Joshua Cram has been playing soccer pretty much from the time he could walk, kick a ball and score a goal.
And yes, he turned out to be pretty good at that early on.
He was the 2013 Division II Hawaii All-State Soccer Player of the Year.
He had scholarship offers from colleges to take the field for them.
But the 2013 Kapaa High School graduate said no thank you. Instead, as one of his relatives noted, he traded his soccer cleats for missionary shoes.
Even he admits it wasn’t easy to surrender the sport — he primarily played center midfield position — that drove him to work hard, to be his best, every day.
“Giving up soccer was very difficult for me because it was definitely something I absolutely loved to do,” he said.
But despite his passion for soccer, it wasn’t number one in his life. Try number three, after family and faith.
His faith is the reason he left the soccer field, left Kauai and left the U.S. behind.
It’s the reason he’s out there sharing what he believes with others.
“Religion is a massive factor in my life and sports work around that overwhelmingly,” he said.
The son of Kevin and Kathy Cram of Kapaa is serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Following a six-week stint in the California Riverside Mission, he transferred to the Australia Perth Mission, where he’ll remain on a 24-month mission, serving western Australia.
His new duties, instead of attacking the net or zipping passes across the field to a teammate for a header, is primarily preaching and ministering to people about the Latter-day Saint religion.
“The mission has always been very important to me,” he said. “Growing up and seeing people of my faith go off to foreign lands to serve was so fascinating. I’ve always wanted to serve a mission, and to give back to a religion that has given me all I have.”
It’s not just time and talent Cram is giving up.
The current LDS mission monthly cost for young men and women in the United States is $400 a month. That comes out to a total of $7,200 for 18-month long missions for sisters, and $9,600 for young men who serve two-year missions, according to www.mormonmissionprep.com
Cram has been out for two months and so far, says he’s loved every bit of it.
“I love doing this because just being able to share something that means so much to me and knowing how much it can positively influence the lives of others,” he said.
Sports and faith
Soccer has been part of his life since he was 4 years old, and helped shape his life, Cram says. Many of his friends have come from the sport. What he says, what he thinks, can be traced back to sports.
Sports and his faith are incredibly intertwined, he said. He credits his success in sports as a direct result of his faith.
“So it definitely has affected my life tremendously,” he said.
He’s not sure what role soccer will play in his life once he completes this mission of faith.
“I will definitely continue to play but where it will take me, I’m not exactly sure,” he said.
He does know this: His faith affects every aspect of his life. His parents were LDS church members, and their son was baptized at age 8.
The Church of Latter-day Saints believes in keeping the Sabbath day holy, which means no sports on Sunday. For a kid like Cram who loved soccer so much, that was hard.
Although he didn’t get to play as much competitively as other youth, Cram said that didn’t set him back from them skill-wise.
“It meant that I could not participate in the more competitive HYSA league that went on during the fall because they had their games on Sunday,” he said. “But realizing my priorities, I was able to attend my church services and honor the commandment given.”
He has been active in his faith throughout his life. It has, he says, made him a better person. It has given him direction and purpose. It has given him strength.
“Every situation that I’ve been in, I am taught and know the right and wrong thing to do,” he said.
Cram says having focus, knowing what’s important, putting Christ first in life, keeps him on the right track.
“The one person that can help you out in all that you do, especially on the sports field, needs to be a priority in your life if you want to be successful,” he said. “So prioritizing what is most important to you really helps you to focus and to practice.”
A highlight from soccer was the last high school match he played. Being in the state championship for the third year in a row itself was an accomplishment, Cram said, but falling short the two previous years was difficult.
“Playing that last game where I had relied so much on the Lord to help the team out, we were able to win it finally and it was one of the happiest moments on my life so far,” he said.
A mission highlight is of the same nature.
There was a woman the missionaries had been teaching for some time and she was very hesitant to commit to be baptized, Cram said.
“One day we went over and had a wonderful lesson. I had a prompting to just tell her that Christ knew who she was and that he understood everything that she was going through and that he loved her very much,” he said. “She just began to cry and said thank you and that she had been having a lot of trials and doubts about her relationship with Jesus Christ.”
And to see that happiness in her life, Cram said, was awesome.
“I really look forward to having many more of those moments in the remaining 22 months here in Western Australia,” he said.