This story appears in FCA Magazine’s November/December 2014 issue. Subscribe today!
At the end of the book of Matthew, in His last minutes on earth before ascending to Heaven, Jesus turns to those closest to Him and gives one final send-off: to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe every last one of His commands.
Not just the United States, Canada or Mexico. But every little-known country, every remote village, every tribe and tongue that holds breath on God’s green earth. This is where FCA’s expansion sprouts, climbing the ivy of the international world and taking Jesus’ teaching to lives and athletic fields around the globe.
FCA International has grown rapidly since its inception in 2007. Partnering with sports ministry leaders in 30 countries, hundreds of leaders have been trained on developing sports ministry and have distributed Bibles, devotionals, and other resources throughout the world. It’s experienced exponential growth: in 2014, a total of 87 camps were conducted across 25 countries, with a record 13,115 total campers in attendance.
“What God’s been doing through people in the United States these 60 years is incredible,” said Dan Britton, Executive Vice President of International Ministry and Training. “We’ve got tremendous growth on 4 percent of the world’s population. Let’s see how we can serve the other 96 percent. That’s the journey we’re on.”
In an effort to more closely link domestic FCA ministry with what is happening internationally, FCA divided areas around the world into 12 super regions and linked them to the 12 U.S. field ministry regions.
FCA is intentional in joining the Great Commission and its pursuit of the ministry’s vision statement: to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.
FCA International has fostered friendships with ministry leaders and developed solid, faith-based sports ministry programs around the world. By walking alongside the sports leaders God raises up, it discovers ways to connect and collaborate with like-minded visionaries.
When people think “do international,” Britton said, too often it turns into going on a mission trip and checking off the box. Not bad things by any means, but “the intention is to become international,” he continued. “We assimilate other countries.”
FCA works in conjunction with the sports ministry movement, a group of organizations around the world that focuses on serving in sports ministry. Britton said there’s a “99 percent chance” a local sports ministry leader is already in a location where FCA wants to help, allowing them to work with established leaders in the area for abundant influence.
In October 2013, FCA International developed a strategy for linking the 12 U.S. field ministry regions with a corresponding international super region. Each region concentrates on its partner international region to develop relationships with country leaders, minister, pray and train as the Lord works in the hearts of His people.
FCA Philippines coach Al Solis teaching a student at a basketball camp in the U.S.
“It creates a clarity and focus with the leverage of 60 years of service. It’s the whole concept of ‘Pray, Give, Go.’ We’re going and learning with those in similar positions,” Britton said, adding that most of the current 1,200 FCA staff have an international background and have had a heart for the nations before FCA International was established.
FCA has run international camps with other ministries or churches for years. But, at the end of the week, when campers dispersed and staff went back to the States, there were no volunteers further trained or prepared to continue the work FCA started. Now, appointed affiliates who are full-time FCA staff maintain ongoing and sustained ministry impact, cementing FCA’s commitment to find in-country leaders.
Providing training through local staff, international sports leaders focus on development through FCA’s Coaches Ministry Academy and the 3D Coaching concept. For those unable to come to the U.S., training is contextualized, translated, and taken to those countries. By training the trainers, ministry leaders maintain effective methods of impact and understanding to use in relatable and relevant ways within their own communities.
Much of the ministry’s movement simply offers a presence in the international realm. By meeting leaders from countries and spending time with them, sharing the vision of what God’s doing, people are interested and acquiring an insatiable desire to partner with FCA and further His Kingdom.
Leaders want to be best equipped for continued training, and they need resources. In conjunction with their affiliates’ desires and further expounding on its heart for the nations, FCA has produced camp curriculum in 15 languages to assist camp leaders around the world, and partnered with Ukraine to publish a Ukrainian Sports Bible. Sports New Testaments and Heart of an Athlete Playbooks have been translated into several languages such as Spanish, Ukrainian and, most recently, Mandarin.
