The vision of FCA is to see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes. That vision will be realized through 300-plus International Camps this summer in more than 40 countries around the world.
“We praise God for FCA International’s Camps growth this summer!” said Dan Britton, Executive Director, International Ministry. “As Camp ministry is growing internationally, we are thankful to God for His help in completing a new resource, the International Sports Camp Manual, which international leaders will be able to use for training and to build and run FCA Camps in their countries. We are also immensely grateful for the translation of our summer camp devotions and small group materials into eight languages: Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Ukrainian, Russian and Urdu. This summer is sure to be an amazing testament to God’s faithfulness as we reach coaches and athletes through the sports they love for Jesus Christ.”
In July, Mark Stephens, FCA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional International Coordinator for East Asia, and his 17-year-old daughter, Lilly, traveled to South Korea to run an FCA lacrosse Camp and introduce both girls and boys to the sport. Lilly, a player for Urbana High School in Maryland, helped coach in the girls’ Camp. For the boys, FCA partnered with the Korea Lacrosse Association. As a whole, lacrosse is relatively new in Korea, with just 16 high schools in the country offering the sport.
Lily Stephens and a young FCA camper at FCA Lacrosse Camp in Korea.
Mark, Lilly and the rest of the group took with them more than 200 pounds of lacrosse equipment to leave behind—hopefully along with a love for lacrosse and a passion for Christ. Lilly shared her testimony with Camp attendees, and Mark spoke on the 2018 FCA Camps theme of “Strong,” based on the Bible verse 2 Timothy 4:7.
Under the umbrella of the “Strong” theme, Camp attendees worldwide will hone in on the fact that believers serve a strong God, and how His followers are called to be like Him in every area of their lives—including sports. The coaches and athletes who attend FCA Camps will discover that polishing their athletic skills is important, but strengthening their faith in Christ is crucial.
In Korea, Stephens’ group also partnered closely with FCA Korea, which is active in the country and has made significant inroads in the witness for Christ over the past several years. Attendees to the lacrosse Camp consisted of young players from local schools and churches, as well as family and friends of FCA staff. Stephens also reported that this month’s Camp is the third for Korea, but the first focusing on lacrosse in the country.
The lacrosse Camp in Korea actually began with a connection through the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL). Frank Kelly III, a longtime leader within FCA Lacrosse, attended this year’s annual U.S. Lacrosse Convention and met with an FIL representative and the director of the Korea Lacrosse Association, which helped spur the Korea Camp.
Kelly and Britton, the founders of FCA Lacrosse, also traveled to Israel in July for a lacrosse trip along with FCA Lacrosse staff and volunteers for the FIL Men’s Lacrosse World Cup. The U.S took the title over Canada on July 21. In all, 46 countries participated in the World Championships, and FCA Lacrosse sent a group called “Team Serve” in an effort to serve the FIL, the Israel Lacrosse Association and as many of the visiting nations as possible. The squad scrimmaged about 14 different countries’ national teams, as well as shared more about FCA and the Good News of the Gospel.
Africa is another continent on which FCA has a growing presence. FCA International had been steadily expanding throughout Africa since 2013, with active ministries in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, but it took several years for the FCA Camp concept to take root. Last summer, six African leaders visited FCA's Support Center in Kansas City to put the wheels in motion. At the center of the planning was 20-year-old Yatta Samura, a sports ministry veteran who had recently been named FCA Director in Sierra Leone.
Samura had seen firsthand the devastation caused by massive mudslides near Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown in August 2017. More than a thousand people died and another 3,000 were left homeless. After seeing sad and discouraged children in a village where he was delivering food—especially one 16-year-old girl who was alone and crying—Samura couldn’t shake the image of the countless children in his country whose lives had been turned upside-down. The new staffer knew FCA could help make a difference.
