“They struggle with internet addiction. Gambling. Alcohol. The kids learn from their parents and teachers to drink to gain social standing and have more friends. So kids don’t go to school, they go to the liquor shop. They have drug problems and steal to get money for their drugs… People are not concerned about the next generation.”– Sports Friends Leader in Southeast Asia
For eleven years Sports Friends has been training positive role models in Southeast Asia, teaching followers of Christ how to be coaches, and develop church-centered sports ministry as an innovative way to connect with youth. God has raised up coaches and regional coordinators across these nations in pursuit of a generation that seeks His face.
We asked our Sports Friends leaders in Southeast Asia what the major barriers are to the ministry, and they named some significant ongoing challenges:
“The rainy season takes four months, and since most coaches use rice fields for practice fields, during rainy season the rice is growing and practice must stop. They also don’t have as much time for practice during working seasons, so we are trying to find a consistent time with the kids to retain their interest.”
There is also financial strain that makes supporting a sports ministry difficult. “The offering for one church for the entire month may be $6 USD, and a ball costs $13 USD so the church cannot give that much.” Coaches who are working long hours every day to house and feed their families find that volunteering spare time to ministry can put extra stress on the home.
There is also the issue of technical skill. As one country leader reflected, “It’s more important to find someone with a heart for ministry than someone who is good at sports. You can teach people sports, but you can’t teach the heart of sharing the good news.” Pray that the right coaches would be called into confident service, and that God would equip them with the precise skills they need to effectively minister through sports. Pray for good training to be accessible, and for the youth to recognize the priority of quality relationships in the context of sports.
Believers in this area of the world also face the ever-present awareness that they are being watched. Governments keep a close eye on what goes on in every region, and all activities are investigated to discover motives or threats. Suspicion runs high in the communities, and any new proceedings encounter the scrutiny of both local authorities and busybodies.
Still, our leaders press on to display the faithful love of God and His steadfast involvement in man’s everyday lives. They are praying for more workers to rise up with hearts committed to making Jesus’ Name known in every city and village.
God, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Southeast Asia. Receive these stated needs as our request for Your grace and provision. This is Your work, Lord, and we know You know our needs before we ask. We pray that You would move powerfully through sports ministry leaders, and draw many young people to the hope and future You have for them.
Did you know? You can help us care for our coaches and their communities during these uncertain times. Get involved: www.sports-friends.org/give