Jimmy Martin knows FCA well. He’s never served the ministry in a full-time capacity, but as a Leadership Board Member and Board Chair, he’s spent much of the last eight years providing invaluable leadership and resources to some of the people who do.
It all started in 2011 when the Texas businessman helped Joe DeZelle develop his first Board in Greater Dallas and guided him along his journey to become Dallas/Fort Worth Area Director in 2014 and then West Point FCA Director in 2015.
A few years later, Jimmy took a break from FCA leadership and turned down the opportunity to join the North Texas Leadership Board.
“I wasn’t ready,” he explained. “I wanted to pursue some other things. But I told (then director) Rick Bowles that I’d like to support them if there were ever any opportunities on the international side. That’s where my heart was.”
There’s a very specific reason why Jimmy wanted to focus on international ministry. In late 2008, an unexpected turn of events (starting with a business deal gone horribly wrong) led him on a humanitarian mission trip to Mexico with Gateway Church in Austin, Texas. Jimmy wasn’t even a believer at the time.
“My friend who invited me wasn’t a Christian either,” he said. “The only reason I went was because I was unemployed, and I figured it would help get my mind off my troubles.”
The trip was indeed rewarding, but Jimmy got far more out of it than he ever could have imagined. On one particular evening, he attended a church service with the other 40 men in the group. Jimmy immediately knew that God was pursuing him. He felt the Holy Spirit drawing him in.
“It was the first time I really felt the presence of God,” Jimmy explained. “It took me getting outside of my element and seeing people cry out to the Lord and love God in a different way.”
Jimmy thought he was going to help those people in Mexico. Instead, it was where the Lord rescued him. Jimmy went back to the campground where the team was staying and committed his life to Christ.
“That’s why I feel like Latin America is my spiritual home,” Jimmy said. “When I come across the border, I immediately feel the presence of God in a different way. Not that God isn’t everywhere, but this is just home for me.”
When FCA realigned to strategically target areas of international ministry, it was clear that Jimmy’s break from acting as a Board Member was going to be short lived. Each of the U.S. regions were aligned and assigned a global region, and the U.S. region would now serve the global region by praying, giving and going.
Rick Bowles once again approached Jimmy, along with Marc McCartney, as two key individuals he wanted to help serve the global region. Both jumped at the chance and quickly began evaluating opportunities in Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua.
“The first thing we had to do was get the pulse of the people and the culture—spiritual mapping if you would,” Jimmy said. “There are some unbelievable FCA programs already going on and we didn’t want to take anything away from that. We wanted to make sure they continued good works and capture the story and things that were happening in those nations and bring them back to the United States so we could invest and partner in the great work they were already doing.”
Jimmy described his role as a “scout” who reports back to the Leadership Board back home. In one instance, he and a group from the region took a vision trip to Costa Rica. They connected with some pastors and local leadership with the hope of helping expand and develop sports ministry in the nation.
“From there, we came back home and decided how we could best be available and be used to assist local efforts to expand sports ministry in Latin America,” Jimmy added. “I’ve been blown away at the way those countries do sports ministry—the way they’re able to come alongside coaches and do a tremendous job in that area. We see so much fruit here, and our job is to spread what we see here and bring that story back to supporters back in the United States. There are so many quality young servant leaders representing FCA.”
Changing The Game
Dan Britton, FCA Executive Director of International Ministry, has seen it time and again. Church groups take annual mission trips that collectively stretch across the far reaches of Planet Earth. They do a lot of good during those trips and come back changed by the experience.
“They’ll have their game-changing moment—their big divine moment where they go somewhere and see something and experience something or feel something,” Dan said. “They’re thankful that God gave them the opportunity but is often ends there.”
And then there’s what happened to Jimmy Martin. Already fully devoted to international sports ministry, Jimmy found himself going “deeper and further,” as Dan described.
In March 2019, Jimmy visited Guatemala and spent time with FCA Director Julio Gomez and his team. He also attended the Latin America Capacity Conference and the International Capacity Conference.
“I’ve had a chance to see how the ministry in Guatemala works,” Jimmy said. “They’ve partnered with professional soccer camps. They’ve got a tremendous partnership with AMG (Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel) International. It’s been amazing just to be a part of that and witness the staff and their commitment.”
While in Guatemala, Jimmy committed to serving as the chairman of Julio’s Board.
“Spending quality time with Julio and his team on the ground was the big shift for Jimmy,” Dan Said. “That inspired him to leverage his leadership to have greater impact within Guatemala. That’s rare. It wasn’t him saying he wanted to be the savior. He saw the vision. He wanted to help the local leaders go further and faster by leveraging his time, his resources and his strengths.”
For Jimmy, the challenge has been putting the puzzle pieces together and ascertaining what donors and Board Members are interested in getting involved with international ministry.
“From there, we just have to share the story and hope that they’ll partner in that journey,” he said. “It’s just connecting the right people to the right areas or even the right sports within international ministry.”
Some successes Jimmy is already seeing include opportunities for universities back in the U.S., such as Baylor and TCU, to send student athletes over to conduct sports camps in Latin America. He hopes to see high school Huddles get involved in serving the region as well.
“There’s a lot of great stuff going on that FCA is a part of and has done a good job managing and shepherding,” Jimmy added.
For Dan, it’s been exciting to watch Jimmy lead the charge for what he describes as a “culture shift” within FCA.
“The missions mentality a lot of times is that we’re going to come and be a blessing and help people out,” Dan explained. “We put teams together and come over on a trip. We’re going to help people. But now, we’re starting to see that the pipeline goes both ways. It’s not just flowing from the U.S. region to the global region. We’re now changing as a ministry because of our international engagement. We’re changing the way we do ministry because of our teammates around the world. They’re training us up. We come back and go, ‘Wow! Maybe we need to change some things. Maybe we need to start thinking differently. Maybe we need to start doing things and behaving differently.’”
For Dan and Jimmy, serving leaders like Julio Gomez in Guatemala has been an eye opener and an opportunity to break free from the comfort zone that comes with a 65-year old ministry like FCA.
“The mirror doesn’t get held up until you suddenly see what sacrifices other people are making for coaches and athletes,” Dan said. “It’s humbling to see what they are giving up to fulfill the calling that God has put on their lives. It’s convicting and challenging. When you start spending time with leaders around the world, you come back and question your leadership philosophy. Things start to change.”
And according to Dan, that change has become evident as he has observed Jimmy Martin’s experiences in Guatemala and throughout Latin America.
“Jimmy can teach, share and mentor,” Dan said. “But he’ll tell you that he’s also learned from Julio and other local leaders. He’s seeing local leaders do their job at high capacity and through great sacrifice and great surrender. That causes a leader like Jimmy to come back and ask questions about their own leadership. He might be giving his time and resources, but in an indirect way, the blessing comes back to him.”