When Bob Cramer heard that Tripp had announced his retirement as Global Leader for Sports Friends in 2021, he was deeply disappointed. He had planned to volunteer with him in the Sports Friends ministry as soon as Bob retired just a few years later!
Tripp and Bob have been close friends for over 25 years: Bob recalls both the day Tripp announced he was retiring from investment banking so he could be free to serve God full-time, and also the day the Johnston family told their friends they were moving to Ethiopia to launch church-centered sports ministry. From the start, Bob and his wife Ann have been amazed at Tripp and Alison’s commitment and sacrifice and have greatly admired their obedience to God’s call.
As Bob and Ann were involved with Sports Friends from the very beginning, it quickly became a very important part of their lives and over the years God used it to profoundly change them for His service. The Cramers’ first vision trip with Sports Friends was to Ethiopia in 2004, and it caused a cataclysmic shift in their view of fellowship and ministry. God began changing Bob and Ann from being believers in Jesus who were active in the local church and community, to recognizing and becoming part of the global Body of Christ. They discovered brothers and sisters in the Lord all around the world among people they had little in common with except for Jesus… but nothing else was needed! For 20 years they were faithful donors, prayer partners, and Sports Friends Ambassadors. They attended Global Gatherings and traveled to encourage field workers. They developed and maintained close relationships with many Sports Friends workers, encouraging and being encouraged by them.
In May of 2021, the search committee seeking Tripp’s replacement as Global Leader for Sports Friends called Bob to request an interview. Bob was surprised because he had not applied, and didn’t consider himself a candidate for a number of reasons. He agreed to talk with them, but carried no expectations or anxiety about it because his true and deep desire was that God would raise up the right leader for this ministry he loved so much, and that God alone would make it clear to everyone involved.
Two months later, Bob received another and more surprising phone call: the search committee believed he was to be the next Global Leader of Sports Friends. Over five days, he and Ann prayerfully and practically considered the invitation (including the necessary surrender of their carefully crafted retirement plan). They felt this call had come from God Himself, so they said yes. The decision was one they had to make together because although Bob fills the official position, he makes clear that Ann “may not have the title, but she is vital.”
The Cramers are excited to take this step but they approach the assignment with humility, mindful of the significance and magnitude of the work. They are here to serve: to serve God and make His name glorious, to serve field workers that their work may flourish, and to serve the coaches and youth in all nations so that thousands more may discover the hope and joy of life in Christ. They are confident that God will continue to use Sports Friends to bring light to the world and His kingdom to the least reached parts of the earth by delivering the gospel of Jesus through the local church and the platform of sports. Their vision is to see Sports Friends expand to new geographies and refugee populations, to bring many more alongside as prayer and financial partners (Romans 10:15), and to call for many to join God’s work within the ministry. Bob and Ann have been incredibly grateful to find their own roles in Kingdom work with Sports Friends for many years, culminating in this leadership appointment. Their desire is that many more will find their place here as well.
As Bob expresses,
“The work ahead is immense and to think of it could be overwhelming. Since I accepted this commission in July, I have frequently remembered and claimed God’s promise in I Thessalonians 5:24, that “the One who has called you is faithful, and He will do it.” We didn’t pursue or apply for this; we have been called and we are answering. We are confident that Sports Friends has always, undeniably been God’s work and He will continue to lead the ministry, and we are so glad for the blessing of joining Him. Thank you for your dedicated prayer, support and encouragement of this ministry; we look forward to serving together and continuing on the faith journey of Sports Friends together!”