Reon Tay knows that sports ministry isn’t the only way to reach the lost for Christ. But for the FCA Singapore Director, it’s the best way he knows to accomplish his evangelistic mission.
Undoubtedly, Tay’s lifelong love of sports plays a big role in the calling he has embraced since 2006 when he abandoned his computer-engineering job and went into full-time ministry as a coach. It was in middle school, however, when a basketball coach made what would ultimately become the biggest impact on his young existence.
“My coach brought me to a Singapore Youth For Christ camp where I received Christ,” Tay explains. “That’s why I want to do sports ministry. If I hadn’t become a Christian, I don’t know what I would have become.”
Tay has come a long way since his upbringing in a Buddhist home where as a young boy he helped his grandfather, who was a medium, and attended temple services with his grandmother. His first encounter with the Christian faith actually happened when, at the age of 12, he read a booklet called “The Gospel According To John,” which was left on his doorstep.
Although Tay received no spiritual discipleship at the time, he was later able to grow in his newfound faith thanks to follow-up from Youth For Christ representatives and the youth group at Bethesda Serangoon Church.
But for Tay, it has always come back to sports ministry. Initially as a volunteer with Youth For Christ’s Sports and Adventure Ministry and then as a coach, he followed a path that eventually led him to Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Upon recommendation by a Vietnamese sports minister, FCA State Director for Maryland Mark Stephens invited Tay to spend two weeks in the United States for special training, including the opportunity to observe an FCA Power Camp.
“It’s what I like to call a reverse mission trip,” Stephens says. “Instead of me going, I’m training people here. They can more effectively learn the practical side of ministry and then take that information home and contextualize it for their environment. With Reon, I just downloaded everything about FCA that was in my head and shared with him the vast resources that FCA has to offer.”
That was in 2010. In the three years since, Tay has made the commitment to replicating FCA’s Four C’s of Ministry (Campus, Camps, Coaches and Community) in his home country.
On campuses, Tay is facilitating quarterly athlete huddles and holding occasional sports clinics. He is “excited to see the Christian athletes mature and have an impact on their teams.”
In December, FCA Singapore will host two camps—a Power Camp featuring basketball, lacrosse, soccer, tchoukball and volleyball, and a Youth Sports Leadership Development Camp. This is in addition to several sports clinic that have already been held during the year including three lacrosse clinics.
Tay is also building a network of Christian coaches through huddle groups and a discipleship program called “Coaches Time Out.” His long-term goal is to see these coaches get more involved in ministry through school sports teams, and FCA’s growing number of sports clubs and sports leagues.
“They have Christian sports camps in Singapore,” Stephens notes. “But nobody over there is really doing coaches ministry where they’re ministering to the coach and helping them become a three dimensional coach, coaching the body, mind and heart of the athlete. That’s a great opportunity for Reon and his team.”
In fact, it is the sports leagues for basketball, tchoukball, and eventually ultimate Frisbee, where Tay believes coaching ministry will overflow into the community.
“We want FCA to serve the churches,” Tay says. “We want them to see that there is room for sports ministry. We’re challenging the churches to get involved in coaching teams in the sports leagues. Sometimes people aren’t confident enough to be a coach. People here often think that to be a coach you need to be certified. But anyone can coach.”
Tay himself coaches seven teams at all levels and in multiple sports—basketball, tchoukball and lacrosse, a sport he discovered in the United States during his training. He currently has about 12 volunteer coaches working in the sports leagues and in the schools. Last year, Tay also welcomed Area Representative Esther Mok to the FCA Singapore team. Mok was once a prominent national tchoukball player and now coaches a team with her husband Kendrick as one part of her expanding responsibilities.
Both Ray and Mok are faced with an incredible opportunity to reach a nation with a population of more than 5.3 million people within roughly 19,000 square miles. Not only is Singapore the third densest country in the world, it is also the third richest according to GDP per capita. Located in Southeast Asia just south of Malaysia, the island nation often places academics as a higher priority than athletics. But Singapore is still ripe for significant sports ministry.
“Reon has a heart to see coaches and athletes in Singapore come to Christ,” Executive Vice President of International Ministry Dan Britton says. “He is serving the local schools and sports organizations throughout the entire country. It has been amazing to see him develop sports leagues as a platform to share Christ. Singapore FCA is one of the most developed international programs we have because of Reon's leadership.”
Tay also has a heart for missions and will be part of a group leading a tchoukball camp in Cambodia this November. Just like in Singapore, he will be using FCA resources to share the Gospel message with camp participants.
But Tay’s primary calling is in his home country, where only 18 percent of the population claim Christ as their savior. His love of sports and greater love for souls is a powerful combination that Britton believes will yield spiritual fruit for years to come.
“We are thankful that God brought Reon to the FCA Team,” he says. “God is doing a miraculous work through FCA Singapore. Reon is investing in young leaders to reach their community. His creativity, resourcefulness and perseverance have been strengths to expand the ministry.”