When John* first began work with a Christian ministry, he’d hand out Bibles and attempt to tell about Jesus, but people in the Asian country wouldn’t hear it. He lives in a part of the world with a hostile environment to the gospel. They hit John and screamed in his face, closed off and unwilling to receive what he offered.
John, who has been involved in sports since high school, attended a sports conference in 2002 and saw a way to serve his community. He began to play sports with others in his community. This way they get to know him personally while enjoying the camaraderie in sport. Here was a way to break the ice, fusing sport and faith together.
“If we are good friends I can share about my beliefs because we are comfortable together,” John said, “and if they are interested in doing our camp, we invite them.”
John longs to see coaches connect with sports ministry and organize events to touch many lives. He also wants to walk in the footsteps of his mentor, former FCA International Director Barry Spofford, who visited his country and cast a vision for serving people of sport. Two years later, John became an FCA International leader.
“He inspired me,” said John.
John and his wife work full time to reach coaches, athletes and people of influence. They have a few volunteers, but are always looking for more people to understand the influence of sports ministry and the opportunity to give of their talents and time.
Because of the country’s delicate social climate, John and his leaders often teach moral lessons at sports clinics, build into the community, and rely on relationships in establishing friendships and gain trust. It’s in complete dependence on God that gets them the open doors they need.
The team knows it is imperative to cast the right vision in introducing sports ministry to coaches with whom they’ve already established solid relationships. When coaches catch the vision and understand the significant role they play in the lives of others, they are more inclined to step up and embrace their impact. “We need coaches to lead,” John said.
One way to develop these leaders is to inspire coaches to influence athletes physically, emotionally and spiritually. Volunteers then have Huddles with Christian coaches, who are challenged, inspired and in turn, train their athletes in all areas of life. They can now identify athletes who are ready to be challenged in their own faith and rise up as team leaders.
Sports bridges a gap that allows John’s amiable personality to set others at ease and see deeper into his gentle nature. While this ministry may seem insurmountable to some, he doesn’t consider the mountain before him a burden. Life in sports ministry is an offering to bring God glory. John believes since God has brought him to this service, He will be faithful watching over the ministry.
“God has given vision for my family and our team, so He gives us wisdom and strength so we can touch more coaches and athletes,” he said.
He cares for his country and its people. It has not been easy, but for John, it’s simple.
“I depend on God. And He provides for me.”
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*Denotes name change.