A partner in the ministry since 2009, FCA Ukraine has seen the impact FCA resources can have within their sphere of influence when translated and tailored to fit their needs.
“Sports is a universal language,” said Andriy Kravstov, FCA Ukraine National Director. “Why recreate the ministry when I can just culturally adapt what FCA already has to the work here in Ukraine? FCA’s structure helps me be successful in the ministry.”
Ukraine has shifted its focus to closely minister to coaches over the past two years, understanding the vital role they play in affecting athletes’ performance and personal lives.
“We realize what a huge impact a coach has, how many people they can influence, and this is a great possibility for us,” Kravstov said. “It would be the greatest victory if those coaches knew Jesus Christ as their Savior and preached the Good News.”
Another country with an established link to FCA is the Philippines. When the two connected in 2010, FCA Philippines National Director Pastor Gary Visitacion wanted to reach their five biggest cities in five years.
They got there in four.
“Their effort of sending us speakers and trainers for the last four years—and the FCA resources shipped out to us on a regular basis—kept our volunteer leaders on the ground excited to reach out to the coaches and athletes,” Visitacion said.
Along with the well-established presence of FCA International in Ukraine and the Philippines, there are also younger, fruitful connections like that between FCA and Ghana. Affiliate Vincent Asamoah’s relationship with FCA International has been invaluable in growing his basketball ministry, Shoot4Life. Asamoah was sponsoring the ministry alone, and it proved difficult to sustain. It would have been easy to give up, but he aligned with the ministry in 2013 to pioneer FCA Ghana. Assistance with training programs, detail, care and support from FCA staff helped breathe a renewed vigor into Asamoah’s calling.
“Through a simple thing like sports, God is reconciling many young people to Himself,” Asamoah said. “In 12 months, we were able to share the word of God with more than 4,000 children in five regions of Ghana.”
The deep relationships prove it isn’t enough to simply welcome an affiliate into partnership. For a more tangible and visible understanding of the necessary structure and process behind the ministry, leaders from the U.S. must explore countries up close to build the foundation of international partnership. Vision trips cast light on a country and how FCA can develop relationships with local sports ministry leaders. Training trips allow staff to convey the four Cs, how to run camps, and help new staff understand support-raising and the mission and vision of FCA. All of these mission trips are hands on, with sports camps and one-on-one interaction with athletes and coaches.
Basketball camp in Ghana.
There’s also the “reverse mission trip,” where key leaders go to another country to see what God is doing, and then take that experience back to their own country. It works two-fold, as FCA leaders in the U.S. observe how affiliates and partner countries look to God to grow their mission. Between relationship ties, FCA has quickly cemented its growing passion for the world in the rapidly forming country visits.
This summer, four coaches from the Philippines participated in a reverse mission trip, spending time with FCA staff and ministry affiliates in Texas and California. They also observed and participated in various sports camps.
“God has been giving us favor in terms of our growth and experience,” Visitacion said. “The trip was a dream come true for our coaches, as they had been desiring that one day they’d have the opportunity to witness an FCA Camp in the U.S.”
While visiting other countries, ministry leaders are immersed in operations and training, attending board meetings, arranging and organizing camps, and visiting huddles. The wide array of observation and hands-on interaction helps leaders gain knowledge of new ministry ideas.
One can only marvel at the continued work FCA International and its partners are doing to spread the news of the Kingdom and rejoice in how God builds His body of believers across the world.
“We’re celebrating the success of sports leaders,” Britton said. “They are the [FCA Founder] Don McClanens for their countries. We’re hopeful and excited for what’s coming our way. It’s always a two-way street. As you offer, you receive.”
FCA International intends to take that two-way street through mud-soaked fields, lopsided courts and across language and cultural barriers to reach the ends of the earth in obedience to Jesus’ closing command.
–This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of FCA Magazine. To view the issue in its entirety digitally, click here: Nov/Dec 2014 FCA Mag Digital
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Photos courtesy of FCA Ghana and FCA Philippines