us on the sidewalk, either. “You can’t be here,” he said again. We decided to humor him. We left, and the following week, I paid a visit to City Hall, to determine for myself if the public sidewalk was as public as we thought it was.
I spent most of a day at City Hall, bouncing around from one official to another, looking for someone, anyone, who could show me a civil ordinance forbidding me to hand out flyers on the public walkways of the soccer complex. No one—not the clerks, not the city attorneys, not the police, not even the “manager of leisure services”—could find anything in the rule books that made it unlawful for my family and me to do what we’d been doing. Yet everyone still insisted we were breaking this imaginary law.
We decided to ignore the bureaucrats and go back to doing what we were clearly within our legal rights to do. The next week, we were again at the complex, handing out flyers, when an official for the facility came out and ordered us to stop. I explained to him, again, the meaning of “public sidewalk.” He wouldn’t have it—said if we didn’t leave he’d have to call the police. I told him he was welcome to do so. I couldn’t imagine they wouldn’t be on our side in this.
"Everyone still insisted we were breaking this imaginary law."
As it turned out, they weren’t on our side. “I’ll do whatever the owners tell me to do,” the officer told me, as if he were their own private security guard. “If you don’t leave, I’ll have to arrest you.”
I was born in Croatia. I grew up under Communist dictators. I know what happens when the authorities decide to crack down. We took our flyers and left. Soon after, the City Council came up with a law making the whole soccer complex a “non-public forum,” closed to free speech.
As it happens, I knew a man at our church who was an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom. I told him what had happened, and he told me we had a case. ADF could file suit against the city for us. As much as I wanted to make our point, I hesitated.
It wasn’t just knowing that the city attorneys would be putting our lives under a microscope, searching for anything that might impugn our character. This was all about our freedom to invite people to a sports camp where we’d be telling their children about Jesus. That meant there would be spiritual warfare, too. Before I put my family through that, I had to be sure this was God’s will … and not just my desire to win out over some stubborn public officials.
So, we prayed about it—a lot. And our ADF attorneys prayed with us. They assured us that there really was a great injustice being done here, and that, given the city’s actions, we had an excellent chance of winning our case in court. So we went ahead and filed the lawsuit. And won.
The Bible says, “The heart of the king is in the Lord’s hands; He turns it wherever He wishes (Proverbs 21:1).” In our case, He turned the heart of the judges to look favorably on our petition. As far as we were concerned, our decision came from Him. We felt so grateful, and at peace.
That peace was greatly magnified along the way by the godly counsel of our ADF attorneys, whose wisdom, discernment, and kind support were such a blessing to our whole family. It helped us to see that they, too, have a passion for their ministry as great as the one we feel for ours—and to see firsthand the impact that work is having in preserving our freedom to live out our faith.
Best of all is knowing how many children will have a chance to hear the Gospel, by responding to the tracts we’re handing out at the soccer complex. As a soccer man, I get a kick out of that.