Leaders from eleven African nations, who have a passion to see their sports community transformed, gathered this past June in Accra, Ghana, for FCA International’s inaugural Africa Capacity Conference (ACC). As one of the U.S. leaders in attendance noted, it was like being in a room full of Don McClanen’s—pioneers of sports ministry in their home countries much like FCA’s founder.
While FCA has been officially active on the continent since 2013, the conference was first discussed during the fall of 2017. Del Wright, Vice President of Field Ministry for the Southeast Central Region of the U.S., was part of that team and relished the opportunity to spend time with all of the leaders in attendance.
“Whenever we go to Africa, one of our biggest focuses is encouraging and affirming our partners,” he said. “They do so much with so little in the way of resources. Their example of self sacrifice, commitment, and perseverance has been a tremendous influence on me.”
The conference was established to engage, equip and empower African partners and teammates for training and resourcing to see more coaches and athletes reached throughout Africa. But first, Vincent Asamoah, who was appointed Global Region Coordinator for the West and Central Africa Regions in November of 2017, had some significant legwork to do.
At the time, there were only three official partner organizations within the two regions—Ghana, Uganda and Sierra Leone. One of his goals was to increase that number to ten by the end of 2018. So between January and March, he visited six nations and connected with potential partners via phone and email.
“It’s invaluable having Vincent on the continent,” Wright said. “He’s able to fly into these neighboring countries and get to know these prospective partners in their country and watch them in ministry and talk to people who know them.”
Asamoah’s efforts paid off. In addition to the pre-existing three partners in attendance, there were representatives from 6 West African and Central African countries, along with participants from Zambia and Malawi within the Southern Africa Global Region. All of the sports ministers were blessed with various ministry resources like Sports Bibles and devotionals.
“We wanted to invest in them,” Wright said. “The training consisted of general leadership, sports ministry and spiritual leadership. It provided a better understanding of what a partnership looks like and determine if there was a good fit.”
The bulk of the three-day event was training the participants on leadership development, ministry planning, FCA’s Core Values, vision casting, ministry funding, 3D Coaching, FCA Camps and Huddles.
There was also a significant amount of time experiencing the Huddle group concept in which leaders facilitated conversations that served as an extension of the training sessions. Wright was a Huddle Leader and assisted his Huddle as they devised ministry plans and financial goals—a concept that was new for many of them.
Drew Beard, Vice President of Field Ministry for the Southwest Region, also spent time in Sierra Leone before the conference and found his Huddle time to be the most effective opportunity for discipleship and seed planting.
“In my Huddle, when I asked the guys to consider how they would reach every coach and every athlete, for the first time maybe they began to think outside of themselves,” he said. “They began to think about multiplication. As they sat and dreamed and worked out their plans, their plans got bigger and bigger the more their hearts and minds were opened to that concept. It was fun to watch.”
Beard and his colleagues were careful, however, not to promote a one-size-fits-all approach to sports ministry.
“We don’t want to force them to do things our way,” he said. “We’re going to give them training and resources to help them budget and plan and pray and be equipped to do their ministry.”
Perhaps most importantly were the moments shared in times of worship and Bible study. Wright was especially moved as he experienced God’s presence in unique and unexpected ways.
“We praised and worshipped God with lots of rhythm and movement, hand clapping, heart and soul,” he recounted. “I think people could hear us from several hundred yards around the conference center. Vincent shared a powerful message on integrity. He challenged us to search our motives for why we’re doing sports ministry; asking us if God would brag on us like he did with his servant Job.”
Wright was also quick to brag on Asamoah’s influential leadership—something he’s personally seen flourish over the past two years.
“I’ve been impressed with Vincent from the moment I met him,” Wright said. “He’s the epitome of self-sacrifice, commitment and perseverance. He’s sold out to the great commandments and the Great Commission. He gave up a very comfortable life in the United States to move back home to start FCA there. His story is inspirational and incredibly challenging for all of us.”
At the end of the conference, four new partnerships were officially established in The Gambia, Togo, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Asamoah was pleased with the results and buoyed by the unity that was felt throughout the three days.
“My highlight was the general attentiveness of all the participants and the friendly atmosphere in the conference for the entire period,” Asamoah said. “Most of the participants were meeting for the very first time ever and they connected almost immediately.”
The feeling was mutual for those in attendance. Moses Muge from Kenya, for example, reported that the conference had inspired him to have more Coaches Huddles and to expand his discipleship program.
“The conference was an eye opener, and it was a blessing to meet and share with other African leaders,” he added. “The speakers were great and interactive. It was a great experience. Brother Vincent was a very good host.”
Tevi Lawson-Noudo, Field Director for Association Sportive Ebenezer in Lome, Togo, was one of the new partners. He too had high praises for the conference.
“I learned how to raise finances for ministries and was blessed by the sharing of all the facilitators,” he said. “I was inspired to establish and build strong Coaches Huddles and Huddle groups for our soccer and dodge ball ministries. I am going to mobilize and train volunteers to support our work, and I plan to develop 3D Coaching workshops.”
Although Beard has been actively involved in FCA leadership for several years now, he couldn’t help be challenged to do more after spending quality time with his African counterparts.
“Many of these men need a motorcycle,” he said. “They need transportation. Yet everyday they figure out a way to go out and serve coaches and athletes. They do it on their own and however the Lord chooses to provide for them. The faithfulness of these men is very sobering.”
Wright described the conference as “catalytic” and “very fruitful,” but is most excited about what has happened since. Along with the addition of four new partners in Africa, FCA International has committed to hosting this event annually.
“For me to see how we are advancing the gospel through our FCA teammates already on board was truly an eye opener for me,” Beard said. “These people are doing ministry with great faith and great patience. My mind and my heart were opened to the impact to be had. But at the end of the day, the thing that stuck out to me the most was FCA’s vision to see the world transformed. I can see how that is becoming a reality and not just a theory.”
According to all involved, the ultimate goal is to help the partners move into full-time ministry and continue to see more sports ministry get trained and equipped.
“I have no doubt in my mind that this conference is going to propel FCA across the entire continent,” Asamoah said. “I can’t wait to see God raise up more sport ministry leaders throughout Africa to lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church.”