2019 International Capacity Conference
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As 110 sports ministry leaders converged upon Antigua, Guatemala, no one could know with certainty what would come of the fifth annual FCA International Capacity Conference that took place in early March.
FCA Chief Administrative Officer Ken Williams was in awe as he watched the historic gathering unfold—a five-day event that saw men and women representing 40 nations and five continents worshipping, praying, fellowshipping and receiving personal and practical training.
“We never thought that we’d be where we are right now,” Williams said. “We never thought that God would put all of this together and bring in all of these partners. That’s the key. It’s a partnership. We’re not just trying to take FCA around the world. It’s partnering with local leaders who are already doing sports ministry and giving them the resources and coming alongside them and serving them. It’s really all about serving them as they serve coaches and athletes.”
In fact, the entire conference was built upon the concept of serving FCA’s international sports partners by engaging, equipping and empowering them to do the work they have been called to do around the globe.
“Ministry is lonely, and then sometimes you’re talking about being the only person in your entire country doing ministry the way that you’re doing it,” Executive Director of International Ministry Dan Britton explained. “It gets really lonely. So having a chance to be unified with a common vision, a common strategy and a common heartbeat and gather them in one room to pray and worship, to learn about being a spiritual leader and then talk about some of the basics of ministry has been a game changer.”
Each day, the leaders opened with “Morning Glory,” a powerful 45-minute prayer and worship session. “To hear all the international leaders pray in their own language and for them to worship with their accents just gave us a taste of what Heaven is going to be like,” Britton said.
Attendees then received in-depth training from guest speaker Dan Webster of Authentic Leadership.
“It’s a humbling experience to stand in front of these leaders understanding what many of them go through to fulfill their ministry,” he said. “I’m hopeful that everyone will go home fortified in their faith and inspired in their faith, but that they’ll also go home smarter and strategic in the understanding that they need to lead themselves better and lead their ministries better and know how they’re going to do it.”
Several FCA executives and regional leaders, including President Shane Williamson and Executive Director of Ministry Advancement Jeff Martin, were also on hand to provide practical ministry training. Another special guest trainer, Jeff Moore with YouVersion, taught the sports ministry leaders how to create their own reading plans and encouraged them to get involved in the Bible app’s translation efforts.
Another key aspect of the week’s training came from Britton who shared insightful teachings on FCA’s Four Core Values. At the conclusion of each session, one international leader was recognized for exemplifying that daily concept: Coach Peter of East Asia (Integrity), Ira Chorna of Ukraine (Serving), Gary Visitacion of the Philippines (Teamwork), and conference host Julio Gomez of Guatemala (Excellence).
“It was a privilege to have our FCA family here from around the world and to worship and grow together,” Gomez said. “I feel like we were challenged to lead ourselves in our prayer time and in our spiritual growth. Through this week, I saw the Holy Spirit more active through prayer.”
And while the various presentations were an essential part of the week-long conference, it was during personal interaction through meals, free time and the Huddle groups when the most effective ministry seemed to take place.
“It’s one thing to see things happen during scheduled training time, but it was really exciting to see some of the things that happened during non-scheduled time,” Britton said. “Leaders were praying for each other and gathering together to talk about how they could help each other. Just to see them desiring to do things on their own and hungering to be together and make the most of their time together, to me, that was the highlight. It was those unplanned, broken plays—those things you didn’t expect.”
Dan Webster was especially moved during two such moments.
“Two different men from two different continents who can’t speak English very well came up to me with a translator to pray for me,” he said. “I feel like I was able to use my gift to serve them but their generous hearts and their gratitude is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.”
Towards the end of the event, the conference organizers facilitated a pair of team excursions to further cement the bonding that had already been taking place. Half of the group went on an exhilarating zip line adventure along the breathtaking mountainside, while the other half kept their feet firmly planted while touring a local farm that produces some of Guatemala’s world famous coffee.
And then, at a closing banquet dinner, several attendees were given the chance to share how the conference had impacted them.
Daniel Iuras, a leader from Romania, shared similar sentiments. “I still can’t believe what happened to me at this conference,” he said with the help of a translator. “The arrow hit me right in the heart. I just felt the love of God and I fell in love with FCA.”
After dinner, the entire group gathered in a circle and each individual shared a single word that described what the event had meant to them. Shouts of “inspiring,” “overwhelming,” “transformed” and “game changer” echoed throughout the dimly lit courtyard. And even though many would be leaving in the middle of the night to catch flights back home, they lingered to shake hands, exchange hugs and pray together one last time.
“What an incredible group of leaders these people are,” Ken Williams remarked. “They’ve given their lives to sports ministry and God is working through their faithfulness, their obedience, their willingness to go where God has called them to go to do the work He’s called them to do. They’re going to accomplish things they never thought possible. It’s an energizing group to be around because they’re totally driven by faith.”