The northern part of Ghana is home to a population that is widely resistant to the gospel. As national director Ben trains coaches and seeks to reach out to young people in this region, he reports: “That is the power behind sports ministry. God is actually using it to break barriers. You cannot go there with a Bible to share the Word of God. But in sports ministry, even the more resistant parents say ‘We know you are Christians, but [we want to have] the way you are teaching our children.’ They will have nothing to do with Christians, but they can come to Bible study [with the coach]. We have moved the church from inside the building to the soccer field, and there they can hear the gospel.”
One summer team visiting Ghana from Liberty University accompanied local Sports Friends staff to reach out to the entire community with a game day. It was a very hot day, and the team arrived around noon to invite people to play. They began to set up nets and get out soccer balls, volleyballs, netballs. The excitement quickly spread, and within fifteen minutes there were hundreds of people showing up to participate. The place was packed! Young children and adults into their 60s were on the field, playing together. The whole town gathered together.
Two weeks later, the church sponsoring the sports ministry came back to the town to have a more traditional outreach with music and speaking. They came at the ideal time in the cool of the evening and set up
Through the model of maintaining a consistent, friendly, peaceful presence, Ghanaian coaches are establishing influential relationships with communities that are not so keen to hear from a religious leader. Where the relationship between coach and athlete is strong, God’s Word is effectively shared not only broadly, but consistently and personally. This is where transformation is taking place by the power of the Holy Spirit. Young people are discovering who they are made to be. They are learning to live for Christ rather than for themselves. As they study the “Heart of Champions” character-building curriculum together, youth are mentored in ways of purity and self-control, in stark contrast to their worldly environment that cultivates lust and indulgence. They are growing in integrity, developing more positive attitudes, becoming more mindful of how they use their words and how they relate to their families. They are growing in team spirit and respect of family and community boundaries (such as dress and curfew). Parents have come to the coaches eager to ask why their children are changing, and how can they support this change. One family saw such change in the character of their son that once they discovered he was following the example and instruction of his coach, they wanted to send his older brother to the team so that he would be changed too! While the boy’s coach, Joseph, readily admits that only Jesus has the power to change lives, he is very encouraged by God’s work to transform this young life and impact his family so.
Here are two ways that you can join with us in prayer:
- Please pray for the increasing openness of communities towards sports ministry, especially in the northern cities where three new churches are growing among increasing populations of believers.
- Pray for the hearts of youth and their families to be ready to hear from Jesus as He sends His people to meet them in their daily lives and activities as God with them. He has always been ready to “put on flesh” and invite us to Himself from right where we are and lead us into the fullness of His life
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