Seven years ago, I went on a short-term trip with Sports Friends, and was encouraged to see how God was using the simple tool of sports to introduce youth and their families to Himself. I came home humbled by God’s love for us and His pursuit of the lost. Today, I work for Sports Friends, and get to walk with short-term team members as they experience God in that same environment. We pray that each individual who serves with us will be encouraged and challenged in ways that will shape and direct how they live their lives moving forward.
Short-term teams are a huge blessing to our staff, volunteers, and the youth that we serve. But team members almost always return home saying that they feel that they were the ones that were blessed and amazed at how they saw God at work. It’s so easy to underestimate the impact of a short-term mission trip. We forget that in one month, or even in a single week, God can completely transform our lives. It’s in those short moments of time that we can look back and see the profound effect on the lives of both those who go and those that are served.
We recently asked some of our short-term participants to share how God moved in their lives during their trip to Ethiopia, and what they’ve learned looking back. Here are their responses:
I never asked to go to Ethiopia. It’s where God sent me, and honestly, it was the first time I walked completely by faith. For the past six years, God continued to call me to Ethiopia. Each year, I would fall in love with “my team” of soccer players, amazed at how close I felt to a group of boys or girls who didn’t share my language. Before my last trip, I remember realizing that God was hand picking each and every child that came to camp and I prayed for these campers, chosen by God.
One of the great things about serving with Sports Friends and seeing how the ministry works is that it is the church being the church in the countries that they work. One of the key points of mission work is to train and teach people to do things for themselves, following Ephesians 4:12, where the leaders of the church are equipping the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. The work that Sports Friends is doing year-round is exactly that. The short-term trips are spectacular because you get to help the church in these various countries be THE church. You are not doing the work for them, you are just running alongside them, helping and supporting them. What a blessing!
God used my short time in Ethiopia in such powerful ways. The magnitude of how God is using camping ministry to reach children who don’t know the Lord and His love for them is much greater than I could have ever understood from a brochure or orientation. I remember my team leader telling me before camp these children would always remember us and the love they saw among the staff at camp and the foreigner friends who came to share Christ’s love with them. When we had to say goodbye on the last day, we ran alongside the busses just for a chance to hold their hands one more time and shout “God bless you! We love you!” Walking away with a lump in my throat, I believed her. I will always have this reminder from my time in Ethiopia – we can trust the Lord with anything. He cares, and as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:20, “He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.”
Sports Friends has afforded me both spiritual and relational growth opportunities over the past six years. Serving in Ethiopia alongside humble and Godly people has reminded me of the importance of leading by example; reminded me of the importance of being a light to others.
By Bryan Mills, Director of Church Partnerships and Short-Term Teams
If you are interested in going on a short-term trip, check out our website (www.sports-friends.org) or email Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.