In Nigeria, young people face incredible barriers. The economic, political, religious, and tribal divisions within the nation threaten their identity as young men and women made in the image of God, who are born to bring refreshment and renewal to their land. Opportunity is often severely limited, and oppressive poverty continually lies to them about their value and potential… and about hope.
About ten years ago, a young boy named Sunday* began participating on a Sports Friends soccer team. He was only 10 or 11 years old when he lost his father. His coach, Moses, reported, “We became his parents.” The relationship between Sunday and and his coach grew as Moses visited him at his work and his home. He was unable to go to school; he continually worked menial jobs to help care for his family.
*It is common in Nigeria for people to have multiple names, one of which being the day of the week they were born.
One day, Sunday came to Coach Moses with a deep need: he was struggling with his spiritual life. He had recognized the problem of his sin. Because of a solid relationship with his coach, he came to him first (rather than approaching the church building without any connection to the people inside). He opened up about his struggles, and prayed to give his life to Christ. After this, he began to grow in Christ, as well as grow up!
Today he is 20 years old, and has completed the Sports Friends Basic Training. He is coaching his own team and returning on the investment made in him through sports-based relational evangelism and discipleship. He discovered that even after the loss of an earthly father, his Heavenly Father never lost sight of him. His hope is secure in Jesus Christ, and now overflows to other young people as he shares his own story of redemption. Pray for Sunday as he continues to walk with Jesus and discover His promises and provision of all things.
Daniel has a similar story. He grew up in a broken home, with two living parents, but absolutely no stability within the house. He found solace in the soccer team, and comfort and encouragement through Coach Moses. He would visit his coach, and was very open to sharing his struggles. He knew Coach Moses was highly invested in his life; he cared to hear about Daniel’s problems and walk with him through them.
Recently, Daniel was admitted into one of Nigeria’s high schools, an invaluable opportunity for a young man from his background. He works during the holidays to make enough money to pay his fees, but he stays connected with the team because of the encouragement he receives from them. Coach Moses continues to receive him into his home when he visits. He encourages him about life, where, unfortunately, Daniel’s family and community are not able to. The love and support he has seen in his Sports Friends team and Coach Moses has helped him endure, get into advanced education, and change his entire outlook on life.
God, we praise You for these young men, who represent only two of the 60,000 young Nigerians whom You have met on the soccer field. We know You long to fill them with hope and a vision for their future, and ultimately reveal Yourself to them so that they will trust You with their lives and salvation. We pray for encouragement and hope to fill the hearts of their coaches continually, and that their young players will soak it up to apply it to their own lives. We pray for peace and comfort where young people are struggling with crises, hopelessness, or silent pain. We pray for strong connections between youth and their coaches, for wise words and hearts of deep compassion and strength. Encourage our brothers and sisters, Lord, in Jesus’s Name. Amen.