By Tiffany Wessler, SF Zambia. Photos by Cat Edwards
Change always takes time, and here in Zambia that has felt especially true. But slowly, we’ve begun to see change happen. We’ve poured into young men and women (ages 18-35 are considered “youth” in Zambia) and months later, when change is evident and it is evident that the change is good, their parents, teachers, and leaders have gotten on board.
Many Zambian youth, hungry for a change, are now following the ways of western pop culture and promiscuity and are abandoning their cultural and moral value systems. Pastors and church leaders recognize this problem. They tell us that they want to do something to reach the youth and children, to get them back in school and back in church. To engage them. And Sunday school just doesn’t cut it when the kids aren’t there in the first place.
So when we introduced them to Sports Friends, they recognized an opportunity to bring about powerful change. Appointing “youth” to be sports ministers teaches them leadership, evangelism, and discipleship skills as they coach children from the surrounding communities. Essentially, Sports Friends reaches two age groups that pastors told us that they just didn’t know what to do with: youth (18-35) and children.
In the months since our first Sports Friends Zambia Basic Training, we’ve seen and heard about change – change in the 30 or so Sports Ministers who have remained dedicated since the training; change in the assistant coaches they’ve already brought alongside in their ministries; change in the kids on their teams; and change in the churches themselves.
One coach told us that 10 teenage boys on his football team have given their lives to Christ in the past few months. A pastor has told us his attendance has increased as more children are coming and even bringing their families. Another pastor told us that the increased focus on the younger generations has increased their involvement in other church activities and workshops (at one of these workshops, 15 girls put their faith in Christ). The coaches themselves are growing in their knowledge and understanding of the Lord, and some are having so much fun that their teams are practicing every day!
Change begins with the youth. And now that the adults are seeing that change can be for the good, the excitement and buzz about Sports Friends is spreading like wildfire. Which means excitement about Jesus is also spreading. Praise God!