By Anna Baker, short-term volunteer from Australia
Last month, a group of about 30 key volunteer coaches from across Thailand, all trained by Sports Friends, joined together for several days of pre-season training up in the mountains. In sports, pre-season training aims to get the team pumped-up and prepared, physically and psychologically for the coming season. Similarly, this retreat aimed to encourage the coaches spiritually for the upcoming year of ministry in their churches and wider communities, and develop their coaching skills and knowledge. Some of these coaches have several teams of youth from their communities who they train in football and volleyball, and mentor, with the hope of winning them for the Lord.
During this valuable time away, coaches shared how God had been working in their lives and in the lives of their teams this past year. Several planning sessions allowed coaches to envision and plan camps, trainings and tournaments for teams in their networks. Times of prayer and worship were filled with praise, many voices raised together to the One who hears our prayers and is worthy of all honor and glory. Coaches prayed for the young people in their teams, their communities, and their churches; spurring one another on towards love and good deeds.
The first Bible talk looked at how Jesus picked his team – he called them, lived with and discipled them, and then sent them out. The next session highlighted that Jesus picked ordinary even weak men to be His disciples, and through their weakness God’s power and strength is magnified. This reminded the coaches that they do not have to be perfect, or the most talented player or coach, or choose the ‘well-behaved’ or talented kids for their teams, but just allow God to work through them and their weakness to show His greatness.
“I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom, but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His wounds have paid my ransom!”
Football sessions highlighted how to introduce tactics into training and game play, and “thinking while you run”, and a session on Futsal gave coaches knowledge and experience in sport-specific strength and conditioning and skills. An all-in game of football was great fun and was a great time of fellowship between coaches and the Sports Friends team.On the final day of the retreat, the Sports Friends leaders washed the feet of the coaches, reflecting Jesus’ servant heart, and encouraged the coaches to lead in the same manner. Communion was also shared, celebrating our unity in Christ Jesus, and in his mission to “go and make disciples of all nations.”
I came to Thailand for one month to see sports ministry first hand, to see how God works through sports to reach the lost. To see how God could maybe use me, a ‘sporty’ girl, in His mission. In my exercise and sports science degree, I learned how the body works and how uniquely we were designed by our creator. What this retreat showed me, is how the body of Christ can work, to win people for the Lord. I am challenged by these coaches. They are not all talented sportspeople, some aren’t even ‘sporty’, but what sets them apart is they are willing. They have a heart for the lost, like their Savior, and see sports as a tool to reach them. How willing am I to step out? How generous am I with my time? How intentional am I with the people that I meet?
Please pray for these coaches as they disciple the youth in their teams. Pray that they will be bold to show Jesus in their lives and tell their teams of His great love for them! Pray also for these young people, that their hearts would be open, and that they would see their worth and value in the eyes of Jesus, and come to know Him as their Lord and Savior!