“that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
They call it the ripple effect: when an impact in one place begins a chain reaction that changes everything around it. A life cannot be changed in isolation because we are all connected from the very beginning of creation.
While Sports Friends begins by reaching out to young people, the heart of the ministry is for entire families and communities to be transformed as well. This is evident in Peru, where young people may have more opportunity for sports/activities, but families are still hungry to know the true heart of God. The soccer or volleyball team then becomes the main touch point to reconcile the hearts of broken families to God.
God our Father has such a soft heart for the vulnerable members of His creation. He made the strong to protect the weak, but far too often that is not the way this broken world runs. So, in our human family’s brokenness, single moms and fatherless children have His eye, and He longs to embrace them with His steadfast love (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 68:5-6). Also, far too often, we as God’s own people misrepresent Him and end up hurting those we are called to offer healing to. Peruvian coaches in the mountain areas have found this to be the case over and over again, and they are moved to respond well.
La Cuidad Church has a ministry southeast of Lima, in the hill town of Manchay, where most young people have lost interest in church and otherwise have little connection to followers of Christ. Early in 2018, a Columbian man named Jorge, with a heart for Peruvian families, moved his outreach to Manchay. He attended church on Sundays, and made Saturdays his time to reach out to young people and their families. His pastor, Sebastian, got connected with Sports Friends and sent Jorge for training. He quickly planned out a schedule for ministry tailored to the needs of Manchay families.
Now the church is seeing young faces again, and a new generation of believers is being discipled. La Cuidad has also developed a sideline ministry to the mothers of the young players. Volunteers will go to practices and matches in order to develop relationship with moms, and encourage them as they lead and care for their families.
In another hill area, Coach William has spent two years coaching 8-12 year-olds. He learned one of the boys’ mothers, named Sofia, had been hurt by the church sometime in the past and because of her pain she had left the congregation.
Soon a church member began showing up at practices to begin reaching out to parents in this area, talking with them, encouraging them, and praying for them. In response to this love, care, and personal attention given to both the child and the family, mothers like Sofia are softening toward the heart of God.
Sofia decided to try church again and has been joining with a congregation to worship for months now; she also attended the Christmas program organized for the team’s families. This team, named Rio de Aqua Viva (River of Living Water), has been God’s avenue to refresh and renew hurting families with His Life.
Thank You, Father, that Your love is steadfast. That no disappointment or injustice inflicted by man can sway Your heart. You ARE love and truth. You are compassionate and redeeming, just and merciful, patient and pursuing. Thank You that we can trust You in Your love, know that You see us in every corner of creation, and long to defend us from our enemies and make us wholly Yours.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)