The moment a child takes its first step or utters its first real word is unforgettable to a parent. A father or mother waits and anticipates with joy when their precious little one will courageously try something new (and a bit risky), then break into a whole new way of experiencing life. It is just a small picture of our Heavenly Father, who watches with anticipation for the joy of our new steps in His ways, and our embrace of His greater vocabulary, heart, and methods.
Our Sports Friends Kenya team has felt the Father’s proud smile as they watch the early development of church-centered sports ministry in the Munyu/Naivasha region. Twenty coaches were selected by their pastors to take the first steps in establishing a football (soccer) outreach to the young people in their communities. These pastors and coaches are already united geographically, all living and working in this same rural area. They also all belong to the same denomination, and now the churches have come together to strategically share the love of God in Jesus Christ with the youth living around them.
Sports Friends staff first visited this area in October 2018 to cast the vision of sports ministry among the church leaders, and have been meeting with them ever since. Energized after that first meeting to serve the less-valued members of their society through sports, the pastors each selected two coaches, one man and one woman, to attend coaches’ training that December. Within the church culture of Kenya, a male pastor traditionally holds exclusive rights to the role of teaching his congregation. For these pastors to personally appoint two lay ministers (especially to include women) has stepped beyond the way things are conventionally done, in pursuit of God’s heart and obedience to His call to love lost young people and use every opportunity He has given to reach them.
This appointing of men and women to be sports ministers alone was a great step out in belief that God is eager to involve all of His children in many ways to bring hope to those who don’t yet know Him. But the pastors have not stopped at releasing these new coaches into ministry. They have been showing up to encourage and support them. They are visiting teams at practices just to see how it’s going. One pastor was “caught” personally leveling the dirt playing field and planting grass for his church’s football and handball teams.
In all of this, one of the most profound steps forward in the ways of God in the Munyu/Naivasha region has been simply to value children. In Kenya’s hierarchical system this is not modeled in many settings. From the very first training, a new coach shared how several of his friends had discouraged him in his desire to reach out to young people in their community. These coaches live amidst a societal expectation that an adult’s time is too precious to be spent with children, especially playing games. But they have heard of Jesus’ approach to little children and His invitation to them. They have heard His command to avoid the ways of the world and follow His own. So they step out and live as fools in the sight of their peers, to invest in the lives of the little ones who are precious to their God.
God has moved through the faith of these Kenyan Sports Friends coaches, and they grow in confidence to try new things and become the leaders God has called them to be. They are sharing their ideas, struggles, and victories together to strengthen and encourage one another. They are also seeing growth in their churches! Four young people on one team have already placed their hope in Jesus. One of the churches has doubled in size. Each team is creating a safe place for the children of the community, where their spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing is ministered to and prioritized above their athletic ability. For many children, this is the first time they’ve been invited to such an environment, and we hold great hope for all God has in store for them!
Father, thank You that You love the smallest and seemingly least-significant among us. Thank You for the zeal, courage, and power to follow You even in counter-cultural ways. Thank You for sharing Your joy with us and always teaching us to walk with You in new and beautiful ways. We bless Your name!
Would you consider making a gift to train more new coaches who can pour their lives into the young people in their communities? Just $75 would train one new coach as an agent of God’s love and hope, or $3,750 would sponsor a training for 50 new coaches. We have thousands of new coaches waiting to be trained. Will you help us equip and send them? www.sports-friends.org/give
Thank you for your partnership in bringing the good news of Jesus to young people all around the world!