Coach John is from Malawi’s eastern region of Mangochi. This area is densely populated with followers of powerful religious cults that stand in opposition to the gospel of Christ. Sports Friends first visited this region in 2014 to cast vision for reaching out to young people through sports programs. In 2015, the first Basic Training was conducted, and John was one of the earliest coaches trained in this model of Church-Centered Sports Ministry. He immediately started a team through his local church, and began to see more and more young people come to Christ. He particularly loves to serve those youth who are harder to reach because of their family and community’s religious backgrounds. After three years of this work, he was chosen by his denomination to become the national Sports Ministry Coordinator. He moved to Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, with his wife and four children.
As John settled into his new role in national leadership, now in the central region of the country, he started a new team focused on reaching out to a people group called the Nyau. The Nyau are a very secretive, but prominent and powerful religious sect in central Malawi. They adhere to deeply-rooted traditions such as ancestral spirit worship, black magic and witchcraft. They are characteristically closed to new ideas or advancement in education, and remain removed from the message of the eternal life and absolute authority of Christ.
With a passion to make the love and power of Christ known to the Nyau, Coach John worked hard to make friends and develop trustworthy relationships with his team. It was not easy. Often he, his family, and his team were threatened by angry and oppositional members of this group. He even had team members that were secretly Nyau disappear, then return dressed in the intimidating costumes and masks characteristic of the tradition, and intentionally frighten away other players with threats. Coach John and his colleagues cried out to God for change, and for clarity about if this was the right place for them to focus their outreach efforts. Through prayer, they were encouraged and strengthened: God wanted to extend Himself to the Nyau through their presence. So John has stayed, and continues to share the gospel, believing one day more will respond. He has had one young man already come to him in repentance after feeling the weight of God’s powerful presence with the team, confessing that he was Nyau, and was one who had threatened other team members.
Please pray for Coach John as he spends his life on behalf of those who do not know the power of Christ’s salvation. Pray for the people’s revelation, and freedom from oppressive traditions, fear, evil spirits, and powers of darkness that the youth of the Nyau have grown up familiar with. Pray for their families to come to repentance, and discover overcoming power in the forgiveness, righteousness, justice, and goodness of the Living God.