Meet the Team

God has blessed Sports Friends with a passionate group of leaders who together represent many different cultures, nationalities, professional backgrounds, and ministry experiences. Today, more than 175 men and women are serving in key leadership roles on four different continents. Together they serve and support thousands of volunteers ministering to the youth and their families.


Tripp Johnston

Tripp Johnston – SF Co-Founder and Executive Director

Tripp earned a B.S. degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina where he was a Morehead Scholar, and an MBA degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. Prior to co-founding Sports Friends in 2002, Tripp worked as an investment banker specializing in advising corporate clients in mergers and acquisitions and various capital raising options. As Executive Director of Sports Friends, Tripp focuses on the overall leadership and administration of the ministry. Tripp and his family lived for multiple years in both Ethiopia and SE Asia as Sports Friends began ministry in these locations.


Berhanu Kebede

Berhanu Kebede – SF Regional Director for East and Southern Africa

Berhanu led the development of the Sports Friends ministry in Ethiopia and now provides support for Sports Friends' growing ministry in other countries in East and Southern Africa. Berhanu also recently served as Vice President of the Ethiopian Football Federation. Prior to joining Sports Friends in 2002, Berhanu served 17 years with the Southern Baptist Mission, where he directed various development and ministry projects. Berhanu has been a pioneer in the development of sports ministry in Ethiopia.


Kyle Abts

Kyle Abts – SF Regional Director for West Africa

Kyle led the development of the Sports Friends ministry in Nigeria and now provides leadership to Sports Friend's growing ministry in other countries in West Africa. Kyle has served in West Africa for over 15 years and provided leadership to a number of community development and transformational ministries in multiple countries in the region. Kyle joined Sports Friends in 2006 to help launch the ministry in West Africa. Kyle is an avid sportsman and has coached volleyball, soccer, and basketball teams at various levels of play. Kyle attended the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Jos ECWA Theological Seminary. As a result of Kyle's pioneering work in using sports as a tool for peace in Nigeria, he was invited to participate in the Yale University Summer Peace Fellowship in 2011.


Jill Ireland

Jill Ireland – SF Regional Director for South Asia

Prior to joining Sports Friends in 2007, Jill served for nine years with Christians In Sport, a leading sports ministry organization in the U.K. Jill currently lives in the U.K. and leads the Sports Friends ministry development effort in South Asia, and also provides leadership to Sports Friends' overall training efforts. Jill graduated from Loughborough University with a BSc (Hons) in Physical Education & Sports Science, as well as a Post Graduate Certificate in Secondary Education as a Physical Education & Geography Teacher. Jill also received a BA (Hons) in Biblical and Intercultural Studies from All Nations Christian College. Formerly a high-level field hockey player, Jill came to faith through the testimony of one of her hockey teammates and is a passionate trainer and equipper of other sports ministers.


Sports Friends' International Support Services team provides support to the overall ministry in the areas of communications, recruiting, short-term teams, church partnerships, fund development, finances, and training resources. For questions or further information in the following areas, please contact:

Communications: Cat Tongkao This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Short Term Trips: Bryan White This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Church Partnerships: Bryan White This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Donations: Michelle Palacio This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Finances: Danny Imes This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Training: Jill Ireland This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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