It continues to be about relationship building for FCA leader Terry Lingenhoel, who has served in Hungary for over three decades.
Lingenhoel first came to Hungary in 1991 with a long-term goal to build and maintain relationships. In 2002, he narrowed in on sports as his ministry focus as a way to serve together with his teenage children. It can oftentimes take a while for Hungarians to connect in relationships, and then open to the Gospel, so Lingenhoel has honed his patience and focuses on baseball and softball in the town of Érd. He runs camps, clinics, and club leagues, pouring into coaches and athletes at every level.
Along with his own clubs and camps, Lingenhoel travels across the country helping with other ball clubs and sharing the vision of FCA. He’s on the board of the European Baseball Coaches Association and trains coaches in the values and practical concepts of the sport.
Hungary is heavy on club sport rather than through schools, which means Lingenhoel and his team recruit, train and develop male and female ball players from t-ball to the Division 1 university level. Since there are no timeline breaks between school years like school athletics would have, this is a year-round commitment. FCA Hungary provides training to accommodate the consistent sports seasons, but they often had to cancel or put off practices and games due to inclement weather, as all their fields and facilities were outdoors.
Not an ideal situation, but the team started raising support for a facility. In 2019, the support was fully funded, and began assembly of a tent structure on piece of land owned by the local government. The facility, completed in 2020, is equipped with two batting cages, the tent can be extended into a full dirt infield for defensive work. There is also an observation platform for parents to observe practice. This now affords year-round practices and further service to athletes while connecting with players and their families.
“It’s been a great blessing for us even in the regular season and camps in the summer,” said Lingenhoel. “If we have a rainy day, it’s nice not to have to worry about where to go.”
Lingenhoel’s club approach emphasizes building relationships and inviting the entire family into the sport. Parents are encouraged to watch practices, attend games, and even volunteer their time as an assistant coach or board member. Many parents are on his board, sharing the same values and appreciated what Lingenhoel and his team does for communities.
Camps are another big piece of connection, using both positions of player and coach as opportunities for relationship building and sharing the Gospel, as many attendees are unfamiliar with the Christian faith. Lingenhoel uses every opportunity he gets to guide interns, coaches, athletes and parents towards an introduction to Jesus after getting to build personal connections. He also hires players from other countries who come to Hungary to help coach the club teams. Not every coach in this program is a believer, which offers a chance for Lingenhoel and his volunteers to live out the Gospel through interaction and minister to more coaches.
“It’s a great opportunity to serve and see us be part of our staff and serving,” he said. “Having great long-term relationships give an opportunity to share faith over time.”
It has been a long road of building relationships and patience. FCA Hungary currently runs three Huddles, one for coaches and two for players.
Lingenhoel is hopeful that in the next year he can start a club Huddle, as well as open a new baseball and softball academy, while growing relationships and influence in other European countries to build baseball communities. Lingenhoel likes to connect in both the long and short term to develop baseball ministry.
“We do one-to-two-month terms that are really crucial in equipping local pastors who are interested in sports ministry, said Lingenhoel. “Church leaders see how effective it is in connecting with the youth.”
Lingenhoel’s desire is to raise up more FCA leaders to come to Hungary and teach and develop these church leaders in baseball ministry. He’s preparing for long-term growth by prepping leaders for the here and now.
“We want to see athletes coming over to train and coach and leverage baseball ministries in these communities. It’s about getting the Gospel to them and growing it into other countries.”
Please pray for the start up of a club Huddle, as well as the baseball and softball academy and the search for a director. Pray for wisdom for Terry as he leads coaches and athletes.
Get involved in donating sports equipment through Operation FCA. Click here: Operation FCA
Click here to financially support Terry and his ministry, and visit www.fcaworld.org to learn more about what God is doing around the globe through FCA.
Photos courtesy of Terry Lingenhoel