All across the world, through the Sports Friends ministry and many other like-minded organizations, God is using sports to build His Kingdom. How exciting to see God using something that the world is so passionate about to draw people to Himself!
I recently returned from Nigeria where Sports Friends was celebrating its 10-year anniversary of ministry in that country. Over the last seven years, we have trained more than 1,400 Nigerian missionaries to effectively use sports ministry in the communities God has called them to. For many who have used sports ministry, they share testimonies like this:
“For the last two years, I have tried to build relationships in my new community, but I did not have much success. I tried many different approaches. But still, I didn’t know people. People never invited me into their homes. But since starting sports ministry, I go through the town and all of the youth are calling out to me: ‘Hey Coach! Coach, how are you? Coach, will you come visit my home today?’ Now, people know me and accept me. They invite me to their homes and into their lives. I wish I had known about sports ministry earlier!”
I was especially encouraged to hear the testimony of a Nigerian church-planting network that is effectively using sports to minister into Northeastern Nigeria, a region where militant extremists have in large degree driven out the Christian community – killing many and destroying much property in their wake. Recently 10 new churches have been established in this area through sports ministry programs. One of the Nigerian leaders of this church-planting movement shared that “only sports could open the door to these communities that were so hardened to the gospel”! Sports is the bridge that God is using to build meaningful relationships, open hearts, and create acceptance for His workers in this difficult region.
In coastal Kenya, Sports Friends-trained church planters are working among many people groups and communities where Christ is not known. In one such people group (per Joshua project, 0.00% Christian) there are three Kenyan church planters working in a total of six villages using sports as a bridge to build relationships with the youth and their families. These three church planters have trained an additional six coaches to help them and are ministering to over 240 youth on a regular basis. Nine youth have accepted Christ, and we pray that this will be the beginning of a significant movement of this people group to Christ in the coming years.
It’s incredible to see sports crossing the barriers which so often divide us and hinder the advancement of the gospel; race, ethnicity, age, gender, social and economic class, physical or mental ability, religion. If you have a ball, young people will come! Praise be to God for the thousands of young people coming to faith in Christ and growing as His disciples as a result of the love, example, and witness of Godly coaches.
Thank you for your faithful partnership in this ministry!
By Tripp Johnston, Sports Friends International Director