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Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino‘s moral failure is the latest high-profile example of why sports ministry is so critically needed in reaching people for Christ. Can we begin to imagine the impact of Petrino’s decisions on his family, staff, athletes, fans and countless others? It will be difficult to overestimate. What’s worse is that moral failures are not isolated to college football; it’s occurring in most sports around the world. Petrino and many other coaches and athletes have become heroes or role models. Unfortunately, Coach Petrino’s choices will serve as a negative example. What if someone had helped him to know and follow Jesus?
This is why Karen and I serve with the Global Sports Team of Athletes in Action (AIA), the sports-based ministry of Cru. Since 1967, AIA has been sharing the good news, discipling athletes and coaches, and challenging them to use their influence to advance the kingdom of God. Our mission is to have a Christ-follower on every team, in every sport, in every nation. To fulfill this mission, AIA is winning athletes, coaches and sports fans to Christ, and they are changing the world.
Since athletes are heroes, those who know Jesus have unprecedented opportunities to be His ambassadors, and WE together with YOU, our ministry partners, get to help facilitate that.
If you want to learn more about AIA, our ministry or how to make a difference, go to Eternal Investments and contact us.
Two weeks ago we shared about AIA’s 4th Annual International Coaching Academy and asked you to “pray for openness to the truth of Jesus, for those who do not know Him to personally surrender their lives to Him.” Thank you–your prayers have been answered! At the start of the academy everyone was challenged to love one another. Each day, through activities that included team times, devotionals, practices, and training, the Holy Spirit was at work. Coach Kelly, (AIA) was amazed how quickly this group bonded and learned to communicate, even when no translators were present. On Tuesday of week two, the real story of Christ was shared and through this story and a gospel message nine coaches accepted Christ as their Savior! Most of the attendees said they never heard the real story of Christ nor did they know it was possible to combine their faith and love of sports to honor the Lord and share His love with others around them.
Will you now join us in praying again over the coming weeks and months “for the impact they will have on universities around the world?” The enemy will be working diligently to take away what God has accomplished through this academy. These men literally will be in a position to impact generations to come in their homelands.
After writing about the humanly impossible reconciliation that God orchestrated between Coach Evelyn and another Rwandan basketball coach two weeks ago (“He was one of them!”) I set out to share about the ministry of reconciliation, but after a few hours I realized I could not do any better than Paul, as shared in 2 Corinthians.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2nd Cor 5:17-20)
Out of the Mouths of our Babies
Karen: “Rick, why do I have to keep telling you you can’t wear those clashing colors together?”
Rick: “It’s proof that purgatory exists.”
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Four years ago a Muslim basketball player became a Christian during an AIA tournament held in Africa. In 2009, by God’s grace, he attended AIA’s first International Basketball Coaches’ Academy held at our WTRC in Xenia, OH. This month he will attend his third academy! Today, he is the national coach for his West African country, which is predominately Muslim. Through this academy and other AIA training, he has developed his skills as a basketball coach and life coach. As a part of his national program, he leads a Bible study attended by several players. Praise God for all He is accomplishing through young men just like him all over the world.
As of this posting, approximately 40 coaches are attending this year’s academy which will focus on developing their coaching skills and their spiritual life for two weeks. Some are Muslim, and they are fully aware of what the academy is about; however, they have seen coaches who have attended the academy realize a certain level of success when they return to their respective homelands.
Please pray for openness to the truth of Jesus, for those who do not know Him to personally surrender their lives to Him, and for the impact they will have on universities around the world.
Learn more at the Annual International Coaches Academy
An important area of focus for projects like the one in East Africa is to assemble a team who can continue building the ministry after the project. To that end, AIA put on a basketball coaches’ clinic in Rwanda.
As the clinic began, two coaches were asked to demonstrate passing techniques. Coach Evelyn had a funny expression on her face during the demonstration. Later our staff asked her why. Evelyn shared that her family was killed by Hutus during the genocide of 1994, leaving her and her baby for dead. When coach Evelyn walked into the gym, she saw one of men who killed her family 18 years before. Incredibly, through God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, Evelyn was able to forgive him. Then, God allowed the impossible to be done. She was asked to demonstrate passing drills with this man who had killed her family! At that moment, God completed a reconciliation between Coach Evelyn and this man. Coach Evelyn later said, “In that moment I realized God had removed my bitterness and I had completely forgiven this man and the others.”
God is reconciling Rwandans one relationship at a time through sports. What a privilege it is to be a part of reconciling people around the world to one another and our Lord Jesus Christ.