“I was so inspired as he drew up his Camp plan,” said Britton. “His vision was so clear. It was so big. You could just feel that it was going to happen. When I heard Yatta’s vision and how he was going to take his time to get the right people together and do his own training, I knew he realized this wasn’t just an event. He saw this as a significant ministry strategy for his country. He was going to make sure all of the pieces were put together before trying to accomplish it. I knew something significant was going to happen just because of Yatta’s intentionality.”
For inspiration and knowledge, Samura attended an FCA Leadership Camp in Jackson, Mississippi, where he met FCA Multi-Area Director Kiel Higginbotham, who encouraged Samura to “watch us run this Camp from a bird’s-eye view, and I’ll tell you why we do each of these things.” Samura soaked up everything he could.
“I wanted to see a Camp in action,” he said. “Kiel showed me everything I needed to know about Sports Camps. I came back with a vision to start doing Camps in my home country.”
Sierra Leone’s first FCA Camp featured competitive sports like soccer, volleyball, and track and field, along with several team-building activities and ministry time for the campers to hear the Gospel. The Camp was a smashing success, with many more who wanted to attend but were limited by space and resources. But Samura made sure he found room for those kids he met in Freetown affected by the mudslides.
“I deliberately decided to get some of those children into the Camp,” Samura said. “I just wanted to give them encouragement, love and acceptance.”
Of the 183 campers in attendance, the 16-year-old girl was one of the friendliest and most popular. And more importantly, she made a life-changing decision during the three-day event.
“She was one of the 23 campers who gave their lives to Christ,” Samura said. “Yes, she and the others made friends and learned to play sports, but most importantly they were impacted by the Gospel.”
Now, the goal is to make future FCA Camps in Africa even bigger and better so those on the “waiting list” can share in the experience and life change as well.
Moving forward, Britton is convinced the work being done in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Kenya will catch fire throughout the entire continent.
“Once one African country has success and sees how it can work, then those leaders can train the other leaders,” he said. “Instead of the ideas coming from the U.S., it’s a peer-to-peer mentoring opportunity. A lot of our leaders in Africa are helping other leaders start their Camps. They’re each making an investment to encourage them and show them that it can work. The hardest Camp to do is the first Camp. You think no one is going to show up. You do all this hard work and worry that it won’t reach the level of success you hoped for. But when you see the kids show up, it’s no longer a question of how many coaches and athletes are going to show up, but a question of if there are enough resources and enough volunteers to facilitate enough Camps.”
Read more about this and other FCA Camps in West Africa here.
On a continent to the north in Europe, a similar Camp experience made an impact on German football players who learned much more than X’s and O’s from a group of FCA ambassadors.
For eight days in July, FCA led a sports trip surrounding the game of American football in Germany. Several Alabama high school football coaches and former University of Alabama football players made up the group of 22, who worked with under-19 and under-16 club football teams in Germany, as well the Munich Cowboys and Reutlingen Eagles professional teams.
“To have a chance to be involved in something like FCA and have the opportunity to coach football in another country, it was a dream trip,” said Chickasaw High School head football coach Jason Rowell in a story on AL.com.
Added Dennis Hayford, director of FCA in southern Alabama, “Our No. 1 goal was to teach them the game of football. While doing that, we also wanted to look for the opportunity to share about life with them, and we had some chances to do that. It was really a special time."
Most of the German coaches and players work or attend school during the day, so FCA practice sessions were in the evenings, which gave the Alabama team time to sight-see during the day. At night, they put their coaching experience to work.
“I told the people over there that I was bringing with me the best high school coaches in the world, and I did,” Hayford said. “Our state has produced six of the last 10 national college football champs, and our high school coaches are the ones who helped teach many of the kids who play at Auburn and Alabama. Not only are they great teachers, but they also have a servant’s heart.”
Read more about the Alabama team’s trip to Germany here in AL.com.
This summer, upwards of 800 FCA Camps in the U.S. and internationally will serve about 115,000 coaches and athletes, who will work on their athletic skills and team building while strengthening their faith in Christ. Those who want to be a part of FCA Camps can find Camps by sport, day or location through FCA's easy-to-use Camps site.