Born in the southern part of a Southeast Asian country, Dan* grew up around soccer with a dad who coached and passed his enthusiasm for the sport onto his son. They’d spend hours playing together, and Dan would sit in on his dad’s practices. Naturally, this love of soccer drove him to play during primary school and at university, where he also stepped into other sports like football and lacrosse.
During those years, he met John*, the country’s FCA Director. He knew about the work John did but didn’t fully understand the ministry aspect combined with sports.
Dan grew up in a Christian household but made his faith his own at age 17. As he grew in his faith and education, Dan continued to play soccer in a professional setting, but he couldn’t quite merge the two.
“I loved Jesus, but I also loved sport and I didn’t think to play for Him,” said Dan. “I played for myself. I trained really hard, all for my glory.”
After John began to explain about blending his two passions, Dan’s perspective started to shift. He realized every chance he had to play sport was a chance to connect with people.
Dan trained with the U-18 national team and played with them for a few years before graduating in 2017. He went to work in finance but didn’t want to say goodbye to sports, and he couldn’t remove himself from the competitive environment. Something about the rush of excitement, the rules of the game, and camaraderie of team captivated him. He wanted to get into coaching and stay in step with any sport possible.
He reached out to John and asked to still be involved. John quickly responded with an affirmative yes, and then he took a step deeper.
“He asked me, ‘Do you love sport?’ and I said yes,” Dan recounted. “Then he asked, ‘Do you love Jesus?’ and I said of course. Then he said, ‘Do you want to do more than just play?’ And he shared about sport ministry.”
Curiosity piqued and Dan attended a training in South Korea in 2017 where he was introduced to the concept of discipleship. Here, his heart grew for coaching as well as for university students. He began to formulate a loose plan for ministry, looking at what was already presented around him.
“I learned to coach, and I began to think about what would be best for my university students,” Dan explained. “There were already frisbee teams formed at universities, and it was an inexpensive sport without a lot of equipment. They can play anywhere, they just need space.”
In 2018, Dan attended a sports conference in Singapore and further got to know FCA; shortly after, he began onboarding as staff.
But Dan’s energy stalled shortly after the thrust into ministry. Knee surgery to repair a torn ACL slowed down his active lifestyle for healing, a near impossible feat that took a toll on the young man who’d been both athlete and coach for many years. How would he play sports again? What was the purpose of sports ministry if he couldn’t live it out himself?
“I thought, I cannot do this,” Dan said. “I was tired, frustrated and ready to quit the ministry.”
But a timely message from Southeast Asia Regional Vice President William Chang reframed Dan’s mindset.
“He messaged me and asked how I was doing, and I told him, ‘Not good,’ and shared what was going on,” Dan said.
Chang’s willingness to listen and support him through a difficult season spoke life back into Dan. He began to see how God was still present and at work in his life, with plans to continue what had already begun on campuses. His vision for using ultimate frisbee to reach university students wasn’t going away.
“At the time, I was nearly out of the ministry already, but I think God sent William at a very right time,” Dan explained.
Vigor renewed, Dan knew he needed strong student-leaders to continue to grow his vision for sports ministry. He began to pray for God to raise up someone to share his heart for reaching campuses. The answer to prayer came quicky, and soon, Dan was talking with a student-leader who shared his vision and ministry plan. Together with a team of talented athletes, the FCA ultimate frisbee team began.
Over the last couple of years, things for Dan have taken off. The university ultimate frisbee ministry has grown into nine cities. Last year, Dan and his team hosted the first frisbee sport camp with 40 athletes from all around the country traveling to attend. Additionally, 20 coaches attended a 360 Coaching Training.
Dan has found frisbee to be an effective way to reach university athletes for two reasons: the right tools and the right timing. After the COVID-19 pandemic, sports became an outlet as students couldn’t wait to get active again. Since frisbee doesn’t cost much and it is an easy connection with college students, it was the perfect way to create teams across campuses.
FCA’s staff continues to grow and teammates are working to multiply frisbee teams to spread into other cities, eventually saturating the entire country. Currently, they have 11 universities with teams, and they are planning frisbee and soccer camps for youth in unreached villages.
God’s goodness follows Dan through his personal life and ministry. His knee is healing well and God is bringing the laborers for the harvest. He is eagerly embracing this ultimate devotion.
“We have a long way to go, but His goodness is here,” he shared. “It’s a lot of work, but He’s very faithful.”
Please pray for Dan as he prepares to get married this year, and for fundraising and staffing for current ministry in the 11 universities.
Pray for God to give Dan wisdom as he leads, and provides for his needs, both personally and in ministry.
To support Dan and the work he is doing on university campuses, give here.
*Name changed for security purposes.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash